Wed. Oct 4th, 2023
Where does Travis Kelce stand in the narrow GOAT conversation?
Travis Kelce played his way into GOAT's tight conversation, but how far?  (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Travis Kelce played his way into GOAT’s tight conversation, but how far? (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The question of who was the greatest tight end originally had only one of two answers: Tony Gonzalez or Rob Gronkowski.

Gonzalez owns the most statistical records, while Gronkowski played a key role in extending the New England Patriots dynasty into the 2010s and owns several postseason records.

But after Travis Kelsey posted his seventh consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season and surpassed Gronkowski for the second-most game in NFL history during the Kansas City Chiefs’ second Super Bowl title in the past four years, he got into the goat conversation.

Gronkowski told Yahoo Sports by email that while Kelsey should be included in the discussion, his production shouldn’t necessarily lead him to the top of the list for the position.

“There are a lot of circumstances at play,” Gronkowski wrote. “For example: What type of system are you running or what kind of skills do you need for that system? How well did the player adapt to what the team was relying on and how did they use their skills?

“I think Travis Kelsey will always be at the top in the debate with myself and a few others. We all have different skill sets in this position and we’ve all used our different skills to the best of our ability and that’s what makes the debate difficult.”

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Kelce ranks fourth in receiving yards, fifth in receptions and sixth in receiving touchdowns among tight ends in NFL history as he heads into his 11th season before turning 34. It’s 4,783 receivers and 511 receptions away from Gonzalez records and 47 touchdowns away from Los Angeles Chargers’ Antonio Gates.

So when Kelce’s career ends, he has a chance of holding the most statistical records for his position. And if that happens, 14-year veteran Greg Olsen said it’s time to call Kelsey the greatest of all time.

“I never thought that in a million years anyone would be able to catch Tony[Gonzalez],” Olsen said. On the “Sports Seriously” podcast in June. “(But) when you factor in Travis’ consistency, his production for what’s now in the all-time world rankings, and now you’ve won multiple Super Bowls, he’s got multiple game records… He’s just as good a productivity as any player has ever had before. to play this post.

“In another year or two, I think we might have a conversation that Travis sits at the top of that whole list, which says a lot when you start to think about some of the names that have played tight over the years.”

WHAT TRAvis Kelsey gave him GOAT discussion

Kelce has three things in this conversation: his age, his playoff production and the offense he plays for.

Kelsey hit 10,000 rushing yards in his career – just 140 games – while Gonzalez took 177 games. Gonzalez was about a year younger than Kelsey when they both achieved those milestones.

Kelce has produced consistently during his career. That’s why it is currently Leading all tight ends with 71.8 receiving yards per game. This track puts Kielce on the runway to break Gonzalez’s all-time mark for receiving yards in nearly four seasons.

That would put Kelsey at 38 years old. Gonzalez played until he was 37 and the Jets played until he was 38, so while it will be tough – and even repeating last season’s production will be unprecedented – it seems possible for Kelechi. Especially since he has only missed one game due to injury in his career and will go on to play at least one more regular season game each season than his predecessors.

Kelce is arguably the most accomplished tight end of all time, too. he She already has more receiving yards, receptions, and touchdowns than Gronkowskias well as 22 receptions for 257 yards and two touchdowns in three Super Bowl games, two of which were wins.

“When you think about just picking up the clutch with 100 million people watching – I think that’s what will push Travis Kelsey into the conversation more than just passing a yardage number or a touchdown number.” Tyler Dunn, who wrote “Blood and Guts: How Tight Thing Save Football,” told Yahoo Sports. “It’s like, How are we going to remember this player for the rest of the time? Because he’s already in the top ten, maybe the top five.”

The Chiefs offense also mostly features Kelce and lends itself perfectly to his skills as a pass catcher. Kelsey led the team in goals In six of the nine seasons, he has played in at least 15 games and is 596 yards behind Gonzalez on the Kansas City receiving list. Kelsey constantly and almost effortlessly finds holes in defense to take advantage of his size, strength and pulling passes despite his 6-foot-5, 256-pound frame.

One area where Kelsey lags significantly

Kelce’s production is also a foundation for the reasons he may not be considered the greatest tight end of all time.

There is no doubt that Kelsey is a great passing player, but that’s not all his position requires. A major component of the NFL court’s job is as an inline blocker on the line, either in pass protection or in a running game.

All four tight ends ahead of Kelsey statistically also blocked more than him. Gronkowski has stopped 42% of offensive shots in his career, according to Pro Football Focus, while Gonzalez has done them 41.9% of the time. Former Dallas Cowboys legend Jason Whitten, who ranks second in receptions and fifth in touchdowns among tight ends, blocked 48.2% of his shots. Even Gates blocked 37.5% of his shots

Kelce has blocked 36.4% of his career shots and hasn’t had a 30% snapshot rate since 2020. Kelce’s career share of tight end tackles is less than 50%, while Gronowski is 60%, and Gonzalez is 53%. Witten was 70%.

This is where, perhaps, one can question Kelce’s claim to the narrow title of GOAT. How would you compare Kelsey’s numbers with Gonzalez and Gronkowski, if the latter had a similar production but also played tight end More literally and frequently?

As Gronkowski pointed out earlier, Kelsey’s lack of blocking shots shouldn’t necessarily be a knock against him. It’s simply not what insulting Andy Reid has to do to bosses.

But the lack of traditional, tight roles certainly diminishes his case as a better player than Gonzalez and Gronkowski.


It would be disingenuous for Kells to flatly wipe out or reject the title before taking his final shot at the NFL. For now, the consensus remains Gonzalez or Gronkowski as the greatest tight end of all time.

Vernon Davis told Yahoo Sports that Gronkowski is still the goat because of the way he played the game and the number of championships he won with the Patriots. Gronkowski said he put George Kittle in “the same category” as Kelsey in terms of active players.

But Davis agreed that Kelsey has the ingredients to get to goat level.

“The tight end is an all-around position,” said Davis. “You have to be able to block, you have to be able to get in the backfield. You have to be able to do it all. And I think Travis Kelsey fits that mold. He’s everything you want at the tight end. Because you can do so much with him. He’s Big, fast, strong. He understands the game. So he’s such a perfect tight end that every team wishes they had.”

Meanwhile, Gates told Yahoo Sports that he views the debate more as a relay team of players than a leaderboard. As Gonzalez passed the baton to Gates, who passed it to Gronkowski, who would pass it to Kelsey, who would pass it to the next generation’s tight end.

“If you watch (Kelsey) play, his skill set – he probably has more skill set than Tony (Gonzalez) if you watch the game,” Gates said. “So how do you make that comparison? I don’t know. I just think he’ll go down in history as one of the best tight ends, and I’m sure he’ll be the first ballot into the Hall of Famer.”

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