The Kansas City Chiefs need Travis Kelce to produce the way no 33-year-old tight end ever has


Travis Kelce’s manufacturing is the important thing to Kansas Metropolis’s season.
Picture: Getty Photographs

Earlier than I begin, Travis Kelce ought to nonetheless be the primary tight finish off the board on this yr’s fantasy soccer draft. He’s going to get an elevated workload with Tyreek Hill in Miami, and Patrick Mahomes will lean on him early such as you lean on that one particular person on the wedding ceremony earlier than the alcohol loosens individuals up.

I’m not saying Mahomes goes to begin consuming earlier than video games; I’m saying it’ll take time to construct chemistry with free agent additions JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and rookie Skyy Moore. I don’t need to hear something about Mecole Hardman both — at the very least not till he’s greater than a theoretical good receiver.

Which means there’s going to be much more quick, fast passes to No. 87 on essential downs and usually. And that’s sort of been the MO when you’ve watched KC since Mahomes took the reins. In truth, because the Texas Tech product turned the starter, Kelce has tallied extra targets (565 in 63 video games) than Hill (520 targets in 60 video games). Every took turns because the crew’s main receiver yardage smart, with Hill taking the honors in 2021 and 2018, and Kelce main the crew in 2019 and 2020.

Hill claimed in June that Mahomes was going to have a lot of long days without him on the field, and that is perhaps the state of affairs for somewhat bit. Nonetheless clunky it’s at first, I count on Kansas Metropolis will begin buzzing as a result of a quarterback of that caliber doesn’t regress to Jeff George with the lack of one receiver. Whereas Mahomes must work out his deep threats, his reference to Kelce is symbiotic sufficient to transform third downs. How far they will go along with an older tight finish because the No. 1 choice is value questioning although.

The prevailing logic is Kelce may have a 100-plus reception, 1,000-plus yard season now that he has Mahomes to himself. And whereas that’ll most likely stay the case, it’s honest to ask if the Chiefs’ cornerstone will likely be as much as the duty for a full 17-game season. He’s performed 15 video games or extra yearly apart from his first season when he solely appeared in a single sport resulting from damage. That leads me to consider that he’ll be on the market.

The problem is what model of him will likely be operating round Arrowhead. He turns 33 in October, and this’ll be his tenth season. Rob Gronkowski was retired for a yr earlier than he performed his tenth season, and he simply re-retired at age… 33. I perceive New England and Tom Brady didn’t do Gronk any favors so far as receiver assist and utilization goes, and Kelce has by no means regarded as inflexible as the opposite 87 did towards the latter a part of his profession.

That mentioned, Kelce had his lowest yardage output in 2021 (1,125) since 2017 (1,038), and had the bottom yards per catch common (12.2) since 2015 when he posted the identical quantity, per Pro Football Reference.

Tony Gonzalez by no means had greater than 930 yards in a yr after he turned 33, and Antonio Gates did not surpass 872 yards after he hit that age. Essentially the most yards Jason Witten put up after reaching that watermark was 713. Shannon Sharpe stepped away from the sport at age 35 following 811-, 686-, and 770-yard seasons. Jimmy Graham hasn’t been related since he left New Orleans, and he has solely accounted for 1,020 yards complete within the three years since turning 33.

Kelce at the moment sits at 9,006 profession yards, good for sixth all time amongst tight ends. He’ll cross Gronk this yr and will transfer as excessive as fourth on that list if he racks up greater than 955 yards to leapfrog Sharpe. He already has extra 1,000-yard seasons (six) than any other tight end in NFL historical past, and until George Kittle and Darren Waller (two every) can put collectively 4 extra All-Professional seasons, he’ll retire with the document.

I’ll most likely get dying threats from Kansas Metropolis followers after this piece as a result of hopped-up Midwestern girls love them some Travis Kelce. I can’t converse to that side of his sport, however that fan base may be very protecting of the gamers who gave them their first Tremendous Bowl in a long time. (Thank God they will cease defending Hill.)

So, sure, draft Kelce forward of Mark Andrews as a result of he’s going to have yr. Even when he doesn’t have an All-Professional first crew kind efficiency, he’ll have sufficient touchdowns to make it value your cash/choose.

The league is extra pass-happy than ever, and while you think about Mahomes and Andy Reid’s love of throwing the ball, all indicators level to Kelce happening as the most effective receiving tight finish ever when he calls it quits. Nonetheless, he’s getting into never-before-seen territory, and may have an even bigger burden and garner extra consideration from secondaries than he’s seen because the Cheetah arrived.

So, sure, Hill leaving was an enormous loss, however the obvious situation is Kelce and his effectiveness. Finest tight finish within the NFL? Certain. Is he nonetheless nice sufficient to assist his QB get again to a Tremendous Bowl throughout a transition yr for the receiving corps? That I don’t know. 

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