Chiefs enter Week 1 with seven receivers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Patrick Mahomes last year warned fantasy football players they might get frustrated with the Kansas City Chiefs wide receivers, saying the group might have a different star each week.

That remains true of this year’s group of seven wide outs, two more than they kept for Week 1 last season.

“Just add two more receivers to it,” Mahomes said. “We have a lot of talented receivers. A lot of them can do a lot of different things and we’re going to try to use that to our advantage [by] moving guys around, giving guys opportunities to make plays. That receiving room is taking pride in being a room that can go out there and excel no matter the guy getting the football.”

Seven is a lot of wide receivers, considering it’s unusual the Chiefs use more than three on any given play. But it’s a diverse group: Marquez Valdes-Scantling has big play potential, Kadarius Toney brings change of direction and speed, Richie James is a strong returner, Rashee Rice adds run-after-the catch ability while Justyn Ross presents route running and size.

The Chiefs say they have plans for those five, plus Skyy Moore and Justin Watson as the season goes along, if not in Thursday night’s opener against the Detroit Lions at Arrowhead Stadium (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC).

“Having the seven receivers gives us a variety of different ways to attack a defense and we certainly trust our coaching staff to maximize their abilities, as they’ve done in the past when we’ve had different types of wide outs,” general manager Brett Veach said.

“Coach [Andy Reid] does such a great job of trying to maximize what they can do and implementing packages for guys. We’ll have a core group of guys that can handle every package and be involved in every package and then we’ll have a group of guys that [plays] are kind of tweaked and tailored to what they can do and they’re going to highlight their skill set.”

Judging from how the Chiefs utilized their receivers in training camp, Valdes-Scantling, Moore and Watson will get the most playing time. Toney missed all of camp after having surgery for a torn meniscus, but is back at practice and should be available to play against the Lions.

It’s less clear how much the others might play. But they all bring something to the group. James has the most single-season catches of the group, having caught 57 passes for the New York Giants last season. The Chiefs tried to get the ball to Rice on plays like screens and pop passes during the preseason to highlight his ability to run after the catch.

Ross is big at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds. Veach suggested he could take the red zone role held last year by Jody Fortson, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury.

Rice, a second-round draft pick, is a rookie. Ross is playing his first season with the Chiefs. He joined last season as an undrafted rookie but didn’t play because of injuries.

Their roles might be limited early in the season or at least until the coaches are comfortable with giving them a bigger workload.

“There’s so much verbiage in this playbook, so much dialog, so many tweaks to every assignment in regards to where they align and how they look at coverage and how they alter routes so it’s super complicated,” Veach said. “These guys over time start to figure it out. I think you’ll see a big jump with Skyy. What you’ll see from both Justyn and Rashee as the games go on, you’ll see them probably have certain packages . . . and hopefully they’ll continue to grow and progress and produce on the field and that will lead into more utilization within the offense and graduating from a package player to an every-down receiver.”

Rice led the Chiefs in preseason catches with 14 but dropped at least one pass in each game. That’s something he needs to correct before he gets a lot of playing time.

“He’s got a lot of talent,” Reid said. “He’s just got to hang onto the ball. He’s got good hands. He’s just got to focus in on it, squeeze it and catch it first then you can go do your thing after that. He’ll be alright. He’s just got to keep working through it.”