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Travis Kelce vs. George Kittle: Who’s the better tight end in Super Bowl LVIII?

Super Bowl LVIII
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

National Tight End Day is celebrated on the fourth Sunday each October. But in 2024, it might as well be Feb. 11, with Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs and George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers playing in Super Bowl LVIII.

No position in Super Bowl LVIII will be richer in talent than tight end, where Kelce and Kittle are the game’s preeminent performers, combining for 14 Pro Bowl invitations and 11 All-Pro team selections.

Because of their elite status, Kelce and Kittle even co-founded Tight End University, along with former NFL tight end Greg Olsen, an annual gathering of tight ends each summer in Nashville.

Kelce and Kittle will meet for the second time in the Super Bowl, with the Chiefs winning the first encounter in Super Bowl LIV. But looking ahead to their battle in Super Bowl LVIII, who is the better tight end?

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While they occupy the same position, Kelce and Kittle don’t play it the same way. Choosing between the two is like picking your favorite ice cream — do you prefer chocolate or strawberry? Simply, it might come down to which flavor you like the most.

To rank Kelce and Kittle, if one is No. 1, the other might be No. 1A. Regardless, here is a case for each player in Super Bowl LVIII, followed by a final verdict.

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The case for Travis Kelce

Super Bowl LVIII
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

What makes Travis Kelce different is how he’s used in the Chiefs’ passing game to take advantage of his supreme pass-catching ability.

Now in his 11th season, Kelce has been the focal point of the Chiefs’ passing attack for his entire career. He’s led the Chiefs in receptions in nine of the past 10 seasons, and only once did he finish second on the team in both targets and receptions — to Tyreek Hill in 2021.

By comparison, Kittle has only two seasons in which he’s led the 49ers in targets and receptions.

Based on sheer pass-catching numbers, Kelce has outproduced Kittle. He’s had six seasons with 1,000 yards receiving, three with 100 or more receptions, and three with double-digit touchdowns.

Kittle, who’s been a full-time starter since 2018, has three 1,000-yard receiving seasons, one season with double-digit touchdowns, and has never caught as many as 100 passes.

STATS SINCE 2018GamesTargetsReceptionsYardsTDs
Travis Kelce958386007,42852
George Kittle835764175,75935
Source: Pro Football Reference

Kelce has also been more durable than Kittle, playing 12 more games over the past six seasons.

Before his career is over, Kelce might be considered the greatest receiving tight end in NFL history, and he can add to his Hall of Fame portfolio if he can earn his third championship ring in Super Bowl LVIII.

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The case for George Kittle

Super Bowl LVIII
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

While Travis Kelce might be more of a hybrid receiver, George Kittle is a tight end in the purest sense in that he’s a devastating force as both a target in the passing game and a blocker in the running game.

According to Pro Football Focus, which tracks and grades the activity of every player at every position, Kittle has been the No. 1 tight end in the NFL in 2023.


Kittle received an overall grade of 87.8, while Kelce finished a distant second at 81.3. The difference? Kittle’s superiority as a run blocker, where he again received the highest grade (80.1).

A big reason 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey led the NFL in rushing and all-purpose yardage had much to do with All-Pro players like Kittle and left tackle Trent Williams creating gaping holes at the line of scrimmage.

Meanwhile, Kelce received a run-blocking grade of 45.9, which ranked him 24th out of 26th tight ends who played more than 600 offensive snaps.

As a pass receiver, Kittle can’t match Kelce’s volume, but he compensates for it as a more efficient target who maximizes his opportunities. Kittle gains more yards per reception, he drops fewer passes, he breaks more tackles, and he gets more yards after the catch.

ADVANCED METRICS SINCE 2018Yds./Rec.Drop%RatingRec./BTYAC/Rec.
George Kittle13.83.6112.812.37.4
Travis Kelce12.45.0111.412.55.4
Source: Pro Football Reference

It also doesn’t hurt Kittle’s cause that, at 30, he is four years younger than Kelce, with more peak seasons ahead of him to potentially win championships and make his own case for enshrinement in Canton someday.

Related: Last time San Francisco 49ers won the Super Bowl: 5 fast facts about 1995

The final verdict: Travis Kelce or George Kittle?

Super Bowl LVIII
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

If this were a decision that simply pitted one career against another, Travis Kelce would be the hands-down winner. But this is about which player is better now, in 2024, heading into their Super Bowl LVIII matchup.

And that gives George Kittle the slight advantage.

Yes, Kelce has far better numbers in the playoffs; he’s caught 23 passes for 262 yards and three TDs, while Kittle has six catches for 108 yards and one TD.

But when he’s not catching passes, Kittle is doing the dirty work on the line of scrimmage. Against the Detroit Lions in the NFC Championship Game, Kittle was a difference-maker in the running game, with a PFF run-blocking grade of 85.0, his second-highest grade of the season.

Plus, Kittle has been the league’s best tight end over the entire 2023-24 season and was acknowledged accordingly as a first-team All-Pro selection.

For now, George Kittle gets the nod in this battle of tight ends, but Travis Kelce might have something to say about that in Super Bowl LVIII. Or this summer back at Tight End University.

EDGE: George Kittle

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