Why isn't Travis Kelce playing more?

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Deadspin's Tom Ley wrote an article yesterday praising Chiefs' tight end Travis Kelce as the NFL's next "revolutionary" tight end and potentially the next Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham. Within the article, though, was this very interesting tidbit:

. . . a closer look at Kelce's play reveals that, when he's on the field, he's just as good, if not better, than many of his peers at the position. The "when he's on the field" qualifier is the trick when it comes to Kelce, as he's only lined up on 273 (50.7 percent) of his team's 538 [offensive] snaps. This is weird for a gamebreaking tight end.

Yes, that is weird for a gamebreaking tight end. But is Kelce actually worthy of the "gamebreaking" label? Advanced Football Analytics ranks him 2nd among TEs in Win Probability Added, 2nd in WPA/game, and 4th in Expected Points Added. Football Outsiders ranks Kelce 3rd in DVOA and 5th in Defensive-adjusted Yards Above Replacement -- he is only one of two TEs (along with Denver's Julius Thomas) to be in the top five in both rankings. The rankings and his numbers back up the "game changer" label. Just look at his numbers compared to Anthony Fasano:
























*Fasano technically has two TDs this year, but really only one of them counts, as his second was the now-infamous "Butt TD."

Here's why his snap count is weird for an elite TE. Look at the percentage of offensive snaps played by other "elite" TE's: Jimmy Graham, 64.7%; Julius Thomas, 91.7%; Jason Witten, 100%; Vernon Davis, 60.8%; Gronkowski 66.8%; Antonio Gates, 65.2%. Given how much other elite TE's play, Kelce should be playing at least two-thirds of the Chiefs' offensive snaps.

But what is weirdest about how little Kelce plays is that he isn't on the field as much as the Chief's other, far less productive, tight end. Look at the snap count difference between Fasano and Kelce (from Football Outsiders):

Offensive Snaps

Off. Snap %

Special Team Snaps

ST Snap %











Judging solely by snap counts you would think Fasano was the elite, "gamebreaking" TE, not Kelce. But Kelce is by far the better playmaker and a better blocker than Fasono. So why doesn't he see the field more? Is it, as Ley suggests, Reid's "genetic predisposition toward trolling fans"?

One possible explanation is health. Kelce missed all of last season with knee issues, and if his knees aren't 100 percent healthy Reid may not want to risk injury to his most dynamic pass-catcher. Personally I don't think it has to do with health, judging by the number of special teams snaps he has played. If Reid was concerned enough about Kelce re-injuring his knees to only play him for half of the offensive snaps, I don't think Reid would want him anywhere near the field on special teams. If he's not going to risk Kelce's health on offense, why risk it on special teams?

The more logical explanation is that Kelce is (essentially) a rookie. Given that he missed all of last year with knee injuries, he likely has absorbed very little of the playbook. Kelce is probably only on the field for the plays that he has learned up to this point. It is a simple explanation, but in these situations Ockham's Razor usually applies. If Kelce is actually 100 percent, and if Reid truly isn't worried about him re-aggravating old injuries, this is the only explanation that makes any kind of sense.

Hopefully Kelce's snap counts increase as the season goes along (and, theoretically, as he learns more of the playbook). As the Chiefs best pass catcher, he's simply too valuable of an offensive weapon to keep off the field. (And how can you not want to see more of the Nature Boy?)


I trust Reid, and trust he will get Kelce more snaps thought the season. Or he's simply trolling us all.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.