2013 NFL Draft: Travis Kelce Scouting Report
Travis Kelce isn’t yet a household name, but I suspect he will be soon. He’s a senior tight end for the Cincinnati Bearcats who has been pretty underrated up until now, except for among the amateur and professional scouting communities. While he’s not as popular or well-known as Tyler Eifert, Zach Ertz, or even Jordan Reed, there is a good chance he’s drafted before any of them, as he is one of the most well-rounded tight ends available in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Late First-Early Second
Versatility: After watching Cincinnati for several plays, you’ll start to notice that they use their lean tight end in a lot of different ways. He lines up inline off the shoulder of the tackle, in the backfield as an H-back, in the slot, and out wide as a receiver. He can win as a blocker and as a receiver from all these positions, something a well-rounded NFL tight end must be able to do.
Blocking: Kelce is a tenacious, savage blocker. He has great technique, getting his hands quickly into the chest pad of his target and driving him back, or establishing outside leverage and rolling through his hips to seal him inside. The Bearcats trusted him alone in pass protection against a defensive end several times in games viewed, so they were clearly confident in his blocking prowess. He also has the nimble feet to arc release and establish a block on a linebacker or defensive back in space, and he routinely finished his blocks well by driving his player into the ground.
Route-running: He’s a bit of an odd-looking athlete. He’s so smooth and thoughtful in his movements that it looks like he’s not moving very quickly, but he has sneaky speed and snuck up on defenders and slipped past them before they realized it. He shows intelligence in his routes, leading defenders to commit to opening their hips, then cutting back the other way. On more than one occasion, he used subtle head pumps to effectively sell route fakes. He has good awareness of his spot on the field, driving through tacklers or juking past them to get the first down.
Hands/Catch radius: He has big, soft hands, and extends to catch the ball away from his body. He shows good concentration and body control to make difficult catches above and behind him.
Experience: He was recruited as a quarterback and split time at Wildcat quarterback and tight end his freshman year. Then he was suspended for his entire sophomore year for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Since he’s only played tight end for about two-and-a-half years, there are still nuances to the position that he’ll need to adapt to.
Character: He’s a feisty player and often blocks through the play. A few times it seemed that he was almost pushing opposing players to the brink of irritation. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine him getting in some scraps at the next level. Also, the aforementioned suspension will need to be investigated and cleared by NFL teams before they’ll be comfortable spending a high pick on him.
Truth be told, Travis Kelce is my favorite tight end in this unbelievably deep class. His tenacity as a blocker is unmatched, and I really enjoy seeing the nuances he adds to his route-running. The NFL is definitely moving more and more toward the big joker tight ends who can block well, yet still release into routes and win against smaller defenders. Kelce fits that bill perfectly, and he’ll be a steal if he’s taken anywhere beyond the first round.
NFL Comparison: I think he compares favorably to a slightly less dominant Rob Gronkowski, or a slightly faster Zach Miller.