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Why Buy Travis Kelce When This TE is Cheaper?

Are you the kind of shopper who happily snaps up the the dented can of the brand name item that’s been marked down? Then this is the series for you.

After all, why pay more when you can get the job done for less?

That’s the thinking in using arbitrage in fantasy football, a concept first discussed years ago by the Fantasy Douche.

The idea behind using an arbitrage approach in your fantasy drafting is that you’re looking to keep the same upside, while reducing your risk. – Fantasy Douche

Some of arbitrage plays we talk about will be the next Marvin McNutt, and some will be last year’s Mark Ingram, a player we insisted brought as much upside as many of the backs in front of him. We won’t win them all, but the wins will outweigh the losses when the cost to acquire these players is so much more economical.

Today, I offer you a the dented-can version of Travis Kelce.

Looking at what these two elite tight ends have done over their past three seasons, which one would you rather own? The two went practically point for point over two full campaigns before our discount play was hurt in 2017.


Does breaking things down even further help make the choice any easier? Their targets, expected points, and efficiency numbers are all strikingly similar.


I wouldn’t blame you for leaning Kelce based on his more-recent 1,100-yard campaign, although our player did post one of his own the year before.

These guys are both beasts, only recency bias has made one of them much cheaper. Factor in their respective cost, and you have to ask – why draft Kelce?


Old Man Olsen

In Greg Olsen, we’re getting the injury and age discount. Everything else, from the stats to the size, is comparable.



Before we get too carried away here, it’s worth pointing out that our historical projections have Kelce easily lapping Olsen. I’ve used the Sim Scores to make arguments for the arbitrage play on Kenny Golladay, so it’s worth consideration.

Likely due to his age, and now with an injury history, the projection model isn’t wild about Olsen’s chances of making a fantasy impact this year.


However, Olsen’s injury in 2017 wasn’t serious and didn’t seem to have much of an impact. He returned from foot surgery in time for Week 15 and promptly posted a massive 9-116-1 TD line. If healthy, 120 fantasy points is likely to be closer to his floor than his ceiling — Olsen has averaged 218 points over his last three full seasons.

Meanwhile, Kelce’s Sim Score has him humming right along at his elite level.

kelce proj

Quarterback Concerns?

What the historical projections don’t know about Kelce is that he no longer has TE Whisperer Alex Smith feeding him targets. Smith has looked his TE’s way 21 percent of passing attempts over the past three seasons, and his 328 TE targets are the most in the league over that time.

Smith is now in the nation’s capital, soon to be elevating Jordan Reed back to elite status. Meanwhile, Kelce gets Patrick Mahomes, who may be fine but is certainly something of an unknown.

Meanwhile, Cam Newton gets his best pass catcher not named Steve Smith back.



The two have clearly had an excellent connection through the years and should be able to pick up right where they left off.


The two TEs’ numbers had been in lock step for years before Olsen was injured last year.

And since then, nothing has changed, other than the fact that Kelce goes from the TE-friendliest QB in the league to a guy who will make just his second NFL start in a few weeks.

I believe Rob Gronkowski is in a tier of his own at TE. If I miss on him, I’m passing on Kelce to grab the discount version instead.

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