Travis Kelce is making his case to be known one day as the greatest tight end in NFL history, with his 2020 season one football pundits will discuss for decades. No tight end in NFL history may replicate what Kelce is set to accomplish in 2020, as the Chiefs superstar is on pace to to set the single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end and is in striking distance for the single-season record for receptions at the position.
Kelce is setting all the receiving marks for tight ends, continuing his dominance into his 30s. Kelce is the only player in the NFL with 90-plus receptions and 1,200-plus receiving yards in each of the last three seasons, and he's the first tight end with three seasons of at least 1,200-plus receiving yards in NFL history. Kelce has the most catches and receiving yards ever for a tight end through his first 109 games as he attempts to take the mantle from Rob Gronkowski, Tony Gonzalez, and Antonio Gates as the greatest player to ever play his position.
In this week's edition of "By The Numbers," we're taking a look at Kelce's historic 2020 season and the incredible start he's had to a Hall of Fame career. We'll start with his ranks amongst the NFL leaders this year.
Most receiving yards, 2020
- Travis Kelce (Chiefs) -- 1,250
- D.K. Metcalf (Seahawks) -- 1,180
- Stefon Diggs (Bills) -- 1,167
- Tyreek Hill (Chiefs) -- 1,158
- DeAndre Hopkins (Cardinals) -- 1,155
Most receptions, 2020
- Stefon Diggs (Bills) -- 100
- Keenan Allen (Chargers) -- 99
- DeAndre Hopkins (Cardinals) -- 94
- Davante Adams (Packers) -- 91
- Travis Kelce (Chiefs) -- 90
Most receiving yards per game, 2020
- Davante Adams (Packers) -- 104.0
- Travis Kelce (Chiefs) -- 96.2
- D.K. Metcalf (Seahawks) -- 90.8
- Stefon Diggs (Bills) -- 89.8
- Tyreek Hill (Chiefs) -- 89.1
Kelce is clearly the best tight end in the NFL, and it isn't even close when you look at the overall numbers. He's 433 yards ahead of Darren Waller for receiving yards by a tight end (Waller has 817) and 593 head of T.J. Hockenson (who is third with 657). Kelce is six receptions ahead of Waller (84) and 32 ahead of Hockenson (58). His 96.2 receiving yards per game are 17.2 yards per game ahead of George Kittle (79.0) and 33.4 ahead of Waller.
The Chiefs tight end is on the verge of having the best season ever for a player at his position. Here are the single-seaosn records for tight ends and where Kelce ranks among them -- keep in mind Kelce still has three games to play.
Most receiving yards by tight end in one season
- George Kittle (2018) -- 1,377
- Travis Kelce (2018) -- 1,336
- Rob Gronkowski (2011) -- 1,327
- Jimmy Graham (2011) -- 1,310
- Kellen Winslow (1980) -- 1,290
- Tony Gonzalez (2004) -- 1,258
- Travis Kelce (2020) -- 1,250
Kelce needs just 128 receiving yards over the final three games to break the record for most single-season receiving yards by a tight end in NFL history.
Most receptions by tight end in one season
- Zach Ertz (2018) -- 116
- Jason Witten (2012) -- 110
- Travis Kelce (2018) -- 103
- Tony Gonzalez (2004) -- 102
- Dallas Clark (2009) -- 100
With 90 receptions in this season, Kelce needs 27 catches to break Ertz's single-season receptions record by a tight end (116), needing to average nine receptions a game.
Highest yards per target by tight end in one season
- Rob Gronkowski (2011) -- 10.70
- Travis Kelce (2020) -- 10.42
- Rob Gronkowski (2017) -- 10.32
- Antonio Gates (2009) -- 10.15
- George Kittle (2018) -- 10.13
Highest yards per game by tight end in one season
- Travis Kelce (2020) -- 96.2
- Jackie Smith (1967) -- 86.1
- George Kittle (2018) -- 86.1
- Pete Retzlaff (1965) -- 85.0
- Travis Kelce (2018) -- 83.5
Kelce is on pace to finish with 110 catches for 1,538 yards and 11 touchdowns, all of which would be career-highs. He'll likely fall short of Ertz's receptions record but could become the first tight end to have 1,500-plus yards in a season -- while his 11 touchdown catches will be tied for eighth on the all-time list (Gronkowski has the most with 17 in 2011). Kelce needs 10 receptions to become the first player in Chiefs history and the first tight end in NFL history with multiple 100-catch seasons in his career. He also needs 14 receptions to break his own single-season franchise record (103).
Kelce ranks first among all tight ends in receiving yards since Week 1 of the 2016 season and third among all players (5,978), behind only Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins. His 108 consecutive games with a catch is the second-longest streak in franchise history and tied for the fifth-longest active streak in the NFL.
Kelce is having the best start ever for a tight end in the NFL. Here's a look at where he ranks for his position after 109 games:
Most receiving yards by tight ends in first 109 games
- Travis Kelce -- 7,715
- Rob Gronkowski -- 7,627
- Kellen Winslow -- 6,741
- Jimmy Graham -- 6,422
- Antonio Gates -- 6,223
Most receptions by tight ends in first 109 games
Most TDs by tight ends in first 109 games
- Rob Gronkowski -- 77
- Jimmy Graham -- 59
- Antonio Gates -- 59
- Tony Gonzalez -- 47
- Travis Kelce -- 46
- Vernon Davis -- 46
Kelce is already 10th on the all-time list for receiving yards for a tight end with 7,715, just 203 behind Hall of Famer Jackie Smith for ninth and 265 behind Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome for eighth. Tony Gonzalez played 270 games in his career and is first on the all-time list for receiving yards for a tight end with 15,127. If Kelce keeps his current pace of 70.78 receiving yards a game, he'll reach that mark in his 213th career game -- needing just 104 games to accomplish the feat (or just 6.5 more seasons).
Gonzalez also holds the record for receptions by a tight end with 1,325. For Kelce to break that record, he'll have to keep his current pace of 5.48 receptions a game and he'll be able to accomplish that feat in his 241st career game. Kelce will need to play 132 more games, or 8.25 more seasons. Playing into the late 30s has been common among tight ends, but whether Kelce plays at the level of his first 109 games is impossible to predict.
Since Patrick Mahomes took over as the Chiefs starting quarterback in 2018, Kelce is averaging 6.49 receptions a game and 85.8 receiving yards per game (43 games with Mahomes). Kelce certainly will be in play for the all-time record in receptions and receiving yards for a tight end with Mahomes heading into his prime years -- potentially ending up as one of the greatest pass catchers in NFL history.