Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs selected tight end Travis Kelce out of the University of Cincinnati in the third round. Most fans and media pundits around the team expected Kelce to come in and compliment newly-signed free agent Anthony Fasano, forming a nice duo at the position.
Instead, Kelce went down in the preseason, lost for the year due to a knee injury which required microfracture surgery. Now proclaimed healthy, Kelce will make another run at earning some quality playing time. He will have to fight with Sean McGrath for some reps, something that nobody would have said a year ago.
Before everybody starts saying Kelce is better than McGrath, remember this: McGrath stepped up last season in the passing game while Kelce has not proven anything in the NFL. Now we can move on.
Kelce has plenty of potential, as evidenced by this YouTube video of him running people over in both blocking and pass-catching situations.
The real question is if Kelce stays healthy, what can we expect this season? Does he translate to the NFL and become an impact player, or does he go the way of Brad Cottam? Kelce appears to be a tight end you can play in any situation, certainly a big plus. However, Fasano is also an all-around player, so does that limit his time? Or, does Andy Reid go with a lot of double-tight sets?
When our own Joel Thorman, a.k.a. The BlogFather, caught up with Kelce earlier this offseason, he stated that he's ready to play some football.
"I'm itching to get out there," Kelce said. "There's no nervousness about me right now. I've been waiting since I was a little kid to play in this league. To be in a situation where I am ... it's a humbling experience but it's definitely in the back of my mind that I just want to be great at everything I do on the field. I'm taking it day-by-day, patiently waiting, but I know when I get out there it's going to be a full explosion and I'll just let it go."
For my money, I believe Kelce will see more action as the season progresses. Early on, I do not expect Kelce to make much of a dent in the game plan. Reid has two veterans at the position who can play (although McGrath can't block). It is likely Kelce will have to earn his stripes in limited time before being thrust into a main role, barring an injury to Fasano or McGrath.
I'm looking for an overall stat line of 30-35 catches and 450 yards with a few touchdowns.For the record, here are the stat lines of our tight ends from last season, before I'm told I'm underselling the man:
Sean McGrath: 26 catches, 40 targets, 302 yards, 2 touchdowns
Anthony Fasano: 23 catches, 33 targets, 200 yards, 3 touchdowns
I think by the end of the regular season, Kelce will have begun to emerge as a nice weapon for Alex Smith to find on third down. Should he prove a reliable threat down the seam, he has the potential to be at the top of the depth chart. Should that happen, Fasano could be cut, although it would not be a certainty
Fasano has a cap hit of $3.975 million in 2015, with a dead money total of $2.2 million. In 2016, Fasano's cap hit is $4.7M with only $1.1M in dead money. He will surely be cut after 2015 if he lasts that long.
So, what do you see happening should Mr. Kelce stay healthy?