Evaluating Travis Kelce's Long-Term Potential as a Top Fantasy TE After Week 4

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 30, 2014

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 29:  Travis Kelce #87 of the Kansas City Chiefs completes a pass against the New England Patriots  at Arrowhead Stadium on September 29, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Sheer talent eventually sees a player to the top of his positional depth chart at the NFL level, which is what fantasy owners continue to slowly get with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

A third-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft out of Cincinnati, Kelce's Monday Night Football explosion against New England was merely the latest milestone on an upward trajectory that ends with him as a member of fantasy's elite at tight end.

Slowly but surely, Kelce has seen his snap count increase as Andy Reid and his staff continue to be impressed with what the 6'5", 260-pound player can do:

WeekOPPSnapsRECTGTSYDSTDFantasy Points
1vs. TEN19354904
2at DEN32468108
3at MIA47343619
4vs. NE358993115
ESPN

The numbers speak for themselves, and one can feel safe in presuming that the snap counts and subsequent opportunities in the passing game will only continue to increase. The reduction in snaps Monday can be viewed as a product of the score being 27-7 at the start of the fourth quarter, and 34-7 a mere moment later after Kelce's touchdown, than anything else.

Many will point to the weapons around Kelce as a reason to pump the brakes on his fantasy upside, but they just so happen to be the reason he will only continue to blossom.

Look at it this way—Kelce led the team in targets Monday, but a different name has led the team in that area so far in each game. View that as a lack of reliable targets for quarterback Alex Smith—especially thanks to what is the league's worst set of wideouts—than anything else.

Kelce has officially emerged as the top passing option in Kansas City, and that will not suddenly go away.

In fact, Smith himself hinted a few days before Kelce's performance that landed him as the No. 2 scoring tight end on the week that bigger things were in store for the Cincinnati product, as captured by The Associated Press, via FoxNews.com:

A lot of times, those guys, you get the matchups on linebackers and safeties and you're looking for a matchup there. And Kelce gives us a little different one. He can run a little more and can stretch the field a little bit and hopefully keep balance out of that because you really put the defense in a predicament as far as run and pass.

For Kelce, the game was just a chance to outgun someone he models his game after, New England tight end Rob Gronkowski:

Our sizes match up and then in terms of athleticism, our speed matches up pretty well. I mean, the guy can flat-out fly down the field. I feel that I can get moving, personally, as well. In terms of comparison, he's an all-around tight end. He's obviously one of the top in the league, if not the best in the league. It's exciting just to kind of be compared to him.

Perhaps it was Jeff Borzello of CBSSports.com who put it best after the damage was done:

The only thing that can stop Kelce at this point, similar to another tight end who dons No. 87, is his body and how it holds up to the rigors of the pro game. Had he not missed the entirety of his rookie campaign with a knee injury, we would not even be having this conversation right now.

Of course, it would be remiss to not point out that there are some very difficult matchups in Kelce's future, especially in the coming weeks:

WK OPPRank vs. TEs (Avg. points surrendered)
5@SF2 (3.8)
6BYE
7@SD12 (6.0)
8StL11 (5.3)
9NYJ18 (7.8)
10@Buf14 (6.3)
11Sea31 (15.0)
12@Oak17 (7.3)
13Den25 (9.0)
14@Ari23 (8.7)
15Oak17 (7.3)
16@Pit27 (10.3)
17SD12 (6.0)
ESPN

Even then, it is difficult to not classify Kelce as a matchup-proof option at a miserable position. Despite his low snap counts as he worked his way up, he already ranks as the eighth-highest scorer at the position.

Really, the snap counts could remain the same and the classification should stick. Look at Sunday, when the team ran it 38 times to just 26 pass attempts. Kelce still saw nine targets, while Dwayne Bowe saw six. Backup receivers Donnie Avery and A.J. Jenkins saw a combined three, while Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis out of the backfield totaled five.

Nobody is going to suggest that Kelce will be as efficient as Gronkowski, who on Monday was targeted three times and caught two with a touchdown, giving him a score in three out of four games this year.

But in a miserable passing attack, the big-bodied tight end not only is a major red-zone threat, but he can finesse his way around linebackers in coverage and bull doze smaller defensive backs for major gains, much in the same way New England's No. 87 does on a weekly basis.

The scary part is, Kelce has yet to truly see the field as a "starter" and carry the workload. When he presumably does, the sky seems to be the limit.

Some may deem it premature due to a small sample size, but Kelce might just join the man he models his game after near the top of the scoring charts by year's end thanks to his budding skill set and role in an offense that is conductive to fantasy production. Lock Kelce in lineups.

All scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues, as is points-against info. Statistics courtesy of ESPN. Advanced metrics via Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

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