NFL

Is Travis Kelce the best TE of all time? Where Chiefs star compares to all-time greats at the position

Travis Kelce is climbing his way up the NFL record books as the tight end is on the verge of reaching 10,000 receiving yards for his career. Kelce is just 82 yards away from becoming the fifth tight end to the 10,000-yard plateau, already in the top five in receiving yards for his position. 

Kelce is in the prime of his career, as he’s leading all tight ends in receptions (73), receiving yards (912), and receiving touchdowns (12) through 11 games. The Kansas City Chiefs tight end is set to hit 1,000 yards for the seventh consecutive season — extending his own record for tight ends. Kelce is also seeking his third 100-catch season and already has his third 10 touchdown season, moving his way up the all-time marks in those categories. 

Kelce will be the fastest tight end ever to reach 10,000 yards and 800 receptions, further stating his case as the greatest tight end ever. Is Kelce the greatest of all-time already? Does he have any more to prove? At this point in Kelce’s Hall of Fame career, he’s just adding to his resume and ending the debate on the greatest tight end in NFL history. 

Let’s take a look at where Kelce stands amongst his peers and all the records he’s set for a tight end already. 

Most receiving yards by TE — NFL history

  1. Tony Gonzalez — 15,127
  2. Jason Witten — 13,046
  3. Antonio Gates — 11,841
  4. Shannon Sharpe — 10,060
  5. Travis Kelce — 9,918

Most receptions by TE — NFL history 

  1. Tony Gonzalez — 1,325
  2. Jason Witten — 1,228
  3. Antonio Gates — 955
  4. Shannon Sharpe — 815
  5. Travis Kelce — 777

Most receiving TD by TE — NFL history

  1. Antonio Gates — 116
  2. Tony Gonzalez — 111
  3. Rob Gronkowski — 92
  4. Jimmy Graham — 85
  5. Jason Witten — 74
  6. Travis Kelce — 69

Kelce will play in his 139th game Sunday, but the Chiefs tight end is off to the greatest start for a tight end ever. While he is not in the top five in touchdown receptions yet, Kelce needs just six more touchdowns this year to pass Witten for fifth — which would put him with Gonzalez and Gates as the only players in the top-five in all three categories. He also has caught a pass in 137 straight games, the third-longest streak for a tight end in NFL history (Gonzalez had a streak of 211 and Ozzie Newsome had 150). 

The countdown is on to see if Kelce can reach Gonzalez’s all-time mark for receiving yards by a tight end. Kelce averages 71.9 receiving yards per game, so he would need to play 72 more games at that pace to catch Gonzalez. Kelce would have to play at this level for four full seasons and four games, meaning he would break the mark at age 37. 

Kelce averages 5.6 receptions per game, so he would need to play 98 games to catch Gonzalez. Basically he would need to play five full seasons and 13 games, so Kelce would break the record at 39 (assuming he plays that long). 

Kelce also averages the highest receiving yards per game by a tight end (71.9). George Kittle is second (65.0) while Rob Gronkowski is third (64.9). Through his first 138 games, Kelce has the most receptions (777) and receiving yards (9,918) for a tight end, while ranking fourth in receiving touchdowns (69). 

Needless to say, Kelce is obliterating the receptions and receiving yards mark with games played for his position. 

Most receptions by TE — first 138 career games 

  1. Travis Kelce — 777
  2. Jason Witten — 673
  3. Zach Ertz — 657
  4. Tony Gonzalez — 628
  5. Antonio Gates — 614

Most receiving yards by TE — first 138 career games

  1. Travis Kelce — 9,918
  2. Rob Gronkowski — 8,920
  3. Antonio Gates — 8,021
  4. Jason Witten — 7,680
  5. Tony Gonzalez — 7,523

Most receiving TD by TE — first 138 career games 

  1. Rob Gronkowski — 92
  2. Antonio Gates — 78
  3. Jimmy Graham – 72
  4. Travis Kelce — 69
  5. Tony Gonzalez — 55
  6. Vernon Davis — 55

Kelce is going to be the fastest tight end to reach 10,000 receiving yards and 80 receptions in NFL history. He needs 23 catches in the next 20 games to become the fastest tight end to reach 800 catches in NFL history. Kelce needs 82 yards in the next 38 games to become the fastest tight end in NFL history to reach 10,000 receiving yards. 

Kelce also averages the highest receiving yards per game by a tight end (71.9). George Kittle is second (65.0) while Rob Gronkowski is third (64.9). Through his first 138 games, Kelce has the most receptions (777) and receiving yards (9,918) for a tight end, while ranking fourth in receiving touchdowns (69). 

There are quite a few records Kelce has in his career amongst tight ends that are worth mentioning, especially when determining the greatest tight end ever. 

  • Consecutive 1,000+ yard seasons — 6 (2016–2021)
  • 1,000 yard seasons — 6 (2016-2021) 
  • Receiving yards in a season — 1,416 (2020)
  • Most postseason receptions by a tight end — 106
  • 100+ reception seasons — 2 (2018, 2020)
  • Fewest games to reach 6,000 receiving yards  — 91 
  • Fewest games to reach 8,000 receiving yards  — 113 
  • Fewest games to reach 9,000 receiving yards  — 127
  • 100-yard games  — 33

Amongst the regular season statistics, here’s a good look at how Kelce rewrote the regular season marks for a tight end. 

Most 1,000-yard seasons — tight end

  1. Travis Kelce — 6 (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021)
  2. Rob Gronkowski — 4 (2011, 2014, 2015, 2017)
  3. Jason Witten — 4 (2007, 2009, 2010, 2012)
  4. Tony Gonzalez — 4 (2000, 2004, 2007, 2008)

Most 100-catch seasons — tight end

  1. Travis Kelce — 2 (2018, 2020)
  2. Mark Andrews — 1 (2021)
  3. Zach Ertz — 1 (2018)
  4. Jason Witten — 1 (2012)
  5. Dallas Clark — 1 (2009)
  6. Tony Gonzalez — 1 (2004)

Most 10-touchdown seasons — tight end

  1. Rob Gronkowski — 5 (2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015)
  2. Jimmy Grham — 4 (2011, 2013, 2014, 2017)
  3. Travis Kelce — 3 (2018, 2020, 2022)
  4. Tony Gonzalez — 3 (1999, 2003, 2008)

Lost in the shuffle is Kelce’s postseason statistics, which are also amongst the all-time greats at his position. What’s even more impressive is how Kelce has played fewer postseason games than Gronkowski, yet is closing in on some of his records. 

Most postseason receptions by TE — NFL history

  1. Travis Kelce — 106
  2. Rob Gronkowski — 98
  3. Dallas Clark — 64
  4. Jay Novacek — 62
  5. Shannon Sharpe — 62

Most postseason receiving yards by TE — NFL history 

  1. Rob Gronkowski — 1,389
  2. Travis Kelce — 1,291
  3. Dallas Clark — 847
  4. Keith Jackson — 834
  5. Shannon Sharpe — 814

Most postseason receiving TD by TE — NFL history 

  1. Rob Gronkowski –15
  2. Travis Kelce — 12
  3. Dave Casper — 7
  4. Vernon Davis — 7
  5. Keith Jackson — 6
  6. Jay Novacek — 6

Kelce averages 86.1 points per game in the postseason, by far the best in NFL history (minimum three games). Dan Ross is second at 83.3 while Dallas Clark is third at 70.6. He also averages 7.1 receptions per game in the postseason (15 games), the best in NFL history. His 0.8 touchdowns per game is also the best for a tight end in NFL history (minimum three games). 

The argument can be made Kelce is not only the greatest regular season tight end ever, but the greatest postseaosn tight end ever. Keep in mind Kelce is still in the prime of his career and only 33 years old. 

Not much needs to be explained when looking at all the statistics and records when it comes to Kelce. At this rate, Kelce is simply adding on to the impressive numbers he already has. These numbers indicate Kelce is at least a top-three tight end in NFL history — already. 



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