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On the Draft Board: Cincinnati’s Josh Whyle

Earlier this spring, the Chiefs met with a tight end from Travis Kelce’s alma mater.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 10 Kennesaw State at Cincinnati Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce seeming to find new opportunities outside of football at every turn, how much longer the future Hall of Famer will suit up is a legitimate question. This year's draft is stacked with talent at the position — leading some to speculate that the Chiefs may seek an eventual successor for the seven-time All-Pro selection.

One option for the Chiefs may be Cincinnati tight end Josh Whyle. Besides coming from the same school as Kelce, Whyle revealed at the combine that he has spoken to the Chiefs.

Although Whyle did not have the most productive college career, his highlights are tantalizing. Here is everything to know about Whyle:

Background

Whyle actually grew up in Cincinnati before joining the Bearcats in 2018 as a three-star recruit — bypassing offers from a host of schools, including Auburn and Georgia. Following a partial redshirt freshman season, Whyle ended his college career with 88 receptions for 1062 yards and 15 touchdowns. His blocking also aided now-Cleveland Browns running back Jerome Ford's monster rushing season in 2021 as Cincinnati unexpectedly ascended to the College Football Playoff before losing to Alabama in the Cotton Bowl.

At the NFL Combine, Whyle was measured at over 6'6" and weighed 248 lbs. His height puts him in the 93rd percentile for tight ends historically. His 40-yard dash time of 4.69 seconds tied for seventh among tight end prospects at the combine. Disappointingly for a player with value tied to his height, Whyle's 31 and 1/2-inch arms only place him in the sixth percentile historically. His 33 and 1/2-inch vertical jump is also somewhat pedestrian for tight end prospects.

Film evaluation

Though Whyle attended Cincinnati during the program's most successful historical era, the Bearcats' level of competition always leaves much desired. As such, most of Whyle's highlights show him wide open in ways that even poor NFL coverage will never allow. Still, he has demonstrated the ability to do the most important thing for a player of his size: rise over smaller defensive backs to come down with the ball.

One way the Chiefs have liked using Kelce and second-year tight end Noah Gray is faking them into a block before sending them on a route — or having them be a check-down option after finishing their initial blocking assignment. Whyle shows potential in fooling the defense and being a safety valve.

During the season, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Matt Miller actually included Whyle in their fullback rankings. Whyle's height is unheard of for the backfield, but his tape at times supports the arguments. Whyle's combination of size and speed make him deadly on tight end screens, perhaps the most predictable way his college production could translate to the pros. While he will never see this much space in the league, this play shows why a player like Whyle would be intriguing to Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.

The Chiefs already have a backup tight end who can create yards in similar ways in former fifth-round draft pick Noah Gray. Gray was in on more than half of the Chiefs' offensive snaps during his second season, topping more than 60% in both the AFC Championship game and Super Bowl LVII.

The Bearcats' strong rushing attack was key to their Cinderella playoff run in 2021. Whyle will likely never make a roster for his blocking, but he can eat space and make a running back's life easier.

How he fits with the Chiefs

Although his best plays are exciting, Whyle would have a difficult time finding a role in Kansas City, barring injury. Gray's 299 receiving yards in 2022 are by far the best output by a Chiefs backup tight end since Kelce broke out in 2014. The most enticing things Whyle could add to a passing offense are already the things the Chiefs appear to have covered with two years remaining on Gray's rookie contract.

He is unlikely to stand out from the other tight ends currently on the roster. While Blake Bell does not appear to be a lock for the Chiefs' 2023 roster based on his contract, Whyle does not profile as a strong enough blocker to take the veteran off of the roster. Despite being taller than Jody Fortson, Whyle may not be strong enough vertically to be a noticeable upgrade bringing in high passes or winning contested catch situations.

It is difficult to see him raising the floor of the Chiefs' offense, given the backups already in-house — who are also all trusted options on special teams. Unless the Chiefs hope to replace Fortson or Bell with a player more interchangeable with Gray and Kelce for 12 and 13 personnel, Whyle is an unlikely Chiefs target at Union Station later this month.

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