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Big expectations fit Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce well

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – His success last season might have caught a lot of people by surprise, but not Travis Kelce. The Kansas City Chiefs tight end was a revelation to everyone but the Chiefs, who drafted him in the third round in 2013, and himself. Kelce has that kind of confidence in his ability.

The expectations this year on Kelce, inside the Chiefs' practice facility and out, are for more, a lot more than the 67 catches, 862 yards and five touchdowns he had last season. Anything short of the numbers posted annually by former Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez might be a disappointment.

To a lot of players, that kind of pressure might be a heavy weight to carry. But they fit Kelce well.

“Nobody puts more expectation on me than myself," Kelce said after Wednesday’s practice. “That’s just the heart of the competitor. That’s how I was raised. My father taught me that you can buy a man’s back, but you can’t buy his heart. With that being said, I come out here and make sure I put all my effort and focus into being the best player I can be."

The Chiefs announced their increased expectations for Kelce before the draft when they released last year’s starting tight end, Anthony Fasano. The Chiefs think so much of Kelce that other than drafting James O’Shaughnessy in the fifth round, they’ve made no moves at tight end despite losing last year’s starter. Even a second surgery on the broken foot of backup Demetrius Harris didn’t get the Chiefs scrambling for help at the position.

Until Harris returns, whether that’s for training camp or sometime beyond, the Chiefs will go at tight end with Kelce, journeyman Richard Gordon, O’Shaughnessy and some other developmental prospects.

The Chiefs appear satisfied with that, because they have Kelce. In fact, the presence of Kelce is one reason why the Chiefs didn’t add more than free agent Jeremy Maclin at wide receiver, a position of serious need.

As if to demonstrate his value to quarterback Alex Smith and the passing game, Kelce caught the first two and three of the first five passes during team drills at Wednesday’s practice session. The first was a one-handed catch.

“In my mind, the sky is the limit," Kelce said. “That’s just the confidence that I have in the players and the team that we’ve been able to put together. I think we can go ahead and have one heck of an outstanding season, whether that is me putting up big numbers or average numbers or whatever statistics that you want to throw out there. I think this team is going to be one heck of a team going forward.”

The chances of that happening will get better if Kelce posts bigger numbers than he did last year.