Top Five Players In Kansas City Chiefs’ History

The Kansas City Chiefs have been around since 1960. As one of the oldest and most well-known franchises in the NFL, the team has produced a slew of memorable players. Over 20 players and coaches from the Chiefs have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Choosing five top players from a team with so much history was difficult, but these five players have left their mark and legacy in the Chiefs’ and NFL record books.

Top Five Players In Kansas City Chiefs’ History

5. Patrick Mahomes: Quarterback 2017-Present

At 26-years-old, some may say it is a little early for Patrick Mahomes to be on the list, but at the rate he is going, Mahomes will most likely lead the list one day.

Mahomes was the No. 10 overall pick in the 2017 draft and has broken record after record.

The quarterback sat out all but one game during his rookie year under Alex Smith. When he was named starting quarterback, the Chiefs never looked back.

He ended his first full year as a starter leading the league with 50 touchdowns and 5,097 passing yards. He became the third quarterback in history to throw for 50 or more touchdowns and the seventh quarterback to throw for over 5,000 yards in a season. Mahomes threw 29 touchdown passes in his first 10 games, more than any other quarterback in the NFL.

That same year, he was also named offensive player of the year and league MVP.

In his second full season as a starter, he led the team to their first Super Bowl victory in 50 years and was named Super Bowl MVP. He threw for over 4,000 yards, 26 touchdowns, and five interceptions that season.

Mahomes became the fastest quarterback in NFL history to reach 10,000 career passing yards, doing so in 34 career games, passing up Kurt Warner. He also currently holds the third spot in franchise history for career passing yards at 18,992.

The Chiefs have hosted four straight AFC Championship Games and have won the AFC West Division every year since Mahomes was named QB1, and he is a four-time pro bowler. The scary thing? Mahomes is just getting started.

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4. Willie Lanier: Linebacker 1967 – 1977

Willie “Contact” Lanier was one of the most fierce linebackers back in the day. In fact, because of his aggressive tackling style of always launching head first, Lanier wore extra padding on the outside of his helmet to protect his opponents.

Lanier intercepted 27 passes in his career and recovered 18 fumbles, the most in Kansas City history by a linebacker. One of his interceptions was during the Chiefs’ first Super Bowl victory to set the team up early in the fourth quarter for the win.

Lanier was an eight-time pro bowler, attending the pro bowl every year from 1967 to 1975. He won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 1972 and made the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

He was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 1986, being the second Chiefs player to do so. The Chiefs retired his number, 63, in 1992.

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3. Tony Gonzalez: Tight End 1997-2008

Gonzalez is one of the NFL’s greatest tight ends that transformed the position forever. He was drafted 13th in the 1997 draft.

The tight end didn’t emerge onto the scene until his third year in 1999, when he had 849 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Because of his size and speed, he was just too fast and large to be covered. Gonzalez’s talent and abilities quickly made him the best receiving option for Kansas City.

He even led the league in 2004 with 102 receptions. Gonzalez is the franchise leader in receiving yards with 10,940, in receiving touchdowns with 76, and in receptions at 916.

He may have finished his career with the Atlanta Falcons, but Gonzalez accomplished plenty while with the Chiefs. Like being a 14-time pro bowler and holding the all-time league record with the most yards for a tight end. He is also ranked third overall in the league for receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, just behind Jerry Rice and Larry Fitzgerald.

Gonzalez was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019. Gonzalez has been an inspiration to current tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce even has a shirt that features the iconic tight end, which he keeps inside his locker.

2. Derrick Thomas: Kansas City Chiefs Linebacker 1989-1999

Derrick Thomas, also known as “D.T.,” was drafted fourth overall by the Chiefs in the 1989 draft and went down as the franchise’s best outside linebacker.

D.T. didn’t take any time to make a name for himself, winning Rookie of the Year in 1989. In his first year, he had 75 tackles, 10 sacks, three forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.

His dominance on the field didn’t stop after his rookie season. The following season was the best of any outside linebacker. Thomas led the league with 20 sacks and six forced fumbles. Thomas also set a record for sacks in one game with seven on Nov. 11, 1990, against the Seattle Seahawks.

The hard-hitting linebacker set a team record with 126.5 sacks during his career. He also holds the team record with three safeties and four forced fumbles.

As the top linebacker in his era, he was a nine-time pro bowler. Unfortunately, his incredible career was cut short when Thomas died in a car accident at the age of 33 in February 2000.

The Chiefs retired his number, 58, and named the team MVP award after him. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009. Thomas’ legacy and memory live forever in the heart of Chiefs fans.

1. Len Dawson: Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback 1962-1975

Dawson is the greatest Chiefs quarterback to step on the field…at least for now. He has set the tone for Mahomes, who is following in his footsteps.

Known as an elite passer, Dawson could be relied on to make plays thanks to his accuracy. In fact, he was the first one of three quarterbacks in the league to have a perfect passer rating in a game.

In his 14 years with Kansas City, he led the league in touchdowns a total of four times and led the league in passer ratings six times. He was also a seven-time pro bowler.

Dawson’s most significant accomplishment with the Chiefs was leading them to their first Super Bowl victory, winning Super Bowl IV, where he was also named the game’s MVP.

He is currently the franchise’s overall touchdown leader with 237 and the overall franchise leader in passing yards at 28,507. He did hold the single-season passing touchdown record with 30 touchdowns in 14 games, but Patrick Mahomes broke that record back in 2018.

Dawson was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1987. His number, 16, has been retired by the Chiefs, and he will forever be remembered by Kansas City for winning the Chiefs’ first Super Bowl.

Honorable Mentions

1. Travis Kelce: Tight End 2013-Present

Right on the heels of Tony Gonzalez as one of the greatest tight ends is Travis Kelce. The seven-time pro bowler was the first tight end to have six consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons. He had the most receiving yards in a season by a tight end with 1,146. Kelce is second on the Chief’s all-time career receiving list with 9,006 yards — right behind Gonzalez. And as Mahomes’ current go-to guy, it doesn’t look like he is slowing down any time soon.

2. Will Shields: Offensive Guard 1993-2006

Shields never missed a game while playing for Kansas City for 14 seasons. Shields blocked for 1,000-yard rushers for five seasons. He also went to the Pro Bowl for 12 straight seasons, a Chiefs team record, and tied with two other players for the most Pro Bowls played in the NFL. He won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2002. And is the Chiefs Franchise All-time Approximate Value leader. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.

3. Emmitt Thomas: Cornerback 1966-1978

Thomas goes down in history as one of the best cornerbacks in his era. He was an undrafted free agent from Bishop College who holds the franchise record for interceptions with 58. He also holds the franchise’s single-season interceptions record with 12, just two shy of the NFL record of 14. He led the Chiefs in interceptions for five seasons and is a five-time pro bowler. Thomas was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008, the same year the Chiefs retired his No. 18.

Tom Walko/Icon Sportswire

About the Author

Calli Varner

Calli Varner is a writer and contributor to Kansas Sharp. As a football fanatic and lifelong resident of Arizona, she proudly cheers on the Arizona Cardinals. But her heart belongs to her number one team, the Kansas City Chiefs. (Go Chiefs Kingdom!) You can follow Calli on Twitter at @CalliDoesSports.