Ranking The Top 10 Kansas City Chiefs Players of All Time

Founded in 1960 as the Dallas Texans by football pioneer Lamar Hunt, he renamed his team the Chiefs when he moved to Kansas City in 1963.

While the Chiefs may not be the most storied franchise in NFL history, it is not because of a lack of talent.

Kansas City had some of the greatest players not only in Chiefs history but in the AFL, and NFL history.

Superstars like Len Dawson, Buck Buchanan, Abner Haynes, and Otis Taylor built the foundation of the team winning Super Bowl IV with a convincing 23-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Many experts are convinced the AFL/NFL merger would never have happened if the Chiefs didn’t win Super Bowl IV. 

If the Chiefs had lost, the NFL’s arrogant owners, who already thought of the AFL as a minor league. Would have rightfully claimed the New York Jets weren’t better, just luckier when they beat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

The Kansas City Chiefs currently have 18 players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, 10 of whom spent the majority of their careers in Kansas City. 

Ranking The Top 10 Kansas City Chiefs Players of All Time

#10 Travis Kelce, TE, (2013 -Present)

Travis Kelce is on pace to shatter every Tight End Record In Chiefs History

Top 10 Players in Kansas City Chiefs History Travis Kelce

Kelce was a third-round draft pick out of the University of Cincinnati in 2013. He didn’t play any during his rookie season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his knee, but in 2014 he emerged as one of the best tight ends in the NFL.

In 2020, Kelce broke the team record for most receptions in a single season with 105, topping the previous mark Kelce set in 2018 with 103.

In 2020, Kelce also broke the Chiefs single-season receiving record with 1,146 yards, topping his previous record of 1,336 yards set in 2018.

Kelce has been named to the Pro Bowl in each season since 2015.

#9 Emmitt Thomas, CB, 1966-1978

Emmit Thomas was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008 

Top 10 Players in Kansas City Chiefs History Emmitt Thomas

Emmitt Thomas was an undrafted free agent from Bishop College. Which makes his career even more remarkable.

Thomas wasn’t just the best cornerback who’s ever played for the Chiefs, but one of the best who’s ever played in the NFL. 

During the Chiefs’ Super Bowl championship season in 1969, Emmitt Thomas led the AFL in interceptions with 9.

Thomas holds Chiefs franchise records for career interceptions (58), single-season interceptions (12), and career interception return yards (927). 

#8 Willie Lanier, LB, 1967-1977

Willie Lanier was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.

Top 10 Players in Kansas City Chiefs History Willie Lanier

A second-round draft pick out of Morgan State, Willie Lanier went on to become one of the best coverage linebackers in the AFL/NFL, recording 27 career interceptions.

Lanier recovered 18 fumbles for the Chiefs, second only to Derrick Thomas in franchise history.

In Super Bowl IV, Lanier picked off Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp early in the fourth quarter to help Kansas City secure its 23-7 victory. 

#7 Buck Buchanan (1963–75) 

Buck Buchanan was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

Top 10 Players in Kansas City Chiefs History Buck Buchanan

In 1963, Buck Buchanan became the first African American player selected with a No. 1 overall pick. 

Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt moved up to the top spot in order to acquire the massive 6-foot-7, 270-pound Grambling standout.

Gifted with rare speed and strength, Buchanan was nearly impossible for any offensive linemen to handle without help.

In the Chiefs Super Bowl IV victory, Buchanan recorded a sack and was instrumental in holding the Vikings to just 67 yards on 19 carries.

#6 Patrick Mahomes, QB, 2017-present

Patrick Mahomes could very well become the best player in Kansas City Chiefs History.

Top 10 Players in Kansas City Chiefs History Patrick Mahomes

Patrick Mahomes may have played only three seasons as the Chiefs’ starting quarterback, but he’s already accomplished more than nearly every other QB in Chiefs history.

In 2018, he became one of only three quarterbacks to ever throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in a season, joining Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

In 2019, Mahomes was named Super Bowl LIV MVP when he led the Chiefs to victory over the San Fransico 49ers 31-20.

Patrick Maholmes already holds the Chiefs franchise records for passing yards in a season (5,097), completions in a season (383), 300-yard passing games in a season (10), as well as numerous other records. 

#5 Will Shields, RG, 1993-2006

Will Shields was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.

Top 10 Players in Kansas City Chiefs History Will Shields

The Chiefs picked Will Shields in the third round of the 1993 draft out of Nebraska and went on to be one of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history.

Will Shields, who never missed a game during his 14-year career (224 games), earned 12 straight Pro Bowl honors from 1995 through 2006, also a franchise record.

Shields was named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2003 for his off-the-field charitable efforts.

#4 Bobby Bell, LB, 1963-1974

Bobby Bell was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

Top 10 Players in Kansas City Chiefs History Bobby Bell

In his first two years with the Chiefs, Bobby Bell played defensive end before the team moved him to outside linebacker, where he excelled for the rest of his career.

Bell was a talented coverage man, snagging 24 interceptions from the linebacker position, only three shy of Willie Lanier for the most by a linebacker in team history.

But despite Bell playing more in pass-coverage than as a pass rusher. Bell still finished his career with 40 sacks, making him one of the few players in NFL history who has at least 20 sacks and 20 interceptions in their career.

#3 Tony Gonzalez, TE, 1997-2008 

Tony Gonzalez was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019.

Top 10 Players in Kansas City Chiefs History Tony Gonzalez

Tony Gonzalez was the Chiefs No. 13 overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft out of Cal.

From 1999-2008, Gonzalez made 10 consecutive Pro Bowl appearances and was named first-team All-Pro five times.

Because Tony Gonzalez was the ultimate mismatch against linebackers and safeties, he revolutionized how the Tight End position is played.

Gonzalez still holds many of the Chiefs franchise records, including most career receiving yards (10,940), career receptions (916) and career touchdown catches (76). 

#2 Len Dawson, QB, 1962-1975

Len Dawson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

Top 10 Players in Kansas City Chiefs History Len Dawson

Dawson signed with the AFL’s Dallas Texans in July 1962, just a few weeks after being cut by the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.

After the franchise moved to Kansas City, he guided the team to two more AFL championships and appearances in Super Bowl I and Super Bowl IV.

Len Dawson was named MVP of Super Bowl IV as the Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7. 

Len Dawson holds the Chiefs franchise records in passing yards (28,507), career pass attempts (3,696), career completions (2,115), and his 237 passing touchdowns are the most by a Chiefs QB in franchise history.

#1 Derrick Thomas, LB, 1989-1999

Derrick Thomas was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009

Top 10 Players in Kansas City Chiefs History Derrick Thomas

One of the greatest pass-rushers in NFL history, Thomas was selected No. 4 overall in the 1989 NFL Draft out of Alabama.

No other player in Chiefs history is more beloved by Chiefs Kingdom than Derrick Thomas.

It’s been 20 years since the tragic car accident that took his life Thomas lost his life, yet Chiefs fans still don his jersey in Arrowhead Stadium.

Thomas is the Chiefs franchise leader with 126.5 career sacks, 41 forced fumbles, and three safeties.

He was selected as the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year that season and earned Pro Bowl invitations in each of his first nine seasons.

Thomas holds the NFL record for most sacks in a single game with seven, set in 1990 against the Seahawks.

He led the NFL with 20 sacks and six forced fumbles that year and again led the league in forced fumbles with eight in 1992.

The Chiefs have retired Thomas’ No. 58 and named the team MVP award after him. 

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