NFL

Travis Kelce by the numbers: Chiefs star on pace for best season ever by TE, but is he greatest of all-time?

Travis Kelce continues to state his case as the greatest tight end to ever play the game, climbing the ladder amongst the elite players at his position. Creeping up on 10,000 receiving yards in his career, Kelce is set to become the fifth tight end in NFL history to reach the plateau.

Kelce is in the midst of an historic season at tight end, leading all tight ends in receptions (69), receiving yards (855) and receiving touchdowns (11) in 2022. The Kansas City Chiefs superstar is on pace to set several single-season records at tight end while sitting just 145 yards away from his seventh consecutive 1,000-yard season — extending his own NFL record for tight ends with 1,000-yard seasons. 

This week’s “By The Numbers” takes a look at Kelce’s quest for 10,000 yards and the historic pace he’s on as he seeks the single-season record for receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns for tight ends. Kelce might be the greatest tight end ever when his career is over. 

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 — 9,861

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 — 773

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 — 68

Kelce keeps moving his way up the record books, as he’s just 139 yards away from becoming the fifth tight end to reach 10,000 receiving yards. He needs to get 139 yards in 39 games or less to have the fewest games to reach 10,000 receiving yards for a tight end in league history. (Gonzalez has the record, reaching 10,000 yards in 177 games.)

The Chiefs tight end needs 27 more catches in 21 games or less to become the fastest tight end to record 800 receptions — (Witten is the fastest to 800, reaching the mark in 159 games) — and the fifth to reach 800 catches in NFL history. Kelce only needs seven touchdown catches to pass Witten for fifth in NFL history amongst tight ends. 

Not only is Kelce 200 yards away from passing Sharpe for fourth on the all-time receiving yards list amongst tight ends, but the countdown is also on to see if he can reach Gonzalez’s all-time mark. Kelce averages 72 receiving yards per game, so he would need to play 73 more games at that pace to catch Gonzalez. Kelce would have to play at this level for four full seasons and five games, meaning he would break the mark at age 37. 

Kelce averages 5.6 receptions per game, so he would need to play 99 games to catch Gonzalez. Basically he would need to play five full seasons and 14 games, so Kelce would break the record at 39 (assuming he plays that long). 

In short, Gonzalez’s receiving yards record is in play — especially since Kelce is set to extend his record for 1,000-yard seasons at tight end (seven). Kelce is showing no signs of slowing down racking up yards. The receptions mark could be in play with Kelce averaging 99 catches over the past four years, but he’ll need to play at a high level for at least four more years. 

As Kelce moves up the record books amongst the all-timers, he’s also set to rewrite the single-season marks amongst his position. Take a look at the marks Kelce is chasing.

Most receiving yards in a season — tight ends 

  1. Travis Kelce (Chiefs) — 1,416 (2020)
  2. George Kittle (49ers) — 1,377 (2018)
  3. Mark Andrews (Ravens) — 1,361 (2022)
  4. Travis Kelce (Chiefs) — 1,336 (2018)
  5. Rob Gronkowski (Patriots) — 1,317 (2011)

Most receptions in a season — tight ends

  1. Zach Ertz (Eagles) — 116 (2018)
  2. Jason Witten (Cowboys) — 110 (2012)
  3. Mark Andrews (Ravens) — 107 (2021)
  4. Darren Waller (Raiders) — 107 (2020)
  5. Travis Kelce (Chiefs) — 105 (2020)

Most receiving TD in a season — tight ends 

  1. Rob Gronkowski (Patriots) — 17 (2011)
  2. Jimmy Graham (Saints) — 16 (2013)
  3. Antonio Gates (Chargers) — 13 (2004)
  4. Vernon Davis (49ers) — 13 (2009)
  5. Vernon Davis (49ers) — 13 (2013)

Kelce may have all three of these marks at season’s end, as the Chiefs tight end is on pace for 117 catches for 1,454 yards and 19 touchdowns — setting the NFL record in all three categories. While Kelce already holds the receiving yards mark, he’s in striking distance of passing Ertz for the receptions mark and Gronkowski for the touchdowns mark. Kelce will need to keep up his incredible pace to reach all three records, but he has a legitimate shot at them through 10 games. 

Kelce is 145 yards away from recording his seventh-consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season. He already holds the NFL record for most seasons with 1,000-plus receiving yards by a tight end (six). Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten, and Tony Gonzalez each have four 1,000-yard seasons at tight end — which Kelce would double with two more 1,000-yard seasons. 

The only tight end to have two 100-catch seasons in NFL history, Kelce is on pace for his third 100-catch season in 2022. Only eight times has a tight end had 100 catches in a season — and Kelce has two of them. 

Kelce has three seasons with double-digit touchdowns, only two behind Gronkowski (five) for the most all-time (Jimmy Graham is second with four). He’s in striking distance for those accomplishments, too, building up a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame candidacy in the process. 

At this rate, Kelce may own all the significant records for a tight end when his career ends. Is that enough to call him the greatest ever? 



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