As the long wait between the draft and training camp continues no position group for the Kansas City Chiefs is more interesting to me than the tight ends. Future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzales has been gone for four seasons already and the Chiefs have struggled to fill the void left by his departure. After a solid rookie campaign, Tony Moeaki appeared to be the heir apparent to the position. However, a history of injuries in college have followed him to the NFL. Now it appears Moeaki (who has already been ruled out until training camp after having his knee scoped) will have to compete for playing time and possibly even a roster spot.
The Chiefs signed former Miami Dolphin Anthony Fasano to a four year 16 million dollar contract this offseason. That’s pretty big money to pay someone to just compete for a job, so one would assume that Fasano will get regular playing time as either the #1 or #2 TE. Then they spent their first of two third round draft picks on Travis Kelce out of Cincinnati. With several solid prospects still on the board the fact that Andy Reid and John Dorsey felt that Kelce was the best pick despite having Moeaki and Fasano on the roster tells me they think he is going to be a really good player.
So the Chiefs literally have three different players who all have a shot at being the starting TE this season. Usually when a team has three people competing for one starting spot it’s because the team doesn’t really have anyone good enough to claim the spot. I don’t think that’s the case in KC this season. I think all three of these guys are good enough to start in the NFL.
Making this battle even more exciting is the added importance of the tight end position in the KC offense. No one has actually come out and said this, but all one has to do is look at the recent history of Andy Reid’s offenses and the play of Alex Smith and it becomes pretty clear.
In the past five years the average combined numbers for TEs on Reid’s Philly teams was:
Alex Smith’s use of the TE takes a little more digging since he hasn’t played for entire seasons that frequently. However, if you include the 2011 playoff games, over the past 4 seasons Smith has played in 48 games. That’s the equivalent of three 16 game seasons. So I added up all of Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker’s stats from those 48 games and divided it by 3 to get the average numbers for a 16 game season. Those combined numbers were even bigger than those from Reid’s offense:
Now, those numbers are obviously inflated by the fact that Smith had arguably the best playmaking TE in the NFL in Vernon Davis. However, Davis’s numbers dropped off last season once Smith was benched. So clearly Smith has shown that he likes to use the TE. If you average the Reid and Smith numbers together you get:
So those are probably a good estimate for what the tight end production should be in an Andy Reid offense with Alex Smith as the QB, IF the TEs are up to the challenge. That would certainly be a lot more production from the position than KC has seen since Tony Gonzalez left. In those four seasons the KC TEs have averaged:
So in order for Reid and Smith to utilize the TE like they have in the past KC will have to almost double their production at the position. Is one of the three guys fighting for the starting job capable of putting up the bulk of those stats or will it have to be a combined effort? Thus far in their career Fasano and Moeaki’s numbers fall well short of the mark.
Fasano’s averages as a starting TE:
Moeaki’s averages as a starting TE:
So thus far in their careers as full time starting TEs you would have to combine their stats to get the numbers we said Reid and Smith will be looking for from the TE position. Now, they both have been working with inferior QBs for most of their careers so its possible their production will be increased just from better QB play. If either of the two are capable of producing bigger numbers its probably Moeaki. Fasano is a great blocker and has good hands, but his playmaking ability is very limited. He’s more of a safety valve/drop off type receiver than an actual receiving weapon. Moeaki has shown more down the field upside, but his injuries may make it hard for him to win the job.
That leads us to Travis Kelce. I’ll admit that I’m a big Kelce fan, so this opinion is probably biased. That having been said, I believe that if any TE on the roster is going to step up and give KC the production at the position that Reid and Smith will be looking for it is Kelce. If you haven’t watched THIS VIDEO yet, do it now. It does contain NSFW lyrics in the music, so be warned. What you see in that video is a tight end that lines up all over the field. He has soft hand, runs after the catch, and blocks with a ferocity that is rare for the position. If he can get the playbook down I think Kelce will be the one that eventually claims the job.
When asked what TE he would compare himself to, Kelce’s answer was Jeremy Shockey. In his rookie season Shockey tallied 74 receptions, 894 yards, and 2 TDs. A season like that would be huge for Kelce and the Chiefs. I don’t know if that’s realistic for Kelce, but I do think he has a chance to be a real weapon in the KC offense.
Will he be good enough to help KC’s TEs meet the demand put on them in this offense? Only time will tell, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on these guys when training camp rolls around.
What do you think Addicts? Will the TE position be a focus in this offense? Will one of these three guys step forward and claim the job outright? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!