Kadarius Toney Fantasy Value: Can He Be a WR1?

    Following the Kansas City Chiefs' departures at wide receiver, is Kadarius Toney ready to step in as a WR1, both for his NFL team and in fantasy?

    Kadarius Toney Fantasy Value: Can He Be a WR1?

    Ever since they traded away Tyreek Hill a year ago, the Kansas City Chiefs have been making do with a patchwork receiving corps. Following the departures of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman, they are in dire need of someone to step up. Could Kadarius Toney be that guy and become a WR1 in fantasy football this year?

    Kadarius Toney Has WR1 Upside

    It certainly feels like Toney has been in the NFL for more than two seasons. The New York Giants 2021 first-round selection has faced quite the trials and tribulations in just two short years in the league.

    Toney posted some promising metrics as a rookie, particularly his 29% targets-per-route-run rate, which was good for seventh in the league. In Week 5, Toney caught 10 of 13 targets for 189 yards. He displayed quite the high ceiling on a bad offense very early in his career. However, the real story of his rookie season was injury.

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    As a rookie, Toney played in just 10 games. Most concerningly, though, wasn’t the number of games missed — it was the fact that he missed games with four different issues.

    Entering his sophomore season, there was a discrepancy between the Giants and Toney himself as to how healthy he was. Toney believed he was ready to play. The Giants refused to play him, claiming he was too injured. The rift ultimately led to the Giants trading Toney to the Chiefs, where he saw the field immediately.

    Kadarius Toney’s 2023 Fantasy Potential

    In its simplest form, the question of whether Toney can be a fantasy WR1 this season can be answered in the affirmative. Is it in his range of outcomes? Yes. But fantasy managers need more than that. You need to know how realistic it is. So, let’s dive in.

    Last season, Toney played seven regular-season and three playoff games with the Chiefs. In those games, he operated as the team’s WR4/5, playing firmly behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Mecole Hardman. His Week 10 43% snap share was the only game in which he cracked over 35%.

    Additionally, the injury bug bit Toney again while in Kansas City. After three games with the team, he missed the next three due to a hamstring strain, something he had dealt with multiple times in New York.

    I will scream it until I’m blue in the face that we cannot predict injuries. But there are exceptions to every rule. When a player has been hurt as many times as Toney with as many injuries as he’s had in such a short period of time, it is absolutely fair to increase how heavily we weigh the injury factor in his evaluation.

    The idea that Toney will play even 13-14 games this season seems improbable. With that said, if he is healthy, there’s definitely opportunity here.

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    The Chiefs’ wide receivers really tested Patrick Mahomes last year. The best quarterback of all time (yeah, I said it) proved he can win with Travis Kelce and a medley of guys who should be WR2s or WR3s, at best. This season, it seems the Chiefs have increased the difficulty.

    Although JuJu is not a true WR1, he’s at least a quality WR2. Hardman is a WR3. Both of them are now gone. That leaves Mahomes’ most veteran receiver as MVS, who should be a rotational WR3, at best.

    After MVS, the Chiefs have Toney, sophomore Skyy Moore, and rookie second-rounder Rashee Rice. They also signed former Giants receiver Richie James, whose role on the depth chart is currently unclear.

    There’s no denying Toney’s potential. He’s an incredible athlete with 4.38 speed. He’s incredibly shifty, which sometimes gets him into trouble because he puts so much force on his muscles and ligaments to make defenders miss. If he can put it all together and stay healthy, Toney’s upside playing with Mahomes is quite high.

    Should Fantasy Managers Target Kadarius Toney?

    It’s only May, so there’s very little value in redraft ADP. The best we can use is Underdog’s Best Ball data. Currently, Toney is around 79th overall. That puts him in the middle of the seventh round. It’s a very tricky spot.

    If Toney stays where he is, I completely understand taking the shot. Chasing Mahomes’ WR1 is worth it. At the same time, Toney’s floor is literally zero. Not only is the injury situation a risk but the unclear depth chart works both ways.

    Toney did not play much last season. If Moore takes a step forward (not something I think he will do, though), or the team prefers the reliability of James or the rookie Rice comes on strong, we could easily see Toney relegated to the same type of role he had last season.

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    Last year, Toney was a situational underneath guy the team manufactured targets for in space. He played a specific and niche role. What Toney was not was a true wide receiver running a complete route tree.

    Ultimately, it is still too early to really formulate a strong opinion on Toney for the 2023 season. Training camp reports and preseason playing time will provide greater insight into how the Chiefs’ wide receiver depth chart might look.

    For those of you participating in early Best Ball drafts, Toney will definitely have his weeks where he scores. And it’s important to chase ceiling outcomes in the format.

    My early inclination is Toney is far better for Best Ball than seasonal leagues. While he undoubtedly has WR1 upside, we will need some positive reports from Chiefs camp before I can endorse drafting him in the seventh round or higher.

    Jason Katz is a fantasy football analyst for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Jason’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @jasonkatz13.

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