Summer Sleeper: Kansas City Chiefs

Rob Shandler


With fantasy season right around the corner, we’re continuing our annual series focusing on a few sleepers from all 32 teams in the NFL. You can find all of the Summer Sleeper articles here.

These sleepers all have varying levels of “sleeperness,” but all merit a little more talking about here in the Premium Content section. Some of these players are deep dynasty sleepers who could merit a spot on your bench in a deep league, while others are players who may contribute a little faster than the deep prospects, but deserve more attention than they may be getting. By definition, a sleeper could mean something a little different to everyone, but we’re simply doing the best job we can to unearth one player from each team who fits the category in some way, shape or form.

We’ll never insult you with a comprehensive list of “sleepers” which include such such dynasty mainstay names as Toby Gerhart, Christine Michael or Cordarrelle Patterson. You’re all too good for that.

While many of these players will undoubtedly fizzle, there’s more value in looking more closely at these deeper prospects and players. We invite you to keep an open mind and either or re-assess your value on those who may be rostered in your league or consider adding a few of these deeper prospects we focus on this Summer who are free agents in your league – after all, some are destined to pan out, too.

Feel free to add your own comments about our choice for the designated sleeper, or nominate one of your own!

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Travis Kelce, TE

When I started writing this Summer Sleeper article, Travis Kelce was easily the best choice as the Chiefs’ biggest sleeper in 2014. The massively talented former Bearcat, a third round selection in 2013, was finally healthy after missing his entire rookie season due to microfracture knee surgery. While it had become quite en vogue to compare Kelce’s measurables to superstar TE1 Rob Gronkowski (and I do see the similarities), his NFL resume was still carrying a whole bunch of zeros and the bulk of his camp snaps were coming with the Chiefs second teamers behind uninspiring veteran Anthony Fasano.   Still, his relative youth and upside had him ranked near the #20 overall spot in tight end rankings.

In his first NFL game, though, Kelce used those second team game reps to showcase his enormous potential as a seam-stretching, big play weapon. His breathtaking 69-yard touchdown romp down the middle of the field against the Bengals left many dynasty value-hunters with mixed emotions. Some felt happily validated by their efficient evaluation of his talent. Others just wanted him to quit making so much noise.

Kelce did not oblige the latter group. In his second NFL game, he decided he would continue to dominate, primarily with this splash play against the Panthers. For those keeping track, he is currently the second most productive fantasy pass catcher in the 2014 NFL preseason. One more aesthetically pleasing touchdown reception will ring the alarm on his sleeper status, if it hasn’t gone off already.


Kelce came into the league in a relatively unheralded fashion. His athleticism was never in question, and he validated his college productivity with tremendous pre-draft workouts. It was rumored he fell on draft day due to some immature decision-making that resulted in a season-long suspension in 2010. By all accounts, during his time in the league he is completely dedicated to football and working hard to realize his ceiling as a professional. That ceiling, if supported by a high number of targets, projects very similarly to some of the NFL’s most athletically gifted tight ends. Kelce and his combine measurables are attached to a list of mega-studs below, and they really don’t seem out of place at all.


As with any tight end, fantasy relevance is tied to targets and scheme. Chiefs’ Head Coach Andy Reid has always schemed the tight end as a primary read, but the fantasy results have always been a bit unpredictable. In trying to project how the system can support Kelce’s bid for fantasy TE1 status, I’m going to ignore the mess that was the Sean McGrath/Anthony Fasano experiment in KC last year. In Philadelphia, tight end Brent Celek flirted on occasion with TE1 numbers in Reid’s offense. Celek had a tremendously valuable 2009 season, finishing the year as the fourth ranked fantasy tight end alongside Donovan McNabb. His production following that season seemed to parallel the inconsistency experienced at the quarterback position during that period.  The solo touchdown he scored in 2012 was extremely disappointing considering he was on the field for 76.4 percent of the offensive snaps. Let’s be mildly generous and give Reid’s offensive scheme a B in the category of “TE friendliness.”


Celek, it should be said, is not in Kelce’s class athletically. While possessing solid hands and decent run after the catch ability, he simply doesn’t get downfield with the ease that Kelce does. More importantly, Kelce is already as competent a run blocker as the Eagles’ veteran. This is where I feel Kelce’s true potential lies. He is a devastatingly aggressive run blocker who will relentlessly sustain past the whistle. It was evident in his college tape that he takes pride in this vital positional element and I have no doubt he will continue to do so based solely on demeanor alone. He is already be a better run blocker than any player in the above comparison chart except maybe Gronkowski. He is also very adept at blocking on the move, an essential part of the Kansas City screen game. Sooner rather than later, he will be one of the few NFL tight ends that is omnipresent in the huddle, especially with the Chiefs expected to use a lot of two tight end formations. Don’t worry about lacklustre quarterback Alex Smith. He honed his craft throwing to physical freak Vernon Davis and has proven he can take advantage of mismatches between the numbers.

So get out your Kelce voodoo doll for the last week or so of  the preseason and hope you can keep him quiet for a little while. With so few dominant fantasy tight ends out there, it’s imperative you take a shot at acquiring a player with this kind of upside. Let everyone else drool over rookie Eric Ebron while you mastermind a trade for Kelce.

rob shandler
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