Fantasy Football Debate: Travis Kelce vs. Tyreek Hill
Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill—the Chiefs' primary pass-catchers—are currently being drafted as the top players at their respective positions, with Kelce being drafted with the sixth pick, on average, and Hill going off the board two picks later. In this debate, 4for4's Jack Caporuscio will explain why he prefers to start his draft with Kansas City's tight end while Frank Ammirante opts for the Chiefs receiver.
The Case for Travis Kelce
Jack: Travis Kelce is the single most valuable player for 2021 fantasy football leagues, outside of Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey. Kelce has finished as the TE1 overall in half-PPR formats in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and will do so again in 2021. He finished the 2020 season with 1,416 receiving yards on 105 receptions (13.48 yards per reception) and 11 receiving TDs, good for 257.6 points in half-PPR. The most impressive part of Kelce's fantasy dominance is the gap between him and the rest of the field at the tight end position.
In 2020, the Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller finished as the TE2 overall with 223.1 fantasy points. The points separation between Waller and Kelce was 34.5 points throughout the season (2.16 fewer fantasy points per game). This gap widens even further when looking at the difference between Kelce and the TE3 on the season, the Green Bay Packers tight end, Robert Tonyan. Tonyan finished the season with 150.6 total fantasy points, which was a shocking 6.69 fewer points per game than Kelce. This point differential increases even further when you look at the TE4 in 2020, the Detroit Lions T.J. Hockenson (7.32 fewer points per game) and TE5 Logan Thomas of the Washington Football Team (7.42 fewer points per game).
Not only has Kelce been the most dominant fantasy option at his position for half a decade now, but he serves as the single best advantage for your fantasy lineups on a week-in-week-out basis. There simply isn't another player at the position that your opponent can put in your lineup who will match or outplay Kelce's weekly output. Kelce has also been an iron man in his career thus far and has only missed three games since the 2014 season. The only player who has come close to challenging Kelce's reign as tight end king is the San Francisco 49ers tight end, George Kittle, who has dealt with his fair share of injuries during his career.
Isn't Tyreek Hill More Valuable?
Not only does Kelce offer a greater positional advantage at the most scarce position for fantasy football, but he only scored 15 fewer points on the entire season than Kansas City Chiefs teammate Tyreek Hill did in half-PPR formats in 2020. Hill finished the 2020 season with 1,276 receiving yards on 87 receptions (14.6 yards per reception) and 15 receiving TDs, totaling 285.4 fantasy points on the season, which was only 1.6 more points per game than Kelce. So with Kelce, you're getting a WR1 for fantasy in your tight end slot, which is the type of mismatch you need to differentiate your team from the rest of the league in order to win a fantasy championship.
Kelce currently has an ADP of 6.3 overall on Underdog fantasy and Hill carries an ADP of 8.3 overall. At their respective ADPs, Kelce is the player you want on your team. Kelce is going slightly ahead of Hill, but for good reason. Hill has only put together one season of consistent fantasy production from week to week, as he used to be known as a boom-or-bust option for your weekly lineup. Kelce has been there, done that and will continue to be here and do that for your fantasy team—that being winning you another fantasy championship.
The Case For Tyreek Hill
Frank: Tyreek Hill is coming off another dominant season, catching 87-of-135 targets for 1,276 yards (14.7 Y/R) and 15 touchdowns in 15 games, finishing as the WR2 in half-PPR points per game. Hill enters his age-27 season firmly in his prime as one of the top pass-catchers for the best quarterback in football in Patrick Mahomes. Currently being drafted as WR1 (8.3 ADP) in Underdog Fantasy leagues, Hill is right next to his teammate Travis Kelce, who is going as TE1 (6.3 ADP). This makes for an interesting debate between two Chiefs who are dominant at their respective positions. I prefer to go with Hill. Let’s find out why.
Hill's Evolving Role in the Offense
Hill’s targets per game reached new levels in 2020, as the Chiefs became even more of a pass-heavy team:
- 2018: 8.6 targets per game/36.25 pass attempts per game
- 2019: 7.4 targets per game/34.57 pass attempts per game
- 2020: 9.0 targets per game/39.2 pass attempts per game
Hill has become the rare deep threat who also acts as a target hog for the offense. What’s even more exciting is that Hill’s role began to grow as the season progressed. Check out these splits:
- Weeks 1-6: 6.3 targets per game, 17.76% target share
- Weeks 7-17: 10.7 targets per game, 26.37% target share
After starting the year with single-digit targets in five of six games, Hill finished the year with 10 or more targets in 7 of 9 games. He also had double-digit targets in all three playoff games. During this stretch, Hill out-targeted Kelce 96-93. There’s a chance that he’s starting to become the 1A in this offense.
It’s clear that the Chiefs’ coaching staff has recognized that a pass-heavy approach is their best option. We can expect this to continue going forward. What’s even more interesting is that the Chiefs have started to use Hill more in the red zone. Check out his red-zone target share in the last three years:
- 2018: 15.22%
- 2019: 16.28%
- 2020: 23.19%
That’s a significant increase for Hill. This is a wide receiver who gets the “money targets,” which are deep passes and targets in the red zone. Hill should be a perennial threat for double-digit touchdowns. This separates him from the other receivers in the elite tier like Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, and DeAndre Hopkins because while they each have similar high volume, none of them have Hill’s speed. A wide receiver with elite speed and high volume is exceptionally rare. Hill might still have untapped upside with this type of usage.
Hill's Age and Position
Hill is still only 27 years old, while Kelce is now entering his age-32 season. Kelce has had a dominant career and might go down as the best tight end of all time, but his ADP has reached unprecedented levels for the tight end position. When Rob Gronkowski was consistently putting up 1,000+ yards and double-digit touchdowns, he would usually be selected at the end of the first round or beginning of the second. Kelce is going in the middle of the first round, which is simply too high for a tight end, especially when you consider that he’s now in his early 30s.
We also have to consider that tight end is the deepest that it’s been in years. Darren Waller is a legitimate challenger to Kelce’s throne as the top tight end, posting 1,000+ yards in each of his first two years as a starter. Waller will remain as the clear-cut top option for the Raiders. You also have George Kittle returning from injury. It wasn’t too long ago that Kittle was considered a better fantasy tight end than Kelce, or at least the gap in ADP wasn’t this wide. Then you have a potential breakout with high draft capital in T.J. Hockenson, a touchdown machine in Mark Andrews, and the best tight end prospect of all time in Kyle Pitts. This isn’t the year to target Kelce, as his price has reached exorbitant levels.
The Bottom Line
Hill and Kelce are both elite players at their positions, but Hill is the better choice. When you factor in his evolving role and younger age as well as the tight end depth, it becomes an easy decision. Even when you get past these factors, it just seems inadvisable to use a mid-first round pick on a tight end. Go with Hill and target Waller in the second or Kittle in the third if you’re inclined to spend a premium price on a tight end.