Travis Kelce is the Harlem Globetrotters of the fantasy tight end position and everyone else is the Washington Generals.
And when we say Globetrotters, we mean the Globetrotters of old, like, the Meadowlark Lemon ’Trotters. ’Cause that’s about how long Kelce has been around.
He will turn 34 in October. You know how many 34-year-old tight ends have produced a season in the all-time top 10 for tight ends? Zero. None. Zilch.
Guess it’s pretty clear we need to be planning for a nosedive by the Chiefs All-Pro, right? Hold on, before you make big changes to your draft board: You know how many top-10 all-time tight seasons have been recorded by players 31 or older? Two, both by Kelce, one of them last season.
So, maybe we should slow-walk this presumed Kelce decline, right?
Here’s the thing: Both points have some merit. So let’s try to, as Ocho Cinco might say, split the baby, shall we?
First, it is quite obvious Kelce is a unicorn. The same rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to him — hence why he has the two of the top three tight end seasons all time, both past the age of 30.
Last season, at 33, he had the second-best tight end season ever, behind Rob Gronkowski’s 2011 season (when he was 22). Kelce’s total PPR points last year were more than 100 points ahead of second-place T.J. Hockenson (316.3 to 214.4). that’s 32 percent better than anyone else at his position.
Kelce was second to Mark Andrew in 2021, but in 2020 he had the third-best tight end season ever —which was 34 points better than second-highest Darren Waller and more than 130 ahead of everyone else.
Outside of his second-place season in 2021, he has led all fantasy tight ends every other season since 2016. He has led his position in six of the past seven seasons, and has been top-two every year.
That is domination. That kind of domination doesn’t often just disappear, as long as the player is healthy. That is the definition of reliable.
Fantasy Football DVQ Explainer
Hop out of the pool, unpack your vacation suitcase, boot up your laptop and get ready, because fantasy football season is back.
The Fantasy Madman has returned with the latest iteration of his DVQ.
The Draft Value Quotient is a player rating system that assigns one universal number for every player. This value projects the point in the draft at which a player’s projected production will match the estimated draft pick value.
Since there is a wider separation among production at the top, so too is there a wider gap between DVQ values at the top of the rankings.
The player projections takes into account playing time, expected use/touches, coaching tendencies, part performance and injury history. The DVQ measures these projections against a player’s schedule and factors in positional depth and value above replacement.
These ratings are updated regularly.
But you know what else is reliable? The undefeated streak of Father Time. Kelce has put up a good fight for longer than anyone else at his position, but eventually he will yield. Everyone does. The only question is: Will it come this season?
Of the top 50 tight end seasons, just three have come at age 34 or later — Antonio Gates (37th-highest at 34 in 2014), and Tony Gonzalez twice (30th-best at 36 in 2012 and 48th at 37 in 2013).
Kelce already beat the odds last year with an historic season at age 33. Can he realistically do it again? Especially when he is now the only legitimate Chiefs target defenses have to prepare for?
Last season, there was some uncertainty after the departure of Tyreek Hill, but after Kelce’s incredible 2022 season, there is no question the first goal of every opponent will be to stop him. And they now have a full season of film with him as the offensive focus.
Besides, doing the same thing is being stagnant, and being stagnant is the same as moving backward in the NFL, so expect the Chiefs to try to strategically spread the ball around more often.
What does all of that mean to your fantasy drafts? Well, we still expect Kelce to be the top tight end, by a lot. Just maybe not quite as much as in some past seasons. That’s why we have him slotted as a second-rounder based on our DVQ ratings.
That’s where we would like to get him, but in the real world, he won’t last that long. Thus, the Madman won’t end up with him very often. Instead, we’ll opt to wait and grab Hockenson, George Kittle, Dallas Goedert, Kyle Pitts or Darren Waller in rounds 4-6.
So, yes, we will be fading Kelce this year, even though we’re not actually down on him. Now that is some Hall of Fame splitting of the baby.