How a looming Rashee Rice suspension will (and should) affect the Chiefs’ draft plans

The Chiefs and coach Andy Reid won’t say much publicly about wide receiver Rashee Rice and the eight charges he faces from his role in a car crash last month.

That’s as expected, though a hint of condemnation is a relatively low bar to clear — the case is ongoing, sure, but Rice did admit to police he was driving one of the cars racing down a Dallas freeway that caused a multi-vehicle crash, his lawyer said. And we can all agree that’s without justification, right?


But after taking several questions on the subject, Reid did provide one update: Rice is currently with the team. That’s not merely noting that he is still on the roster — nothing is changing there, if we’ve been paying attention to the Chiefs’ playbook — but also that Rice is actively participating in the initial phase of the team’s offseason programming, which is being held virtually this week. In other words, Rice is taking part in some Zoom calls with his coaches.

That might be more than a bit startling, given that Rice is out on bond while facing eight charges, two of them felonies. According to an arrest affidavit, he drove a Lamborghini SUV 119 miles per hour down a well-trafficked expressway and caused a chain-reaction crash that injured eight people, including a 3-year-old and a 4-year-old.

But let’s be clear: Rice is not escaping this without punishment — legally, financially or professionally. On the former, we’ve mentioned the eight charges. On the finances, he’s already up against multiple lawsuits, including a $10 million suit filed last week.

And on the latter, the NFL will have its say.

The consequences are coming, even if not immediately. So while Rice is a participant today, his future participation is not entirely up to the Chiefs.

Before I move on to that, let me just underscore there is no conversation more important than the one we’ve had already — the consequences of what Rice is facing for his alleged actions and the consequences of the actions themselves. Full transparency: I debated whether it’s suitable to participate in the discussion about the football effects.

But for the Chiefs, that is a one-sided debate. They have to participate in that discussion. The NFL schedule, a week shy of the draft, demands they analyze the part within their control:

How will (and should) a potential, if not likely, multi-game suspension alter their plans in the NFL Draft next week?

If it were me? Not that much.


A two-part answer.

A technicality to the first: It shouldn’t alter their plans because the plans to bolster the wide-receiver room should have already been in place. They need another talent, with or without Rice. More on the reasons why shortly.

The second: The Chiefs have excelled in the draft in recent seasons — 64% of their Super Bowl roster was homegrown last season compared to just 39.6% in their 2019 Super Bowl run. That’s a telling number, and the story it tells most clearly is about their draft success.

The analysis of how they’ve hit on a high percentage of their picks will lead you in a few directions, but it has to start with this headline: The Chiefs haven’t recently made massive stretches from their board based purely on need.

That’s not to say they ignore positions. Their positional needs do and should play a factor, absolutely. A member of the organization once described it to me this way: The positions serve as slightly more than tiebreakers, but not a lot more. Which is the point. The Chiefs’ roster, one absent glaring holes, allows for the luxury of some flexibility, and they have been more keen than their counterparts to take advantage of that flexibility.

A year ago, for example, they drafted an edge rusher for the second straight season, despite their initial one in that lineage being a relative success and despite all of us knowing they needed an offensive tackle and a wide receiver, which they waited until the second round rather than straying from their board in the first. A year earlier, they plucked three cornerbacks in the same class because, well, that’s what their draft board suggested.

Back to first part of the rationale. The technicality. The wide receivers should have topped their list of priorities before Rice’s legal situation.

The success of last season came despite their production at the position, not because of it. The Chiefs had only one receiver tally at least 500 yards.

They were the only playoff team that could say that. Heck, the Dolphins, Eagles and Buccaneers had multiple 1,000-yard wideouts.

Hollywood Brown is a good addition at a great price, but the Chiefs were more than one receiver from a solution. And Brown signed only a one-year, incentive-laden deal. That’s a stop-gap more than a long-term fit. A draft pick has the potential to reverse that — long-term fit, not a one-year fix.

There will be ample opportunity next week; and this next sentence plays into the reason for placing the position atop the draft list every bit as much as need does.

The 2024 draft class is flush with talent at the position. It’s not just the top of the boards, either. There are anywhere from 12-15 first- and second-round receiver prospects in this year’s class, depending on your preference of mock draft experts. Wherever they rank individual players, a consensus emerges: This is a year to grab a receiver. And as other teams pick based on need, there will be value late in the first round, even at lowly No. 32, or even with the second-round selection at No. 64.

The Chiefs can fill a need without deviating too far from their board to do so. It’s an ideal spot, and the least of ideal reasons they’re stuck in it.

This year’s tiebreakers, or perhaps a bit more, ought to go to the route-runners.