Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio shares its pre-draft scouting report on NFL Pro-Bowl tight end Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs
1. Travis Kelce, Cincinnati (6-5, 255)
I could easily say that Kelce and Tyler Eifert are tied atop my board. Eifert has a strong chance to have a more productive career as a receiver than Kelce. However, if I’m taking a player who I believe will never have to leave the field and can do everything Eifert can – and more – I have to make Kelce the top player at the position.
Kelce was a three-sport star in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, where he played quarterback. His brother Jason Kelce is a lineman for the Eagles. Travis didn’t behave well enough to participate in football as a redshirt sophomore, earning a suspension for violating team rules. I generally don’t conduct an examination of character issues in depth. If the NFL hires investigators to examine the lives of these players, I think learning third or fourth hand what happened can be a foolish proposition. I also believe that college-age men generally have maturing to do – whether they are football players at Cincinnati, a business student at a community college, or a future academic scholar at Harvard.
Kelce could have been an immature jerk during his college career who was a step from throwing away a promising professional career, but for the past two years he has stayed out of trouble and produced at a high level at the football field – even playing with an abdominal injury that has kept him out of the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, and possibly limiting in his April Pro Day. I think those actions speak louder than any whispers I might hear fourth hand from a “Water Cooler journalist” on Twitter.
To wrap up this point, I met Deion Sanders during his early years with the Atlanta Falcons. We’re about the same age and I imagine his life experience has changed him in many ways. However based on the behavior I saw up close and personal, I would not have wanted to be his friend or work with him in any job outside of football at that point in our lives. Yet I loved that he was on the Falcons and there’s little doubt that Sanders is one of the 200 greatest football players in history.
Kelce does everything you want from a football player at the tight end position. Because of his strength, speed, and agility, a football team can use him as an inline tight end, an H-back, a fullback, and a wide receiver. Kelce is as adept at setting angles on defensive ends and outside linebackers in the trenches as he is nickel backs and safeties in the flats.
His punch, hand position, and use of his feet to drive and turn defenders of various sizes are consistent. His willingness to hustle across the field to make a play or sustain his effort through the whistle will endear him to coaches and teammates. He also throws a good punch and maintains a strong anchor while dictating angles as a pass protector. The only aspect of Kelce’s blocking that needs improvement is his tendency to dive head-first on cut blocks.
This part of Kelce’s game will get him on an NFL field. What will make him a vital part of a passing attack is the same level of detail that he has applied to blocking is also seen as a receiver.
Kelce’s ability to work through contact at the line of scrimmage or as a receiver against the jam is better than most of his peers. He can swipe, swim, block, or reduce his shoulder to avoid contact. Many tight ends and receivers only demonstrate half of these techniques on a regular basis and most may do one of them well.
What’s most impressive is Kelce flashed skill in tight, single coverage. Tight ends at the college level don’t draw this kind of opposition very often. When Kelce faced it, I watched him do a good job of setting up breaks with subtle movements while displaying the quickness to break across the face of a defender with tight, inside position to get separation across the middle on a timing pass.
Kelce also demonstrates the physical ability to sink his hips and make hard breaks on routes, which is not a common skill for most tight end prospects. This skill projects well for Kelce as a player capable of winning matchups against most linebacker and safeties in space.
Once Kelce gets into space with the ball, he’s a big, bad, tackle-breaking nightmare who can bounce off, drag, or knife through contact. If he gets a lane to take a few steps, he has the acceleration and long speed to weave through defenders for long gains.
The University of Cincinnati uses a pistol offense and I think Kelce would be an obvious upgrade for the Washington Redskins. Fred Davis suffered an Achilles’ tear last year and while Washington might be happy with what they found in Logan Paulson, Kelce would be a substantial upgrade. Redskins aside, Kelce is the type of prospect who could star in any offense. In this respect, he reminds me of prospects like Rob Gronkowski and Jason Witten – second- and third-round picks, respectively.
Travis Kelce highlights.