With five games left to play in the 2020 regular season, Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce remains well within striking distance of NFL history. Entering Week 13, his 978 receiving yards rank third among all receivers, trailing only teammate Tyreek Hill (1,021) and Seattle Seahawks WR DK Metcalf (1,039).
Kelce needs just 400 more receiving yards — an average of 80 per game — to break the single-season record for tight ends (1,377) set by George Kittle in 2018. With 74 catches so far this season, the 31-year-old is also in range of the league’s reception lead, currently held by Los Angeles Chargers wideout Keenan Allen (85). Kelce would be only the fourth tight end in NFL history to accomplish that feat and the first since Hall of Famer and ex-Chiefs star Tony Gonzalez (102) in 2004.
Earlier this week, ESPN “NFL Live” analyst Dan Orlovsky justified Kelce’s place among the league’s top talents with a bold claim about the two-time All-Pro during an interview on the Dan Patrick Show.
“[Travis] Kelce is the best player in football that’s not a quarterback,” Orlovsky told Dan Patrick on Thursday.
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Does Travis Kelce Stack up Against Aaron Donald?
Orlovsky, a retired 12-year veteran quarterback, has quickly made a name for himself in the media world with his entertaining football analysis. But this take might be a bit rich for even the most die-hard of Kansas City fans.
Here is Orlovsky’s reasoning for holding such a high opinion of the Chiefs superstar:
“He brings so much offense to their offense before the ball ever gets snapped,” Orlovsky elaborated. “The amount of time they place him in specific positions to get the coverage is such an advantage because it doesn’t just affect the outcome of the play after the snap.
“He will go out there and they’ll put a corner out there and [Patrick] Mahomes knows it’s going to be zone and then he’ll go two high safeties, here comes the run game. For me, that 6-yard run is huge because now there’s nothing you as a defense can do. Like I can literally go to the line of scrimmage and get into whatever play I want.”
If you’re asking Orlovsky, Kelce holds up against any of today’s greats, including Los Angeles Rams DT Aaron Donald, likely on his way to a sixth All-Pro nomination and seventh Pro Bowl selection in seven seasons with the Rams.
“As great as Aaron [Donald] is, and he’s remarkable, but he doesn’t create defense as much before the snap as Kelce creates offense before the snap.”
Orlovsky: Rob Gronkowski Still Greatest Tight End
So does being the best non-quarterback in the sport today translate to being the best player at the tight end position in league history?
“If they go on the dynasty run like I expect them to over the next five years, absolutely,” Orlovsky confirmed to Patrick.
Through 107 career games (100 starts), Kelce has hauled in 581 passes for 7,443 yards and 44 touchdowns, ranking him 11th all-time at the position in yardage, per StatMuse. He’ll have an outside chance to crack the top-8 before season’s end.
As for the player Kelce still needs to catch in the eyes of the former NFL signal-caller, the two just faced off in Tampa Bay last Sunday.
“[Rob] Gronk [Gronkowski] is the greatest tight end of all time and Gronk is the first guy that did this stuff,” said Orlovsky. “Like Gronk is the first guy that did all this for [Tom] Brady. I know he was probably more impactful in the run game. I’m not a person who looks at that stuff. At the end of the day, does my offense score a lot of points and does this guy help us do it? So that’s why I think Kelce’s got a chance to do that.”
For reference, the 31-year-old Gronkowski has averaged 42.1 yards per game (compared to Kelce’s 88.9 yards) during his 2020 return tour and currently ranks sixth all-time in tight end receiving yards (8,366).
The three-time Super Bowl champion is set to become a free agent after this season, leaving Kelce, who signed a four-year, $57 million extension on August 13, a brief window to surpass the standards set by Gronkowski.