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Is Travis Kelce the best tight end ever?

The Chiefs TE has built an illustrious career and will be a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer. But is he the GOAT of his position. We’ll comb through his accolades and see.

Super Bowl LVIII - Kansas City Chiefs Media Availability Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs will face the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 58 on Sunday and they will try to cement themselves as a dynasty by winning their third Lombardi Trophy in five years. Travis Kelce has been a key figure during KC’s current run of success and another ring would add to his legacy as one of the best tight ends in NFL history.

But is he the best? Well, he has plenty of stiff competition for GOAT status of the position.

Going off Pro Football Reference’s TE Hall of Fame monitor, Kelce comfortably meets the criteria of a Hall of Fame TE in the modern era. Only nine TE’s have been enshrined in Canton, OH, and he’s bound to follow the likes of Antonio Gates, Rob Gronkowski, and Jason Witten as the newest members of that group in the coming years. We’ll go through his career and see if there’s a case for him being the GOAT.

Career Stats

Regular Season - 907 receptions, 11,358 yards, 74 touchdowns
Postseason - 156 receptions, 1,810 yards 19 touchdowns

Kelce ranks fourth all time in both regular season receptions and receiving yards among tight ends, sitting only behind Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, and Antonio Gates in those categories. He’s within striking distance of Gates’ numbers and should surpass him in both categories next season. Another strong year after that and he could possibly eclipse Witten by the end of the 2025 campaign. On the touchdown front, he’s tied with Witten for fifth all time and with a few strong years, he could join Gates and Gonzalez as the only TE’s with at least 100 TD’s for their careers.

Where Kelce distinguishes himself is his playoff numbers, where he currently sits as the NFL’s all-time postseason receptions leader. He just surpassed Jerry Rice for the record in the AFC Championship Game a few weeks back, but still sits at No. 2 behind the legendary receiver in receiving yards and touchdowns.

Accolades

4x First-Team All-Pro
3x Second-Team All-Pro
9x Pro Bowl
NFL 2010’s All-Decade Team

First-Team All-Pro selections are a great way to determine how many years a player was the absolute best at his position. Kelce has four of them for his career, which ties him with Shannon Sharpe, Rob Gronkowski, and Dave Casper for second-most all time. Gonzalez has the most with six selections through his 17-year career.

On the Pro Bowl front, he sits third behind Gonzalez (14) and Witten (11) all-time, but has the chance to grab a few more depending on how long he decides to play. He, along with Gronk, were named to the 2010’s all-decade team, following Gonzalez and Gates on the 2000’s team.

Championships

2 Super Bowls

Super Bowl victories are basically extra credit to the resumes of great tight ends, as there’s only so much they can do to affect how good their team actually is. Kelce already has two Super Bowl rings and could add a third one to his resume with a Chiefs victory over the 49ers on Sunday.

If that happens, he would join Sharpe, Jay Novacek, Brent Jones, Don Warren, and Jim Mandich as three-time winners. Gronk and Randy Grossman have four SB rings to their credit while Marv Fleming is the only tight end to reach the mountaintop five times (one of those was an NFL Championship with the Green Bay Packers in the pre-SB era).

Verdict

Whenever Kelce decides to hang it up, there will be an argument for him being considered the greatest tight end of all time. However, the sheer consistency and longevity of Tony Gonzalez’s run in the NFL makes that argument difficult, even with the fact that he never got to play in a Super Bowl. In 2008, the man churned out a First-Team All-Pro season in a year where Tyler Thigpen was his quarterback. Imagine if he had Patrick Mahomes or Tom Brady.

Still, Kelce’s gold jacket will be waiting for him in Canton as he’s a lock as a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer.

This article can also be found in our Ultimate Guide to Super Bowl 58, presented by Frank’s Red Hot.