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Travis Kelce is now seen as the NFL’s best tight end

It’s taken a bit longer than we might have expected, but Kelce is getting the recognition he deserves.

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Atlanta Falcons v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

On Tuesday, we covered it when the football analytics site Pro Football Focus ranked quarterback Patrick Mahomes above Tom Brady. On Wednesday, PFF’s Ben Linsey published his ranking of the NFL’s best tight ends — and another familiar Kansas City Chiefs player topped the list.

1. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

It’s a 1a/1b situation at the top of the position with Kelce and Kittle. Kelce earns the top spot heading into the 2021 season off the back of another dominant showing this past season, paired with an injury-limited campaign for Kittle.

Over the last five seasons, Kelce’s 2,639 receiving yards after the catch are over 400 more yards than any other tight end or wide receiver in the NFL. Only Golden Tate and Jarvis Landry have forced more missed tackles over that same span. His knack for getting open paired with that after-the-catch ability makes him the most dangerous receiving threat at the tight end position the league has to offer right now.

Rounding out the top 5 were the San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle (2), Darren Waller of the Las Vegas Raiders (3), Atlanta Falcons rookie Kyle Pitts (4) and the Philadelphia Eagles’ Dallas Goedert (5).

It’s a little surprising to see a rookie who hasn’t yet taken an NFL snap to be ranked among the best in the league — but that’s the kind of thing that can happen when someone becomes his position’s most highly-drafted player.

What might be more surprising is Linsey ranking Kelce above Kittle. For most of his career, Kelce has played second-fiddle to another tight end. First it was the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski. More recently, it’s been the young Kittle — who has routinely been ranked higher because he is seen as a more complete tight end.

Linsey partially blames to Kittle-to-Kelce flip on the San Francisco tight end’s injury-limited 2020 season — but it seems more likely that the real reason is that in 2020, Kelce eclipsed his record fourth-consecutive 1,000-yard season with another one, becoming the only tight end in NFL history to have five 1,000-yard seasons in any order.

Against that — especially in the current NFL environment — the “Kittle is a better blocker” argument seems pretty weak.