National Football League
Where Travis Kelce stands among the greatest tight ends of all time
National Football League

Where Travis Kelce stands among the greatest tight ends of all time

Updated Oct. 11, 2022 6:10 p.m. ET

When it comes to the conversation surrounding the greatest NFL tight ends over the past decade, Travis Kelce has already cemented his spot near the top of the list. But the 10-year veteran did something Monday night that advanced the conversation surrounding Kelce and the greatest tight ends to ever play the game.

Kelce hauled in seven catches in the Chiefs' 30-29 win over the Raiders, four of which went for touchdowns. Only three other players in NFL history have scored as many touchdowns as Kelce did against the Raiders, and despite a relatively porous outing from a yards perspective (he had just 25 in total), he was unguardable when the Chiefs reached the red zone.

No tight end has amassed more receptions (704) or receiving yards (9,006) than No. 87 through his first nine seasons, and Monday was just another example of his brilliance out on the football field.


But when it comes to the greatest to ever play the game, where does Kelce stand?

"Undisputed" cohost Skip Bayless called him a rare breed among the best to ever do it.

"Just me using my eye test, when I flash back on [Rob] Gronkowski or Tony Gonzalez or [Antonio] Gates or Shannon Sharpe, this guy is moving at some speed I've never seen at his position as far as route running, pass catching, and by the way, his hands aren't good, they're real good," Bayless said Tuesday.

"Kelce manages to avoid those ‘lethal’ plays. … He's so slithery for 250 pounds, you talk about next evolutions. I'm sure he gets hit hard, but I don't see shots where I say ‘oh man.’ To my eye test, Kelce's moving at a speed that Tony never moved at. This man is something, and his rapport with [Patrick] Mahomes is special."

Shannon Sharpe added that one barrier is keeping him from placing Kelce higher on his all-time list.

"I believe when it's all said and done he's going to be top three in catches, yards and touchdowns," he said. "Six straight 1,000-yard seasons, that's what wide receivers do. Tight ends do not do that. Even at my best I had three, finished five yards short of four. … He has six All-Pros, three first-team, three second-team. He just turned 33, he's fifth in receiving yards, 700 away from me. He'll pass me this year. He's sixth in catches, he's going to pass Greg Olsen next week. He's sixth in touchdowns, he's 54 behind Gates. So I believe when it's all said and done, he'll be top three. 

"Right now, I believe Gronk is the greatest tight end to have ever played. But the thing that Kelce is going to have is longevity, and his numbers are going to dwarf his. Now if he can get another Super Bowl … Kelce is equally as dominant, but those four Super Bowls, that's the difference-maker right now. If he can get another Super Bowl or two, it's going to be hard for me to put someone in front of him. He's not the greatest currently, but when it's all said and done, if he and Mahome-boy can win another Super Bowl, I'm going to have to put him No. 1."

Here are Kelce's numbers through his first nine NFL seasons (excluding the current season), compared to the other tight ends mentioned through their first nine seasons. The leader in each category has been bolded.

Travis Kelce (2013-2021):

  • 127 games
  • 704 receptions
  • 9,006 receiving yards
  • 57 TD
  • 12.8 yards per reception

Per Game:

  • 5.5 receptions
  • 70.9 rec yards
  • 0.4 TD

Tony Gonzalez (1997-2005):

  • 143 games
  • 648 receptions
  • 7,810 receiving yards
  • 56 TD
  • 12.1 yards per reception

Per Game:

  • 4.5 receptions
  • 54.6 rec yards
  • 0.4 TD

Antonio Gates (2003-2011):

  • 132 games
  • 593 receptions
  • 7,783 receiving yards
  • 76 TD
  • 13.1 yards per reception

Per Game:

  • 4.5 receptions
  • 59.0 rec yards
  • 0.6 TD

Shannon Sharpe (1990-1998):

  • 139 games
  • 529 receptions
  • 6,759 receiving yards
  • 44 TD
  • 12.8 yards per reception

Per Game:

  • 3.8 receptions
  • 48.6 rec yards
  • 0.3 TD

Rob Gronkowski (2010-2018):

  • 115 games
  • 521 receptions
  • 7,861 receiving yards
  • 79 TD
  • 15.1 yards per reception

Per Game:

  • 4.5 receptions
  • 68.4 rec yards
  • 0.7 TD

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