4:00pm: An MRI has produced encouraging results in Watson’s case. No signficant damage was found, per Rapoport, meaning his absence may not be as lengthy as initially feared. Watson should still be expected to miss time, but his injury will likely not be season-ending given the latest update, something which will be welcomed news for a passing offense still seeking to reach its previous heights.
12:12pm: As deeper-league fantasy GMs have discovered, the Chiefs are not leaning on a particular wide receiver this season. Even though the Super Bowl champions veered in this direction last year, after trading Tyreek Hill, JuJu Smith-Schuster still approached 1,000 yards and operated as the team’s nominal No. 1 wideout. No such player resides in that role now.
The Chiefs have used nearly all their receivers regularly. Justin Watson resides among this batch of Travis Kelce sidekicks, but the Chiefs will need to adjust their group after his injury Thursday night. The sixth-year veteran suffered a dislocated elbow that will shut him down for at least a few weeks, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets.
Given the nature of this injury, Watson moving to IR seems like a safe bet, as Rapoport adds this upcoming absence could last longer than a few games depending on MRI results. Watson leads the Chiefs with 21.9 yards per reception. Among Kansas City wide receivers, the veteran sits second on the team with 219 receiving yards — behind only Rashee Rice‘s 245. Despite missing Week 1, Kelce leads the way with 346.
Kansas City re-signed Watson in April, and after letting Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman walk in free agency, the team has given the former Buccaneers fifth-round pick a bigger role. Watson caught just 15 passes last season, though he averaged 21 yards per grab. Through five full games this season, Watson produced at least 45 receiving yards in four. Five of his 10 receptions have gone for at least 20 yards, but the veteran role player’s progress will stall for the foreseeable future.
Watson has outperformed Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Kansas City’s top 2022 deep threat, this year. MVS has just seven catches for 116 yards through six games, though he and 2022 second-rounder Skyy Moore have led the team’s receiving corps in offensive snaps. Neither starter has done too much with the playing time, however. Watson’s 136 snaps sat third among K.C. wideouts. A 2018 fifth-round pick out of Penn, Watson spent four seasons with the Bucs. The Chiefs picked up Watson in February 2022 and gave him a two-year, $3.4MM contract this offseason.
The team has used Rice increasingly as the season has unfolded, and 2022 UDFA Justyn Ross has played sparingly. While injuries and inconsistency have seemingly impeded Kadarius Toney‘s path to a WR1 role, the 2022 trade pickup has played in all six games this season. The Chiefs have beaten one winning team so far — a 17-9 win over the Jaguars in Week 2 — and they scored just 19 points against the Broncos’ last-ranked defense. The team will likely need more from its makeshift WR group as the competition increases.