KCKingdom
Fansided

Kansas City Chiefs: Travis Kelce among all-time best tight ends

Jan 17, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) leaps in for a touchdown as Cleveland Browns free safety Andrew Sendejo (23) and strong safety Karl Joseph (42) defend during the AFC Divisional Round playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 17, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) leaps in for a touchdown as Cleveland Browns free safety Andrew Sendejo (23) and strong safety Karl Joseph (42) defend during the AFC Divisional Round playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports /
facebooktwitterreddit
Prev
4 of 4
Next
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) – Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) – Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports /

So, who you got? Travis Kelce or the field?

I meant to only talk about nine other tight ends so I could make a Top 10 list. Instead, I talked about 10 others, so it’s a Top 11 list. But as you’ll see…another name enters the contest!

Some guys had to be left out, like Philadelphia Eagle Zach Ertz, who’s had a solid career that included an awesome 2018 in which he caught 116 (!) passes for 1,163 yards; former Raider Todd Christensen who twice led the league in receptions and thrice eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving; Hall of Famer Jackie Smith, who spent 15 years with the abysmal St. Louis Cardinals and once had 1,205 yards receiving in a season but who is, sadly and unfairly, best known for a drop while with Dallas; Greg Olsen, who had three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons between 2014-2016; and Vernon Davis, who twice scored 13 touchdowns in a season, leading the league the first time he did so, in 2009.

A quick review of Kelce’s career body of work:

  • 612 receptions (8th all-time among tight ends)
  • 7,881 receiving yards (10th all-time among tight ends)
  • 48 receiving touchdowns (T-11th all-time among tight ends)
  • Two seasons of at least 100 receptions (first tight end ever)
  • Five consecutive seasons of at least 1,000 yards receiving (most among tight ends)
  • Six-time Pro-Bowler
  • Three-time All-Pro

Let’s break down those first three categories a bit more. Kelce has 612 receptions, which ranks eighth all-time among tight ends. But his receptions per game is 5.51, which is the most of those eight tight ends. The next closest is Tony Gonzalez at 4.9 receptions per game.

Kelce’s only 10th all-time in receiving yards among tight ends, but again, on a per-game basis, he’s No. 1 at a smooth 71 receiving yards per game, which is over six yards more than the next guy on the list, Gronkowski, who averages 64.76.

Where Kelce is most lacking is touchdowns at he’s tied for 11th among tight ends in that category with 48. A few guys who don’t show up otherwise in this article or on the receptions or receiving yards lists show up ahead of time–guys like Dallas Clark, Hall of Famer Dave Casper, and, tied with Kelce at 11th on this particular list, Dwight Clark. Among these dozen players, though, Kelce still ranks fourth in receiving touchdowns per game, coming in at 0.43, behind only Gronkowski, Gates, and (surprisingly, at least to me) Jimmy Graham.

Before I get to the rankings, I’m going to throw Greg Olsen into the mix. I was unaware of his such solid numbers, ranking fifth among tight ends in receptions and receiving yards and eighth in receiving touchdowns.

So now this is a Top 12 list!

Top 12 Tight Ends

12. George Kittle. It’s early in his career, and he’ll undoubtedly move up the board.

11. Mike Ditka. He did what legends do–he started it all.

10. Jimmy Graham. For a while, it looked like he would be the best.

9. Greg Olsen. Quietly had a fantastic career, which may not be over.

8. Ozzie Newsome. Solid contributor for the old Browns from the 70s into the 90s.

7. Kellen Winslow. Took what Ditka started and pushed it forward by miles.

6. Shannon Sharpe. Three Super Bowl rings, 815 receptions, over 10,000 yards receiving, and 62 receiving touchdowns. Not bad for a Bronco.

5. Jason Witten. There’s something to be said about longevity, especially when playing such a brutal sport. Among the tight ends in this article, he’s appeared in the most games–271. And he’s made the most of them.

4. Antonio Gates. His record of 116 receiving touchdowns by a tight end may never be broken.

3. Tony Gonzalez. Yes, yes, I know: he’s first among tight ends in receptions and receiving yards and second in touchdown receptions. And this could be recency bias, but his weekly averages weigh him down against the top two.

2. Rob Gronkowski. Gronk’s averaged .656 touchdown receptions per game over his career, which is tops among tight ends (and if he played the same amount of games as Gates, he’d come in at 155), and he averages 64.76 receiving yards per game, which is second only to Kelce. Plus: three rings.

1. Travis Kelce. Okay, so I lied at the beginning when I said he’s “on pace to be the best ever at his position.” He’s already there! Listen, I get the argument for longevity, but to me, there’s more to in-the-moment play. What he’s done the past five seasons is incredible. He’ll climb up these lists, too, passing Newsome in receptions next year while also quite possibly moving into 5th all-time in receiving yards, but his game averages, when considered together, are just unmatchable.

30 Greatest Kansas City Chiefs of All-Time. dark. Next

Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs is the best tight end to ever play in the National Football League.