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    Best Kansas City Chiefs Players of All Time From Travis Kelce to Patrick Mahomes

    Since the Kansas City Chiefs were founded in 1959, they have won six league championships. Who are the greatest players in franchise history?

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    The Kansas City Chiefs were founded in 1959 and have enjoyed plenty of success throughout the team’s history. In total, the Chiefs have won six league championships, including a dominant run in recent years.

    Kansas City’s impressive run has included 26 playoff appearances. The Chiefs’ championship success is primarily due to the caliber of players that have spent time in Kansas City. But who are the greatest players in franchise history?

    Ranking the Greatest Players in Kansas City Chiefs’ History

    10. Jan Stenerud (1967-1979)

    In the 1966 AFL Draft, Kansas City selected a Norwegian-American kicker from Montana State. Although the Chiefs likely didn’t understand just how good Jan Stenerud would eventually become, he went on to change the game as it was once known.

    Stenerud was one of the first-ever professional football players to be used as a dedicated kicker. Before, players would play multiple roles in addition to being a team’s kicker. Yet Stenerud was so accurate and talented that he changed the role of a kicker forever.

    During his 13 seasons with the Chiefs, Stenerud earned several accolades. He was named an All-Pro five times and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl three times. Stenerud helped the Chiefs win Super Bowl 4, as he outscored the Minnesota Vikings by himself.

    Stenerud was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991, as the first exclusive kicker to earn the prestigious honor. He is also honored in the Chiefs Hall of Honor and was named to the NFL‘s 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time Teams.

    9. Len Dawson (1963-1975)

    While Stenerud was nailing field goals for the Chiefs in the 1960s and 1970s, Len Dawson was powering the team’s offense as Kansas City’s starting quarterback. Dawson played a key role for the Chiefs, as he flourished in head coach Hank Stram’s offense.

    Dawson’s athletic ability was a perfect fit in Stram’s offensive scheme, which allowed the quarterback to get on the move and make plays with both his arm and his legs. During his 13-year career in Kansas City, Dawson earned several notable accolades.

    He was named Super Bowl MVP for Super Bowl 4, where the Chiefs took down the Vikings in dominant fashion. Dawson also led the league in completion percentage, passer rating, and passing touchdowns for several years during his tenure in Kansas City. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

    8. Willie Lanier (1967-1977)

    During Kansas City’s impressive run in the 1960s and 1970s, there were several notable players on the defensive side of the ball as well. In the 1967 NFL Draft, the Chiefs selected linebacker Willie Lanier in the second round with the No. 50 overall selection.

    After losing in Super Bowl 1 to the Green Bay Packers, Stram knew he needed to address the defense, and Lanier was viewed as a major addition. Lanier more than helped Kansas City’s defense; he transformed the Chiefs into a championship-caliber team.

    MORE: Top 10 Greatest NFL Teams of All Time

    During his 11-year career with Kansas City, Lanier earned eight trips to the Pro Bowl. He was also named a first-team All-Pro three times as well. Lanier’s ability to take the ball away at linebacker was impressive, as he recorded 27 interceptions during his career. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.

    7. Buck Buchanan (1963-1975)

    While Lanier was a dominant force on the second level of Kansas City’s defensive front, Buck Buchanan was a wrecking ball along the defensive line. The Chiefs selected the talented defensive tackle with the No. 1 overall selection in the 1963 AFL Draft.

    Buchanan played a vital role on Kansas City’s defense that helped fuel the team’s victory over the Vikings in Super Bowl 4. In 13 seasons with the Chiefs, Buchanan recorded 70.5 sacks and three interceptions. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

    6. Bobby Bell (1963-1974)

    Arguably the most talented piece of Kansas City’s defense during the team’s dominant stretch in the ’60s and ’70s was linebacker Bobby Bell. The Chiefs selected Bell with the No. 56 overall selection in the 1963 AFL Draft. Bell was highly regarded due to his freakish mix of size and athleticism.

    At 6’4″ and 230 pounds, Bell reportedly ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and showcased his athleticism on the field with his ability as both a pass rusher and in coverage. During his 12-year career with the Chiefs, Bell recorded 40 sacks and 26 interceptions. In 1983, he was the first Chiefs player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    5. Will Shields (1993-2006)

    While the Chiefs didn’t enjoy much postseason success during the late 1990s and early 2000s, Kansas City was still home to a few all-time greats. In the 1993 NFL Draft, the Chiefs selected offensive lineman Will Shields in the third round with the No. 74 overall pick.

    Although the Chiefs were clearly high on Shields, they didn’t realize just how special he was going to be. In his 14-year career in Kansas City, Shields was named to the Pro Bowl a whopping 12 times. He was truly one of the best guards in NFL history.

    In addition to his trips to the Pro Bowl, Shields was named an All-Pro seven times during his tenure with the Chiefs. He also had the prestigious honor of being named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in 2003. Shields was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.

    4. Tony Gonzalez (1997-2008)

    While Shields was busy dominating in the trenches for the Chiefs, Tony Gonzalez was elevating the tight end position to another level. In the 1997 NFL Draft, the Chiefs selected Gonzalez in the first round with the No. 13 overall selection.

    Gonzalez played both football and basketball in college during his time at the University of California. He opted to chase his dreams of becoming a tight end in the NFL, and it’s safe to say that he made the right decision. Gonzalez helped reshape the position and became one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history.

    During his 12-year career with the Chiefs, Gonzalez was named to the Pro Bowl a total of 10 times. He also earned First-Team All-Pro honors five times in Kansas City. He is third all-time in career receptions among all players, not just tight ends, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019.

    3. Derrick Thomas (1989-1999)

    Shields and Gonzalez dominated on the offensive side of the ball, but Derrick Thomas was a menace on defense. In the 1989 NFL Draft, the Chiefs selected Thomas in the first round with the No. 4 overall selection. He quickly proved his worth during his rookie season.

    Thomas won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1989, as he recorded 75 total tackles, 10 sacks, and three forced fumbles. In his second season in the NFL, Thomas recorded a whopping 20 sacks. In his 11-year career with the Chiefs, Thomas recorded 641 total tackles, 126.5 sacks, and 41 forced fumbles.

    KEEP READING: Ranking the Best Kansas City Chiefs Teams of All Time

    Following the end of Kansas City’s season in 1999, Thomas was paralyzed during a tragic car crash and died two weeks later from a pulmonary embolism. In 2009, Thomas was posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    2. Travis Kelce (2013-Present)

    Although Gonzalez is considered one of the greatest tight ends of all-time, Travis Kelce is in a strong position to take the top spot. While Kelce has the statistical production to validate himself as one of the greatest to ever play the position, his postseason success is what takes him to another level.

    In the 2013 NFL Draft, the Chiefs took a chance in the third round on a “troubled” tight end from the University of Cincinnati. However, Kansas City’s gamble proved to be arguably the greatest decision in franchise history as Kelce continues to dominate for the Chiefs on the road to several Super Bowl victories.

    During his 11-year career in Kansas City, Kelce has recorded 907 total receptions for 11,328 yards and 74 touchdowns. Kelce’s consistent dominance is impressive as teams know that he is a popular target yet is seemingly impossible to shut down.

    1. Patrick Mahomes (2017-Present)

    The driving force behind Kelce’s success is his unstoppable connection with star quarterback Patrick Mahomes. In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Chiefs traded up to select Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The move was initially met with skepticism, as many believed Mahomes’ erratic style of play wouldn’t succeed in the NFL.

    Yet after just seven seasons in Kansas City, Mahomes has cemented himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Mahomes has already won three Super Bowls during his first six seasons as the starting quarterback of the Chiefs.

    Mahomes has also been named to the Pro Bowl in each of his six seasons as a full-time starting quarterback. He has won Super Bowl MVP in all three of the team’s championship victories, as well as winning NFL Most Valuable Player in 2018 and 2022. When it’s all said and done, Mahomes could go down as the greatest player in NFL history.

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