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I Just Drafted Travis Kelce in the First Round: Now What?

By Kirk Hollis | 8/26/23

When preparing for your draft, unless you are in a Super flex league, all first round picks are likely to be running backs or wide receivers…minus one.

Travis Kelce is such a unique weapon at tight end that he is typically being taken in the first twelve picks. And for good reason. He scored 89 more fantasy points than any other tight end in Half-PPR leagues last season.

So, you’ve analyzed all the data and looked at all of your options and decided that Kelce will indeed be your first-round pick, knowing you may feel uneasy about passing on the RB & WR positions.

The question then becomes: How do I proceed for the remainder of the draft? I could use the word “recover”, but taking Kelce is a good thing and shouldn’t make you nervous. Instead, you have an opportunity to build a unique and highly competitive team. Here’s how:

Travis Kelce

1. Identify Value Tiers, not just Individual Player Values

Let’s say you picked 9th in the first round and took Kelce in a league that features 12 teams. That means you would have the 16th overall pick in Round 2. It’s not enough to know who your highest ranked player will be at that time. You need to be thinking ahead just as you were if you were playing chess.

At what point does the value (ADP) drop off at each position and where is that drop-off going to occur? In other words, when you pick at No.33 and No.40 overall, what are going to be the positions of value at that time? If you perceive that running back value drops dramatically towards the middle of Round 3, that makes getting a running back in Round 2 a priority.

However, if you like three or four of the running backs likely available near the 3/4 turn, perhaps grabbing a top-8 WR is in order.

Let’s say for example that you are high on Travis Etienne or Aaron Jones in the third round and Miles Sanders, J.K. Dobbins, or Cam Akers in the fourth. Two of those players could easily be available to you at picks 3.09 and 4.04 making the choice of a CeeDee Lamb or A.J. Brown the best option at 2.04.

However, if you think RB value falls off a cliff after, say, Kenneth Walker, then perhaps getting a RB like Najee Harris at 2.04 makes more sense.

I think the value at RB drops off dramatically after the consensus top 8 are off the board, so unless a Tony Pollard or Josh Jacobs is available at 2.04, I would look for a WR. Like I said, it all depends on your tiers of value.

2. Be Mindful of Your League Rules & Starting Lineup Requirements

First of all, if your league lumps wide receivers and tight ends into one position, you can stop reading this article right now. Travis Kelce’s first round value is dependent upon tight end being a separate position. Assuming that’s the case, let’s examine some important parameters as you seek to build a team around the legendary Kansas City tight end.

First, how does the flex position work in your league? In other words, can you start three running backs with one being the flex? Is it possible to only start one running back alongside three or even four wide receivers? Is this a PPR league or a non-PPR league? Running back is a scarce position compared to WR, but if you are in a PPR league that allows you to start only one RB, you do not want to wait until 3.09 to grab your first WR.

Conversely, in leagues in which three RBs can be in your starting lineup, making sure you have at least two by the end of Round 5 is probably imperative. Drafting Kelce does not put you behind the 8-ball, but it does require attention to detail moving beyond your first-round pick. The value of RBs vs. WRs is impacted greatly by the specific lineup requirements that your league has in place.

3. Avoid Taking Your Second Tight End Until the End of Your Draft

I have yet to see a scenario in which using a second tight end as a flex option works well vs. utilizing a RB or WR. I suppose if Mark Andrews fell to you at 5.09, and tight end is one of the flex options in your league, you could consider having the duo of Kelce and Andrews in your lineup from week to week.

But, aside from that unlikelihood, the reality of taking a tight end in the first round is that you have to focus on getting quality RBs and WRs on your roster. As such, I would recommend not even addressing the position again until one of the final three rounds of your draft – or not taking a backup tight end at all, if your league has a short bench.

Kelce’s health history is fairly remarkable and there’s simply no match-up out there that would cause you to bench him for another tight end. He’ll be your every week starter all season long (minus his bye week) giving you the luxury of not having to worry about his backup on your roster. You can ignore the position altogether until the final rounds even if you see a solid tight end falling further in your draft than he should.

4. Avoid Taking a Quarterback in the First Five Rounds

I realize that for old school VBD drafters, you don’t make statements like this, but truth be told, if you use two of your top five picks on a TE and a QB, you’re going to be thin at RB and WR in ways that are going to make it difficult on you, especially when the bye weeks roll around.

Figure out in advance which QBs you are comfortable with as your starter from Round 6 on and then attempt to land one of them around that time frame. If you’re looking to select a high-upside, but high risk QB like Tua Tagovailoa as your starter, you might also need a high-end QB2.

But, if you are comfortable with Trevor Lawrence or Dak Prescott, chances are high that both will still be there for you in the sixth round. If they aren’t, Kirk Cousins, Daniel Jones, and Geno Smith would be safe targets in the minds of most.

Waiting to take a QB until at least Round 6 means that in addition to Kelce, you will have a couple of running backs and a couple of wide receivers or possibly even three receivers if you’re in a league in which the lineup and scoring dynamics make that position most valuable.

While this is my general advice, there is one more interesting scenario to explore…

5. Throw Caution to the Wind and Select the Kelce/Mahomes Stack

I realize this suggestion contradicts nearly everything I just said, but I have already seen this strategy employed in the first few weeks of August and it is an intriguing option to say the least.

Taking Kelce at 1.09 might mean that Mahomes would still be available at 2.04 - in most leagues. If he is, then for every Mahomes-to-Kelce completion and especially a Mahomes-to-Kelce TD, you’re racking up points.

It also means you can avoid taking a second QB until very late in the draft as well. Using your first two picks on Kelce then Mahomes, will require eight consecutive picks at least on RBs and WRs. That won’t yield you any top tier guys at those positions, but it should give you enough depth at both to find combinations that work as the season goes on.

I am personally more comfortable with taking Kelce and then waiting on a QB, but the “stack” approach when it comes to two of the most reliable scorers in fantasy football is something that shouldn’t be ignored.

So, based on these recommendations, what would an ideal Travis Kelce-led team look like? Based on where I have my value tiers and on a league that allows the flex player to be either a RB or WR, here’s how it might shake out:

1.09 - Travis Kelce (TE)
2.04 - CeeDee Lamb (WR)
3.09 - Travis Etienne (RB)
4.04 - Miles Sanders (RB)
5.09 - Drake London (WR
6.04 - Trevor Lawrence (QB)

Of course, it’s possible those targets would be snatched up just prior to your picks. My point is not to tell you “who” to draft, but give a path forward in terms of best case scenario for a Kelce team. If Tony Pollard, for example, lasted until 2.04, you could take him and then look to add WRs in two, if not all, of the next three rounds.

Knowing your tiers of value makes all the difference in how you react when constructing a team with Kelce in Round 1. Knowing the nuances of your scoring system and lineup requirements matters a great deal, too.

Above all, don’t draft scared. Taking Travis Kelce in the first round still leaves you with a number of viable paths as your draft proceeds.

Good luck!

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