When it comes to finding success as a player in the National Football League – particularly in the modern game - versatility is paramount. The opposition is constantly trying to create mismatches on both sides of the ball to gain an advantage, so the more you can do as a player, the more valuable you'll prove to be over time.
That concept led NFL.com Senior Analyst Gil Brandt to run through an interesting exercise on Thursday, as he went through and ranked who he believes to be the most versatile players in football. Brandt listed 11 players in his rankings – examining all three phases of the game – and two members of the Kansas City Chiefs made the cut.
All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce is ranked at No. 6 in Brandt's analysis, checking in behind only Panthers' defensive back Jeremy Chinn, Panthers' tailback Christian McCaffrey, Saints' tailback Alvin Kamara, Saints' quarterback Taysom Hill and Seahawks' safety Jamal Adams.
Here's what Brandt had to say about Kelce:
"Let's not kid ourselves: Kelce is functionally a wide receiver who happens to have "TE" next to his name. Consider that, according to Pro Football Focus, Kelce actually logged more snaps in the slot or out wide last season (455) then he did at tight end (376); to put this in perspective, the similarly versatile Darren Waller played 618 snaps at tight end for the Raiders in 2020, compared to 322 in the slot or out wide. The effect of the mismatches Kelce forces was on full display in the second half of last season; from Week 8 on, he caught at least seven passes per game and topped 100 yards five times. He also became the first tight end in NFL history to post 1,400-plus receiving yards in a single season despite resting during the Week 17 finale."
Kelce is compiling a truly magnificent career, and if he keeps this up, he'll have a legitimate claim as the best tight end in NFL history when he decides to hang up his cleats. He's the only player at his position to ever tally five 1,000-yard campaigns, and to make matters even more impressive, he's recorded each of them in consecutive seasons.
Brandt also has a point about how Kelce is essentially a wide receiver in the Chiefs' offense. In fact, since 2018, Kelce has tallied the second-most receiving yards (3,981) and the fourth-most catches (305) of any player in the NFL. His 213 receiving first downs also rank second, trailing only Cardinals' wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, while his 31 receptions of 25+ yards rank sixth.
The other member of the Chiefs to appear in Brandt's rankings is do-it-all safety Tyrann Mathieu, who slots in at No. 9.
Here's a portion of what Brandt wrote about Kansas City's All-Pro defensive back:
"We've talked a lot about versatility here, but Mathieu simply personifies the word. Here is a breakdown of his 929 snaps, per Pro Football Focus, in 2020: 345 at slot corner, 301 in the box, 224 at free safety, 44 on the defensive line and 15 at outside cornerback. Brought in to power up the Chiefs' pass defense, that is exactly what he did, pushing Kansas City to rank eighth in passing yards allowed in 2019 and 14th last season. In that span, Mathieu picked off 10 passes combined and earned consecutive first-team All-Pro honors."
The Chiefs' defense has simply been a different animal with Mathieu on the field, as they've held the opposition under 20 points on 17 occasions over the last two seasons. His versatility and aptitude to play virtually anywhere defensively is a big reason behind that success.
Both players are truly redefining what it means to play their respective positions while also demonstrating that being an elite player demands ultimate versatility nowadays.