Kansas City kicked off the NFL season as a barely recognizable offensive machine against the Patriots. Alex Smith looked more like Tom Brady than Tom Brady did. There were long passes. There were gimmicks. It all added up 42 points in a big victory.
Tight end Travis Kelce was part of the fun. He lined up in the backfield and out wide besides his traditional tight end slot. He even carried the ball once for four yards. He was targeted seven times and caught five for 40 yards. In Week 2, Kelce got into the vertical game with a 40-yard touchdown and a 100-yard receiving day, catching eight of ten targets.
Then last week happened. In the game against the Chargers, Alex Smith threw Kelce’s way only once. He caught it and gained a single yard. Are Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt the new kings of the Kansas City offense? Will Kelce see more games like this?
The Chiefs are still a run-first offense. Their passing game is also returning to normal, with Alex Smith throwing shorter, safer passes instead of the long bombs he kicked off the year with. More significantly, he is distributing his limited number of passes among quite a large array of options.
In two games this year, Smith has connected with at least nine receivers. If he was throwing 35-40 times a game, that might work for everyone’s fantasy relevance. But he only threw 21 times in Week 3. With eight passes thrown to Tyreek Hill, that left 13 targets to divide between eight other receivers.
Kelce’s snap count was not down. He ran a decent number of routes. He simply wasn’t targeted.
Will it get better?
Kansas City only had 46 total plays from scrimmage in Week 3. The 21 pass attempts represented better balance than you would think. In Week 2, the Chiefs only had 45 snaps and passed 26 times. The difference that night was Smith only threw to five different receivers. Kelce was the big dog that night with ten targets.
Kelce was the leading receiver on the team last season with over 1100 yards. He caught 85 of his 117 targets, both team highs by a long shot. It was good enough for NFL fantasy’s top tight end rating.
Andy Reid and Alex Smith will not forget their big receiving target. Kelce has shown no signs of slowing down in 2017. There is no reason to think Week 3 was anything more than a fluke.
So… is he a must-start?
You absolutely must start Travis Kelce each week. He may have another dud or two along the way, but what tight end doesn’t? More importantly, he will have more games with higher yardage and good fantasy production than bad games.
This week, the Chiefs face Washington. Last week, the Redskins completely shut down Oakland’s wide receivers. But Jared Cook had 43 yards and a touchdown. That is the minimum I expect from Kelce this week.
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