Top 10 Kansas City Chiefs Players of All Time

Jesse Unk

Feb 2, 2020: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) hoists the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium. © Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Best Chiefs Players of All Time

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. The Chiefs have some of the greatest pass rushers, offensive weapons and superstars in NFL history.

The Chiefs have been competitors in professional football since their inception in 1960, known then as the Dallas Texans, and have been in the NFL since 1970. They appeared in the first-ever Super Bowl, losing to the Green Bay Packers. They went on to win Super Bowl IV in 1970, but wouldn't appear in the championship again until their victory in Super Bowl LIV in 2020. These championship-winning teams, along with many other highly competitive Chiefs teams, were permeated with some of the best talents in NFL history.

The Kansas City Chiefs Team History

Unbeknownst to some, the Chiefs were born in Dallas, Texas. In 1959, Lamar Hunt, a wealthy businessman, attempted to purchase and relocate the Chicago Cardinals to his hometown of Dallas. When that failed, he approached the NFL about making a new expansion team in Dallas a year later, but his request was denied.

So Hunt founded a new leaguethe American Football Leagueand created a team of his own, called the Dallas Texans. The AFL's first draft took place in November of 1959, and its eight teams began playing in 1960. Unsurprisingly, Hunt served as the league's first president.

The Texans went 86 in their first season and 68 in their second. In their third season, the Texans went 113 and played in the AFL Championship, defeating the Houston Oilers 2017 in double overtime. To this day, clocking in at 77 minutes and 54 seconds, it holds the record for the longest championship game in pro football history.

Unfortunately for the team, that was the last game they would ever play under the Texan name. The city of Dallas was not able to keep up with two teams, and though the Cowboys only won nine games in their first three seasons, it was the Texans who made the move.

The Dallas Texans Become the Kansas City Chiefs

The Texans seemed bound for Atlanta or Miami, but the mayor of Kansas City made an offer Hunt couldn't refuse. Hunt decided it would be best if the Texans were relocated to Kansas City, making the official announcement on May 22, 1963. Four days later, a local contest determined the team's name, and the Kansas City Chiefs were born.

Since then, the Chiefs have had 18 players inducted into the Hall of Fame, 10 of whom spent the majority of their careers with the team. Below are the 10 best Chiefs players of all time!

Selection Criteria

In order to make it on this list, the following players had to rise above many formidable figures in the Chiefs' long history. All of the players ranked needed to:

  • be at the top, or near the top, of their major statistical categories.

  • have accolades that led the NFL at the time.

  • have impacted the NFL as a whole (e.g., by earning a Most Valuable Player Award or leading statistical categories several times).

  • have impacted the game, or the franchise, in ways that won games with skill or led to significant changes to the team or league.

Each of the players below has their own influences and importance in the team's history, but there's no doubt that these players are the greatest in Chiefs history.

10. Priest Holmes (20012007)

Priest Holmes has one of the greatest three-year stretches of any Chiefs' player in their history. After beginning his career in Baltimore, he signed a minimum contract to join Kansas City in 2001. His first three seasons with the team were incredible. Holmes led the NFL in rushing in 2001 with 1,555 yards and added another 614 yards receiving. He totaled 10 touchdowns that year as well. He was the first undrafted free agent to lead the league in rushing since 1954.

The following two seasons, Holmes rushed for a combined 3,035 yards and 48 touchdowns. In the receiving category, he had a combined 1,362 yards and three touchdowns during that time. Despite touching the ball over 1,100 times in those three years, Holmes only had six fumbles, four of which came in his first year with the Chiefs.

In 2004, Holmes was injured and reduced to playing only eight games, but he still had a strong season; in addition to leading the league in yards per game with 111.5, he also had 892 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. Holmes later sustained a spine injury that cost him the 2006 season. In spite of these setbacks, Holmes is second all-time in Chiefs history in rushing yardage, first in rushing touchdowns and first in rushing yards per game to this day.

Holmes' humble beginnings as an undrafted free agent, along with his incredible career statistically, are why he makes the list. Holmes was an unknown commodity who came into the NFL and took it by storm. He's the best running back in Chiefs history and could have been a Hall of Fame level talent if not for an injury that derailed his career. To this day, when you look at lists of the best players not in the Hall of Fame, Holmes is usually at the top of the list.

In 2002, Holmes was awarded the AP Offensive Player of the Year award. He was a three-time Pro Bowler and a three-time First-Team All-Pro. He also won a Super Bowl in 2000 with the Ravens.


  • 2002 Offensive Player of the Year
  • 3x Pro Bowler
  • 3x First-Team All-Pro
  • 1x Rushing yardage leader
  • 2x Rushing touchdown leader
Aug 3, 2019; Canton, OH, USA; Willie Lanier reacts during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Grand Parade on Cleveland Avenue in Downtown Canton. © Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

9. Willie Lanier (19671977)

Willie "Contact" Lanier was one of the most ferocious linebackers in Chiefs history. With his habit of launching headfirst at his opponents, he was feared throughout the NFL; I wouldn't be surprised if he knocked at least a few players out cold! Lanier even had extra padding on his helmet because of his aggressive tackling style, but it wasn't on the inside of his helmet to protect himit was on the outside of his helmet to protect his opponents.

He wasn't only known for his ferocity, though. Lanier was also one of the league's best coverage linebackers. In his career, he intercepted 27 passes, the most in Chiefs history by a linebacker. He intercepted a pass in the Chiefs' first Super Bowl victory, setting the team up early in the fourth quarter. He also recovered 18 fumbles in his career. He was well rounded in many areas, leading to numerous awards.

Lanier was selected to eight Pro Bowls between 1968 and 1975. He was a three-time First-Team All-Pro selection and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1986, becoming the second Chiefs player to be enshrined. He was also the 1972 Walter Payton Man of the Year.


  • Chiefs leader in interceptions at the linebacker position
  • 8x Pro Bowler
  • 3x First-Team All-Pro
  • Hall of Fame class of 1986
Aug 4, 2018; Canton, OH, USA; Kansas City Chiefs former defensive back Emmitt Thomas acknowledges the crowd during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Grand Parade on Cleveland Avenue. © Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

8. Emmitt Thomas (19661978)

Emmitt 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. Possibly the most amazing thing about him is that he was an undrafted free agent from Bishop College when he joined the team.

Thomas holds Chiefs franchise records for career interceptions with 58 and single-season interceptions with 12, just two shy of the NFL record of 14. He returned five interceptions for touchdowns in his career and intercepted a pass in the Chiefs' first Super Bowl victory. Thomas led the NFL in interceptions in 1974 with 12, and he led the AFL in interceptions in 1969 with nine. He currently sits at twelfth all-time in NFL history for interceptions in a career.

Thomas was selected to five Pro Bowls and was a one-time First-Team All-Pro selection. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008 and returned to the Chiefs as a defensive backs coach in 2010, retiring after the 2018 postseason. His number, 18, was retired by the Chiefs organization in 2008.

Thomas' amazing career is enough to put him on this list in and of itself, but the fact that he achieved what he did as an undrafted player is even more impressive. Thomas is one of the greatest undrafted Hall of Famers to ever play football, and certainly the best cornerback to play for the Chiefs franchise.

Thomas continued to help the franchise when he returned to coach, passing on his experience and knowledge to younger defensive backs of the future. Though he coached for many different teams in his career, Thomas had a special place in his heart for Kansas City, which makes him more than deserving of a spot on this all-time list. When he retired from the NFL, he said, "My journey started in Kansas City, and by the grace of God I am able to end my NFL career here as well.


  • Chiefs all-time interception leader: 58 interceptions
  • Chiefs season interception leader: 12 interceptions
  • Chiefs interception yardage leader: 937 yards
  • 5x Pro Bowler
  • 1x First-Team All-Pro Selection
  • Hall of Fame class of 2008
Aug 3, 2019; Canton, OH, USA; Johnny Robinson poses with bust during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. © Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

7. Johnny Robinson (19601971)

Johnny Robinson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019 as a safety, but he began his career as a running back. Robinson began his first two seasons with over 1,800 all-purpose yards before being moved to safety for the remainder of his career. He played 12 seasons with the Chiefs, three of which were as the Dallas Texans before the team moved.

During his ten years as a safety, Robinson intercepted 57 passes. He led the league in interceptions twice, both times with ten interceptions. He was also part of the Texans' championship in 1962 and the Chiefs' first Super Bowl victory in 1969. In games that he intercepted a pass, the Chiefs had a remarkable 35-3-1 record. While one interception may not seem to impact a game strongly enough to attribute to a winning record, in statistically recorded games where Robinson did not intercept a pass, the team's record was just 13-16. Robinson is by far the greatest safety to ever play for the Chiefs. The competition doesn't even come close.

Robinson was a well-rounded player with various talents. Even though he excelled as a safety, he also played successfully on offense for two years. His impact on defense directly influenced the team's success, which is evident from their winning record when he intercepted a pass. His talents helped to bolster the elite defensive unit that won the team's first Super Bowl, as well as an AFL Championship. He wasn't just the best safety in Chiefs historyhe was also one of the greatest safeties at that point in the NFL's history.


  • Second all-time in team history for interceptions: 57
  • 2x league-leader in interceptions
  • 7x Pro Bowler
  • 6x First-Team All-Pro
  • 1x AFL Champion
  • 1x Super Bowl Champion
  • Hall of Fame class of 2019
Feb 2, 2020: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium.© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

6. Patrick Mahomes (2017Present)

Mahomes could very well be leading this list one day. His talent and ability early in his career have shown he is more than capable of continuing to be a top quarterback in the NFL. Mahomes sat all but one game of his first year in Kansas City, but the following year, they traded QB Alex Smith to the Redskins and decided to start Mahomes, trusting him to take the reins. The decision turned out better than they could have imagined.

Mahomes ended his first complete season as a starter by leading the league for 50 touchdowns and throwing for 5,097 yards. He was the league MVP and became the seventh QB in NFL history to throw for over 5,000 yards. He was only the third QB to ever throw for 50 or more touchdowns, tying Tom Brady for the second-most in a season in NFL history.

In Mahomes' second season, he did the unthinkable. As a 24-year-old, he followed up his electrifying first season by leading the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl victory in 50 years! He threw for over 4,000 yards and had 26 touchdowns and only five interceptions during the season. In the Super Bowl, he completed 61.9% of his passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. He was named the Super Bowl MVP for his performance.

If Mahomes can maintain this level of success throughout his career, he'll easily be at the top of the Chiefs' greatest players list, and possibly one of the greatest NFL players ever.


  • 2x Pro Bowler
  • 1x First-Team All-Pro
  • 1x Super Bowl Champion
  • 1x Super Bowl MVP
  • 2018 NFL MVP

5. Buck Buchanan (19631975)

Buck Buchanan was picked first overall in the 1963 draft. He was the first athlete from a small black college to be selected in the first round, and he became one of the Chiefs' best defensive linemen of all time.

Buchanan was an all-around athlete. He was clocked running a 4.9-second 40-yard dash and a 10.2-second 100-yard dash, making him a threat from sideline to sideline. At six-foot-seven and 270 pounds, his size, along with his speed, made it difficult for linemen to guard him. With that size and speed, he was able to influence the game in many ways.

In 1967, he batted down 16 passes at the line of scrimmage! He was also dangerous when rushing the QB. Sacks weren't a recorded statistic during his career, but it is known that he sacked the quarterback in the Chiefs' Super Bowl victory over the Vikings. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler and a four-time First-Team All-Pro. He was also a two-time AFL Champion and a one-time Super Bowl champion!

Buchanan paired his talents with others on this list, such as Bobby Bell and Len Dawson, to lead the Chiefs to the Super Bowl. Buchanan was one of the greatest athletes to play for the Chiefs. He affected QBs in many ways, keeping them on their toes. If he wasn't smashing them to the ground, he was knocking their passes down at the line.

Buchanan was the greatest defensive tackle in Chiefs history, as well as one of the most talented players they've ever had. His career was decorated with accolades and honors, making him very deserving of being a top-10 player of all-time.


  • 8x Pro Bowler
  • 4x First-Team All-Pro
  • 2x AFL Champion
  • 1x Super Bowl Champion
  • Hall of Fame class of 1990
Aug 3, 2019; Canton, OH, USA; Bobby Bell reacts during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Grand Parade on Cleveland Avenue in Downtown Canton.© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

4. Bobby Bell (19631974)

Bobby Bell played defensive end for his first two years in Kansas City. He was then moved to play as an outside linebacker, where he excelled for the rest of his career. Bell was a superb pass rusher, finishing his career with 40 sacks, which places him solidly in the top-10 in Chiefs history. Despite this, Bell played in pass-coverage more often than he rushed the passer. He was a very 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. Bell also had two interceptions while playing defensive end, for a total of 26 career interceptions. Bell holds the franchise record for interceptions returned for a touchdown with six. He is one of the few players in NFL history who has at least 20 sacks and 20 interceptions in their career.

Bell was a threat on defense in every aspect of the game. He could rush the passer, cover receivers and tight ends and be a threat to take the ball and score. As a jack-of-all-trades, Bell led the team to many victories and three championships. He helped to create a dynasty-level defense that struck fear in opponents for over a decade. He's the most well-rounded and talented defender in Chiefs' history.

The Chiefs retired his number, 78, and Bell became the first-ever Chiefs player to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1983. He's also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-'70s second team. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler and a six-time First-Team All-Pro. Bell was also a two-time AFL Champion and a part of the Chiefs' first Super Bowl victory.


  • 9x Pro Bowler
  • 6x First-Team All-Pro
  • 2x AFL Champion
  • 1x Super Bowl Champion
  • Hall of Fame class of 1983
  • Hall of Fame 1970s All-Decade second team
Feb 6, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; Former NFL player Len Dawson on the red carpet prior to the NFL Honors award ceremony at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. © Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

3. Len Dawson (19631975)

Before the hype of Patrick Mahomes, there was the illustrious career of Len Dawson. Dawson currently sits atop the list of QBs in Kansas City as the greatest QB in franchise history. Not only did Dawson win four championships during his career, but he was also an elite passer throughout his time with the team. He led the league in completion percentage eight times in of his 14 years with the Chiefs. He also led the league in touchdowns four times! This made him one of the most accurate players, and he was likely to score at any moment.

Dawson currently sits first overall in passing yardage for the franchise with 28,507 yards. The next QB on the list sits nearly 7,000 yards shy of that mark. He's also one of three Chiefs QBs to ever have a perfect passer rating in a game. Dawson led the Chiefs to two Super Bowls, winning one and earning MVP honors in that game. He was elected to seven Pro Bowls and was a two-time First-Team All-Pro. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.


  • Chiefs franchise passing leader with 28,507 yards
  • Chiefs franchise passing touchdowns leader with 237 touchdowns
  • Chiefs QB franchise wins leader with 93 wins
  • 7x Pro Bowler
  • 2x First-Team All-Pro
  • 3x AFL Champion
  • 1x Super Bowl Champion
  • 1x Super Bowl MVP
  • Hall of Fame class of 1987
Aug 3, 2019; Canton, OH, USA; Tony Gonzalez poses with bust during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2. Tony Gonzalez (19972008)

Tony Gonzalez isn't just the greatest tight end in Chiefs' historyhe's the greatest tight end in NFL history. Gonzalez came into the league in 1997, when he was drafted 13th overall. He didn't really break out until his third year, when he had 849 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. From that point on, Gonzalez revolutionized the tight end position.

Before Gonzalez, tight ends were typically utilized as extra blockers on the field, occasionally catching a ball when needed. He became one of the best receiving options in the NFL, with his size and speed creating matchups that other teams couldn't plan for; he was too fast for linebackers and too large for safeties or cornerbacks to cover. Gonzalez became a master receiver in the NFL, even leading the league in receptions in 2004 with 102 catches.

This combination of abilities, along with inventive coaching schemes that utilized his talents, led to him leading the franchise records in nearly every receiving category. Gonzalez leads the Chiefs' franchise in yardage with 10,940 yards, receiving touchdowns with 76, and receptions with 916 catches. The next closest receiver in Chiefs history is nearly 400 receptions behind Gonzalez's record.

Gonzalez finished his career with Atlanta, but while he was in Kansas City, he was a ten-time Pro Bowler and five-time First-Team All-Pro. He holds the all-time league record with the most yards and is second all-time in touchdowns for a tight end. He also stands sixth all-time in receiving yardage for any position. Gonzalez is also third all-time in receptions in NFL history, behind only Larry Fitzgerald and Jerry Rice.

Between his time with the Chiefs and Falcons, Gonzalez was selected to 14 Pro Bowls and was a six-time First-Team All-Pro. He was on the 1997 All-Rookie team. In 2019, Gonzalez was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-2000s Team. He changed the tight end position forever with his amazing career.


  • Chiefs franchise receiving yards leader with 10,940 yards
  • Chiefs franchise receiving touchdowns leader with 76
  • Chiefs franchise receptions leader with 916 catches
  • Third all-time in career receptions with 1,325 catches
  • Sixth all-time in career yardage with 15,127 yards
  • 1997 All-Rookie Team
  • 14x Pro Bowler
  • 6x First-Team All-Pro
  • Hall of Fame class of 2019
  • Hall of Fame 2000s All-Decade Team

1. Derrick Thomas (19891999)

Derrick Thomas was an outside linebacker who was drafted fourth overall in the 1989 NFL draft. He came into the league in dominating fashion, earning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. In his rookie season, Thomas had 75 tackles, ten sacks, three forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. The next season, he would have one of the greatest seasons for an outside linebacker, leading the league with 20 sacks and six forced fumbles, and setting the all-time record for sacks in a single game with seven.

Thomas went on to accumulate a team record of 126.5 sacks during his career. He also holds the team record for safeties with 3 and the record for forced fumbles with 41.

Thomas's life was sadly taken too soon when he died in a car accident in February of 2000. He was only 33 years old and still playing strong at the time. You can still find fans throughout Arrowhead Stadium who wear his jersey today. The team has retired his number, 58, and named their team MVP award after him. Thomas was a great example on the field and off, also earning the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 1993.

Thomas was elected to nine Pro Bowls and two First-Team All-Pros. He was the Defensive Rookie of the Year. In 2009, Thomas was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is a part of the Hall of Fame All-1990s Team. The memory of Derrick Thomas will live in Arrowhead forever.


  • Chiefs franchise leader in sacks with 126.5
  • Chiefs franchise leader in forced fumbles with 41
  • Chiefs franchise leader in safeties with three
  • NFL single-game sack record with seven
  • 9x Pro Bowler
  • 2x First-Team All-Pro
  • Defensive Rookie of the Year
  • 1993 Walter Payton Award Winner
  • Hall of Fame class of 2009
  • Hall of Fame 1990s All-Decade Team

Honorable Mentions

Will Shields (19932006)

Will Shields is arguably one of the greatest offensive linemen of all time. During his 14-year career, he never missed a game and only missed one start, the first game of his rookie year. He blocked for some of the best running backs in Chiefs history, including Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson, and Marcus Allen. During his career, he spent five seasons blocking for 1,000-yard rushers and four seasons blocking for 4,000-yard passers.

He is currently tied for the most Pro Bowls played in NFL history. Shields was selected to 12 straight Pro Bowls between 1995 and 2006, a Chiefs record. During his career, he blocked on seven teams that finished their seasons ranked top-10 in offensive yardage. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015 and is a member of the 2000's All-Decade second team.

Shields was an ironman who could be counted on to be on the field no matter what. His exemplary skill led to the offensive efficiency of many teams and directly impacted great running backs that probably wouldn't have made it on this list without him. Shields played for years, often through pain and likely more than a few injuries. As a lineman, his skill and talent benefitted many other players because he spent his career protecting quarterbacks and blocking for running backs. Shields is the greatest lineman in Chiefs' history and therefore makes the list as an honorable mention.


  • 12x Pro Bowler
  • 2x First-Team All-Pro
  • 2003 Walter Payton Man of the Year
  • Hall of Fame 2000s All-Decade second team

Abner Haynes (19601964)

Abner Haynes was an elite-level running back who began his career as a Dallas Texan before the team became the Kansas City Chiefs. During his time with the two teams, he amassed 3,814 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns in five years. He also had 2,739 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns during that time. By today's standards, that total may seem average, but Haynes led the league in rushing yardage one of those years, and led the league in touchdowns three times!

Haynes was a versatile back who dominated the league early in his career. He won the rookie of the year award and the AFL player of the year award in 1960. During his career, he was selected to three Pro Bowls and was a two-time First-Team All-Pro selection. Haynes still holds multiple Chiefs records to this day, including being tied for the most touchdowns in a single game with five. He is also fourth all-time in franchise history for all-purpose yards with 8,477.


  • 3x Pro Bowler
  • 2x First-Team All-Pro
  • 1960 AFL Player of the Year
  • 1962 AFL Champion

Jamaal Charles (20082016)

Jamaal Charles was one of the most prolific running backs in Chiefs history. He played for the Chiefs for nine years, averaging 5.5 yards per carry over that time. Charles currently sits atop the Chiefs' franchise list for rushing yards with 7,260 yards. He's also fourth in franchise history with 43 rushing touchdowns.

Charles was a real-life video game, rushing for unimaginably long runs and catching multiple balls a game. Charles had incredible speed and could make a play at any time on the field. During his career, he averaged 5.4 yards per carry, which is the highest in the modern era of football for running backs, even ahead of greats like Jim Brown and Barry Sanders. Charles was a four-time Pro Bowler and a two-time First-Team All-Pro.


  • 4x Pro Bowler
  • 2x First-Team All-Pro
  • 2013 NFL rushing and receiving touchdowns leader (19)
Comments (1)
No. 1-1

I was surprised that Tony wasn’t number one, but it’s hard to argue against the long term success of Derrick Thomas. As for the article, precise, detailed, consistently entertaining, and passionate from a sports fan’s perspective. This guy writes thought-provoking pieces, and digs hard to settle the debates once and for all that sports fan legions have argued over

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