Marquez Valdes-Scantling, JuJu Smith-Schuster add size to Kansas City Chiefs' receiving corps

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Shortly after signing his contract with the Kansas City Chiefs last week, wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling wasn't sure about what role he might fill as his new team rebuilds at wide receiver after trading Tyreek Hill.

"I was pitched on the opportunity," Valdes-Scantling said. "It wasn't about, 'You're going to be wide receiver 1 [and] you're going to do exactly what Tyreek did.' We're different players. I was pitched on the opportunity that I could come in and contribute and be a part of something special."

Valdes-Scantling was speaking for himself but could have well been expressing the thoughts of Mecole Hardman and JuJu Smith-Schuster as well. Hardman, the Chiefs' second-round draft pick in 2019, and Smith-Schuster, another recent free-agent signing, join Valdes-Scantling as the top three wide receivers on the depth chart, but none can be sure at this point what it all means.

Coach Andy Reid said the Chiefs needed to get bigger at receiver. Hill is 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, Hardman 5-10 and 180.

Valdes-Scantling is 6-4 and 206, Smith-Schuster 6-1 and 215, so the Chiefs have accomplished that goal.

"Over the years we had gotten a little bit smaller," Reid said. "We did have [Byron] Pringle and we did have [Demarcus Robinson], and that was kind of your size. These two we brought in now, they're really good players and good-sized and can run. I'm excited to see them play.

"You can't compare them. They're not the same type of player as Tyreek. Tyreek is a unique player, a great player. He's in a good place, and when it's all said and done here, we'll be in a real good place, too."

Valdes-Scantling, Smith-Schuster and Hardman have never been true No. 1 receivers. Smith-Schuster did lead the Pittsburgh Steelers in catches (111) and yards (1,246) in 2018, but their lead receiver that season was Antonio Brown, who scored 15 touchdowns. Smith-Schuster also led the Steelers in catches in 2020 with 97, but was third in yards.

Valdes-Scantling and Hardman have had their moments. Valdes-Scantling averaged 17.5 yards per catch during his four seasons with the Green Bay Packers. Hardman averaged almost 21 yards per catch as a rookie. But neither player was ever his team's most feared target.

That's why there's plenty of room in Kansas City for another wide receiver, whether he's a veteran via free agency or trade or a draft pick, to come in and claim playing time and perhaps the No. 1 role. But the Chiefs have plans for Valdes-Scantling, Smith-Schuster and Hardman regardless.

The Chiefs not only traded Hill but lost two of their other top wide receivers from last season, Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson, in free agency.

"We wouldn't be in that room if we couldn't play football," Valdes-Scantling said. "The Chiefs all believe in us. We all believe in ourselves. That's our primary focus, [trying] to be the best version of ourselves."

The plans for their receivers are unclear, except perhaps to Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. But Hardman and Valdes-Scantling are fast and the Chiefs undoubtedly will try to put those skills to good use.

"I've been a top deep threat in the league for my four years in my career. Those stats speak for themselves," said Valdes-Scantling, referring to his high yard-per-catch average. "But I'm also not limited to that. Coach Reid does a really good job of getting his playmakers the ball. With Pat [Mahomes] under center and coach Reid calling those plays I think I fit right in.

"I know the type of player I am. I know the type of player that I want to continue to grow to be. Looking at the roster, they had a lot of turnover in their wideout room in the last few weeks. The top [three] guys are all gone from the year before, other than Mecole. It gave me a really good opportunity to be in position to come in and have an impact right away."

Valdes-Scantling goes from playing with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to working with Mahomes.

"Me and Aaron have a great relationship," he said. "It was really tough to walk away because I still had the opportunity on the table to go in and play with him for the rest of his career, whether that be one year, two or three, however long he decides to play.

"I walked into an opportunity with a very similar quarterback [with the Chiefs]. Having this opportunity to build something long-term with Pat is going to be life-changing. ... I provide a spark. Being in the league four years and playing with Aaron, I know what it looks like. ... My skill set will speak for itself come Sundays."

Smith-Schuster isn't as fast but is more physical. He did a lot of his work with the Steelers as a slot receiver.

"I'm a different type of guy," he said. "I'm a little bit more built. You've got ... speedster guys who can run down the field. I'm the type of guy, great hands, a little bit like Travis [Kelce], great hands, big dude that can run and block, physical blocking in the run game. There's so much I can do to help this team.”