The absolute last thing we wanted to see just two days before the start of the season was an injury to a star player, but that's exactly what we got Tuesday when Travis Kelce left practice due to a knee injury. And that timing is especially tough because Tuesday and Wednesday are two of the busiest draft days of the year in Fantasy.
The exact extent of the injury is not yet known, but Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters Kelce suffered a "hyperextended his knee during Tuesday's practice session. Kelce was able to walk off the field under his own power, but "hyperextended" is the kind of terminology that is vague enough to not really tell us much at all. At the very least, however, Kelce's status for Week 1's game against the Lions on Thursday night is now very much in doubt.
A hyperextension just means that the knee joint bent too far in the wrong direction, but it doesn't necessarily rule out a more severe injury – Kelce will undergo further testing, including possible imaging, to determine the extent of the injury. It may just be a few days kind of injury – Mike Evans hyperextended his knee in Week 17 of the 2021 season and was able to play through it a week later in the playoffs – but even that would make it tough for Kelce to play through the injury in the opener.
Of course, the bigger concern for those of us who either already drafted Kelce or were thinking about doing so in our remaining drafts isn't just that this injury might impact Week 1, but that it will linger beyond that. A one-week injury is manageable – you can go add Tyler Higbee, Sam LaPorta, or Jake Ferguson and hope one of them catches a touchdown and you can survive the week. But if this ends up being a more serious injury, it's going to be awfully hard to overcome a long-term absence from your first-round pick before the first game of the season is even played. There are actually lots of interesting -- but far from Kelce --- .
We were doing a draft with the Fantasy Football Today team Tuesday as the news broke, and Kelce still ended up going in the first round, with the final pick. That may end up being a great pick if Kelce's time away ends up being fairly minimal. But I think you probably need to downgrade him even more than that – he'll still be my No. 1 tight end in remaining drafts, but I can't take him with a first-round pick until we know the extent of the injury. Kelce was my No. 6 overall player before the injury, but I'm going to slide him down to 16th in my rest-of-season rankings. That could end up being a steal if he misses just a week; it could end up being a very, very risky pick if it ends up being a multi-week absence.
Remember, while Kelce has shown almost no signs of slowing down, we are talking about a player who turns 34 years old in a month. Kelce hasn't missed more than one game in a season since 2014, but now we're talking about an older player who may be trying to play through an injury, even if he ends up coming back relatively quickly. That means potentially lessened impact as well as increased re-injury risk.
The upside with Kelce is still as high as arguably any player in Fantasy, but suddenly, he looks like a significant risk. If you either already drafted him or are planning to, you need to make sure you've got another upside option at tight end for however long he might be out. Higbee is my top option in the near term, but if I'm looking for long-term, difference-making kind of upside, I'm throwing either a late-round pick or some FAB money on LaPorta, Luke Musgrave, or Chigoziem Okonkwo and hoping one of those young guys emerges as a must-start Fantasy tight end. They won't replace Kelce, but they might be the best you can do under inopportune circumstances. Let's just hope it ends up being a short absence.