Last season was a banner year for the Chiefs in the passing game, and with Patrick Mahomes under center things are likely to continue down that path. With a completely revamped offensive line, Mahomes will have even more time to let passing plays develop next season, giving his receivers more time to run game-breaking routes and get open down the field.
This will mean big things for Mahomes favorite target from last season, Travis Kelce. Kelce had a record-breaking season last year and is right in stride to continue his record-breaking ways in the upcoming season. I think Travis Kelce will break his own record next season.
Last season Travis Kelce set the record for most receiving yards by a tight end with 1,416 yards through the air. The record was previously held by George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers, who in 2018 hauled in 1,377 yards receiving. Kittle passed Rob Gronkowski’s record that he set nine years ago in New England with 1,327 yards receiving.
This wasn’t the only history Kelce made last year; Kelce came down with 105 receptions, becoming the first Chief to have multiple 100 catch seasons and the first tight end in NFL history to do so. 105 receptions also set a Chiefs franchise record for most catches in a season, breaking his own record from 2018 of 103 receptions.
The Chiefs franchise record was held by the man who paved the way for tight ends to be used as a weapon in the passing game as opposed to just another blocker on the end of the offensive line, Tony Gonzalez, who came down with 102 receptions in 2004.
Why will Kelce pass this mark in 2021? Two factors come into play when thinking about next year and how often Kelce will be utilized. The first being that with the departure of Sammy Watkins to the Baltimore Ravens, the Chiefs have less depth at the Wide Receiver position.
Unless one of our lesser-known wide receivers has a breakout season, the burden of receptions in the passing offense will fall onto the shoulders of Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill.
With all the double teams Hill faces to prevent the long ball, Kelce will once again be open in the middle of the field more often than not for Patrick Mahomes. This was a big reason Kelce had such a monumental season last year. Sammy Watkins was on the injured list for the majority of the season, leading to an increase in Kelce’s targets, and thus an increase in receptions for the Chiefs star.
Kelce has shown to be a reliable and extremely productive target for Mahomes, and the bond the pair share extends off the field as well. Pictures show the two vacationing together, so I’m sure during the summer they had time to work out together as well. With Watkins leaving, Mahomes will fall back to his old reliable target in Kelce, and this is sure to lead to an increase in Kelce’s production.
The second reason I believe Kelce will have another record-breaking year is that the offensive line has been completely overhauled. This will benefit Kelce in two ways. The first is that Mahomes will have more time in the pocket to let passing plays develop, leading to more time for Kelce to get open down the field. Kelce and Mahomes have shown that once a play extends and the time comes for improvisation of the routes, they seem to share a brain.
The pair always seem to be on the same page, and this often leads to a big play. The second way the revamped offensive line will help Kelce is that he will not be held in to help block on pass protection. The Chiefs’ offensive line should be able to protect Mahomes without the help of additional blockers, leaving Kelce free to get open down the field.
Between not needing him to help in pass protection, and more time for passing plays to develop, 2021 will be a year where Travis Kelce can really shine. Look out for another record-breaking season from the Chiefs tight end.