Travis Kelce has long been recognized as one of the best tight ends in the NFL. However, it seems that his stellar 2020 campaign has been fairly ignored thus far. Throughout his career, Kelce has been labeled as a “security blanket.” Those takes have become awfully awry as the years go by.
Just because he plays for Andy Reid, Kelce has never been completely acknowledged for his skillset. He is often talked about as “being a beneficiary of the offensive scheme”, or he “only wins on short routes.” And don’t even get us started on the fact that Kelce’s critics believe “he can’t block.” Today, we will look back on how Travis Kelce has grown since the beginning of his career, his record setting pace in 2020 and how he’ll be viewed after his career.
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Better With Each Passing Season
Coming out of Cincinnati, Travis Kelce was still learning the tight end position to a degree, having originally played quarterback. He was drafted the same year Coach Reid came to Kansas City. A rookie season was used more as a learning curve. Kelce was only active for one game before landing on injured reserve.
Fast forward to his rapport with Alex Smith. Quickly, Travis became reliable and was a durable player for the Kansas City Chiefs. This has been a long standing asset that has helped Kansas City basically throughout his entire career. Availability is an oft-forgotten aspect for players when people talk about their abilities.
His numbers in receptions, targets and touchdowns all hovered around the same margin during that time. At the beginning of his career, Kelce was primarily used on crossing routes or quick outs. This sometimes helped the tight end, just as much as it led to mistakes. Fumbles were an obvious problem early on. For example, he had 4 costly fumbles in 2014.
Though as time as moved on, Travis Kelce has become a more complete player. He can win against man, zone, in short yardage situations or deep down the field. And while injuries are out of the player’s control, Kelce keeps ascending, as guys like Zach Ertz and George Kittle continue to be unavailable for their team. After years of dominant play, he was rewarded with a honorable contract extension this summer. He and Patrick Mahomes are arguably the most in sync duo in the league.
For all the career highs, Travis Kelce continues to set, it’s also impressive to compare him to some of the great tight ends in recent history. Let’s look at former Chief Tony Gonzalez, for example. Both tight ends have four 1,000 yard seasons under their belt. Meanwhile, Kelce is the only tight end in NFL history to have four consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. In other stats like yards, yards per game and touchdowns Kelce is already ahead of Gonzalez or on pace to break those previous marks. Obviously, Tony finished his career after 17 sensational seasons. Kelce is only about halfway through his eighth career season, and seventh full campaign.
As we continue to throw around comparisons, it is pretty substantial to look at what Travis Kelce has done in the playoffs. His ability to make big plays, especially after the catch, has never been a secret. But, he is trending to becoming possibly the best tight end to ever do it.
Not only is Kelce on pace to set new career highs in touchdowns, receptions and receiving yards this season, but he is becoming more efficient in other areas as well. According to Sports Info Solutions, his catch percentage is the best it’s ever been. The same goes for Kelce’s yards after the catch, drop percentage, first down percentage (plays resulting in a first down) and receiver rating. Like fine wine, number 87 has got better with age.
How Will Kelce Be Remembered?
Once again, no one will doubt that Travis Kelce is among the best tight ends in the game. Nonetheless, it seems like there is still an underappreciated aura surrounding him. Part of that appears to stem from what we saw in New England with Rob Gronkowski. Of course, Gronk was one of the first to make the modern tight end position special. His charismatic nature, combined with oozing stats and Super Bowl wins, led to other considerably good tight ends being put under Gronkowski’s shadow.
But in Kelce’s case, he has further modernized the ability of the tight end. Not many others can play the position with wide receiver like capabilities that he does. Up and comers Darren Waller and Mark Andrews are following that same path. As Kelce continues to build his own acclaim, his constantly improving results could very well give him an argument as the best tight end in this current NFL era.
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– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.