All questions were quickly put to rest in his first game back after surgery in a 2014 preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Kelce caught a short pass and broke away for a 69-year old touchdown. .
Kelce finished the 2014 regular season with 67 receptions for 862 yards and five touchdowns, including 15 receptions of 20-plus yards, all of which led the Chiefs. Kelce also led all NFL tight ends with 512 yards after the catch. Comparing that to Gonzalez, Kelce scored more touchdowns in one season than T.G. did in his first two. Kelce also came within a 15o yards of tying T.G’s production in yards in two seasons.
So is Kelce on pace at this point to compete with T.G. for best tight end in Chiefs history? Yes, but he’s going to have to produce more than that for several seasons. Take for consideration the 2008 season where Gonzalez caught 96 balls for 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns, rare air for the tight end position. Also take into consideration that T.G. played 17 straight years and Kelce has already missed an entire season, that will make the comparison even more of uphill battle.
So why even compare these two players so early Kelce’s career?
Kelce told WKRK-FM in Cleveland back in March that he accomplished all that without being fully healthy.
"“If I went out there playing more snaps than I did, I mean who knows. I might not have been able to make it. My knee still wasn’t full strength last year, which is why I’m excited about this year. Now I get the time to take a full offseason and get my legs ready and get my upper body and my explosiveness back that I know I really had. I didn’t really feel that comfortable out there on the field but we made it work.”"
That raises the level of comparison at least in theory. If Kelce can produce what he did last year and he’s not healthy he could probably produce some extraordinary numbers when fully healthy. Time will tell.
Pro Football Focus graded Kelce at +11.6 overall for the 2014 season which was ranked fourth-best among tight ends in the league. Kelce also was graded +6.8 overall in run blocking which was the best among tight ends.
Next: What does the future hold?