Outside of Rob Gronkowski, there may not be two better fantasy tight ends right now than Travis Kelce and Greg Olsen, the features of this week’s player showdown. Neither should be picked in the first two or three rounds of your fantasy draft, but they are both in consideration for first tight end taken after Gronk. Both are highly productive thanks to few other options in their respective offenses. Can they keep it up in 2017? Neither has shown much indication of slowing down and neither have a receiver or tight end to threaten their workload. But, thanks to the draft, there might be one big change to at least one of their offenses.
Kelce and Olsen both have the advantage of incredible athleticism for players their size. So perhaps it’s not a surprise they both stand 6-foot-5 and more than 250 pounds. They also had very productive, and similar, statlines in 2016. Kelce finished with 85 receptions for 1,125 yards and four touchdowns, while Olsen finished with 80 catches for 1,073 yards and three touchdowns. Both led their respective teams in receptions and yards and they were two of only three tight ends to lead their teams in receiving yards last season.
It’s not just last year’s numbers that were similar. In terms of both fantasy and real-life production, Kelce and Olsen have followed a similar path for the last three years. Kelce has averaged a fifth-place fantasy finish among tight ends, while Olsen has averaged a fourth-place finish. They’ve also both finished as top-three PFF tight ends in two of the last three season. Even on a per-play basis, the similarities don’t end. Olsen has averaged 2.07 yards per route run since 2014; Kelce has averaged 2.1. Neither has finished lower than fifth in the same category over that time.
While Kelce and Olsen have been highly productive, they’ve actually gone about it in different ways. Kelce is used much more like a traditional, in-line tight end, while Olsen has done a lot of work in the slot. Over the last three seasons, Olsen has averaged 269 routes out of the slot each season since 2014, 52 percent of all his routes. Meanwhile, Kelce averages 189 routes in the slot, or 41.5 percent of his average of 455 routes per season. Additionally, Olsen is used downfield much more than Kelce. Olsen’s aDOT of 10.8 yards and 11.8 in 2015 and 2016, respectively, is well ahead of Kelce’s 5.8 and 6.9 in the same span. Olsen also had 21 targets that were 20-plus yards downfield compared to Kelce’s eight.
Another difference in the two is age. Kelce is entering his age-28 season and has only three NFL seasons of wear and tear. Meanwhile, Olsen is 32 and has 10 seasons behind him. And while Olsen hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down yet, it’s coming.
Advantage: Kelce, by the slightest of margins.