The Best Tight Ends Of All Time
When looking at the career leaders for receiving stats for tight ends, Tony Gonzalez stands above everyone with Antonio Gates, Jason Witten (who is technically still playing), and maybe Shannon Sharpe making up the next tier below him. Rob Gronkowski is probably in that conversation as well, but while he is still currently playing, it feels like Kelce is a safer bet to have the longevity needed to make a run at some of the career totals of the league’s all-time greats.
Here’s where those tight ends and Kelce and Gronkowski currently stack up:
Tony Gonzalez: 1,325 receptions, 15,127 yards, 111 touchdowns
Jason Witten: 1,224 receptions, 13,0333 yards, 73 touchdowns
Antonio Gates: 955 receptions, 11,841 yards, 116 touchdowns
Shannon Sharpe: 808 receptions, 9,961 yards, 61 touchdowns
Rob Gronkowski: 547 receptions, 8.182 yards, 82 touchdowns
Travis Kelce: 565 receptions, 7,234 yards, 43 touchdowns
I don’t see Witten adding much to his career numbers at this point, and I’m not going to try and guess how many more numbers Gronk is going to put up, so I’ll leave him out of the following estimates.
If we use those career season averages we talked about previously of 87.1 receptions, 1,118.9 yards, and 6.7 touchdowns, here’s how long it would take him after this season to overtake the “big four” top tight ends in NFL history.
2 additional seasons: Passes Sharpe in yards
3 additional seasons: Passes Sharpe in receptions and touchdowns
4 additional seasons: Passes Gates in receptions and yards and Witten in touchdowns
5 additional seasons: Passes Witten in yards
7 additional seasons: Passes Gonzalez in yards for the NFL tight end record
8 additional seasons: Passes Witten in receptions
9 additional seasons: Passes Gonzalez in receptions for the NFL tight end record
10 additional seasons: Passes Gonzalez in touchdowns
11 additional seasons: Passes Gates in touchdowns for the NFL tight end record
At 31 years old, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Kelce isn’t going to play 11 more seasons and overtake all the greats in the three major receiving categories. However, let’s maybe look at that magic number of five more seasons that Kelce currently has under contract. That’s the number of years that we said he needs to overtake Gonzalez in all three major categories in team history. If he’s able to maintain his current yearly averages for five more seasons after this year, it would put him in the following places on the all time lists.
- 3rd all time in tight end receptions behind Gonzalez and Witten
- 2nd all time in tight end yards behind Gonzalez (assuming Witten doesn’t get 400 more yards and Gronkowski doesn’t get 5,000 more yards)
- 4th all time in tight end touchdowns behind Gates, Gonzalez, and Gronkowski (assuming Witten doesn’t get 7 more touchdowns)
If Travis Kelce can maintain his career averages for five more seasons after this year, not only will he be Kansas City’s all time greatest receiver in team history, he will have cemented his legacy as one of the undisputed top four tight ends in the history of the NFL in terms of career numbers, ranking in the top four of all three major categories. If you’d like to see how some of the NFL’s greatest tight ends numbers did or didn’t drop off as they got older to see just how hard it will be for Kelce, check out this piece I did after he signed his contract extension this past summer.
What do you think Chiefs fans? Do you think we appreciate just how great Travis Kelce is? Do you think he can maintain his career pace for five more seasons? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.