Travis Kelce out of Cincinnati isn't the most exciting or explosive prospect in this years draft. He doesn't necessarily have the ability to line up outside with cornerbacks ala Tyler Eiffert or Aaron Hernandez. He is productive and makes plays in space. He is a menace down the seam and reliable over the middle. He can catch in traffic and is as refined as they come in most aspects of receiving. However where he is absolutely and completely money is in blocking. He is powerful and driving, with great leverage as a run blocker. He can hold the edge as a traditional in-line blocker against ends, blow up linebackers out of the backfield as an H-back, can chip backside, and can sustain blocks against defensive backs on screens. As a pass blocker he is fluid and has great feet.
After watching tape of Ertz and Eiffert (The consensus top two tight ends in this year's draft), I firmly believe that Kelce brings at the very least the same amount value as those two. However the great thing about Kelce is that teams won't over value him. Seeing as how Rick Dennison isn't heading anywhere in the foreseeable future, A traditional blocking tight end is much more valuable in the Texan's current system than a slot type tight end.
Travis Kelce, 6'6 260lbs, Cincinnati( Red Shirt Senior)
The first thing that should stand out about Kelce is how massive he is. He's got a great frame at 6'6 260. He is taller than my personal preference at Tight End (6'4ish) and much bigger (240). He runs his 40 in the high 4.6. I really want to see how he measures up at the combine because he seems more like a low 4.6 on tape but doesn't seem to have the greatest leaping ability either.
Travis Kelce vs Duke (Bowl Game- 2012)
Really you could watch the whole video of him block. I didn't find a single instance in which Kelce's assignment got free in time to make a play and Kelce usually removes his assignment from the play with ease.
1:22: (Lined up in the back field as H-back in motion). Counter play with Kelce as the lead blocker. Kelce releases into the gap and the linebacker fills the defensive "B Gap" Kelce then uses his pure strength and momentum to get right into the shoulder pads of the defender. Despite his towering height Kelce gets low enough to hold the block and force his defender to the outside, removing him from the play. This is how you draw it up.
3:06: (Lined up in the back field as H-back in motion). This should look familiar as a zone run. Kelce is fulfilling the role traditionally held by Kevin Walter. The entire offensive line goes right and the running back filling the gaps being filled cuts back across the line. This is where Walter would hold his block only well enough for a burst up the C gap for 4-5 yards. Kelce comes back across the formation to hold back side contain. The backer plays this perfectly and breaks down to await any potential cutback. He also lowers his shoulders and squares up to the sideline to shed Kelce's block. Kelce uses the linebackers momentum to rip behind the line and easily removes the linebacker from the play.
4:00: (Lined up in-line as a traditional Tight End). Kelce can pass block too. Now this isn't necessarily Kelce's best block but it shows his ability as a blocker. Kelce has good fundamentals in pass protection. He waits for the defender to come to him and doesn't make the first move. Kelce does a good job of getting his hands on the defender enough to disrupt his rush. The defender then has to take his rush to the outside around Kelce (exactly what Kelce wants). A better defender might have been able to rip Kelce away and bee line to the quarterback. However Kelce's one arm is more than sufficient to hold the defender at bay. Kelce also knew he had his running back to help him as well and didn't fully commit to the defender's outside move.
5:19: (Lined up in the back field as H-back in motion). Kelce is very good at maintaining leverage on his blocks so that he can take the defender entirely out of the play and prevent arms to his runner. Kelce again comes out of the backfield to meet the waiting middle backer. He takes the defender out of the play with nice leverage and getting both his hands into the defenders shoulder pads and then drives the defender away.
6:59: (Lined up in-line as a traditional Tight End). I believe this was a preset route to occupy the space in the flat left by the streaking WR. Kelce shows a good understanding of coverage. He releases to the inside and gets the linebacker off balance with a quick move to the outside and a reception. Then he makes a nice play to shed the tackle and he looks surprisingly fast in space.
7:57 (Lined up in the slot of the line). Most of us have probably already seen this play. This play really should have happened a lot sooner. Kelce was open all day on seam routes. Duke was literally begging for it playing one high safety. Kelce was open on many previous plays and the quarterback merely didn't see him. Kelce merely outruns the defense on this play but his seam route is really so dangerous because of his ability to shed jams and get behind line backers. I'll be quiet now because this was one of the most brilliant plays of the bowl season.
Travis Kelce vs USF (2012) (Just receiving film breakdown)
0:22 (Lined up in the slot of the line). Kelce displays what is a bread n butter route for most receiver. However he does it like he is a true receiver and shows his refinement as a receiver. Kelce was probably given a seam-curl option and because of the MLB's positioning he wisely chooses the curl option as the defender had already turned his hips to run with Kelce. Kelce then does the most necessary and under appreciated facets of a curl route. He actually runs back to the ball. He catches the ball with his hands. This is critical to keeping the defender from making poking the ball out. This is exactly how you would run a curl in practice.
3:36 (Lined up in-line as a traditional Tight End). This where Kelce could be really useful. In the red zone. He was so under utilized here by his team but this play shows how he could be used by a system like ours. The defender is already thinking run and Kelce gives a nice fake with his hands as if he was about to engage the defender. However Kelce then sheds the defenders arms and walks into the endzone. This is something that Joel Dreesen used to do for Houston. Kelse is a triple threat on plays like these. He can set the edge for tosses and zone runs. He can also cut back across the formation as a seal blocker. However most needed by Houston is his ability to clear out the middle. Kelse is extremely big and is very good at getting of re-routes and jams. If Kelce wants to run up the seam the best you can do is bracket him with a safety and a linebacker because he isn't going to be re-routed. This opens up the offense because now Kelse needs to be accounted for over the top in most red zone looks.
Kelce is my personal favorite at tight end. He is everything you love in a traditional tight end, big, strong, blocks well. He can run and pass block. He can seal the edge in-line and in the backfield. He can also deliver punishing lead blocks as an H-back as well. As a receiver his skill set is refined. He has a good pair of hands and can catch in traffic. His ability to run up the seam demands safety attention because he is able to shed jams. The only thing lacking in his game is explosive route running when in man coverage. Considering he is graded out to go anywhere from round 3-6 he is extremely underrated. He would be well worth a late first rounder but could be had in second as well.