There have been seven individual NFL seasons where a tight end has recorded 1,300 or more receiving yards, with one Kansas City Chiefs star dominant on the list.
While the most prominent NFL pass catchers tend to be wide receivers, the role of the tight end can be equally as important to an aerial attack when a team has an elite player in that position.
The blocking ability of a TE has become less important for certain systems in the modern game, with many of the more athletic players in the position boasting impressive measurables and having a similar impact to that of a true top wideout.
As of the start of the 2023 NFL season, there had been a total of 55 individual seasons in which a tight end had 1,000 or more receiving yards – a figure that has risen rapidly over recent years.
But the list narrows down dramatically to just seven when the cut off is set at 1,300 yards and there is one particular player from the Kansas City Chiefs who is responsible for almost half of those seasons on his own.
Here is the list of tight ends with the most receiving yards in a single NFL season.
1. Travis Kelce: 1,416 receiving yards in 2020
It’s probably not a surprise that Kelce has produced the most receiving yards in a single season in NFL history.
The 2020 season took place as the world was heavily disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, but one thing that did not change was the Chiefs’ unstoppable offense led by Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Kelce.
Kansas City would ultimately lose to all-time passing yards leader Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV, a game in which Kelce also thrived despite the defeat.
That postseason run came after the Chiefs had dominated the regular season with a 14-2 record.
Kelce was crucial to that success as he led the team in catches (105), receiving yards (1.416) and yards per game (94.4), setting the record for tight ends even though he missed a regular season game in Week 17.
The tight end added 11 touchdown catches and the Chiefs were 14-1 in the games he played, which included a stunning 10-catch, 159-yard performance against the Carolina Panthers in Week 9 in a 33-31 win.
Kelce was remarkably consistent throughout the season – he averaged 7.0 catches per game and racked up six separate 100-yard performances.
He had at least 50 receiving yards in 14 of his 15 appearances, ensuring he set a leading mark that will be tough to match.
2. George Kittle: 1,377 receiving yards in 2018
Before Kelce’s heroics in the 2020 season, the record had been claimed by the San Francisco 49ers star, who took the NFL by storm in only the second season of his career.
Kittle finished up with 1,377 yards from 88 catches, giving him a yards-per-reception figure of 15.6 – the highest of any tight end season in the top 10.
Almost two-thirds of his yardage (881) came after the catch, highlighting how much athletes like Kittle have changed the position in the modern era.
His stunning season included an 85-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown against the Denver Broncos. In that Week 14 game, Kittle caught seven catches for a massive 210 yards.
Kittle thrived in unlikely circumstances, with his production coming even as the Niners slumped to a 4-12 record after losing starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a torn ACL.
The tight end also had a 149-yard game against the NFC West rival Los Angeles Rams and hit three figures in games against the Chargers and Oakland Raiders too.
3. Mark Andrews: 1,361 receiving yards in 2021
Since Kelce’s single-season record-setting effort, Andrews is the player who has got closest to setting a new leading mark.
Andrews was an All-Pro First Teamer in 2021 after a stunning season that saw him reach 1,361 receiving yards to fall just 55 yards short of Kelce’s record.
He had nine touchdowns and hauled in 107 catches, the second-best receptions total of any tight end in the top 10 for receiving yardage in a single NFL season.
Andrews had five 100-yard receiving games, topped by a Week 5 effort against the Indianapolis Colts when he had 11 catches for 147 yards, two TDs and eight first downs.
4. Travis Kelce: 1,338 receiving yards in 2022
Kelce came close to topping his own record in the 2022 NFL season, a year which ended with his second NFL championship as the Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII.
There were huge questions surrounding the Chiefs offense after their star wideout Hill was traded to the Miami Dolphins.
But coach Andy Reid, QB Mahomes and Kelce kept the juggernaut going, with the tight end hauling in 12 TD catches over the course of the campaign and finishing with 13 plays that went for 25 or more yards.
Kelce had six 100-yard games as he thrived in his role as Mahomes’ primary target, hauling in 110 regular-season catches before also going on to impress in the playoffs once again.
That 110-catch figure in 2022 is the best of any TE season in the top 10 for receiving yards and second only to Zach Ertz (who had 116 catches for the Eagles in 2018) all time.
5. Travis Kelce: 1,336 receiving yards in 2018
The dominance of the future Hall of Fame tight end is highlighted by him having three separate seasons in the top five in NFL history.
He had 103 catches in the 2018 season, which was the first time he reached three figures.
Kelce also made it to double figures for receiving TDs (10) as well, the first of three times he would achieve that feat in his career to date.
Kelce’s Week 13 performance against the Raiders – he caught 12 of 13 targets for 168 yards and two TDs to seal a 40-33 win in an AFC West battle – will live long in the memory of Chiefs fans.
He had 95 or more yards in seven separate games that season as the Chiefs went 12-4, with his catches helping Mahomes to his first NFL MVP award.
6. Rob Gronkowski: 1,327 receiving yards in 2011
Before Kelce, it was the New England Patriots great who was setting the standard for the tight end position.
The 17 receiving TDs recorded by Gronk in his remarkable 2011 season remains far and away the leading total in that statistical category.
To highlight how impressive that figure is, none of the other nine leading seasons in the top 10 included more than 12 touchdown catches.
That record for tight ends is just six short of the overall NFL season TD record held by Randy Moss.
The five-time Pro Bowl selection had 90 catches in only his second NFL season and would never get close to repeating that mark for either the Patriots or the Bucs, mainly because injuries impacted his career as it progressed.
The Pats were 13-3 in 2011, with Gronkowski exploding in a six-yard, 160-yard performance against Washington in Week 14. He had at least 50 yards in 14 of his 16 games and his partnership with Tom Brady would continue to torment the NFL in the decade that followed.
7. Jimmy Graham: 1,310 receiving yards in 2011
Graham was the other tight end doing significant damage to defenses with Gronkowski in the 2011 season.
Playing with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, Graham grabbed 11 touchdowns and a career-high 99 catches as part of a standout sophomore season.
While Graham was a significant red-zone threat, enjoying two-TD performances against the New York Giants and the Colts, he was also a big-play weapon in the early part of his career, with 13 of his receptions going for 25 or more yards in 2011.
Other Top Tight End Performances
Kellen Winslow (1,290 receiving yards) was the longtime NFL record holder after an amazing season for the San Diego Chargers in 1980, helping his team to the AFC championship game.
Tony Gonzalez (1,258 yards in 2004) and Todd Christensen (1,247 yards in 1983) are the other members of the top 10 rankings for the most productive tight end seasons.
Kelce almost appeared in the top 10 again after reaching 1,229 yards in the 2019 season, which was when he went on to win his first Super Bowl title against the Niners.