Did the Chiefs draft Travis Kelce's successor at tight end?

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The speculation was inevitable that the Kansas City Chiefs drafted tight end Jared Wiley in the fourth round to be Travis Kelce’s eventual successor, given Kelce turns 35 in October.

Things could develop that way. The Chiefs like Wiley’s size at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds and his two-way ability.

But the Chiefs have plans for Wiley in the two seasons before Kelce’s contract expires.

“Travis is the best at what he does and [backup tight end] Noah Gray has done some really outstanding stuff for us the last few years,” general manager Brett Veach said. “Noah plays a ton of reps on special teams. Having another big body to be interchangeable with those two players is really important for us.”

Wiley, 23, played three seasons at the University of Texas before transferring and playing two more at TCU, where he had a breakout season last year. He had 47 catches for 520 yards and eight touchdowns, each of those numbers more than doubling those of his first four seasons combined.

“I gained a lot of confidence in myself,” Wiley said. “There were a lot of times early in my career where I felt like I was kind of getting down on myself a little bit. All that went out the door these past two years, especially this last year, just having that confidence back in myself.”

Chiefs coach Andy Reid favors multiple tight end formations. The Chiefs were fourth in the NFL in two tight end formations last season, using them 28% of the time. But they were only 20th in the league in yards per play while using two tight ends, averaging 5.2 yards.

The Chiefs now have four tight ends to choose from, the other being Irv Smith Jr., a free agent addition. Wiley is the third tight end drafted by the Chiefs since Kelce arrived in 2013. Gray was drafted in the fifth round in 2021.

“It just seems to me, the last few years, it’s harder to find tight ends in the draft than it had been in the past,” Veach said. “I think you do get a chance depending on where you pick to select a receiving tight end or a blocking tight end, but these combo tight ends are hard to find.

“The thing that intrigued us about Wiley is the fact that he is a big kid, a former quarterback. He’s athletic, can run, a guy that can certainly hold up in line and will get better as a blocker, can block, will block and then that receiving skill set he has. I think it’s unique to add a true combo tight end on this roster, so we’re certainly excited about that prospect there.”

Wiley could help the Chiefs improve their red zone offense as a big target for quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs were 17th in the league in scoring touchdowns from inside the 20-yard line last year at 54%.

“I’m really confident in myself, especially in the red zone,” Wiley said. “I felt like that was a spot this past year where I really made my money, so to speak. I try to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself, especially down there in the red zone. I’m excited for an opportunity like that and I’m definitely going to make the most of it.”

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