Kansas City Chiefs: The Top 25 Chiefs of All Time
While the Kansas City Chiefs may not be the franchise with the most Super Bowl victories or the most wins in history, it is not because of a lack of talent.
The Chiefs have had 11 players that have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame cross through their clubhouse. Some of the best players in league history have been in Kansas City and endeared themselves to Chiefs fans.
While it is not easy to narrow these players down to just the 25 best, I have attempted to do that here. You can argue their placement or the lack of other players on the list, but no once can argue the accomplishments these players made during their time in those red jerseys.
25. Larry Johnson, Running Back
While the troubled running back had a tumultuous and difficult time in Kansas City, Larry Johnson’s production cannot be argued with.
In just over six seasons, Johnson ran for over 6,000 yards, placing him second all time in franchise history. 2005 and 2006 would prove him to be a powerful force with Johnson scoring 37 touchdowns in those two seasons.
While his departure would be less than pleasant for both parties, Johnson has clearly earned his spot as one of the best Chiefs of all time.
24. Brian Waters, Guard
Since being drafted in 2000, Brian Waters has been a dominant guard in the NFL.
Waters has helped three Chiefs running backs achieve 1,000 yard seasons in his career. Waters is a five-time Pro Bowl selection and two time All-Pro. When Waters’ career is over, there is no doubt that he will be remembered as one of the best linemen in Chiefs history.
23. Fred Arbanas, Tight End
While Tony Gonzalez is the best known and greatest tight end in Kansas City history, Fred Arbanas was no slouch himself.
Drafted by the Dallas Texans in 1962, Arbanas was the best tight end in Chiefs’ history before Gonzalez, scoring 34 touchdowns and receiving 3,101 yards. These stats were enough to make him the all-AFL tight end six seasons in a row and put him on the AFL all-time team.
While Gonzalez has since destroyed all records set by Arbanas, he is remembered as one of the best tight ends the Chiefs ever had.
22. Nick Lowery, Kicker
After the performance of Jan Stenerud for 13 seasons, Kansas City was used to having a dominant kicker. When they signed Nick Lowery in 1980, a player who had been cut by the New England Patriots in 1978 and spent 1979 unemployed, several fans must have questioned the choice.
What the Chiefs got from Lowery was one of the best kickers of all time.
Being named All-Pro seven times, Lowery set the record for the most field goals all time, most 50-yard field goals, and most accurate kicker of all time. Lowery was inducted into the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 2009, making him the second kicker, after Stenerud, to be enshrined there.
21. Jack Rudnay, Center
Drafted in 1970, Jack Rudnay was one of the best centers in Chiefs’ history.
Rudnay played for Kansas City for 13 seasons, retiring after the 1982 season. In his time in Kansas City, he was named All-Pro four times. Rudnay proved his toughness by playing in 144 straight games for Kansas City. This kind of toughness and play made Rudnay known as one of the best centers of the 1970’s and put Rudnay in the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 1994.
20. Jim Tyrer, Offensive Tackle
Jim Tyrer teamed up with Ed Budde on one of the best offensive lines in NFL history.
Tyrer was six-time AFL All-Star and a two-time NFL Pro Bowler. His AFL success made him one of the best tackles in league history, putting him on the All-AFL team next to teammate Budde.
19. Trent Green, Quarterback
The Chiefs have not had many great quarterbacks in their time. While he may not be on the same level as hall of famer Len Dawson, Trent Green was one of the most successful to play for the Chiefs.
Green threw for over 4,000 yards three seasons in a row and for four seasons had a quarterback rating over 90. In his career with the Chiefs, Green threw for 21,459 yards and completed 61.9 percent of his passes, one of the best performances for any Chiefs quarterback. His career yardage and touchdowns puts him second behind Dawson, not a bad person to have to play second fiddle to.
18. Art Still, Defensive End
Drafted second overall in 1978, Art Still became an immediate factor on the Chiefs defense, starting at defensive end.
Still was twice named the Chiefs MVP, also being sent to four Pro Bowls. After 10 seasons with the Chiefs, Still had registered 72.5 sacks, ranking him third all-time for the Chiefs, as well as 922 tackles. Still was the major pass rusher for the Chiefs in the 1980’s, leading the team six times in sacks.
17. Deron Cherry, Safety
In 11 seasons with the Chiefs, Deron Cherry made his mark as one of the Chiefs best defensive backs in history.
Cherry was named to six Pro Bowls in the 1980’s, being put on the All-Pro team five times. By the end of his career, Cherry had registered 50 interceptions as well as six 100 tackle seasons. Cherry became only the 26th player in NFL history with 50 interceptions in his career and ranks third on the Chiefs all time list.
To further prove himself, Cherry was one of only two players who had been a Chief named to the 1980’s All-Decade team.
16. Jerry Mays, Defensive End/ Defensive Tackle
Jerry Mays joined the Dallas Texans in 1961 and quickly became one of the AFL’s best defensive tackles. After moving to Kansas City in 1963, Mays moved to defensive end, the spot where he would really make his mark.
Mays was a seven-time All-Star and served as a captain for the Chiefs’ two Super Bowl teams. After the 1970 season, Mays retired, marking then end of a great career. He was named to the all-time AFC team as the starting defensive end in 1970.
15. Ed Budde, Guard
Ed Budde was an explosive blocker in Kansas City for 14 years, the second longest tenure of any Chief.
Budde was named to the AFL All-Star team five times in his career and went to two Pro Bowls after the league merger. When the AFL ended, Budde was named to the all-time AFL second team, marking him as one of the best guards in AFL history. He has been named to the Chiefs Hall of Fame as well.
14. Albert Lewis, Cornerback
You know you are a good cornerback when one of the league’s greatest wide receivers says you are the toughest he faced, just as Jerry Rice said of Albert Lewis.
Over 11 seasons with the Chiefs, Lewis registered 38 interceptions. Showcasing his all around ability, Lewis also blocked 11 kicks in that period of time on special teams.
The NFL recognized his abilities, sending him to four Pro Bowls. In 2007, the Chiefs enshrined Lewis into their Hall of Fame.
13. Neil Smith, Defensive End
The Chiefs of the 1990’s are remembered for a dominate defense and Neil Smith was major part of that dominance.
Drafted in 1988, Smith really made his mark in 1992 when he tallied 14.5 sacks, only a half sack shy of team leader Derrick Thomas. He would lead the league with 15 sacks in 1993 and hit double digit sacks the next two seasons as well.
Smith finished his career in Kansas City with a staggering 85.5 sacks before winning two Super Bowls with the hated Denver Broncos. While this may have made him less popular in Kansas City, Chiefs fans forgave him, putting him in the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 2006.
12. Otis Taylor, Wide Receiver
Otis Taylor spent his entire 11 year career in Kansas City. In those 11 seasons, Taylor would set a team record for most receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, both later broken by Tony Gonzalez.
Named all-AFL in 1966 and all-pro in 1971 and 1972, Taylor teamed up with Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson to create a passing threat on one of the best football teams of all time, the 1969 Chiefs team. His receiving numbers still rank second in team history, making him one of the best receivers to play in Kansas City.
11. Johnny Robinson, Safety
Few players had an impact on a team’s game plan like Johnny Robinson.
Robinson joined the Dallas Texans in 1960 and stayed with the team through their move to Kansas City, retiring after the 1971 season. In that time, Robinson led the league in interceptions twice, posting 10 interceptions in 1966 and 1970. Over his career, Robinson had 57 interceptions. The nine time all star is by far the best safety in Chiefs history and part of the Hall of Fame's All-60’s team.
10. Will Shields, Guard
The Chiefs' offensive success from 1995 until 2006 can be partially attributed to the performance of Will Shields.
Shields is considered one of the best offensive linemen in NFL history and was the picture of consistency, playing in every game during his 14 year career. Shields holds the team record for most Pro Bowls, being selected to 12 of them and was selected to the 2000’s All-Decade team in 2010. When he becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2013, Shields will likely become yet another Chiefs player enshrined there.
9. Priest Holmes, Running Back
Arriving in Kansas City in 2001 after losing his starting spot on the Baltimore Ravens, Priest Holmes quickly became one of the most successful players in Chiefs history, rushing for 4,590 of his 8,172 career yards in just three seasons.
Despite being slowed down by injuries after 2003, Holmes was able to gain 8,447 yards rushing and receiving. Holmes also holds the record for most rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in a Chiefs uniform making him one of the most valuable free agent signings in NFL history.
8. Abner Haynes, Running Back
Abner Haynes played for the Dallas Texans/ Kansas City Chiefs for five seasons. In those five seasons, Haynes won the AFL rookie of the year as well as the MVP award in 1960. While his rushing yardage looks small by today's standards, his overall production could not be questioned with his 8,442 yards standing as a franchise record for many years. Haynes was one of the main scoring threats for the team, accumulating 43 touchdowns in three of those seasons.
7. Willie Lanier, Linebacker
Named to the NFL 75th anniversary team, hall of famer Willie Lanier was another in a long line of defensive stars for the Chiefs.
Lanier was one of the most aggressive players to play the game, actually having extra padding on the outside of his helmet to protect players he was tackling. Lanier intercepted 27 passes in his career as well as recovering 18 fumbles. He played in every Pro Bowl from 1968 until 1975. With Lanier, Bobby Bell and Jim Lynch, the Chiefs had a fearsome linebacker trio that made the Chiefs one of the most feared teams for opponents.
6. Emmitt Thomas, Cornerback
If you look at the history of the Kansas City Chiefs defensive backs, Emmitt Thomas stands out above all others. Thomas owns the club record for most career interceptions, racking up 58 in 13 seasons, nearly setting the single season record in 1974 with 12.
Thomas went to five Pro Bowls in his Hall of Fame career, eventually having his number 18 retired by the Chiefs.
5. Bobby Bell, Linebacker/Defensive End
Over his 12 seasons in Kansas City, Bobby Bell was the picture of toughness, starting every game during that span. Bell was named to the last six AFL All-Star teams and, after the AFL-NFL merger, the next three NFL Pro Bowls.
In his career, Bell had 40 sacks despite playing coverage more often then blitzing, also grabbing 26 interceptions, making him one of the few players in football history with 20 sacks and 20 interceptions in his career. Kansas City retired Bell’s number 78 and he is enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
4. Buck Buchanan, Defensive Tackle
While Buck Buchanan may not have as many extraordinary stats as some of his teammates, there is no denying that Buchanan was a force to be reckoned with on the field.
Buchanan was the first black player to be drafted No. 1 overall in professional football. He proved his value by becoming one of the most intimidating defensive linemen to ever play the game. Buchanan used his speed to force the quarterback to throw the ball. Often, Buchanan was able to break up plays before they were even able to get started like in 1967 when he batted down 16 passes from the defensive line.
The anchor in the 1969 defense, Buchanan’s number was retired by the Chiefs. After six All-Star games and two Pro Bowls, Buchanan was further cemented into football history with his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1990.
3. Len Dawson, Quarterback
Len Dawson is a Chiefs legend, leading Kansas City to its first and only Super Bowl championship in 1969. While Dawson’s stats seem paltry to some by today’s standards, in the '60s Dawson was one of the premier quarterbacks in the AFL, being named an AFL All-Star six times as well as a Pro Bowler in 1971. The 1962 AFL MVP had his number 16 retired by the Kansas City Chiefs and has been enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
2. Tony Gonzalez, Tight End
Tony Gonzalez is considered the best tight end in league history, currently holding the record for most receiving yards by a tight end. As a Chief, Gonzalez was selected to ten consecutive Pro Bowls.
While his career has continued elsewhere, Gonzalez left Kansas City with the franchise record in receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and yards from scrimmage. While he never won a Super Bowl in Kansas City, his accomplishments make him one of the greatest players in NFL history, not just Chiefs history.
1. Derrick Thomas, Linebacker
Drafted fourth overall in 1989, Derrick Thomas became a leader of the Chiefs’ dominant defense of the nineties. By the end of his shortened career, Thomas had set a team record for sacks, safeties, fumble recoveries and forced fumbles as well as record for most sacks in a game, registering seven in 1990. Thomas is one of only 22 players with more than 100 sacks, enough to put him into the Hall of Fame and make him a Chiefs legend.