Third Round: 63rd Pick
Most tight end draft boards are going to be led by Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert and Stanford's Zach Ertz. Travis Kelce hasn't been healthy enough to jostle either of those guys out of the catbird seats at the Senior Bowl or the NFL Scouting Combine. Still, the Cincinnati tight end could appeal more than Eifert or Ertz to a team that is looking for a tight end with a mean streak who can still stretch the field, a la Rob Gronkowski.
Is that comparison warranted?
Kelce has a zest for blocking and physical clashes. He's one of the strongest blocking tight ends in the 2013 class, and he is a good enough pass-catcher that he led his team in receiving.
Kelce can lead block in the running game and has the power and bend to anchor against pass-rushers. As a receiver, Kelce has terrific length, and very good straight-line speed, with reliable hands. He's a prototype two-way tight end who can also play H-Back and line up in the slot.
Kelce plays with the pedal to the metal, which isn't always a good thing. He doesn't run a wide variety of routes and doesn't display sudden or sharp breaks in his routes. Character is a big question, and he didn't really produce until 2012, so some may label him a potential one-year wonder.
Kelce measured in at 6'5" 255 pounds with 33 3/4" arms at the combine, but he did not run or work out. That extra-long frame helps him as a receiver by creating a large catch radius, and he is very strong in one-on-one situations as a blocker.
Kelce doesn't have rare speed, but he still flashes impressive speed in a straight line, and he's very athletic for such a big player.
Kelce was suspended for an entire season for an undisclosed violation of team rules before the 2010 Sugar Bowl. Teams will need to do a thorough evaluation of his character before spending a pick on him. Kelce is known as a hard worker and he certainly plays with a gladiator mentality.
He was recruited as a quarterback, so he probably has an expanded understanding of offensive football.
Kelce can perform in many roles, from in-line tight end to H-Back to slot receiver. Cincinnati ran a lot of shotgun with read-option running plays, but Kelce has the frame and skill set to not be limited by his playing experience.
Whether he is lined up as part of the offensive line or split out in the slot, Kelce gets a good release off of the line of scrimmage. He gets up to speed quickly in his routes and draws the attention of the safety right away.
Kelce comes back to the ball well and runs his routes in synch with the play. He gets to his spot quickly and presents a huge target, and he'll run into the linebacker/safety if he has to. Since he's so big, his breaks are sharp enough to create separation, even though they could be crisper.
Kelce has the speed and quick get-off to rip the seam, and he can get the attention of the safety to create more room for a wide receiver running a deep route. His status as a former quarterback can only help Kelce here.
Long arms and good athleticism gives Kelce a big target, and his hands are soft enough to tip balls to himself. The sample size is small, but Kelce appears to have reliable hands, and certainly good enough to make him a trusted target. In fact, he was the Bearcats leading receiver in 2012.
Again, that huge catch radius comes into play, and Kelce isn't so stiff or out of tune that he can't use it to hurt opponents. He can spin on the "x" axis in the air to adjust to a poorly thrown ball, and Kelce can also go down to catch a pass when his quarterback misses low. From all indications, Kelce is very natural when the ball arrives.
Run After Catch
Kelce would present a decent threat after the catch if all he did was run as strong and mean as he is as a blocker. In addition to that running back mentality, Kelce can make some moves to elude or frustrate tacklers, and he will run away from slower linebackers and safeties. Kelce will routinely break tackles and he fights to get first downs with good awareness of the marker.
His combination of size, routes, hands, and ball skills makes Kelce a strong prospect as a receiving tight end, but he really shines as a blocker.
It's hard to capture everything that makes Kelce a good blocker. He's strong and hits his opponent with a jolt, often knocking them backwards. He loves to find a moving target in space, and he can also function as a lead blocker in the running game. Sealing the corner and drive blocking both come easy to him. In the running game, Kelce generally blots out his guy and seems to enjoy doing it.
As a pass-blocker, Kelce is equally talented. He can switch and hand off blockers like a seasoned offensive lineman, and he has the strength and flexibility to anchor and stop pass-rushers cold. Kelce even rolls out with the quarterback and acts as a personal protector, the only thing between a defender and a big hit on the passer.
In all facets of blocking, Kelce sustains his blocks, and he blocks to the whistle. He will be a true three-down tight end with two-way prowess that will give defenses fits.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!