Mark Vital aims to be a tight end transformation success

Mark Vital (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Mark Vital (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

The Kansas City Chiefs are hoping to make Mark Vital the next tight end transformation success on the roster.

When it comes to the tight end position, there’s no shortage of young players who have fans excited about the years to come. From the stunted promise of Jody Fortson last season to former fifth-round pick Noah Gray, the Kansas City Chiefs have a couple of promising options already learning from the best player at the position in Travis Kelce.

Mark Vital is hoping to force his way into that conversation, however, with a solid showing this spring and summer.

Vital is the most unlikely of prospects of all seven current tight ends on the Chiefs’ 90-man roster. He signed with the team last year as the ultimate project, a college basketball star who wanted to make the leap to playing professional football, a sport he had not played since junior high.

To Vital’s credit, he remained on the practice squad for the vast majority of the season and was then offered a futures deal to hang around for the offseason as well. Given his consistent presence, it’s clear the Chiefs like Vital’s potential even if it’s still a roll of the dice that could fail to pay off.

If Vital’s work ethic and on-field demeanor are anything like what he brought to the court during his playing days at Baylor, he has a real shot in football. Vital was the former Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year on a national championship team and was one of four finalists for the Naismith Trophy for the nation’s top defender. His rebounding prowess was largely built on his willingness to outhustle his opponent, a quality that will serve him well in K.C.

What also works in Vital’s favor is that the Chiefs have been down this road before. Ross Travis was a former college basketball player at Penn State before serving as TE3 for multiple seasons. Demetrius Harris played at Wisconsin-Milwaukee before backing up Kelce for a few years. Even the team’s all-time receptions leader, Tony Gonzalez, played at Cal for the Golden Bears—although that was hardly a project.

The Chiefs like what they have in Vital, but they’re also not proceeding in confidence that he (or others) will develop. They brought back Blake Bell on a one-year deal for security and experience and Fortson and Gray also made the active roster a year ago. More experience for both should yield positive results and with Kelce, the team is already making a tough call to go with three or four players.

The best-case scenario for Vital at this stage of his career is likely to show he’s better than other fringe prospects and land on the practice squad once again. Once there, the NFL has a long list of surprising players who were asked to step up when the opportunity called. And in the future, the Chiefs might decide against bringing Bell back to make space for a younger version.

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