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2020 Chiefs positional preview: tight ends

Arrowhead Pride’s 2020 positional previews continue with a look at the Chiefs’ tight ends for this season.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Tennessee Titans Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

As training camp progresses over the next few weeks, the AP Nerd Squad continues to break down the Kansas City Chiefs roster position by position. We’re working from the top of the depth chart to the bottom, briefing you on how we think each position group will play out.

With the release of John Lovett, the battle within the tight end group definitely became a little less exciting — but there are still spots up for grabs. After Anthony Sherman was re-signed, Lovett was always going to be a long shot to come back; Sherman was just a better fit as a fullback or H-back — but Lovett’s skillset added excitement.

Now the most interesting thing to watch will be who replaces Blake Bell as the team’s backup tight end. The Chiefs are bringing back Travis Kelce, Deon Yelder and Nick Keizer — and have added Ricky Seals-Jones to the group.

Let’s take a look at how they stack up.

“The guy”

No drum roll is needed. “The Guy” is the best tight end in the game.

Travis Kelce continues to be one of the league’s most dynamic, game-changing weapons — and as the offense has filled out around him, he’s become even more dangerous. In order to win, the Chiefs no longer need him to catch eight passes and gain 100 yards, but he’s still more than capable of doing that — and more.

When all of the ways he is used (and his route tree) are taken into consideration, Kelce’s route running is arguably the best-ever among tight ends; he’s a mismatch for every defensive back on the field. And even on the biggest stages, he can take over any game; see last season’s Houston Texans playoff game for an example.

While Kelce’s speed and ability after the catch may not be what it was a few years ago, his ability in the red zone — and in contested situations — has improved during the last couple of years.

There’s no reason to think Kelce’s performance will take a step back — and judging from some early leaks from camp, he even appears to be in better shape than usual.

New kid on the block

Early in his career, Ricky Seals-Jones had some success as a second tight end with the Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns, but he hasn’t yet become a good second tight end. He was a wide receiver in college, so some of those skills have carried over to the pros; his feel for spacing against zone coverage — and an ability to track the ball vertically — routinely show up. And at times, he flashes more fluidity in his hips than most tight ends.

But traditionally, the Chiefs’ second tight end has been a high-quality in-line blocker; receiving ability has been a secondary trait. Unfortunately, Seals-Jones’ biggest issue is that his blocking skills continue to mirror those of a wideout. He’s rarely been asked to block in-line — but when he has been, it has usually been on running plays where he needed to immediately climb to the second level to block linebackers — rather than trying to handle defensive linemen. Even Seals-Jones’ blocking in space mimics that of an average wide receiver — and that’s a skill in which Kelce already excels.

Seals-Jones is a good athlete — but he’s not elite. His athleticism doesn’t always make up for his lack of size — or his lack of technical ability as a tight end. That limits his usage.

Sleeper candidate

From a size and strength standpoint, Nick Keizer has the best profile to mimic what Bell was able to do as a blocker. He understands blocking angles — and also has the size to down-block defensive linemen or seal the edge. When he’s working up into space, he has enough baseline movement ability to cover all the distance that is required — and while on the move, does a good job framing his blocks.

Keizer’s receiving ability is a bit more old-school than the other guys in the room — but it is still vastly better than Bell’s was last season. He has enough speed and size to run the seam and present a large target — and has even flashed some ability to use his size in one-on-ones for in-breaking routes.

If the Chiefs continue to use a blocking tight end behind Kelce, Keizer would definitely be the best fit. His skills as a receiver split the difference between Bell and former backup tight end Demetrius Harris.

Best battle

A couple of guys fighting it out to become the second tight end isn’t very sexy — but the Chiefs have one on their hands. Deon Yelder has the most experience in the system — and might have the best overall combination of athleticism and size. Both in-line and in space, he’s a capable blocker. As a receiver, he excels at shorter spacing routes that allow him to collect yards after the catch.

Seals-Jones has had the most success as a receiver, so he has the best chance to be a vertical threat. His hold up will be a lack of blocking ability. Based on his experience, Keizer is the dark horse of the group — although he has displayed the best blocking skills and has flashed some ability as a receiver in traditional Y-TE routes.

Poll

Who wins the TE2 job for the Chiefs?

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    Deon Yelder
    (799 votes)
  • 26%
    Ricky Seals-Jones
    (401 votes)
  • 20%
    Nick Keizer
    (312 votes)
1512 votes total Vote Now