Travis Kelce and Andy Reid both began their careers in Kansas City in 2013. Since then, it’s fair to say things have gone well for the Chiefs, with 103 wins, eight playoff appearances, six straight division titles, four straight conference championship appearances, and two Super Bowl appearances with one win. It’s as close to a dynasty as you will see in the modern NFL (non-Belichick division).
Kelce’s stranglehold on the top of the tight end tier has been no less impressive.
Six consecutive 1000-yard and Pro Bowl seasons, alternating between All-Pro 1st and 2nd teams. The other teams in the AFC West, perhaps sensing weakness but more likely tired of playing from underneath to the Chiefs, have loaded up to try and take them down. Mark Andrews and Kyle Pitts are coming for the best TE in the league title.
As the saying goes, if you come for the king, you best not miss.
Note: Our Wednesday, July 27th, No Punt Intended episode took a look at Travis Kelce in fantasy football! We welcome our good friend Hutchinson Brown from Footballguys as a guest. There was even a surprise appearance from Jake Trowbridge of MB Fantasy Life! The show covered the 49ers, Packers, and Chiefs.
Travis Kelce in Fantasy Football
2021 – What Happened?
According to some, having 92 catches for 1125 yards and nine touchdowns while finishing as the TE2 is apparently evidence of Father Time catching up with you.
Age is catching up with him so quickly that the analytic sites are clearly falling out of love with him. After ranking between 1st and 4th in TE grade every year since 2016, Pro Football Focus dropped him to (checks notes) 4th…again. According to Football Outsiders, he fell all the way from 1st to 2nd in DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement.) They haven’t ranked him below 3rd since 2016. Clearly, Kelce is fading. <End sarcasm mode>
2022 – What’s Next?
The Cheetah ran out of Arrowhead Stadium all the way to Miami. Without Tyreek Hill, the Kansas City offense will look…exactly the same. Make no mistake, this is Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes’ offense, and they’re not going to change what they do. Hill, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, and Darrell Williams are all gone, and altogether, the passing offense has 326 unaccounted-for targets.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and rookie Skyy Moore have been brought in to vacuum up some of those targets, but how many will head their way? JuJu played in five games last year and has seen 226 targets in the previous three years. MVS has never topped 73 targets in a season. Skyy Moore is a rookie and will be all year long. Ronald Jones is there, too, but the less said about that, the better.
During his six-year All-Pro run, Travis Kelce has earned a 23.4% target share in the KC offense. As a thought experiment, if Kelce were to earn that target share of the Chiefs’ vacated targets, he would get an additional 76 targets. Extrapolating his per target efficiency to those 76 targets would give him 52 more catches for 638 yards and five touchdowns. Add that to his “down year” numbers from last year, and you get 144 catches on 210 targets for 1763 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Are those numbers reasonable? Is there any reason they’re unreasonable? Patrick Mahomes may be the best improvisational quarterback in the league’s history (hyperbole alert!). His ability to keep plays alive inside and outside the pocket and make off-platform throws is unparalleled. The drawback of that improvisational skill is it demands familiarity.
This is what made Tyreek Hill so special. His ability to stop and start and accelerate to top speed, the top top speed in the NFL, played exquisitely with Mahomes’ abilities. If there’s one thing the Chiefs will miss with Tyreek gone, this is it.
Mecole Hardman and Clyde Edwards-Helaire are both back for another go. Still, at this point, they both are what they are; limited players being propped up by the opportunities brought about by playing alongside superior talent. Travis Kelce is the lone returning ELITE player in this offense. He has built-in chemistry with Patrick Mahomes’ play-extending wizardry.
If you’re looking for this year’s version of Cooper Kupp, an absolute target-hog with the skills to set NFL records, he may be right in front of your eyes. (Travis Kelce picture again, for added affect.)
A Look Inside the Kansas City Chiefs
Editor’s Note: We asked our writers to focus on one player, but we don’t want to leave you hanging on the rest of the team. While Joel focused on Travis Kelce in fantasy football, here is a quick look at the rest of the Chiefs, prepared by either Josh Hudson or Ryan Weisse.
Patrick Mahomes: Like Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, it will fall to him to elevate an unknown receiver corps. Unlike Aaron Rodgers, Mahomes has Kelce to ease the transition. He’s the best QB in the league and will prove it again in 2022. -Joel Wirth, I Agree with Joel here. The weapons might keep him out of the fantasy Top 3, but he should still be a top-6 option. -Ryan Weisse
Clyde Edwards-Helaire: He’ll never pay back the first-round draft capital the Chiefs spent on him, but he knows the offense. For a passing-down back, he’s a subpar pass blocker.-Joel Wirth, If you have not followed his interesting two offseasons as a pro, here is a quick synopsis. He came into the league during COVID. That meant no real practices and no pass block improvement. In 2021, he had a pretty severe gallbladder surgery that lowered his weight to something like 160 lbs. You ain’t letting that pass block for Patrick Mahomes. This is his first real preseason, and I think he will step up big. -Ryan Weisse
Ronald Jones: Really? We’re not doing the “believe in RoJo” thing again, are we? -Joel Wirth, If you hated him splitting time with Leonard Fournette, why is KC any different? -Ryan Weisse
Jerick McKinnon: If I had any faith in his ability to stay healthy for more than a month, I’d say he’s the KC RB to own in fantasy… -Joel Wirth, If he wins the 3rd-down back role, he is worth a waiver add later. Do not draft Jerick McKinnon. -Ryan Weisse
JuJu Smith-Schuster: Is it possible to be ambivalent about JJSS? Apparently, you either have to love him or hate him. -Joel Wirth, And I still love him. There is no receiver on this team more likely to cross 100 targets than Smith-Schuster. If you believe Mahomes is a good QB without Tyreek Hill, Smith-Schuster is the likely beneficiary. -Ryan Weisse
Marques Valdes-Scantling: Mahomes is a better match for him than Aaron Rodgers was, but it’s still a low-volume role. -Joel Wirth, If he ends up as the primary deep-threat for Patrick Mahomes, low-volume or not, he is more than worth his current ADP. -Ryan Weisse
Skyy Moore: Feels like a middle-class version of JJSS. -Joel Wirth, To say this WR corps is muddy is an understatement. You have free-agent signings, you have a couple of pieces from the old guard, and you have the rookie with decent draft stock. Moore could be a good NFL player, but it may not be in his rookie year. -Ryan Weisse
Mecole Hardman: There are enough people out there loudly carrying his torch that you may mistakenly think he’s a popular player. He’s not, and he doesn’t deserve to be. -Joel Wirth, The long and short on Hardman is that he was drafted to replace Tyreek Hill when the Chiefs thought they would lose him to suspension. They didn’t, and this is the first time Hardman has the opportunity to do what he was drafted to do. He’s not expensive and may be the best late-round flyer in fantasy -Ryan Weisse
We hope you enjoyed our look at Travis Kelce for fantasy football this season. You can find all of our A Look Inside articles here!
If you’re prepping for your dynasty drafts, you can also find our rookie consensus rankings here.
(All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com)