On Tuesday, the football analytics site Pro Football Focus continued to rank the players they see as the NFL’s best at each position. PFF writer Ben Linsey covered the league’s tight ends on Tuesday, placing two familiar names at the top of the list — in the usual order.
2. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
Kelce is almost more of a receiver than he is an old-school tight end at this point. He actually lined up in the slot or out wide on 54% of his routes in 2019 — significantly above the league average of 31% for the tight end position. That’s a testament to how skilled Kelce is at his size, showing receiver-esque route-running chops that can give defenses fits.
Over the past five seasons, Kelce’s 92.0 PFF receiving grade ranks tied for first among the 17 tight ends to run at least 1,500 routes with Rob Gronkowski. His 2.13 receiving yards per route run mark over that same stretch is second to only Gronk. With Patrick Mahomes having weapons like Kelce and Tyreek Hill on offense, it’s hard to see Kansas City faltering barring injury.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle — as you would likely expect — is listed ahead of Kelce. Rob Gronkowski of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — who didn’t even play in 2019 — Darren Waller of the Las Vegas Raiders and Mark Andrews of the Baltimore Ravens round out the top five.
Linsey noted not only Kittle’s skill as a blocker, but his emergence as a player who could get yards after the catch. Kittle has actually pulled ahead of Kelce in that area during the last two seasons. In that same period, Kelce has the edge in receiving yards — albeit on substantially more receptions. Both per reception and per target, Kittle has eclipsed Kelce by more than a full yard.
But then again... Kelce has a a Super Bowl championship. He was six for six in the championship game — with 43 yards and a touchdown — while Kittle managed just four catches on seven targets for 38 yards.
We’d just better get used to it. These two guys will be neck and neck for the rest of Kelce’s career.