Kansas City Chiefs Targets Breakdown Ahead of Super Bowl 58: Kelce, Rice Lead the Way

The Kansas City Chiefs are facing the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday, February 11. This article breaks down all the targets that the Chiefs’ pass catchers have received this year on the road to Las Vegas. Continue below for the AFC Champion Chiefs’ target share analysis ahead of their Super Bowl matchup with the 49ers.

Chiefs Targets Breakdown

The Chiefs are playing in their fourth Super Bowl in the last five years, but this time they got there more on the strength of their elite defense than with their Patrick Mahomes-led offense. The Chiefs’ wide receivers have been much maligned for dropping passes and failing to make big plays, which has been part of the reason the Chiefs’ offense was not as explosive this year as it has been in recent seasons.

Let’s dive into the Chiefs’ top pass catching options and break down not only how often they were targeted, but also where on the field they were targeted most often. Note that the target share data below is sourced from Pro Football Focus and may differ from other football data sources.

Chiefs Targets Overview

These were the Chiefs’ total target leaders this season, sorted by total targets and including target share and targets per route run. For reference, the Chiefs have had 673 total targets this season (including playoffs). Note that target share data is based on the Chiefs’ total targets and does not consider games a player missed, so their actual target share in games they played will be higher.

  • Travis Kelce – 18 games, 614 routes run, 144 targets, 21.4% target share, 0.23 targets per route run
  • Rashee Rice – 16 games, 493 routes run, 123 targets, 18.3% target share, 0.25 targets per route run
  • Justin Watson – 19 games, 432 routes run, 57 targets, 9.95% target share, 0.13 targets per route run
  • Isiah Pacheco – 17 games, 331 routes run, 56 targets, 8.3% target share, 0.17 targets per route run
  • Marquez Valdes-Scantling – 19 games, 522 routes run, 48 targets, 7.1% target share, 0.09 targets per route run
  • Noah Gray – 20 games, 359 routes run, 48 targets, 7.1% target share, 0.13 targets per route run
  • Kadarius Toney – 13 games, 152 routes run, 37 targets, 5.5% target share, 0.24 targets per route run
  • Skyy Moore – 14 games, 289 routes run, 36 targets, 5.3% target share, 0.12 targets per route run
  • Jerick McKinnon – 12 games, 175 routes run, 32 targets, 4.8% target share, 0.18 targets per route run
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire – 18 games, 154 routes run, 26 targets, 3.9% target share, 0.17 targets per route run
  • Mecole Hardman Jr. – 9 games, 107 routes run, 24 targets, 3.6% target share, 0.22 targets per route run
  • Richie James – 12 games, 125 routes run, 17 targets, 2.5% target share, 0.14 targets per route run
  • Justyn Ross – 10 games, 79 routes run, 11 targets, 1.6% target share, 0.14 targets per route run
  • Blake Bell – 20 games, 87 routes run, 9 targets, 1.3% target share, 0.10 targets per route run
  • LaMical Perine – 4 games, 31 routes run, 4 targets, 0.6% target share, 0.13 targets per route run
  • Donovan Smith – LT who received 1 target on a trick play

Deep Targets

Let’s take that target share data a bit deeper and look at who the top deep threats were on the Chiefs this season. Wide receivers Justin Watson and Marquez Valdes-Scantling led the way in deep targets (20+ air yards). They combined for 40 of the Chiefs’ 76 deep targets this season.

Watson led the team with 22 deep targets, which represented 38.6% of his total targets (57). He caught 8 of those deep balls for a team-leading 36.4% catch rate on deep passes.

Valdes-Scantling was not far behind with 18 deep targets, which represented 37.5% of his total targets (48). He caught 6 of those deep balls for a 33.3% catch rate. While Watson’s 252 yards on deep passes led the team, MVS was 2nd with 211 yards and led the team in average depth of target (33.2 yards) and yards per route run (11.72). In other words, Watson saw a slightly higher volume, but Valdes-Scantling was slightly more explosive with his opportunities.

The rest of the Chiefs’ deep targets went to Kelce (9), Rice (7), Hardman (6), Gray (6), Moore (4), James (2), Ross (1), and McKinnon (1)

Slot Targets

Another way to drill down a layer on target share data is looking at slot targets. This tells us which players were targeted most often when operating primarily over the middle of the field.

Kelce and Rice were the two most prolific pass catchers from the slot. Unsurprisingly, Kelce led the team in slot targets with 74, which represented 51.4% of his total targets this season. He also led the team in slot receptions with 57, good for a 77% catch rate from the slot.

Rice was second on the team with 58 targets and 49 catches (84.5%). That means that Kelce and Rice combined for 106 catches on 132 targets from the slot. The rest of the team combined for 75 catches on 122 targets.

The rest of the Chiefs’ slot targets went to Valdes-Scantling (22), Watson (22), Toney (19), Hardman Jr. (14), Gray (14), Moore (13), James (9), Edwards-Helaire (3), Bell (2), Pacheco (2), Ross (1), and McKinnon (1).

Travis Kelce Targets

The Chiefs’ most prolific pass catchers deserve a bit more attention in terms of how their targets broke down this season, so we’ll finish this up with a more in-depth look at Kelce and Rice.

This chart from PFF shows how Kelce’s targets and catches broke down for different areas of the field. In each section of the field, the top line represents catches/targets with (drops) in parentheses. The second line indicates yards gained with (YAC) in parentheses.

A chart showing Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce's targets during the 2023 season. It shows his target breakdown for different areas of the field, such as left, right, or middle, and short, intermediate, or long.

Kelce saw the most targets on short passes (0-9 yards) with 68, which represented 47.2% of his total targets. However, he was arguably most effective on intermediate throws (10-19 yards). He received 42 intermediate targets, which represented 29.2% of his total targets. He caught 33 of those targets (78.6%) and had a 132.6 passer rating when targeted at that distance, higher than at any other depth of target.

Kelce gained 14.79 yards per target on intermediate throws, which was higher than his yards per target at any other depth including his deep targets. Part of the reason for that is that he caught those passes at a much higher rate. He had a 78.6% catch rate on intermediate passes and just a 33.3% rate on deep passes.

Another reason is that he gained 185 yards after the catch on his 33 intermediate catches (5.6 per catch), but only gained 7 yards after the catch on his three deep receptions (2.3 per catch). Essentially, when he received intermediate targets, he was much more likely to catch them and to catch them in stride so he could rack up some YAC.

Rashee Rice Targets

This chart from PFF shows Rice’s catches and targets at different areas of the field.

A chart showing Chiefs wide receiver Rashee Rice's targets during the 2023 season. It shows his target breakdown for different areas of the field, such as left, right, or middle, and short, intermediate, or long.

Rice also saw the most targets on short passes with 62, which represented 50.4% of his total targets. Like Kelce, he also was most effective on intermediate throws. He saw 20 targets at that depth, which was just 16.3% of his total targets. He caught 16 of those targets (80%) and had a nearly perfect 152.1 passer rating when targeted at that distance, higher than at any other depth of target.

Rice also had his most yards per target on intermediate throws with 15.20. Like Kelce, a big reason for that is that he caught intermediate passes at a very high rate of 80%, especially compared to his 14.3% catch rate on deep passes. He also excelled with yards after the catch, but there was not a noticeable difference in YAC on intermediate throws compared to all other throws. His 6.8 yards after catch per reception on intermediate targets was only slightly higher than his 6.3 YAC per catch on short throws, and it was lower than his YAC average on throws behind the LOS (10.8) and deep passes (45.0 on just 1 catch).

Rice and Kelce were both effective all over the field, but they were both at their best when they ran at least 10 yards before being targeted.

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Noah hails from Philadelphia and is a diehard Philly sports fan. He graduated from Penn where he was a sports writer and editor for the student newspaper and also spent a summer covering the Baltimore Orioles for MLB.com. He has been playing fantasy sports since before live stats were a thing, and he has enjoyed learning the nuances of DFS in recent years. As a current resident of Florida, he is hoping the wave of sports betting legalization will eventually reach his home state.

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