Fantasy Football: Travis Kelce Is a No-Brainer Top-8 Pick in 2021

In sports, there are always those that are going to find unique ways to cheat. The Houston Astros had trash cans. Trevor Bauer had sticky stuff. The New England Patriots had signal-stealing and deflated footballs. Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire had juice. And fantasy football has Travis Kelce.

Like Bauer without his goo, the tight end position in fantasy after Travis Kelce (or Darren Waller) can be inconsistent and downright annoying.

Not to toot my own horn, but last season, I outlined a rather convincing argument as to why Kelce was worth reaching for in drafts. If you listened, you're welcome. (I guess I am tooting my own horn.)

So just how early of a pick should we be willing to spend on the Kansas City Chiefs tight end in 2021? Let's take a look.

Kelce's Current ADP

Fantasy managers seem to be catching on to the Travis Kelce cheat code.

Since the start of July, the tight end has an average draft position (ADP) of 7.40 over at BestBall10s, which makes him the highest-drafted non-running back in fantasy. FantasyPros' consensus ADP has him coming off the board a couple picks later, at an average of 10.7 -- one pick behind teammate Tyreek Hill.

So we've established that you'll need to spend a premium pick on Kelce. Is he worth it? Is that a winning strategy? Should he be going even higher? The answers to the questions are yes, heck yes, and probably.

Kelce's Production

In PPR (point per reception) formats since 2016, Kelce has finished as the TE1, TE1, TE1, TE1, guessed it...TE1. Here's a visual representation of Kelce's astonishing consistency:

I mean, just look at those pitches!

Kelce hasn't just been consistent with his season-long finishes: his week-by-week game logs have aged like a fine wine.

Here's a look at how the 31-year-old has fared in PPR leagues over the last five seasons:

Travis Kelce
Games With
< 10 FPs
Games With
≥ 14 FPs
Games With
≥ 20 FPs

Given how difficult it is to find consistency at tight end, that chart reads like an erotic novel to fantasy managers.

Over the last three seasons, Kelce has had four games where he failed to reach double-digit PPR points. That's absurd.

But the 2020 campaign was Kelce's Mona Lisa.

Last season, Kelce posted career-highs in receptions (105), yards (1,416), and touchdowns (11). However, it was the way he did it that was even more impressive. The six-time Pro Bowler amassed at least 14 fantasy points in 13 of his 15 outings, and he managed 20 or more in 10 of those efforts. Again, that's absolutely [insert superlative of your choice here]!

For comparison's sake, Darren Waller, the consensus TE2, failed to reach double-digits four times and accrued 20 or more "just" five times.

Some More 2020 Kelce Fun Facts

Sometimes, when you have a bunch of things you want to get off your chest, you need to make a list. So here's my list of some Travis Kelce fun facts:

- In 2020, the difference between Kelce and the TE3 in PPR leagues (Robert Tonyan) was bigger than the difference between the TE3 and the TE54. Wowza.
- The gap between Kelce and the TE3 in the 2020 campaign was larger than the difference between the QB1 and QB16, the RB2 and RB13, and the WR1 and WR20. Huh?
- Kelce's PPR points per game last season would have had him finish 11th at quarterback, 3rd at running back, and 3rd at wide receiver. I mean...
- In PPR leagues, Kelce had more games with 20-plus fantasy points than any running back, wide receiver, or tight end last year. Sheesh.

Now that I've got that out of my system, let's move on.

Do You Like Winning?

Since 2017, Kelce has resided on 53.5%, 55.2%, 59.1%, and 61.0% of playoff rosters in 10-team ESPN PPR leagues, respectively. That's good enough for 11th, 18th, 9th, and 2nd among all players in those respective seasons, as well as first, third, second, and first among tight ends.

Not too shabby.

It's not just the playoffs, though -- Kelce has come in as the 3rd-, 17th-, and 9th-most-common player on Championship rosters over the last three seasons.

So, is spending a premium pick on the league's top tight end a winning strategy? You tell me.

Travis Kelce 2021 Fantasy Football Projection

For the 17-game 2021 season, numberFire's algorithm projects Kelce to rack up 123.2 receptions, 1,517.3 yards, and 10.7 tuddies.

When adjusted for 16 games, that line would have had him finish 13.9 PPR points behind the RB3 and 54.4 ahead of the RB4 last season. At wideout, he would have placed just 9.4 points behind the WR3 and 31.4 ahead of the WR4.

Now, unless you're in a quarterback-premium league, that alone should be enough to make Kelce worthy of consideration inside the top-seven.

Once you take into account the players going ahead of him, however, Kelce's case to be taken in the top half of Round 1 becomes even stronger.

Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook are the obvious plays for the first and second pick -- no argument here.

Beyond that, it gets murky.

Alvin Kamara is a PPR monster but his stats could suffer without Drew Brees, especially if Taysom Hill lines up under center. Derrick Henry is a safe play, but he only outscored Kelce by 22.5 PPR points last season.

The rest of the backs each come with plenty of question marks of their own. The only receiver with a persuasive case over Kelce is Davante Adams, and that's dependent on the status of Aaron Rodgers.

I'd strongly consider actively target Kelce without hesitation if I landed a pick in the 5 to 10 range this season. He's worth it.