Prior to the 2013 NFL season, you'd be hard pressed to find a spot on the Kansas City Chiefs' roster that seemed more stable and secure than tight end. Between the third round draft choice invested in Travis Kelce, the free agent signing of Anthony Fasano and the presence of veteran Tony Moeaki, the team seemed to have well-rounded options from one to three on the depth chart.
Unfortunately, the certainty turned into question marks in just a few short weeks.
One by one, each of the Chiefs options at tight end were lost to injury, including Kelce and Moeaki for the season. Kelce was placed on injured reserve after undergoing microfracture surgery that went back to a bone bruise suffered in midseason. Moeaki was released after a shoulder fracture put him out for the bulk of the 2013 season. Fasano missed seven games due to various concerns, including a knee injury and concussion. The Chiefs got 522 total offensive snaps from Moeaki, Fasano and Kelce -- or 100 less snaps than Sean McGrath.
In the end, the Chiefs got 522 total offensive snaps from the trio (all from Fasano), or 100 less snaps than Sean McGrath had for the team. Instead, it was unexpected faces like McGrath, Kevin Brock, Dominique Jones and Richard Gordon that earned playing time for the Chiefs. The stability of the preseason became a cast of unknowns by season's end.
So where do the Chiefs stand heading into 2014? Fasano is back as the veteran starter, and the 29-year-old has been a consistent performer before 2013. There's no reason to suspect that he won't be able to remain healthy for 2014. As for Kelce, he has a major learning curve ahead, but the Chiefs were high enough on the Cincinnati product to take him high in the third round in the 2013 NFL Draft. That bodes well for projections for his first full season in the pros.
@ArrowheadPride Lasting takeaway from watching Kelce at Cincy was his violent playing style. He's not just big & fast. Will be 3-down TE.— Evan Silva (@evansilva) February 10, 2014
In case you forgot what the Chiefs saw in Kelce, there's good news when you reconsider some of the preseason reports. For example, NFL.com's draft profile compared Kelce's skill set to the Patriots' Rob Gronkowski and summarized Kelce's stock with the following:
Kelce has been a tremendous run blocker throughout his career for the Bearcats, but really elevated his game as a receiver in his senior season. He isn't a tremendous athlete, but he does a lot of things very well. It's a deep tight end class, but Kelce's play suggests that he should be highly sought after.
CBS Sports projected another impressive comparison although they admitted he'd need some time to learn in the NFL:
Kelce flashes the ability to be an impact blocker and receiver at the next level, but like the Detroit Lions' Brandon Pettigrew, he will likely need some time to adapt at the NFL.
Travis Kelce had a ridiculous amount of yards after the catch with 10.6 average throughout the season. Higher than every wide receiver— Greg Peshek (@NU_Gap) April 27, 2013
Kelce is a stud! He will be great for the KC running game. He can collapse his side of the line. Best blocking TE in the draft. #Chiefs— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) April 27, 2013
Bottom Line: The Chiefs will undoubtedly search for more reliable pass-catchers for their offense under Andy Reid in year two. Perhaps even at tight end. However, Kelce will have every chance to earn significant reps for the team in 2014, and given these reminders of his ability to impact the field in multiple ways, it's a solid sign that at least some help is already in house.
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