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Pre-Camp Breakdown: Looking at the Chiefs Tight Ends Behind Travis Kelce

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— WRITTEN BY MATT McMULLEN, CHIEFS.COM REPORTER —

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Chiefs.com) – The Kansas City Chiefs are set to kick off training camp in less than a month, and with the annual trek to St. Joseph nearly here, we’re going to spend the next few weeks examining every position group on the roster heading into camp.

Here’s a look at what we’ve covered so far: QB | RB

We’ll continue with the tight ends, where the Chiefs currently employ six players. Let’s take a look at each, beginning with a future Pro Football Hall of Famer in Travis Kelce. After Kelce, the rest of the Chiefs’ tight ends are listed alphabetically.

Travis Kelce

Already one of the greatest pass-catchers to ever play the game, Kelce is compiling a resume that ranks up there with legendary wide receivers such as Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison. In fact, Kelce is tied with Rice, Harrison and Torry Holt for the most consecutive seasons with 80+ receptions in NFL history (8).

Kelce caught 93 passes for 984 yards and five touchdowns last year, and while it’s true that his streak of consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns ended at seven, Kelce voluntarily chose to conclude that run by not playing in Week 18 (in what was a meaningless game in the standings) in order to rest his body for the postseason. The decision paid off, too, as Kelce caught 32 passes for 355 yards and three touchdowns over the course of the Chiefs’ four playoff games.

The performance moved Kelce into first place all-time in terms of postseason catches with 165, and he now trails only Rice in terms of postseason receiving yards (1,903) and receiving touchdowns (19).

The examples and statistics are practically endless. Kelce is an all-time great in the history of the NFL, and as he demonstrated during last season’s playoffs, he’s still playing at an elite level.

Baylor Cupp

The 6-foot-6, 260-pound Cupp signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent back in May after recording 453 offensive snaps in 2023, which led all Texas Tech tight ends. He caught 11 passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns on the year, but his primary role was as a blocker. In fact, 70 percent of Cupp’s offensive snaps last season were in a blocking capacity, with 263 of those snaps occurring on rushing plays.

Prior to joining the Red Raiders in 2022, Cupp spent three seasons at Texas A&M.

Noah Gray

Gray enters his fourth season with Kansas City after catching 28 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns in 2023. He caught at least three passes in five of his 17 games, but a significant chunk of Gray’s role was as an in-line blocker on running plays (227 of his 595 total offensive snaps).

The 25-year-old Gray has been one of the unsung heroes of the Chiefs’ back-to-back championships, consistently handling a variety of unselfish roles while also contributing the occasional big play. For example, Gray hauled in a 12-yard reception on the Chiefs’ game-tying drive in the closing moments of the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LVIII.

Gerrit Prince

Prince, who grew up in the Kansas City metro, enters his second year with the Chiefs after originally signing with his hometown team’s practice squad last September. He then remained with the practice squad for the entirety of the campaign.

Prior to his career in the NFL, Prince caught 36 passes for 699 yards and a touchdown during his senior year at UAB in 2021.

Irv Smith Jr.

The Chiefs signed the 25-year-old Smith as a free agent on March 14 after a season in which the 6-foot-2, 240-pound tight end caught 18 passes for 115 yards and one touchdown in 12 games for Cincinnati in 2023.

Prior to joining the Bengals, Smith was a second-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2019, making him the third tight end selected that year. He went on to catch 91 passes for 858 yards and nine touchdowns in 37 games (15 starts) over the next four seasons, including a 29-game stretch between 2019 and 2020 in which he hauled in 66 catches for 676 yards and seven scores.

Smith suffered a knee injury prior to the 2021 campaign, however, that ended his season. He managed to appear in eight games the following year before suiting up for 12 contests in 2023.

For more on Smith, click here.

Jared Wiley

The Chiefs selected Wiley in the fourth round (No. 131 overall) of the 2024 NFL Draft after the former TCU star led all FBS tight ends in touchdown catches (8) and red zone touchdown grabs (5).

A transfer from the University of Texas in 2022, Wiley emerged as a reliable weapon during his two seasons at TCU. He caught 24 passes for 245 yards and four scores in 15 games (4 starts) during his first season there, but his breakout campaign took place in 2023, as he hauled in 47 grabs for 520 yards and eight touchdowns.

Wiley’s efforts earned him First-Team All-Big 12 honors, and he ended his career with an exclamation point, tallying the most single-game receiving yards by a tight end in school history in his final home contest for the Horned Frogs (173 yards vs. Baylor).

He may have been one of the top value selections of the entire draft, too. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler ranked Wiley as the No. 4 tight end in this year’s class behind only Brock Bowers, Ja’Tavion Sanders and Theo Johnson. In fact, Brugler had Wiley as the No. 89 overall player in this year’s class, and Kansas City snagged him with the No. 131 pick. Elsewhere, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah ranked Wiley as the No. 83 overall player in this year’s class.

It’s all to say that the Chiefs may have landed some considerable value with the pick, and after an impressive showing during offseason practices, Wiley will have a chance to build on that progress during training camp.

The Bottom Line

The Chiefs kept just three tight ends for Week 1 last season, but it’s worth pointing out that they kept four players at that spot in each of the three seasons prior. Behind Travis Kelce, Noah Gray’s roster spot may as well be written in ink, and Jared Wiley’s performance during offseason practices and his status as a fourth-round pick make him a virtual lock to make the team.

That then leaves three players competing for potentially one spot in Cupp, Prince and Smith. It’s likely that Smith owns the upper hand in that competition due to his past performances when healthy, but Cupp and Prince will have every opportunity to show what they can do during camp as they pursue either a roster spot or a position on the practice squad.

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