One of the biggest decisions and debates in 2021 redraft leagues centers around selecting the insanely talented tight end from the Kansas City Chiefs, Travis Kelce. Sure, every fantasy football manager would love to roster this stud. However, it is not as simple as we must place this beast on my team. There are a lot of factors to consider such as league size, draft format, and scoring parameters. We attempt to break it all down using four concepts: Positional Scarcity, Value Base Drafting (VBD), Consistency, and Opportunity Cost.
Positional ScarcityTravis Kelce is so dominant at the tight end position that he is in a category by himself (Tier 1). There are two players, George Kittle and Darren Waller, who make up Tier 2 which is still a fairly significant gap from King Kelce. Touchdown dependent Ravens Mark Andrews and the Lions QB uncertainty with TJ Hockensen place them down to Tier 3. Then, you have your three to five sleeper boom/bust picks before the value falls off a cliff.
Value Based Drafting (VBD)A player's VBD can be calculated by his projected or actual points scored subtracted by the worse starter at that position. Most leagues require an owner to start only one tight end. Hence, we can examine the VBD of Kelce in 12-team PPR leagues.
Was Travis Kelce's historic 2020 performance an outlier or the new norm for this freak of nature who turns 32 years old next season? Kelce scored 312 PPR points (Weeks 1-16) for the 2020 season which resulted in a 173 VBD. He averaged 266 points and 142 VBD in his prior two seasons. Therefore, his total points increased by 17% and more importantly he saw a 22% VBD rise. These numbers are very difficult to sustain.
ConsistencyUnlike other players at the tight end position Kelce is extremely consistent. He only busted once in sixteen games (6.25%) scoring 6.10 PPR points. He disappointed but did not hurt you in another game with 10 points. The remaining 14 games he scored between 14.70 and 27.60 points. Remarkable!
Opportunity CostHere is the tricky part where the rubber meets the road. Any reasonably person prefers a high quality Surf 'N' Turf meal consisting of Filet Mignon and King Crab legs over a Whopper with Cheese, right? This is assuming the price is $50 and $5 respectively rather than $200 and a two for one special.
The early Average Draft Position (ADP) in 12-team PPR redraft leagues according to Fantasy Calculator for Mr. Kelce is the 7th overall pick. This cost is too steep for my blood for a couple of reasons. First, he must perform at least the same as last season to be valued here. Secondly, you would be passing up a valuable running back (RB) which provides a greater advantage. The earliest that I would choose Kelce is at the 1/2 turn (1.12-2.01) wherein a top 8-10 RB is salvaged. Actually, I am even more comfortable picking him in the middle of the second round. However, he will not last this long as the fantasy community will snag him somewhere between the 1.05-1.07 pick.
Auctions, our preferred method of drafting, are totally different in the my approach. Choosing Kelce here does not preclude you from also drafting a stud RB. Provided that the bid price is not outrageous (i.e. about equal to the 4th highest price WR) then an owner is rational to go out and win the auction for Travis Kelce.