Amid the few good stories for the San Francisco 49ers in 2018 has been second-year tight end George Kittle, who deserves an All-Pro selection after his efforts this year.
He should be an All-Pro.
For the 2-7 Niners halfway through 2018, Kittle has been one of the few feel-good stories head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co. can brag about. Kittle went from a relatively unknown commodity in a tight end-loaded 2017 NFL Draft class to arguably the best player at his position a year later.
And by this argument, worthy of the league’s top honors by position.
First, you can just look at the stats. His 692 receiving yards easily leads all 49ers pass catchers, and Kittle is on pace to record over 1,230 such yards on the season, which would set an all-time high for Niners tight ends.
Kittle isn’t the NFL leader among tight ends in yardage, as you can see by the chart below:
That honor goes to the Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce, and the Philadelphia Eagles’ Zach Ertz could easily surpass Kittle once he plays his ninth game of the year.
But All-Pro nods aren’t just based on stats alone. First, consider the fact Kittle has played with three different quarterbacks this season — Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard and now Nick Mullens. That alone makes Kittle’s numbers impressive.
Yet there’s an even bigger difference.
Check this out from Pro Football Focus, who listed Kittle as its midseason All-Pro for the position:
There has been no more complete tight end in the NFL this season than Kittle. Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz may have more yards, but neither hold a candle to Kittle as a blocker. The 49ers tight end is ranked fourth at the position in receiving and run blocking.
As long as that trajectory stays put, Kittle should wind up being an All-Pro after this season is finished.
It’s still amazing to think how Kittle fell all the way to Round 5 of last year’s draft. He didn’t exactly post the most gaudy numbers in college at Iowa, never posting more than 315 yards in any season.
Yet Iowa’s offense was relatively simple, not totally using tight ends as bona fide weapons. Despite the unique skill set that drew San Francisco to him, the fact every other team passed on him until late in the draft says something.
Now, 31 other teams are admitting the mistake. Well, maybe not Philly or Kansas City. Both those franchises can certainly appreciate an impact playmaker like Kittle.
At least Kelce does:
Kelce and Ertz will be competing with Kittle for those All-Pro honors, and either one of them could receive it over Kittle.
But that’s not saying either should get the nod.
At least according to 49ers fans everywhere.