Kansas City Chiefs receiver Rashee Rice has made an impression on Patrick Mahomes — Andscape
A chance meeting before the NFL draft in April resulted in a memorable workout for Rashee Rice and proved to be a harbinger of his future with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Superstar Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Rice, a former standout wide receiver at SMU and a well-regarded draft prospect, just happened to be at a training session together in Texas. One thing led to another, and Rice wound up catching passes from the NFL’s best player.
As it turned out, Rice and Mahomes were only getting started.
The Chiefs drafted Rice, who’s climbing their depth chart quickly. Many Chiefs observers believe that the rookie’s performance could be among the biggest factors in whether or not the reigning Super Bowl champs repeat.
That’s fine with Rice. Bring it on, he said.
“From the second I got drafted, I thought about what I needed to do and what I wanted to do coming in,” Rice told Andscape during a phone interview Wednesday. “I didn’t just want to be part of the team. I’m trying to have an impact.”
He’s succeeding at it.
After six games, Rice, 23, has 21 receptions for 245 yards and two touchdown passes – tops in each category among Kansas City wideouts. In a victory over the visiting Denver Broncos 19-8 in Week 6, Rice had a personal-best 72 yards on four receptions, including a 28-yard catch on third down in the fourth quarter that helped Kansas City close out Denver.
That’s what the Chiefs drafted him to do, Rice said.
“It has been really cool to get opportunities and just kind of just get in the loop,” Rice said. “With this being my first year, and being around so many vets who really know the offense, it’s good to know I’m developing in the offense quickly and gaining that trust. It’s progress and we’re winning, which is the most important thing.”
That’s what the Chiefs do best.
At 5-1, the Chiefs, who host the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, again are alone atop the AFC West Division. Under future Hall of Fame coach Andy Reid, the Chiefs have dominated their division opponents, winning seven straight titles. They’re tied with the Los Angeles Rams (whose run began in 1973) for the second-longest streak of finishing atop a division in NFL history. The New England Patriots hold the record, having won 11 consecutive AFC East titles from 2009 through 2019.
In only his sixth season as the Chiefs’ starting quarterback, Mahomes already has two Associated Press NFL MVP awards, two Super Bowl MVP awards, and led the team to two Super Bowl championships in four seasons. The Chiefs have hosted the past five AFC Championship games, establishing a new NFL mark. The Philadelphia Eagles of the NFC are the only other franchise to host as many as three consecutive conference championship games (2002 to 2004), which occurred when they were led by Reid. And Brett Veach, the Chiefs’ general manager, has proven to be a master roster-builder. A strong argument could be made that Veach is the league’s top player-personnel executive.
Despite the club being led by the game’s top people in the most important positions and all of the franchise’s recent spectacular success, Chiefs fans have remained nervous about the team’s receiving corps. Before last season, the Chiefs traded All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who wanted more money than Chiefs management was willing to pay him, to the Miami Dolphins. The Chiefs persevered: Mahomes used his whole receiving corps like never before en route to directing the team to a 38-35 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII.
This season, the Chiefs are looking to young wideouts Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore, who both made major contributions in last season’s playoff run, to take big steps forward. Both are off to slow starts, however, so Rice’s contribution has been somewhat comforting to Chiefs fans.
“He’s getting better every week,” Reid said. “He’s explosive, strong after the catch.”
Said Rice, “Truthfully speaking, I feel like every time I get the ball in my hands the minimum I’m going to get is five yards. I feel like … any run of four yards or more [on first down] is a great [way] to get the offensive game started.”
Throughout his time at SMU, Rice displayed the ability to evade coverage and produce significant yardage after receptions. During his senior season for the Mustangs, Rice had 96 receptions for 1,355 yards (a 14.1-yard average) and 10 touchdowns in 12 games.
At the NFL scouting combine, Rice was measured at 6-feet-1, weighed 204 pounds and was clocked at 4.51 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Rice’s combination of size and speed, and what he displayed on film post-catch, intrigued Veach. The Chiefs selected Rice in the second round (55th overall).
Undoubtedly, the Rice-Mahomes workout in April only improved his pre-draft standing with the Chiefs. It was meaningful to Rice as well.
Figuring he would run routes and catch passes from then-Chiefs backup quarterback Shane Buechele, his teammate at SMU, Rice traveled to TCU in Fort Worth, Texas, one morning. To his surprise, the NFL’s No. 1 player was getting in some work as well.
“I’m thinking that I’m just gonna train with my old [college] quarterback, and then I get there and Pat’s there that day. I’m like, ‘That’s Pat. What?’ ” Rice said, pausing to punctuate his sentence with a hearty laugh.
“Obviously, I wasn’t expecting him to be there. He was just working out that day, too. Pat was real cool. I got a chance to work with him, which was great.”
The brief encounter made a lasting impression on Mahomes, whose opinion of players is respected within the organization. Rice has continued to impress Mahomes.
“He’s doing a great job of just being in the right spot at the right time … that’s the biggest thing,” Mahomes said. “When he gets his opportunities, he makes the most out of them. … That’s what you have to do as a rookie in this league, and he’s done a great job of it.”
For Rice, the biggest transition from college has been “the mental part of the game,” he said. “In the NFL, there’s so much more that goes into it than in college. Just the whole thing of going to meetings and then going directly to the field and doing exactly what you just talked about in the meetings. It’s just all a lot faster, so that’s why I feel good about just learning each day in the offense.”
Not surprisingly, having Mahomes’ support has inspired him.
“Knowing that Pat sees something in you is cool,” Rice said. “Knowing that Pat sees something he likes, yeah, 100%, that means something.”
From their first encounter, Rice showed Mahomes a lot. And it just may be that Rice’s best is yet to come.