40 Time: (DNP Combine)
Arm: (DNP Combine)
Hand: (DNP Combine)
Projected Draft Position: Late 2nd – 4th
Despite being a three-year letterwinner while playing quarterback in high school, Travis Kelce began his career at Cincinnati as a tight end in 2009 after redshirting his 2008 season. He would go on to play in 11 games as a freshman, serving as a tight end and lining up at quarterback in the Wildcat formation.
After missing all of 2010 due to an undisclosed violation of team rules, Kelce brought in just 13 passes in 2011 before showing out as a senior last year with 45 catches for 722 yards and eight touchdowns.
Kelce is one of my favorite tight ends in this class because his current game fits the mold of what NFL teams are looking for. Although the Bearcats offense didn’t showcase him as a receiver, Kelce showed enough for scouts and coaches to notice the potential as a true hybrid at the next level.
Often used as a blocker, teams are going to love Kelce on tape. For starters, he’s enthusiastic — actively looking to get his hands and helmet on the opponent if he’s not out for a pass. He’s also versatile in that he can line up at a number of different positions (ie. slot, tight, backfield) and block effectively in the run game or in pass protection. Kelce has good bend when he engages and he uses his large frame to create leverage and use it to a dominating advantage.
That’s the hard part. We see so many tight ends come out of college as oversized wide receivers and then try to improve as blockers during their first couple seasons in the NFL. But not Kelce. He already has that part down. He’s a polished blocker that shouldn’t have any problem making the jump when it comes to that aspect of his game.
As a pass catcher, Kelce has room to improve. Don’t, however, mistake him for a non-threat. Although maybe not possessing the straight-line speed we see from some tight ends in the league, Kelce has enough to beat his defender and his frame naturally causes mismatches. Once he brings in the catch, Kelce does a good job of turning up field with a decent first step and the chance for extra yards.
Kelce has very sure hands for a guy that didn’t see a ton of targets during his college career and he consistently catches away from his body, using good concentration and strong hands to take the ball out of the air. As a large and reliable pass catcher, Kelce would be a primary target on 3rd-and-short in the NFL. He also serves as a natural redzone threat, whether it be as a blocking decoy or a large set of hands in the back of the endzone.
In time, Kelce should improve as a route-runner. And with the potential he has, he’s going to want to dedicate himself to understanding separation and getting better use of his hands during his routes. Although his short routes are clean, Kelce needs to get crisper on his longer, more intermediate stuff.
The best thing about Travis Kelce and his transition to the next level is that he already has the hard part down. Is improving your route running important? Sure. But as a tight end, teams appreciate those that are versatile. Those that use their large frames to get dirty and block, while also being able to cause mismatches in coverage and stretch the field. And because of his talents at this stage, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kelce go anywhere between the late second- and fourth round.