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On the Chiefs’ draft board: Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy

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By: Jared Sapp

Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kansas City has met with the wideout who now holds the Combine’s all-time speed record.

With last week’s release of deep threat Marquez Valdes-Scantling, the Kansas City Chiefs have already begun an overhaul of their much-maligned wide receiver group.

The Chiefs got a head start on a receiver-room makeover at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. In his media appearance, University of Texas speedster Xavier Worthy confirmed that he had a formal meeting with Kansas City.

Here’s everything to know about Worthy:

Background

A native of Fresno, California, Worthy joined the Longhorns as a four-star high school recruit. As a true freshman in 2021, he played in every game, hauling in 62 passes for 981 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Worthy was less effective in his second season in Austin. While it appeared that he had developed a devastating issue with dropped passes, it was later revealed that he had played much of the season with a broken hand.

After some transfer-portal speculation, Worthy returned 2023 to catch 75 passes for 1,014 yards and five touchdowns over 14 games (and returned 22 punts for 371 yards and a touchdown) during his final season in Austin. He also looked much more reliable as a pass-catcher, making the broken-hand narrative more credible.

He declared for the draft after his junior season and received an invitation to the Combine. In Indianapolis, he measured 5 feet 11 and 165 pounds — significantly lighter than his reported weight at Texas — which raised some concerns about how his frame might handle NFL punishment.

Worthy made big news on Saturday, setting a new Combine record of 4.21 seconds on his second 40-yard dash attempt. Lost among the hype surrounding Worthy’s speed were outstanding numbers in both jumping categories. He did not run the agility drills.

Film evaluation

What makes Worthy a top prospect is simple: he has game-changing speed, allowing him to outrun even elite defensive backs. He can score on any play.

Wherever Worthy begins his NFL career, he’ll be able step into at least a rotational role as a deep threat right from Day 1 — although it is unknown whether his body will allow him to take on a bigger role on the short and intermediate routes that will expose him to more hits.

Worthy’s record-breaking 40 time is already being shrugged off by some draft pundits. Some are comparing him to the previous record-holder: former Washington Huskies receiver John Ross III, who was a famous draft bust.

The only real comparison, however, is their elite speed. Ross entered the league as a raw player with only one successful season. Worthy has been a major contributor with the Longhorns for three seasons, starting as a true freshman. He is already a much better route-runner than Ross ever hoped to become.

In this play, Worthy’s change of direction fools two Kansas State defenders. Worthy also shows great situational awareness by navigating to the corner of the end zone.

While there are significant concerns about Worthy at the next level, he should not be compared to raw athletes trying to turn track speed into an NFL career.

As we see here against Iowa State in 2022, Worthy’s vertical jump comes through on film. Despite a shorter-than-expected height, he can go up and get a ball. He is not likely, however, to become a contested-catch monster; to maximize his NFL role, he will need to show multiple ways to win at the catch point.

How he fits with the Chiefs

Worthy would instantly be compared to former Kansas City wideout Tyreek Hill for how he would fit the team’s offense — although it’s unlikely he’ll have to cut his teeth on special teams like Hill did after being selected in 2016’s fifth round. Still — like Hill during his final Kansas City seasons — Worthy’s potential to turn a game around on special teams could mean the Chiefs will deploy him on returns situationally.

Although the Chiefs have won a pair of Super Bowls since trading Hill, quarterback Patrick Mahomes has also looked less effective as a deep passer — something that has sometimes frustrated him. Worthy’s combination of deep speed and ball tracking could be the key to unlocking the big plays that have been missing from Kansas City’s offense.

Worthy also fits well with the other weapons Kansas City currently has — and may augment them. For tight end Travis Kelce to maximize his abilities in what could be his final season, the team will need a deep threat that teams respect — a role that Valdes-Scantling (and other receivers) have not filled during the last two seasons. A deep threat like Worthy demanding attention could also help second-year wideout Rashee Rice take another step forward.

The downside is that there aren’t many examples of players built like Worthy succeeding in the NFL. He will frequently be compared to DeSean Jackson — who weighed 169 pounds at the 2008 combine before catching 62 passes for 912 yards as a Philadelphia Eagles rookie under head coach Andy Reid. Over time, Jackson has been shown to essentially be in a class by himself; similar players have been unable to match his success.

If the Chiefs want Worthy, his record-setting run may force them to trade up. It is, however, possible that his weight will put a limit on how early he will be taken. Eyes will also be on the Big 12’s Pro Day on March 27 to see if Worthy has added some weight.

In the meantime, The Athletic’s consensus board listed Worthy at 39th, while NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah ranked him 41st in his latest Top 50. The ultimate ranking of this class’s top dozen wideouts will be among draft weekend’s biggest stories.

Ultimately, the Chiefs’ interest in Worthy will be driven by Reid’s experiences with Jackson and Hill — and how much Reid believes he can make him into a similar playmaker.

Originally posted on Arrowhead Pride