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Is Travis Kelce Your Tight End Lottery Ticket for 2014?
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arrowheadaddict.com

Fantasy football doesn’t have to be hard. Sometimes the right answers to seemingly difficult questions are obvious after a little bit of digging. The case of Travis Kelce and tight end streaming is one such situation. Last night, I was in a mock auction with Evan Silva and the rest of the Rotoworld crew and found myself digging for a second tight that I felt would adequately provide a safe floor in terms of playing time as well as exponential upside on a per target basis. The answer, if you hadn’t guessed, was Travis Kelce.

When generating tight end comps in 2014, you’re basically looking for one guy: Rob Gronkowski. Gronk’s Vitruvian man act was put on this Earth to score fantasy points and if you can find any sort of reasonable arbitrage on Gronkowski’s ability, you should be chomping at the bit to own said player.

Year Name College POS Height (in) Weight (lbs)
40 Yard Vert Leap (in) Broad Jump (in) Shuttle 3Cone Agility Score
2010 Rob Gronkowski Arizona TE 78 258 4.68 33.5 119 4.47 7.18 11.65
2013 Travis Kelce Cincinnati TE 77 255 4.61 35 124 4.42 7.09 11.51

You would be hard pressed to find a player who more closely resembles Gronkowski from a physical standpoint. Almost the exact same height and weight, only .07 seconds off in 40 time, and Kelce actually has the edge in leaping ability and lateral agility. In general, though, athletic tight ends are a dime a dozen. They are worth investing in regardless, but what separates the Dorin Dickerson’s and Travis Kelce’s is production.

kelcegronk

Kelce’s age of breakout obviously wasn’t as impressive as Gronkowski’s but looking at the pair’s final collegiate seasons, they become comps on a production level as well with Kelce actually converting a greater number of his red zone looks. Obviously, Travis Kelce isn’t Rob Gronkowski. He just isn’t. No one is, not even Jimmy Graham. The point of this exercise was to find a foundation for the argument that Kelce isn’t just a very solid dynasty buy (he is) but to see that he could have some usefulness for redraft leagues in 2014.

Last season, tight ends and H-backs accounted for 20% of the Chiefs targets and also 25% of the teams receiving touchdowns. Research that I conducted last offseason indicated that Alex Smith heavily favored targeting his tight ends in the red zone and that the same was true in Andy Reid’s offense. The result was that a human by the name of Anthony Fasano actually ended up with the 3rd most receiving touchdowns on the team. Kelce did not play as a rookie due to microfracture surgery, which was the reason Sean McGrath was 5th on the team in receptions.

Heading in to the 2014 season, however, the Chiefs are going to need Kelce to be on the field. In 15 games last season, Alex Smith ended up with the 5th most pass attempts in all of football, so it isn’t as if this offense is too conservative. Kansas City has what is probably the thinnest WR corps in all of football, outside of maybe Carolina. Other than Dwayne Bowe, their options are AJ Jenkins, Donnie Avery and Junior Hemingway, who were all on the roster last season and did essentially nothing to improve the team. Even outside of his competition at the TE position, there is a real need on this roster for a talented pass catcher.

Last season the Chiefs’ tight ends, McGrath and Fasano, played the 31st and 37th most snaps of any tight end in the league. Clearly, this is a team that is not shy, and even dedicated to using two tight ends. All of the indications from Chiefs training camp suggest that 1) Kelce is healthy and full go after microfracture surgery prevented him from playing as a rookie nd 2) that 2 tight end sets will remain a large part of their offense. Just thinking from a logical perspective, the Chiefs’ best offensive personnel is probably Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Fasano, Kelce and Donnie Avery. Having both of the tight ends on the field supplies more blockers for Charles, who is the most important cog in the Kansas City machine while at the same time not having to rely on AJ Jenkins or Junior Hemingway for much of anything.

We know who Anthony Fasano is. He’s a decent run blocker (18th best at the position last season according to PFF) but there is no upside as a pass catcher. He’s 30 years old and is 5 seasons removed from his only top 12 fantasy season. He’ll be on the field and he’ll be reliable, but the organization has real incentive to use Kelce in a more productive (for fantasy purposes) role. He was the 63rd overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, so the team used real draft capital to acquire him. Demetrius Harris is a high-upside player in the Julius Thomas former basketball player mold, but he is currently listed as 5th on the teams tight end depth chart. Since 2000, 3rd round tight ends have a bust rate of roughly 30% (here is the list on PFR) but that is actually pretty decent considering tight ends normally have a tough time converting to the NFL.

The reasons for trusting Kelce as your 2nd tight end in a deeper league or monitoring him as a tight end streamer are pretty simple. He profiles athletically as a discounted Rob Gronkowski, he plays in an offense that heavily utilizes the tight end, his competition for snaps are wide receiver busts and career back up tight ends, and offers his team something that they don’t have because he profiles as a player who will be above average in the red zone. With a nonexistent ADP, he’s a steady buy in all formats.

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