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Top 10 Greatest Kansas City Chiefs of All Time

Patrick Mahomes - Fantasy Football Rankings, DFS Lineup Picks, NFL Injury News

The Kansas City Chiefs were established in 1959 as the Dallas Texans and played their first season a year later in the then-American Football League. In 1963, they relocated to Kansas City, Missouri, and changed their moniker to the Chiefs. The franchise won AFL Championships in 1962, 1966, and 1969. In the final showdown between the AFL and NFL champions, they also won Super Bowl IV over the Minnesota Vikings.

Since then, the Chiefs have added victories in Super Bowls LIV and LVII to their collection. Aside from those achievements, they’ve won three AFC championships and 15 division titles. The Chiefs entered the playoffs 25 times, four in the AFL. The Hunt family has owned the franchise since its inception, and leadership transitioned from AFL founder Lamar Hunt to his son, current chairman and CEO Clark.

With over six decades of existence, some of the best American football players in history donned the Chiefs uniform for most of their careers. They are not only some of the franchise’s best but also some of the most iconic athletes in the NFL. Here are the ten best players to wear helmets and pads for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


Emmitt Thomas

Emmitt Earl Thomas joined the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 1966. The former defensive end made the most of his opportunity by becoming an AFL All-Star two years later and a four-time Pro Bowler. Thomas was also a two-time First Team All-Pro and two-time Second Team All-Pro. The Texas native was instrumental in the Chiefs’ Super Bowl IV run, collecting four interceptions in three playoff games.

He retired as a pro football player in 1978, having led both the NFL and AFL in interceptions once. The former Bishop College standout continues to hold the Chiefs’ franchise record for picks with 58. He also has 937 interception yards and five defensive touchdowns. Thomas became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008 as a Seniors Committee nominee.


Johnny Robinson

His name might not be the easiest to recall among the Chiefs’ defensive stalwarts during their AFL days, but there’s no denying that Robinson is one of the best defensive backs in American football history. He was a first-round selection in both the NFL and AFL drafts but opted to join the Texans instead. The LSU alumnus was a six-time AFL All-Star and seven-time All-NFL member.

In 1970, Robinson led the NFL in interceptions, helping him secure a Pro Bowl and First-Team All-pro nod. He retired as a player in 1971, finishing with 57 interceptions, 741 interception yards, and two defensive touchdowns. Robinson joined eight of his teammates in the Super Bowl IV-winning squad in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019.


Willie Lanier

Willie Edward Lanier earned the nickname “Contact” because of his unique tackling style. However, his head-first approach to bringing opponents down led to a Pro Football Hall of Fame induction in 1986. The Chiefs selected him in the second round of the 1967 NFL Draft, and it didn’t take long before he made an impact. In 1968, he had his first of eight All-Pro selections, along with All-AFL and AFL All-Star selections.

The Chiefs were the only team he played for in his ten-year career. Upon his retirement, he had 27 interceptions, 18 fumble recoveries, four sacks, two touchdowns, and a safety. His profound impact on tackling forced the team’s equipment manager to put additional padding outside his helmet, but there’s no padding that he is a part of the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.


Buck Buchanan

Junious “Buck” Buchanan was an intimidating presence on the Chiefs’ defensive line of the 60s and 70s because of his rare combination of height, size, and speed. He gained leverage with his 6’ 7” height and 287-pound frame, helping him become a six-time All-AFL selection and a 1971 Second Team All-Pro member. The top overall pick in the 1963 AFL Draft was also a back-to-back Pro Bowler in 1970 and 1971.

Buchanan once played 166 consecutive games despite the physical abuse he absorbed as a defensive lineman. He was also instrumental in limiting the Vikings to 67 rushing yards in Super Bowl IV. The former Grambling State standout retired from professional football in 1975, having played his entire career for the Chiefs. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990, two years before his death.


Bobby Bell

While Thomas, Lanier, and Buchanan were all part of Kansas City’s legendary “Redwood Forest” defense, Bobby Lee Bell Sr. can be regarded as the unit’s leader. The Chiefs selected him in the seventh round of the 1963 draft and established a legendary career as a defensive end and outside linebacker. He had his best year in 1969, earning AFL All-Star, First Team All-AFL, and AFL Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Bell retired from professional football in 1974 after adding three Pro Bowl and two All-Pro selections to his credentials. The University of Minnesota alumnus played his entire career with the Chiefs, finishing with 26 interceptions and eight defensive touchdowns. Bell became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983, and the Chiefs have retired his number 78 jersey.


Len Dawson

The Chiefs’ stars were not all on defense during the Hank Stram years. On offense, they had quarterback Leonard Ray Dawson guiding them from 1962 to 1975. Stram leveraged the relationship he built with Dawson at Purdue University, signing him to the then-Texans in June 1962. Dawson led the AFL in touchdown passes in the same year, a feat he would repeat in 1963, 1965, and 1966.

Aside from winning Super Bowl IV and being named that game’s Most Valuable Player, Dawson is also a four-time All-AFL and six-time AFL All-Star. The former Boilermaker was also the AFL’s 1962 MVP. He finished his career with 28,711 yards and 239 touchdowns. “Lenny The Cool” became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987. Dawson passed away in August of 2022 at age 87.


Derrick Thomas

It’s easy to prove Derrick Vincent Thomas’ dominance as a pass rusher, even without a deep dive into his career numbers. Just look at the NFL record seven sacks in a game he accomplished in November 1990 against the Seattle Seahawks. The Alabama alumnus also had six in September 1998 versus the Oakland Raiders. He finished his career with 126.5 sacks, 642 tackles, 19 fumble recoveries, and four touchdowns.

The fourth overall pick in the 1989 draft won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors and led the league in sacks a year after. He also garnered five All-Pro and nine Pro Bowl selections. Thomas was also the league’s 1993 Man of the Year for his off-field contributions to the community. Unfortunately, his life was cut short after a car accident in 2000. He became a part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.


Tony Gonzalez

Anthony David Gonzalez is not just one of the best Chiefs players in history. Instead, the California native is regarded as the best tight-end player to play the game. That distinction wouldn’t come to fruition if he focused on basketball. After trading his sneakers for cleats, the Chiefs took him as the 13th overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft. He played 17 seasons, 12 with the Chiefs, and his achievements speak for themselves.

Aside from holding the NFL record for receiving yards (15,127) and receptions (1,325) for a tight end, Gonzalez is also a ten-time All-Pro selection and a 14-time Pro Bowler. He was also a member of the league’s 100th-anniversary all-time team. Gonzalez was a first-ballot inductee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019.


Travis Kelce

It took a while before Travis Michael Kelce became a household name, but he proved difficult to contain on the field at the peak of his career. The Chiefs took him in the third round of the 2003 NFL Draft, hoping he would be another Tony Gonzalez. The team’s gamble paid off by having a dominant pass-catching tight end.

Kelce holds the league record for most 1,000-yard seasons by a tight end, pulling off the feat from 2016 to 2022. He also has the most 100-reception seasons and 100-yard games at his position. After winning Super Bowls LIV and LVII, the scary narrative is that he is far from over. Therefore, he will likely add to his seven All-Pro and eight Pro Bowl selections.


Patrick Mahomes

It’s crazy to consider that Patrick Lavon Mahomes II already has Hall of Fame-worthy credentials in six NFL seasons. He led the Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game in his first five seasons as the team’s full-time starter. Those stints led to two Super Bowl titles and two Super Bowl MVP awards. Mahomes is also a two-time league MVP and a five-time Pro Bowler.

The son of a former Major League Baseball pitcher is also a two-time First Team All-Pro member. The Texas Tech alumnus also has the most all-purpose yards by a quarterback in a single season with 5,614. He is also tied for most passing touchdowns in one postseason, a feat he will likely surpass, given that he is just 27 years old. He has 24,241 passing yards and 192 touchdowns as of the 2022 NFL season.


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