Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce: Which should you take in Round 1?

What determines whether you should select Chiefs TE Travis Kelce or Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill in the first round of fantasy football drafts?

There’s no questioning the fact that Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce are deserving of being first-round picks in 2021 fantasy football drafts. So, when should you take them, and which one should you take first?

WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce are both first-round picks in fantasy football

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill is coming off a season where he finished as the overall WR2, averaging 21.9 PPR points per game. Meanwhile, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is coming off his third consecutive overall TE1 finish. Kelce has been the TE1 in four of the last five years (he was the TE2 in 2017 behind Rob Gronkowski).

Kelce provides the biggest positional advantage in fantasy football

We know nothing in fantasy football is more valuable than an elite running back. However, we are not particularly good at knowing who those elite running backs are and if they will actually stay healthy.

What we do know with a high degree of certainty is that Kelce is the best TE in fantasy football. Kelce’s 20.8 ppg was 3.3 ppg more than Darren Waller, 5.2 ppg more than George Kittle, and over 8.5 ppg better than both Mark Andrews and T.J. Hockenson last season. With that being said, Hill was 5.3 ppg better than the WR12, Tyler Lockett.

Both of these pass catchers enjoy passes being thrown to them by the NFL’s top QB, Patrick Mahomes. While you can’t go wrong with either, how do you decide whether to draft Kelce or Hill?

Deciding between the two depends on the size of your starting roster

In 2020, unless you had Kelce, Waller, or eight games of Kittle, your fantasy TE just didn’t really matter. If you carry that logic over to this year, you might question why it’s worth it to burn a first-round pick on Kelce? Instead, you can just punt on the position and get a starting tight end 14 rounds later. Sure, your tight end will be terrible, but you should make that up at wide receiver or running back.

The answer lies in your starting roster. The shallower the starting lineup, the better your entire team needs to be.

Shallower starting lineups favor a strong tight end

For example, every one of my leagues has at least 3 WRs, 2 RBs, and 1 Flex, with about half having 2 Flex positions. With six or seven potential WRs/RBs in my starting lineups, the positional advantage of an elite fantasy TE like Kelce is diminished.

However, for those playing in leagues with default settings, you will be deploying 2 WRs, 2 RBs, and 1 Flex. That means if you don’t take either of the “onesie” positions (QB and TE) in the first five rounds, any WR or RB you draft after Round 5 is a bench player.

The advantage Travis Kelce provides is greater than Tyreek Hill’s

Historically, middle-round tight ends are bad bets in fantasy. Yes, Mark Andrews, T.J. Hockenson, Kyle Pitts, and Logan Thomas are likely to finish anywhere from TE3-8. Unfortunately, their ppg averages typically aren’t that much better than the TE10-14 or whomever you’re streaming.

If you’re in a league with shallow starting lineups, your team needs to be as top-heavy as possible. Punting tight end completely while loading up your bench doesn’t make sense. Therefore, taking Kelce Round 1 (or Waller Round 2) is extremely advantageous.

Last season, Hill averaged 7.3 ppg more than the WR24. Yet, Kelce averaged 8.6 ppg over the TE4. With deeper starting lineups, you can make that up at other positions. In shallower starting lineups, it’s much more difficult to overcome the advantage of an elite fantasy TE than an elite WR.

In 2 WR, 2 RB, and 1 Flex leagues, I would take Kelce as soon as Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, and Alvin Kamara are off the board.

Tyreek Hill is still deserving of a first-round pick

In 3 WR, 2 RB, and 1 Flex leagues, you can go either way with Kelce or Hill. But in 3 WR, 2 RB, and 2 Flex leagues, I would take Hill. He is a top-tier fantasy WR — and in a format where I can theoretically start five of them — I’m not as worried about being weak at tight end.

Obviously, the team with Kelce will have a massive edge on the team that punts tight end. However, with increased starting roster positions, as you go down the lineup, the team without Kelce will be able to make up the difference by having a smaller edge at more spots.

In any format, once McCaffrey, Cook, Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott, Aaron Jones, and Davante Adams are gone, if I don’t take Kelce, I’m taking the guy who is always a threat to finish as the No. 1 fantasy football WR in Hill.

Jason Katz is a Fantasy Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter: @jasonkatz13 and find more of his work here.