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Comparing Rob Gronkowski to Travis Kelce | Top Two and He's Not Two… Yet

Even with taking a year off of football, Rob Gronkowski still holds a majority of the tight end records in league annals but the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce is catching up – and following in Gronkowski’s footsteps… all the way to Super Bowl LV.


Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is an insane player. In the 2020 regular season, he had the fifth-most catches in the league with 105 and tied for the fifth-most receiving touchdowns with 11. Here in the postseason, Kelce leads all players in receptions with 21, touchdowns with three and has the third-most receiving yards with 227. Again, this is as a tight end.

And as a tight end, Kelce had the second-most receiving yards of anyone in the 2020 regular season – wide receiver, tight end or otherwise, but if you do narrow the scope to just his position group, Kelce set the record for most yards in a single season by a tight end with 1,643 (including the playoffs). The guy who previously held that record with 1,585 in 2011? Rob Gronkowski.

Kelce now has 8.740 career receiving yards between the regular and the postseason, which also breaks a Gronkowski record for the most by any tight end in his first eight seasons. Gronk had 8.151 from 2010 to 2017 with New England.

But don't crown him just yet. Despite taking a year off of football entirely, Gronk still retains most of the league's records for tight ends – especially when it comes to the postseason.

Gronkowski still bests Kelce in career postseason receiving yards. Gronkowski has 1,206, a league record, to Kelce's 859. Gronk also has 83 playoff receptions to Kelce's 73, 13 receiving touchdowns to Kelce's nine. In each of those categories, Gronkowski and Kelce rank first and second respectively.

Among all players, Gronk is tied for the second-most receiving touchdowns in the postseason with that aforementioned 12. It ties him with John Stallworth and is more than guys like Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald and Hines Ward. Among active players, Gronkowski's 1,177 playoff receiving yards rank second behind only his former teammate Julian Edelman in New England.

All-time, Gronkowski has four 100-yard playoff games in his career. The only tight end that has more is actually Kelce. It's worth saying that Kelce has played in 11 playoff games to Gronkowski's 19. Gronkowski has never played a season where he didn't make it to the playoffs between his nine years in New England and now first in Tampa. Kelce, on the other hand, didn't make his first playoff appearance until 2015, which was his third season in the league. The Chiefs have been every year since, though.

Kelce has been named to the Pro Bowl six times in his career and earned three All-Pro honors. Gronkowski has five Pro Bowls to his name and four All-Pros. Gronkowski has four 1,000-yard seasons while Kelce now has five. But Kelce has never surpassed 11 receiving touchdowns in a season, setting his career-high this year. Gronk's career high is 17, when he led the league in receiving touchdowns in 2011 while catching 90 passes for 1,327 yards. He had a catch percentage of 72.6% that year in a season that will go down as one of the best for any type of receiver, especially a tight end.

According to NFL Research, including regular season and postseason games, Gronkowski and Kelce have combined for 1,334 career receptions, 18,430 career receiving yards, and 155 career receiving TD — all the most all-time by 2 opposing tight ends entering a Super Bowl matchup. 

And both of these tight ends know a thing or two (or three in Gronk's case) about playing in Super Bowls. In fact, Gronkowski has 23 receptions, 297 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns in Super Bowls alone. Those numbers are the most in their respective categories by any tight end in NFL history. Going two-for-two so far, Gronkowski has also never lost a Super Bowl he's played in. Then again, neither has Kelce, I suppose.

If Kelce wants to keep it that way, the Chiefs will have to repeat as Super Bowl champions. They would become the first team to do so since, well, Brady did it with the Patriots in the 2003 and 2004 seasons. This has been the longest drought without a repeat Super Bowl Champion in league history (15 seasons).

And the whole following-in-Gronk's-footsteps thing doesn't stop on the field. Off the field, the two have similarities, too. They're both excellent dancers (depending who you ask, for instance. They also aren't strangers to reality television. Gronkowski was on 'The Masked Singer' last year while Kelce had his own reality dating show called 'Catching Kelce' in 2016.

You can probably thank both of their larger-than-life personalities for their off-the-field endeavors. But those personalities shine in the locker room, too.

"If you're having a bad day, I suggest any of you just go spend a little time with Gronk," said Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht. "He just lifts you up just by being with him. He's funny – we have conversations every day and I look forward to it. I tell my wife, 'I can't wait to go talk to Gronk at practice today.' He's just being himself, he's very authentic, he loves the game and when it's time to be serious, he's very serious. There's a lot of talk about what Tom [Brady] has done for this locker room – and it's all warranted – but what Gronk has done for this locker room is equally as amazing. Just a great teammate and loves life."

"I didn't know about Gronk's work ethic. It's unbelievable – he comes in early, stays late [and] is great," continued Bucs Head Coach Bruce Arians. "But, he's Gronk, so he's got that great personality to go with his work ethic. You knew Tom was a great leader. With COVID, I don't go into the locker room very much, but those two guys brought something extremely special because they've been there and done it. When young players see that, they listen. You see two totally different personalities doing it the same way."

Kelce also brings joy to his higher ups. Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid even named a play after that aforementioned dating show, calling a red zone play that Kansas City ran against the Saints in December "Catching Kelce."

"I hate that name," said Kelce. "[Andy Reid] knew what he was doing when he called it that."

This game will feature an incredible quarterback matchup between Brady and Kelce's quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But the matchup between these two tight ends is pretty incredible, too.

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