Travis Kelce Is Worth Reaching for in Fantasy Drafts This Year
Over the last four seasons, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has scored 123.5 more points in points-per-reception (PPR) leagues than anyone else at the position. To provide some context, a tight end producing 123.5 points in 2019 would have been the TE13.
In PPR formats, Kelce has been the TE1 every season since 2016. That's a damn impressive feat.
In each of his last two campaigns, Kelce has scored more than doubled the fantasy output of the 13th-best tight end in fantasy.
Given that elite production, how high should you draft Kansas City's star tight end in 2020?
Since the conclusion of the NFL Draft, Kelce has had an average draft position (ADP) of 18.27, according to BestBall10s -- good for first at the position.
Production Since 2016
As I mentioned earlier, Kelce has been the top tight end in fantasy in every season since 2016, posting 123.5 more points than any other tight end.
During that four-year stretch, he has averaged 92 receptions for 1,182 yards and 6.8 touchdowns. That line would have been good enough to make him a top-10 receiver in three of the last four seasons.
With each passing season, Kelce has grown more consistent, yet his ceiling hasn't taken a hit.
< 10 Points
≥ 14 points
≥ 20 points
In PPR leagues, Kelce had just three games over the last two seasons where he failed to reach double-digit points. Comparatively, he scored 20 or more in 12 of his 32 contests (38%). George Kittle (23.43 ADP), who's the only other tight end going within 30 picks of Kelce, had six games in single-digits and just eight games with more than 20.
In short, you don't get that kind of floor or upside with any other player at the position.
Over the last four seasons, Kelce has commanded 21.4, 22.5, 25.7, and 23.6 percent of his team's targets. Even with the Chiefs drafting Clyde Edwards-Helaire, there's no reason to think that Kelce won't have a similar market share in 2020.
Historical Value and Opportunity Cost
If you're drafting a tight end in the first or second round of fantasy drafts, you're surrendering the opportunity to select a running back or receiver with that pick -- in other words, that's the cost. Now let's see if it's worth it. Here's a look at how many PPR points, on average, the top-20 at each position have scored since 2012.
|Running Backs||Wide Receivers||Tight Ends|
In 10-team leagues, the difference between the RB1 and the RB10 is a whopping 156.1 points -- in case you didn't understand why backs are priced at such premiums. For receivers, the difference is 84.9. And for tight ends, it's 101.8.
Now, comparing the number one tight end to the top tier of running backs is a useless exercise -- after all, a decent number of backs and receivers usually come off the board before the first tight end. So, unless you're thinking of taking a tight end inside the top-five, that's not an opportunity cost worth dissecting.
Instead, let's do an exercise using this year's average draft positions.
Assuming the team sitting at the turn wants to take Kelce (the top projected tight end) with the 11th pick, what would they be surrendering?
This year, eight running backs and two receivers are off the board before the 11th pick. After pick 11, the team's next picks are the 30th and 31st in the draft. 18 backs and 8 wideouts are off the board by pick 30. So, taking Kelce at 11 would mean surrendering the RB9 (234.3) in favor of the RB19 (184.7) or the WR3 (308.3) in favor of the WR9 (264.6). And that variance will get smaller and smaller with each passing pick.
Given all that, it would seem like you're not surrendering too much to get a tight end who's that much better than most players in the mid- to lower-tier at a shitshow of a position.
The obvious caveat of the above exercise is that either your RB2 or WR2 will be selected in the fifth round or later, though both of those positions can be much more predictable than tight end (beyond the top two or three players each year). However, the difference between the overall WR3 and the best available wideout at the 50th pick (WR20 this year) is less than the difference between the TE1 and TE9.
This opportunity cost argument is not without real-life evidence. In ESPN leagues, Kelce, along with Christian McCaffrey, Aaron Jones, and Nick Chubb, are the only four players to appear on more than 55 percent of playoff rosters in each of the last two seasons. It's not just the playoffs -- over the last two seasons, Kelce has been the most common and third-most common tight end on ESPN Championship rosters. That includes being inside the top-17 of all positions both years.
Both Tyler Higbee and Darren Waller were on a higher percentage of Championship rosters in 2019. However, unless you're extremely confident in your ability unearth those late-round/waiver wire gems, you're better off paying up for Kelce.
numberFire projects Kelce for 90.1 receptions, 1095.7 yards, and 9.0 scores. That line would have amounted to be the TE1, RB9, and WR9 last year.
I'd start considering Kelce at the turn of the first and second rounds.