Kansas City Chiefs star tight end Travis Kelce has achieved another remarkable milestone in his career, surpassing the legendary Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez as the all-time leader in receiving yards for the Chiefs.
Gonzalez, with the utmost admiration and sportsmanship, publicly congratulated Kelce on November 6, saying, “Congrats and well earned my friend! Keep it going 🙌🏽 @tkelce.” Along with his message, Gonzalez shared a graphic displaying the top five receivers in Chiefs history, with Kelce proudly occupying the number one spot.
Kelce, appreciative of the honor, responded on November 7, stating, “🤟🏻🤟🏻 Tony!! The greatest to ever lace ’em up!! Appreciate ya more than you know!”
Drafting Two of the NFL’s Best Tight Ends
Tony Gonzalez, drafted in the first round in 1997, and Travis Kelce, drafted in the third round in 2013, are likely to be remembered as the two greatest tight ends in NFL history when all is said and done.
When looking at the all-time tight end leaders in receiving yards, Gonzalez still reigns supreme with 15,127 yards. This remarkable achievement places him sixth all-time if you include wide receivers and running backs.
Meanwhile, Kelce is rapidly climbing that illustrious list, amassing 10,941 receiving yards and counting, which matches his Chiefs’ record.
In fact, Kelce is just 10 receiving yards away from entering the NFL’s top 40 all-time, surpassing wide receiver Joey Galloway. He currently ranks fourth among tight ends, trailing Antonio Gates and Jason Witten.
Gates, with 11,841 receiving yards, is Kelce’s next target, which ranks 31st across all positions. Witten falls between Gates and Gonzalez at 13,046 yards.
As Kelce frequently emphasizes, he plans to keep playing “until the wheels fall off.” With his unmatched skills and dedication, he is expected to break several more records in the coming years, continuously posting remarkable statistics season after season.
Challenges on the Horizon for Kelce
However, there is one factor that could pose a challenge as Kelce closes in on Gates, Witten, and Gonzalez: increased defensive attention.
With the Kansas City Chiefs’ wide receiver corps struggling to find their rhythm, Kelce has become the focus of double-teams in recent weeks. In Week 9, the Miami Dolphins executed this strategy to perfection.
During the game in Germany, Patrick Mahomes II targeted Kelce only four times, marking his lowest target share of the season. Typically, the dynamic pass-catcher sees around nine or even more than ten targets per game.
Miami’s defensive game plan resulted in Kelce’s season-low 14 receiving yards, accumulated from a mere three catches.
In general, Kelce’s performance has seen a slight decline in 2023. While this could be attributed to age and nagging injuries, it is more likely due to opposing defenses prioritizing neutralizing Mahomes’ favorite target as effectively as possible.
Nonetheless, this strategy doesn’t always succeed. Kelce managed back-to-back 100-yard receiving games against the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers in Week 6 and 7, but those were his only two 100-yard outings of the year.
Even the Broncos adjusted their approach during their second encounter with Kansas City, limiting Kelce to just 58 receiving yards despite nine targets.
In the 2022 season, including the playoffs, Kelce recorded six performances with over 100 receiving yards and three with totals in the 90-100 range. To match that level of production in 2023, he will need to pick up the pace.
With all that said, Kelce still outperforms the majority of tight ends and is on track for yet another 1,000-yard campaign. If he reaches the 1,000-yard mark once again, it will mark his eighth consecutive season achieving this milestone. For perspective, Gonzalez managed only four 1,000-yard campaigns throughout his entire career.