Who are the 10 best players to ever play for the Kansas City Chiefs?
In the 60 years the Kansas City Chiefs franchise has been in existence, the team has captured two Super Bowls and 18 former players have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. From the early 60’s to today, many greats have put on the red and gold and accomplished a lot during their time with the franchise.
With the great history of the organization, it was hard to narrow it down, but we picked our top 10. Here are our 10 best Kansas City Chiefs players of all time. Let us know if you think we missed anyone who should have been on this list.
10. Johnny Robinson, DB
Johnny Robinson spent his entire 12-year career with the Kansas City Chiefs franchise. Robinson was there from inception with the Dallas Texans, as well as the inception of the AFL.
The Chiefs had many great defensive players during the Hank Stram era. This defense was an integral part of helping the Chiefs be competitive under Stram. Robinson had a big hand in it, literally.
During his 12 years with the franchise, Robinson collected 57 interceptions, which rank the second most in Chiefs history and tie four others for 13th most in NFL history. He came away with 10 picks in 1966 and 1970, the most he’s had in a season. In 1969, Robinson had eight interceptions for 158 yards during a season where the Chiefs captured their first Super Bowl. His return yards during that championship season were the most he had in any season. Robinson owns four career postseason interceptions. He helped the Chiefs defeat the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV with a fumble recovery and an interception in the fourth quarter.
Robinson was one of three former Chiefs who was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in February of 2019. He is the ninth member from the Chiefs’ Super Bowl IV team to be inducted.
9. Buck Buchanan, DL
Buck Buchanan was the first overall pick in the 1963 AFL Draft and was one of the defensive stars that helped give notoriety to the AFL. Buchanan was 6 feet, 7 inches tall and weighed nearly 270 pounds and was a force to be reckoned with.
Buchanan, taller than many interior defensive linemen, anchored a strong and stout defensive line in Kansas City, alongside Jerry Mays, Aaron Brown and Pro Football Hall of Famer Curley Culp. This four-man group, led by Buchanan, helped the Chiefs win a Super Bowl during the 1969-70 season. Buchanan won many battles at the line of scrimmage and made life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.
In addition to being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Buchanan was named to the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
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8. Willie Lanier, LB
Kansas City’s defense during the 1960s and for part of the ’70s was due to the dominant linebacking trio, which was commanded by Willie Lanier. Ever since Lanier joined the Chiefs in 1967, he’s been a key part of the team in his entire 11-year career.
Lanier started 146 of 149 games with the Chiefs. Lanier collected 27 interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries during his career, all spent in Kansas City. Lanier came up with a pick in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl IV to help the Chiefs win their first Super Bowl. Outside of his first and last seasons, Lanier intercepted multiple passes every year.
Lanier was a pioneer and is a great example today of how the middle linebacker position is played. Lanier, who joined the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986, earned the nickname “contact” for his aggressive and hard-hitting ability.
7. Len Dawson, QB
Len Dawson spent his first five seasons in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. Dawson joined the franchise in its final year as the Dallas Texans in 1962, reuniting with head coach Hank Stram, who was his assistant coach in college at Purdue. With Stram’s guidance and Dawson’s leadership, the Chiefs became one of the more competitive teams in pro football in the 60’s.
Dawson helped the Chiefs reach the first ever Super Bowl. Although the Chiefs fell, Dawson led the team back three years later and won against the Minnesota Vikings. Dawson sustained a knee injury in Week 2 of the 1969 Super Bowl season, but came back in Week 9 to help the Chiefs finish the season. In Super Bowl IV, Dawson connected on a 46-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Otis Taylor to help extend their lead, eventually being the final score of the game.
Dawson owns the franchise records for completions, passing yards, touchdown passes and wins by a quarterback. Dawson threw 182 touchdown passes from 1962 to 1969, more than any quarterback in pro football during that stretch.
Dawson owned the franchise record for most touchdown passes in a single-season with 30 for 54 years. He was named to the American Football League All-Time Second Team.
6. Travis Kelce, TE
Travis Kelce is the first of two active Chiefs on this list. Kelce missed his rookie season due to a knee injury in 2013. Since then, Kelce’s career took off and he quickly turned into one of the best tight ends in the NFL. Now, his career trajectory shows he could be one of the best tight ends to ever play the game.
Kelce became the first tight end in NFL history to have four consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Kelce has been in the top 15 in each of the last four years in catches and receiving yards.
Kelce owns the franchise record for most receptions in a season with 103 in 2018 during Kansas City’s dynamic offensive output. At the age of 30, Kelce is up high in multiple career franchise categories. He is fifth in receiving yards and third in receptions behind Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez.
In addition to winning his first Super Bowl, Kelce has five Pro Bowl and four All-Pro honors under his belt. He was also named to the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team.
5. Bobby Bell, LB
Bobby Bell was part of a talented linebacking corp and a resilient defense during his time in Kansas City. Bell was one of the key leaders of the defense, helping the team appear in two Super Bowls, winning one of them.
Bell spent his first two seasons as a defensive end. Bell would occasionally back away from the line of scrimmage and serve as a linebacker. This led to Bell eventually converting to outside linebacker in 1965 while the Chiefs still played in the 4-3 defense.
Bell finished his career with 26 interceptions, taking six of them back to the end zone, owning the franchise record for most pick-sixes. Bell was the first player to win the Pro Football Writers of America Defensive Player of the Year award in 1969, the same year the Chiefs won Super Bowl IV.
Bell owns nine Pro Bowl and six All-Pro honors. His six All-Pro awards tie for most in franchise history with Jim Tyrer and Johnny Robinson. He is part of multiple All-Time teams, including most recently being a part of the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
4. Tony Gonzalez, TE
Tony Gonzalez completely revolutionized the tight end position and set the bar high for tight ends that came into the league after him. There is a strong case to say that Gonzalez is the best tight end in NFL history.
In his 12 years in Kansas City, Gonzalez broke the franchise career records for receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches by a wide margin. Gonzalez is in the top 10 in all three of those categories in NFL history, which include his stats with the Atlanta Falcons.
Gonzalez shattered the record for most catches, receiving yards and touchdown grabs by a tight end in NFL history while playing for the Chiefs. While Antonio Gates surpassed him for the touchdown record, Gonzalez still holds the other two records.
Although Gonzalez never won a postseason game during his time in Kansas City, he was still recognized as one of the best players in the league, being voted to 10 Pro Bowls and was named to the First and Second-Team All-Pro nine times before being traded to Atlanta.
3. Will Shields, OL
The Kansas City Chiefs have had many great offensive linemen throughout the 60 years of the franchise’s existence. But Will Shields is not only the best offensive lineman in Chiefs history, but is arguably a top five offensive lineman to ever play in the NFL.
Powerful and consistent, Shields was a guard who earned the trust from quarterbacks and running backs. Shields blocked for quarterbacks Joe Montana, Rich Gannon and Trent Green while paving the way for running backs Marcus Allen, Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson.
Shields was voted to the Pro Bowl 12 times in his career, the most in Chiefs history. Bruce Matthews is the only offensive lineman to have been voted to more Pro Bowls in NFL history with 14.
Alongside being named to seven All-Pro Teams, Shields is part of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team.
2. Derrick Thomas, LB
Derrick Thomas was one of the most dominant pass rushers in NFL history. Thomas was taken fourth overall in 1989 and had one of the most successful rookie reasons by a Chief, being one of four Chiefs to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.
From the start of his career, Thomas was a quarterback’s worst nightmare. Offensive linemen struggled to stop him and hated the challenge of having to keep him away from their quarterback.
In his second season in the NFL, Thomas recorded 20 sacks, the most in a season in Chiefs history by a defender. He finished his career with 126.5 career sacks, ranking 17th in league history, doing so in 169 games. For reference, Rickey Jackson had 128 sacks, 16th all time, in 227 games, 58 more games than Thomas.
In addition to his 126.5 sacks, Thomas finished with 41 forced fumbles, 19 fumble recoveries and three safeties in his career, all of which are the most in Chiefs history. Thomas owns the NFL record for most sacks in a single game with seven.
With his career and life tragically cut short, Thomas still managed to accomplish a lot and set the bar high for defensive players. He was voted to nine Pro Bowls and was named to the All-Pro Team six times. Thomas was part of the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team.
1. Patrick Mahomes, QB
Patrick Mahomes has started only 36 games in his career, including the playoffs. It is hard to think a player with 36 games would belong on this list, especially on top of the list. But Mahomes made that possible.
In his second year in the league, he earned the starting role for the Chiefs. Mahomes threw 10 touchdown passes the first two weeks of the 2018 season, the most in the first two weeks of any season by a quarterback. Once he did that, many expected him to put up big numbers by the time the season ended. In what was essentially his redshirt rookie season playing, Mahomes threw 50 touchdown passes and more than 5,000 yards.
Mahomes is already fifth in franchise history for career touchdown passes with 76. If he throws for 30 touchdowns in 2020, Mahomes will be 3rd on the list. If he throws for 43, Mahomes will be second, with Len Dawson being the only one above him.
In his three years in the league, Mahomes has already earned MVP awards in the regular season, Pro Bowl and Super Bowl. Mahomes has a quarterback rating of 108.9, the highest in Chiefs history.
Mahomes is only 24-years-old and has played just three years in the NFL. With a star-studded group of offensive players around him, it is reasonable to expect Mahomes will continue to consistently put up big numbers for years to come.