Taking risks is an essential component of constructing a perennial contender in the NFL. The Kansas City Chiefs can afford to take one at the tight end position, especially considering how talented the roster is.
At the very top of the depth chart, Travis Kelce is as good as ever. The 31-year-old All-Pro is currently in the prime of his career and shows very few signs of slowing down in the near future. With that said, keeping him fresh and healthy is of the utmost importance. Despite that, the Chiefs have struggled to find a suitable complement to Kelce in recent years.
Returning into the fold this season is Blake Bell, who was a Chief in 2019 and followed that up with a one-year stint as a member of the Dallas Cowboys. In his initial run with the Chiefs, Bell hauled in just eight passes for 67 yards. He's a mostly reliable player who understands Andy Reid's offense and is a better run blocker than some of his peers. Bell offers a low ceiling, but teams know what they're getting when they sign him.
While Bell was away in 2020, Nick Keizer was given the opportunity to make some plays behind Kelce. He caught six passes for 63 yards and had some underwhelming moments when on the field. Keizer was retained as an exclusive rights free agent this offseason but projects to be more of a special teams piece. Mark Van Sickle of Arrowhead Report joined me on today's Roughing the Kicker podcast to discuss a player who may be deserving of the job above Bell and Keizer: rookie Noah Gray.
Gray, a fifth-round pick in this year's draft, is undoubtedly a flawed player. He's a bit undersized relative to what some NFL teams want in a tight end and his blocking prowess leaves a lot to be desired. The routes he runs are far from crisp. He's young, and no Day Three draft pick is perfect. With that said, Gray brings some things to the table that Bell and Keizer simply don't.
If the Chiefs choose to use Gray this season, they can do so in a variety of ways. He has "wiggle" in his game and is a good enough athlete to win some individual matchups on the outside. If the team opts for less of a traditional fullback in certain formations, the 22-year-old can serve as an H-back and leak out of the backfield to catch passes. He's a versatile weapon that may fly under the radar.
Bell is a more polished player than Gray at this stage in their respective careers, but that doesn't mean Gray can't make a larger overall impact on the Chiefs' offense. Players like Bell and Keizer are fine depth pieces, but Gray is dynamic. His ceiling is higher than theirs. He's also seemingly impressed the team throughout the offseason.
It remains to be seen what the Chiefs end up doing with their backup job. Bell and Keizer have both failed to leave significant marks in the past. Gray may be an unproven player, but it isn't as if the team has fielded juggernauts behind Kelce as of late. The rookie has more potential than the rest of the non-Kelce tight ends combined, and he may just get the chance to prove it sooner rather than later.
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