It’s always fun to go back and rehash past drafts. Some decisions make teams look like absolute fools in the later years and some make them look like absolute geniuses.
In the case of Travis Kelce and the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s certainly the latter.
Kelce was drafted with the first pick in the third round (No. 63) by the Chiefs in 2013 and he turned out to be an absolute steal. He’s easily one of the best tight ends in the game, if not the best tight end, and he’s a key cog in the Chiefs’ dynamic offense. He’s also on pace to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when the time comes.
As a matter of fact, he’s the best pick out of the entire 2013 draft class.
This a purely objective statement. All one needs to do is go back and take a look at the players taken, when they were taken, and what they’ve done since that draft. Then, it’s easy to see why Kelce rules supreme.
Let’s go ahead and set this up from Kelce’s vantage point before we dive into the competition.
Kelce has three first-team All-Pros to his name and has been to seven straight Pro Bowls. He has at least 850+ receiving yards in every season since 2014. He missed his rookie season because he had to undergo season-ending knee surgery early in the year.
The former Cincinnati Bearcat has 9,006 receiving yards over the course of his career, which is the most receiving yards for any tight end’s first 9 seasons in NFL history. And second place isn’t even close. Jason Witten, a sure-fire Hall of Famer, is next with 7,909 receiving yards and he played in 16 more games than Kelce over the course of his first nine seasons.
Kecle’s 70.9 receiving yards per game leads every tight end in NFL history through their first nine years, too. He has the fourth-most touchdowns (57) and also leads every tight end in receptions (704).
He’s a unicorn and his 2020 season is a perfect example. Kelce caught 105 passes for 1,416 yards and 11 touchdowns that year. It’s the only 1,400-yard receiving season for a tight end in NFL history and he was 120-yards shy of leading the entire NFL in receiving. He finished fifth overall in both receptions (105) and touchdowns (11), as well.
Kelce isn’t a product of his environment, either. He has a unique skillset that elevates the Chiefs offense. His skillset doesn’t benefit solely from the offense.
If those numbers don’t have you sold, then I don’t know what to tell ya. Kelce is sure-fire Hall of Famer at this point.
Regardless, let’s see how the competition stacks up.
Out of the entire list of 254 players drafted, there are only eight players that hold a candle to Kelce and even then, some aren’t close, at all.
The first batch:
- WR Keenan Allen
Allen is considered a top-12 receiver in most circles and has been to five straight Pro Bowls, but he isn’t elite. Kelce is elite.
- S Jordan Poyer
Poyer earned his first All-Pro in 2021 and is a really good player, but he’s still nowhere close to Kelce’s level when it comes to skill, production, and the effect he has on his respective side of the ball.
- RB Le’Veon Bell
- T Lane Johnson
- CB Darius Slay
Bell was on the way to becoming one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game, but the desire to get paid was too much to overcome. There’s no telling what his career would look like if he didn’t force his way out of Pittsburgh. But he was still able to garner two All-Pros and three Pro Bowls from 2014-2017.
You could’ve argued this for Johnson back around the 2017-2018 era, but that’s certainly not the case these days. Slay did lead the league with eight interceptions in 2017, but he’s not any kind of historical/Hall of Fame pace like Kelce is.
Finally, some real competition:
- LT David Bakhtiari
- S Tyrann Mathieu
- WR DeAndre Hopkins
All of these guys each have at least two All-Pros and at least three Pro Bowls to their names and each one has been named as the best at their position at some point in their careers.
Injuries have slowed Bakhtiari over the last couple of years, which leaves Mathieu and Hopkins as the last two standing. Both players are incredible, but Hopkins isn’t top-5 in any receiving categories since 2013 and while Mathieu is a game-changing defender, it’s hard to argue he’s a first-ballot HOFer like Kelce.
While there’s an argument to be made that there have been better picks, said arguments eventually fall flat once Kelce’s career is really taken into account. It’s even more impressive when considering he was drafted in the third round, as well.
And that’s why Kelce turned out to be the best pick of the entire 2013 NFL Draft.
Featured image via-Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports