The Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl aspirations hinge on the arm of quarterback Patrick Mahomes more than any other factor. Mahomes’ dominance in recent years has been nothing short of a miracle for Kansas City, and the team has two championship rings to show for his efforts.
But for the reigning MVP, there isn’t much left to prove. He has already shown an acumen for winning big games, secured himself one of the biggest contracts in pro sports, and is an icon who is seen on television daily.
Mahomes’ teammates now bear the burden of keeping his legacy and, by extension, the team’s reign as NFL champions, afloat. After a successful training camp and preseason, some of the quarterback’s cohorts have more to prove than others, especially after roster cuts left many of Kansas City’s most promising prospects without a place on the team’s payroll.
Check out our top 15 Chiefs with something to prove ahead of the 2023 season kickoff on August 7:
There was rampant speculation regarding Edwards-Helaire’s ability to beat out La’Mical Perine and Deneric Prince for a spot on the Chiefs’ roster in the preseason, and the fourth-year back seems to have secured his place by the skin of his teeth.
Don’t expect him to have much of a role while stuck behind Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon, who seem to be positioned to lead Kansas City’s backfield. Edwards-Helaire will have to put together some truly special performances in 2023 if he intends to regain his former status in the Chiefs’ offense.
McDuffie enters the 2023 season as one of Kansas City’s top cornerbacks after a breakout rookie campaign last year. With such a crucial job on the Chiefs’ defense, McDuffie will have to prove that his spectacular performance in 2022 wasn’t a fluke and that he can hang tough against the NFL’s best receivers when Kansas City has a target on its back.
WR Skyy Moore
Kansas City wouldn’t have selected a receiver in the second round of the 2023 NFL draft if they were totally secure with their group of pass catchers after Super Bowl LVII. Moore played reasonably well as a rookie last season but will need to step up his game in 2023 to cement himself as a viable second or third option in the passing game.
DB Bryan Cook
Cook is set to be a starter on the Chiefs’ defense in 2023 and will need to show that he can be consistently productive and play smart while maintaining his edge on the field. Penalties became an issue for him last year, so harnessing the aggressiveness in his approach while still playing within the game’s rules will be a challenge for him to overcome during Kansas City’s coming campaign.
WR Justyn Ross
Ross is already a fan-favorite in Kansas City despite his lack of regular-season experience in the NFL. The hype around the promising second-year receiver is well-founded, but he will have to prove that he is worthy of his spot on the 53-man roster during the next few months, or risk being seen as a flash in the pan by season’s end.
LB Willie Gay Jr.
Gay’s athleticism makes him a threat to opposing offenses, but he has yet to put together a full season of truly outstanding play. He will start for the Chiefs in 2023, playing beside Nick Bolton and Leo Chenal, but could be cycled down the depth chart in favor of Drue Tranquill or Jack Cochrane if inconsistencies plague his performances.
Taylor will play his first full game with Patrick Mahomes under center in Week 1 when Kansas City faces the Detroit Lions, and he is likely to find out that his new job as the Chiefs’ right tackle is among the hardest in the NFL. Kansas City can’t afford anything less than stellar play from its line in 2023, and Taylor will have to adjust his game quickly to ensure that the reigning MVP doesn’t get injured.
DB Justin Reid
Reid has been a leader for Kansas City’s defense since joining the team last season after Tyrann Mathieu’s departure. He was a key part of the Chiefs’ run to Super Bowl LVII but looked a bit off in the preseason when the first-team defense was on the field.
He can’t afford to take a step back if Kansas City intends to win their second-straight championship, so Reid will need to step up his game when the regular season kicks off next week.
RB Isiah Pacheco
Pacheco is one of the most promising young running backs in the NFL but plays a position that isn’t exactly known for its longevity. In 2023, Pacheco needs to prove that his exceptional rookie season wasn’t a one-off performance, and he has to take as much pressure off Patrick Mahomes as possible to keep defenses honest with his hard-nosed runs.
The Chiefs didn’t get much from Anudike-Uzomah in the preseason but need major contributions from the 2023 first-round pick in the coming months. Though he isn’t likely to start for Kansas City until injuries play a factor on the defensive line, Anudike-Uzomah has to flash brilliance in whatever playing time he gets early in the Chiefs’ 2023 campaign to justify his draft position.
WR Rashee Rice
Rice had a phenomenal preseason until the Chiefs’ final game against the Browns when drops came to define his performance. To be sure, one poor showing in the preseason won’t doom this promising rookie’s career, but he will need to win back the confidence of his quarterbacks with more consistency during the regular season to become a fixture in Andy Reid’s offense.
DL Neil Farrell
Farrell has a huge opportunity to become a mainstay of the Chiefs’ defensive front in Chris Jones’ absence but is a total wildcard heading into the 2023 season. He wasn’t particularly impressive as a rookie last year and needs to prove that a change of scenery is all he needs to blossom into an elite presence on Kansas City’s front four.
OL Joe Thuney
With Chris Jones’ salary temporarily off the books for Kansas City, guard Joe Thuney is now the second-highest-paid player on the Chiefs’ roster. While this status isn’t permanent, it means that he is taking up more resources than anyone not named Patrick Lavon Mahomes II.
If that doesn’t warrant elite play from someone on Kansas City’s payroll, nothing else will.
Nnadi needs to show that his efficacy as a starter isn’t buoyed by the players who share the field with him on the Chiefs’ defensive line. In years past, Nnadi has been a steady but unspectacular piece of Kansas City’s front four with guys like Chris Jones and Frank Clark to ease the pressure on him.
Without superstars to help him up front, the Chiefs’ Week 1 matchup against the Detroit Lions will be a true test of Nnadi’s mettle.
Smith blocked for Tom Brady as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccanneers but has yet to see the field with Patrick Mahomes in the regular season. Similar to the aforementioned Taylor, Smith will be pushed to his limit while keeping Mahomes out of harm’s way and could find his spot on the depth chart compromised if he doesn’t perform well early in the 2023 season.