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The competition to back up Travis Kelce in 2019 will be fierce

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With the star tight end hobbled after ankle surgery and Demetrius Harris in Cleveland, the Chiefs are drawing water from a new well

NFL: AFC Championship Game-New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Fans who are trying to figure out who will be carrying the rock for the Kansas City Chiefs in the coming season are spending a lot of time trying to figure out which of the seven running backs the Chiefs now have on the roster will be among the five (or so) backs the Chiefs take into Jacksonville for the season opener on September 8. They like to refer to the running back room as a crowded one.

And it is crowded.

But it’s nothing compared to the tight end room. With six tight ends now on the roster, five of them will be competing for what will likely be only one roster spot behind Travis Kelce. Depending on the progress of Kelce’s recovery from offseason ankle surgery, there is a possibility the team could carry three tight ends for a few weeks of the season — much like they did when Demetrius Harris was facing a suspension at the beginning of 2018. But ultimately, just one of those five players is likely to be on the active roster.

Still, Chiefs tight ends coach Tom Melvin told reporters after Thursday’s OTA session that he isn’t worried about the competition between Blake Bell, John Lovett, Deon Yelder, David Wells and Joe Fortson — and because Kelce isn’t taking any snaps right now, the team is getting a better read on the rest of the group.

”Out of the group, we’ll find somebody,” Melvin said. “It’s not going to be the exact same spot that Demetrius Harris filled. But with Travis not going, guys are showing us things that we may not have thought they could do — or expected them to do. It’s helping us evaluate and push them past their comfort zone.”

There was a time that converting basketball players into tight ends was one of the things the Chiefs liked to do. But after having so much success with Kelce — a former college quarterback — the team is looking for water out of a new well.

”John Lovett is an interesting kid,” Melvin explained. “Having come from [the] quarterback [position], and then [playing] some fullback and tight end in college, he’s got a nice perspective on it. Smart kid. He’s the third quarterback that we have in [the room]. Kelce played [quarterback] in college — Blake Bell, same thing. So they have a different perspective in how they look at things. It’s been good for the room as they talk about things.”

Melvin was, of course, speaking of The Belldozer, who played quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners until he switched to tight end his senior season, and has now spent four years on three different teams trying to find his place in the NFL.

”Blake Bell is a vet — that’s number one, and that’s a good thing,” Melvin said. “He’s a good route runner. As an ex-quarterback, he sees the field. A smart player, which in our offense [is important]. You really have to be an intelligent player to line up everywhere that you do to be able to function. Those are the things that he gives us right now.”

Because he is so important to the team’s offense, many fans are worried that Kelce is missing time in the offseason program. But Melvin shrugged off those concerns, and noted that at this stage of his career, it’s not only a good thing for the other players who are getting more snaps at the moment, it might also be better for Kelce himself.

”It’s not his first surgery since he’s been here, so he knows how to do that,” Melvin said. “He understands his body and how to make it work for a full 16-game season and the playoffs. And this is actually good for him. At this point — usually after your fifth or sixth year in this offense — I’d tend to give the younger kids more reps than I would the vets. He doesn’t need all those reps. He needs the specific ones with Patrick Mahomes on the new stuff that we’re doing here, but the stuff from last year that we’ve done — the younger kids can do that. He’ll be fine — and it may end up being better for his body in the long run.”