Whatever the outcome of Super Bowl 55, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski will be forever known as Super Bowl winners – and in a few years, Pro Football Hall of Famers.
There are only nine tight ends scored at Canton and even with the squad going to at least 11 with Antonio Gates and Jason Witten soon, it’s still an exclusive club. Neither Kelce nor Gronkowski, both 31, would need to play another to secure this exceptional status. Now the question is, who will ultimately make NFL history as the most accomplished wide receiver in the post?
Since former Chiefs and Falcons legend Tony Gonzalez retired in 2013 – the same year the Chiefs drafted Kelce in the third round – Gronkowski has been considered the standard for the modern and happy game. The Patriots’ second-round pick in 2010 was a dominant receiving and blocking force when he was in good health for both of his teams.
Kelce, a formidable athlete as a converted quarterback, has become a powerful tackle over the years. He’s also been a mentally and physically demanding ironman, a consistent and healthy part of the Kansas City offense since becoming a starter in his second season.
Kelce is about five months younger than Gronkowski. He didn’t start producing at a high level until 2014, or when Gronkowski was in his fifth season. Kelce wears No.87 like Gronkowski, but that’s not the only way Kelce imitates him.
“I know we’re about the same age. He entered the league two years before me. When I moved on to the tight end he was the staple. He was promising and made his mark in the NFL as a young player, “Kelce said on the first day of Super Bowl 55 media availability on Monday.” His dominance made me have such an impact in a football. . game. See where I can translate pieces of his game and translate them into hits in my game – I have been doing this for years. “
Kelce paid attention to the little things, to the way Gronkowski changes tempo when running routes to open up. Because of this, Kelce has become a unique receiving weapon for the Chiefs, bolstered by Andy Reid’s play appeal and the passing of Patrick Mahomes.
In the final seasons of his tenure with the Patriots, his one-year retirement and his 2020 return with the Buccaneers, Gronkowski paid particular attention to Kelce’s own brand of dominance.
“I have great respect for Travis Kelce. He helped turn the tight final position and he helped put the tight final position on the map, “said Gronkowski.” I’ve never really seen this with another player, but Kelce is getting better every season that I’ve seen him. play in the NFL. Since joining the Chiefs, he’s progressed in his game. It’s a crazy respect, right there.
Although Kelce and Gronkowski see each other as inspiring equals, it’s time to look at the numbers to see who will end up closest to Gonzalez, who will remain the Tom Brady-style GOAT due to his prolific longevity.
As documented here, Kelce, posting tight end records for receptions (105) and receiving yards (1416) in 2020, now has the best individual season in the position against Gronkowski, who set the tight end record for total affected (18) in 2011.
Next, let’s compare Kelce’s career to Gronkowski’s career. In 111 regular season games for the Chiefs, Kelce caught 612 of 860 targets (71.2 percent) for 7,881 yards (12.9 yards per take, 71.0 yards per game) with 49 total TDs. In 131 regular season games for the Patriots and Buccaneers, Gronkowski caught 566 of 871 targets (65 percent) for 8,484 yards (15 yards per catch, 64.8 yards per game) with 87 total TDs.
In 11 playoff games before Super Bowl 55, Kelce caught 73 of 94 targets (79.3%) for 859 yards (11.8 yards per catch, 78.1 yards per game) with 9 total TDs. In 19 playoff games, Gronkowski caught 83 of 137 (60.6%) targets for 1,206 yards (14.5 yards per catch, 63.5 yards per game) with 12 total TDs.
Kelce has the advantage in catch rate and yards per game, while Gronkowski has the advantage with his score rate and yards per catch. As good as Gronkowski has been in the playoffs, Kelce is the one who has raised his impact level the best when games matter most.
Kelce has rested twice in the past seven seasons, playing 110 of 112 regular season games. Before kicking off 2019 and before staying healthy for all 16 games with the Buccaneers, Gronkowski missed 26 regular season games in his previous seven seasons. Durability and uptime are in Kelce’s corner, which was also a key trait for Gonzalez.
Gronkowski, unless he plays a few more seasons at Tampa Bay, won’t catch either Gonzalez (111) or Gates (117), who are No. 8 and 7 on the all-time touchdown list. He’s No.15, while for now Kelce is tied for 150th.
Among those many tight ends between Kelce and Gronkowski in TD are Jimmy Graham (82), Fred Biletnikoff (76), Jason Witten (74), Vernon Davis (63), Shannon Sharpe (62) and Greg Olsen (60) . But Kelce, if he stays with Mahomes for four seasons – he’s under contract until 2025 – should add 40 to 50 scores to his regular season tally, and a good chunk to his TD total in the playoffs as well. This would allow Kelce to come close to Gronkowski’s current count and flirt with 100 touchdowns.
Neither Gonzalez nor Gates got a Super Bowl ring. Gronkowski is tied with another Hall of Famer, Sharpe, with three. Either he’ll break that tie as a member of the Buccaneers, or Kelce will get a second ring with the Chiefs to get one behind the two.
Gronkowski’s resume is solid if he steps away again before playing the 2021 season, but the facts Kelce performs best in key categories and TDs aren’t the most definitive statistic, he has time on his side. to string together several more prolific efforts like the centerpiece of the best offense in the NFL. Like Gronkowski did with the Patriots, Kelce will be able to compete for the Super Bowls almost every season because of Mahomes.
At one point there was a huge gap between Gronkowski and Kelce who were receiving tight ends, but the latter hastily caught up with the exponential improvement that Gronkowski pointed out. Calling Kelce “Baby Gronk” due to forced comparisons with the playstyle and personality is lazy. Instead, it’s time to focus on looking like Kelce has the same kind of talent, footballing intelligence and work ethic as Gronkowski – assets that allow him to outdo Gronkowski.