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Dynasty Freeze Frame – Travis Kelce

Dynasty values are constantly shifting. Whether it’s seasonal variation between the off SZN, draft SZN, and point-scoring SZNs or due to perturbations in the news cycle field, it’s essential not to let minutiae drive the value of a player. In this series, we’ll look at dynasty-relevant players from a macro level to see if we can drive through the headwinds of noise and find the value signals. We start with fantasy’s biggest positional value difference maker, Travis Kelce, and his 2023 dynasty value.

Travis Kelce Dynasty Value

We’ve reached the point where we can say without hyperbole that Travis Kelce is not only the best tight end in the NFL, he’s the best tight end in the history of the NFL. That’s all well and great for the Chiefs, but what does it mean for his dynasty value? After all, he’ll turn 34 early in the 2023 season. He’s reached the age when only quarterbacks can be expected to contribute at all, let alone at the highest level. The thing about being the best of all time is that he’s, by definition, an outlier. His production has to be considered an outlier, both among his current contemporaries and his historical ones.

Last Year

Kelce’s 2022 fantasy season has to be considered among the great seasons of all time relative to his position. In overall standard scoring, he was 44% better than the next highest-scoring tight end. For PPR, he was 48% better. And in 1.5-point TE-Premium leagues, the advantage was again 44%. His point-per-game scoring dominance was nearly as drastic. Those numbers came in at 27%, 38%, and 41% better than the nearest tight ends, respectively.

The dynasty caveat is, of course, going to be his age. He’s 935 days older than Keenan Allen, the closest significant non-QB fantasy contributor. How long can he keep this up? When you’re this much of an outlier relative to your current peers, we have to look at historical comparisons. Obviously, there will be a significant amount of Survivorship Bias in the list of players who performed at such an advanced age. For example, Rob Gronkowski is five months older than Kelce. Gronk can claim similar peak dominance, but he’s now been “retired” for two of the past four seasons, including the most recent. So let’s look at four other historically significant tight ends who did have careers that lasted beyond the age Kelce is now.

The Greats

Antonio Gates

Peak PPR scoring season at age 25 | Age 33 season 73% of peak | Age 34 season 86% of peak. | >50% of peak through age 36.

Tony Gonzalez

Peak season at age 28 | Age 33 season 76% of peak | Age 34 season 64% of peak | Age 37 season 80% of peak, then he retired.

Shannon Sharpe

Peak season at age 28 | Age 33 season 67% of peak | Age 34 season 60% of peak | Age 35 season 76% of peak, then he retired.

Jason Witten

Peak season at age 25 | Age 33 season 66% of peak | Age 34 season 61% of peak | Sat out age-36 season | >50% of peak through age 37.

It’s an admittedly short list, but that’s to be expected, given the parameters. If there’s one thing to take away from this, it’s that there is no reason to expect Kelce’s production to dramatically drop off any time soon. He was 48% more productive than the next-best tight end last year. If Kelce can maintain 68% of his productivity, he’ll still be the top tight end relative to 2022 tight end production. Tony Gonzalez and Shannon Sharpe maintained greater production relative to peak through their retirement seasons at ages 37 and 35, respectively. If Kelce can match that, he’ll be the overall TE1 for at least the next three seasons and possibly more.

Of course, none of the other tight ends on the all-time greats list had situations as conducive to being elite as Kelce. Playing with Patrick Mahomes in an Andy Reid offense is a production cheat code. But, of course, the inverse is true, as well. Having Kelce makes Mahomes a better QB and Reid a better play-caller. If we hold true that dynasty should be played in two-to-three-year windows, there is no legitimate reason to discount Kelce for his age.

Conclusion

So what to do with this information? Anecdotally, my dynasty teams made it to the championship game in seven leagues in 2022. Kelce was on the roster of one of the participant teams in six of those championships. So he is as much a ticket to and through the playoffs as anyone we’ve seen since peak LaDainian Tomlinson.

For a contending team, he’s invaluable. He’s the very definition of positional advantage. His weekly consistency is critical to getting through the playoff grind. For non-contenders, he should still be viewed as a build-around piece. Only the most barren of asset dynasty teams should be looking at contention windows beyond two years. Kelce should be expected to be elite for at least that long and more if his outlier status applies to his historical comps as much as his current-day contemporaries.

You can find other articles from Joel Wirth here, and don’t forget to follow him on Twitter!