When it comes to defining the best tight end in the NFL, it’s a two-horse race. George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers and Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs have clearly emerged as the two top performers at that position. Kelce helped win a championship for the Chiefs while Kittle helped his squad get quite close to it. But which one is better?
Looking at the statistical comparisons side by side, it’s nearly impossible to select a winner. It might just be that there isn’t one, and that both men can actually be considered the best.
George Kittle’s career overview
According to his Pro Football Reference page, the 49ers drafted Kittle in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. After a quietly impressive 43 catch rookie season, Kittle has exploded with two Pro Bowl seasons since. Here are his career numbers:
- 216 receptions
- 2,945 receiving yards
- 12 touchdowns
- Two-time Pro Bowler
- One All-Pro selection
Kittle is a great blocker, but probably his strongest area is his ability to gain yards after the catch. That’s not a skill many tight ends are known for, but Kittle excels at making big plays out of seemingly little ones.
His reception and long touchdown run in last year’s game against the New Orleans Saints may have been the NFL’s play of the year.
Travis Kelce’s career overview
Kelce’s Pro Football Reference page paints a similar picture of a clearly elite tight end. Kelce has several years of experience on Kittle, so his numbers are larger — he’s been in the league since 2013. Here’s what he’s been able to accomplish:
- 507 receptions
- 6,465 receiving yards
- 37 touchdowns
- Five-time Pro Bowler
- Two-time All-Pro selection
Kelce has shown incredible pass-catching ability and is one of Kansas City’s most reliable red-zone options. Both players recently received big (and well-deserved) contract extensions. So with results this good, how do you go about determining which one is better?
The answer: maybe you don’t.
Is it possible that George Kittle and Travis Kelce are both the best tight ends?
While it’s something of an oxymoron to claim two men are the best at their position, it also might apply here. Looking at the numbers and the game film, it’s clear that both Kittle and Kelce are elite tight ends both from a receiving and blocking perspective.
Judging which one is better is ultimately a fool’s errand. The reason is that both fit in perfectly with their respective teams. Kelce has developed an incredible rapport alongside quarterback Patrick Mahomes to the point that he’s one of his most trusted weapons.
While he may not have been doing it for as long as Kelce, Kittle has emerged as one of San Francisco’s top offensive threats as well. Their games are both reminiscent of Rob Gronkowski.
Despite playing a position not known for being a dominant one from an offensive production standpoint, Gronkowski was able to thrive as probably the biggest offensive piece for New England for years.
In today’s era of sports media, everything is up for debate. Talking heads will take to the airwaves to create hypothetical scenarios just for the sake of argument. When it comes to Kelce versus Kittle, however, maybe it’s enough to acknowledge that both are uniquely great in their own way.
It’s likely that Kelce wouldn’t fit in as well with San Francisco while Kittle wouldn’t compare if he were in Kansas City. Both players appear to be in the right place at the right time to capitalize on their special talents.