During an appearance on ESPN's Golic & Wingo show on Friday morning, Kelce provided some insight into what the Washington Redskins are getting. And while Kelce said positive things about Kansas City’s new starter, Patrick Mahomes, he also praised his former teammate.
Kelce and Smith spent five seasons together, though the tight end’s rookie season ended early because of an injury. He didn’t catch a pass that first season. But in the last four, Smith targeted him 399 times -- the receiver with the next most during that stretch had 192.
Smith completed 72.9 percent of his throws to Kelce with 21 touchdowns. Smith owned a 115.0 passer rating when targeting him. That was Smith’s second-best rating (speedy receiver Tyreek Hill was first at 121.7).
That, of course, should be good news for Redskins tight end Jordan Reed (provided he stays healthy), who had a good rapport with his former quarterback, Kirk Cousins. In Cousins’ three years as a starter, he targeted Reed 237 times -- second to slot receiver Jamison Crowder, but that’s mostly due to Reed missing 16 games in that stretch. Cousins owned a 119.3 passer rating with 19 touchdowns when targeting Reed.
But what stood out to Kelce? Smith’s evolution.
He told Golic & Wingo: “I really think his preparation, just his ability to kind of change his own game. Everybody said he was a guy who’s a check-down guy. Well, now he has the most 20-plus-yards receptions or completions in the NFL. Everybody says what he can’t do and he shows them what he can do. It was awesome seeing him have the success he had this year. ... One thing I was hoping for is he’d come back for at least another year so I could help him go and chase that ring.”
Kelce is right. The knock on Smith had been a lack of desire to throw deep. In 2017, Smith actually finished second in the NFL with 31 completions that traveled 20 yards or more (one completion behind Seattle’s Russell Wilson). But Smith’s 52.5 completion percentage on such throws tied New Orleans’ Drew Brees for the top spot. However, this year he can prove if those numbers were the start of something or an aberration. After all, his previous high in attempts at that distance was 49. The Redskins need to find someone who can provide that deep target for him. It will be a focal point in free agency.