Should Travis Kelce Be the Third Tight End Drafted in Fantasy Football?

Travis Kelce got extended playing time for the first time in 2014 and made the most of it, becoming one of the most productive players at his position.

It may seem a bit crazy, since it’s just the middle of June, but some fantasy football players are already getting mock drafts in. has data on 545 mock drafts so far, and one of the interesting takeaways comes from the tight end position.

Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham are the consensus top two players at the position, and have an average draft position of 16.4 and 29.5, respectively.

No surprises there. The bigger question is what tight end is getting taken off the board next.

In these mocks, on average, that man has been Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs.

And these fantasy early risers may be on to something.

Kelce was one of the breakout players of 2014 after appearing in only one game in his rookie season. The former third-round pick caught 67 balls on 87 targets for 862 yards and 5 touchdowns last year.

The 25-year-old was also second to Gronkowski among tight ends in Net Expected Points (NEP) on all targets last season. Our Net Expected Points metric measures each play’s scoring probability impact, given down and distance, and field position.

Kelce also looks good on a per target basis, ranking fifth at the position in Reception NEP per target (0.83) and third in catch rate (77.0%). Also, 64 of his 67 receptions gained positive expected points, giving him a Success Rate of 95.5%, which led the position.

We project Kelce to finish fourth behind Gronkowski, Graham and Antonio Gates in fantasy points, while catching about 77 passes for 884 yards and 6 touchdowns.

An even closer look reveals even more to like about Kelce, supporting the idea he is the best option in the second tier of tight ends.

Among tight ends with at least 20 catches, only Seattle’s Luke Willson averaged more than Kelce’s 7.5 yards-after-catch per reception in 2014. This ability to run after the catch is especially valuable in the Kansas City offense, a passing game that is not particularly vertical.

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was last in the NFL among qualifying quarterbacks in average depth of target (6.0) for the second straight year, marking the sixth straight season he ranked in the bottom five, according to ProFootballFocus.

The short passing extended to Kelce and the tight ends, and he was actually second among Chiefs tight ends in aDOT to Anthony Fasano (6.3 to 7.4). The lack of verticality did not hurt Kelce’s production though, as he averaged 12.9 yards per catch and 9.9 yards per target.

Kelce was also a solid red zone target for a team that did not have many, as its wide receivers famously went the entire season without catching a touchdown.

He caught 10 of 13 targets inside the red zone for 96 yards, ranking 11th among all players league-wide (including wide receivers and running backs) in terms of receiving yardage in the red zone.

Among the 84 players who received at least 10 targets inside the red zone, Kelce was second to Greg Jennings in yards per target.

Plus, among the top 10 tight ends in standard scoring fantasy points last season, no one was younger than Kelce, so it seems pretty safe to assume his best is yet to come.

If Graham and Gronkowski don’t fall to you, feel comfortable taking Kelce.

Whenever your draft may be.