There have been over 26,000 players in National Football League history. Of those 26,000 players, 1,326 have played tight end. That’s an average of 41 tight ends per franchise (using the current 32 team league). That is a lot of tight ends over the past 101 years that the NFL has been around.
It is probably safe to say that most NFL fans can probably name their favorite team’s greatest tight end ever. But how many can name two? Assuming every team has at least one “greatest” player at that position means that a list of the best TEs ever could have a minimum of 32 stars. But few people would venture to try and make a Top 32 NFL Tight Ends list. No, the greatest have to be boiled down even further than that.
Which means only a handful of teams can lay claim to the 10 greatest tight ends. But who are those teams? First, consider that only nine tight ends (again, out of 1,326 in history) have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
- Mike Ditka, Bears
- John Mackey, Colts
- Jackie Smith, Cardinals
- Kellen Winslow, Chargers
- Ozzie Newsome, Browns
- Dave Casper, Raiders
- Charlie Sanders, Lions
- Shannon Sharpe, Broncos
- Tony Gonzalez, Chiefs
Now, even if you don’t consider that list to be the nine greatest tight ends of all time, it’s important to note that not one team has ever drafted more than one Hall of Fame tight end—at least not yet.
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The KC Chiefs have beaten the odds to strike it so rich at tight end.
Of the nine players listed above, the name that should stick out above all the rest is former K.C. Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez. Whoever makes your top 10 greatest TE list, it’s inarguable that Tony G should be number one. He’s first in career receiving yards at 15,127, over 2000 yards more than the next tight end. He has more receptions than anyone else at 1,325. He’s second in career touchdowns at 111, and second in games played at 270. Not to mention, he’s tied for most Pro Bowl selections at 14.
The Chiefs may lay claim to the greatest tight end of all time, but what’s crazy is that one day it might not even be Tony Gonzalez. Enter Travis Kelce. While Kelce still has a ways to go to catch Gonzalez as the positional GOAT, it’s not inconceivable that he could get there. Kelce is entering his eighth NFL season (7th starting after missing his rookie season), and he’s already accumulated 7,881 receiving yards, good for 10th all time, in a mind blowing 111 games.
Kelce’s receiving yards per game of 71.0 is by far the largest in NFL history, which is 20 more yards/game than Gonzalez, and 7 more than current NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski. If Kelce can keep up this pace—and with Patrick Mahomes his quarterback how can he not—he’ll break Tony’s all-time tight end receiving yards record in just 213 games. That’s 57 less games than Gonzalez!
The stat that really proves Kelce is one of the greatest tight ends of all time already: his record of five 1,000-yard seasons. And not just any five. Five straight. Kelce is currently considered the best tight end in the league, and he should be. It’s hard to argue against his HOF candidacy even if he retired tomorrow. The fact that he could possibly end up greater than Tony Gonzalez is within the realm of possibility, especially since Travis has one thing Tony never got: a Super Bowl Ring.
Back to the original question: what are the odds of the Chiefs drafting potentially the two greatest tight ends in NFL history? Pretty dang low. That’s having a .0076% chance of blindly picking two specific players out of the 26,000+ players to have played in the National Football League. And the Kansas City Chiefs did it.
Now, imagine if a team were able to draft three of the great tight ends ever. Noah Gray, anyone?