With seven picks in the upcoming NFL Draft and plenty of positions to address, the Washington Redskins will head into April with the idea of "value" in mind. Without a pick in the top 50, this year's process will be a good test for the team front office and it certainly won't come easy.
Although it's impossible to predict the strategy in which head coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen use going into the draft, there are plenty of college prospects who should at least be on the team's radar.
The Washington Redskins 2013 NFL Draft Radar is a series of articles that helps you get familiar with prospects that would fit in Washington. Check back often for new scouting reports and info.
Name: Travis Kelce
Weight: 260 lbs
Despite being a three-year letter-winner 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, the Redskins should 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 over-sized 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 make the mistake, however, of labeling him a non-threat in the passing game. Although he may not possess the straight-line speed we see from some tight ends in the league, Kelce has enough to beat his defender and his size is a tough mismatch to defend. 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.
Current tight ends Fred Davis and Logan Paulsen are both set to become free agents this season. Although Paulsen is a restricted free agent and assumed to be one of the guys coming back, nothing is promised with the Redskins' looming cap penalties. And while it's nice to think the team could score Davis with a bargain deal following a four-game suspension in 2011 and a season-ending Achilles injury last season, it's hard to predict what a 27-year-old play-making tight end has in mind.