The entire team was a bright spot last Sunday after defeating the Denver Broncos, but nobody shined brighter than second year tight end George Kittle. Against the Broncos, he was targeted nine times with seven receptions for 210 yards and a touchdown. For the season, Kittle has 69 receptions for 1103 yards and 4 touchdowns, averaging almost 16 yards per reception. Those are wide receiver type numbers and not what you’d expect from an ordinary tight end, but Kittle is not ordinary.
Kittle’s ascension this season may come as a surprise to some, but for 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan, the only thing to surprise him was where he was selected. Shanahan said as much during a presser earlier in the season when he was asked how good Kittle is right now…
“I think Kittle’s very good. I think he’s been good since he got here. He was a guy we were very surprised on that he fell to us in the draft. I thought he was one of our best players last year going into the season. He got banged up early on, as I’ve talked about. He made it through and kept playing, but he wasn’t moving the same way he started out. He got healthy towards the end of the year to where I think more people saw his ability. Then he’s been healthy this year, so I think it’s been easier for him to show it”.
The 49ers selected Kittle in the fifth round (146th overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft. On May 4, 2017 they signed him to a four-year, $2.69 million contract that includes a signing bonus of $298,287.
A lot of self proclaimed draft experts in the media have been tough on the 49ers for their recent draft selections, especially in the 2017 draft. Solomon Thomas, who was selected third overall that year has been slow to find his niche and the catastrophe that was Reuben Foster (selected 31st overall) has been well documented.
However bad those selections may or may not have been, having a player of Kittle’s caliber fall to the 49ers in the 5th round shows how much a crap shoot the NFL Draft really is. But give Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch credit for doing their homework on Kittle. This week, longtime KNBR reporter Kevin Jones mentioned on the-kevin-jones-podcast that if the 2017 NFL Draft was redone, Kittle would have been a top 10 selection. With the way Kittle has been playing this season, it’s hard to argue otherwise.
Kittle has already broken just about every team record for a tight end this season and his numbers last Sunday against Denver were near historic. The young tight end only needed five more yards to eclipse Shannon Sharpe’s record of 214 yards in a single game. That’s very encouraging, but breaking records means nothing if you can’t win consistently. That is to say, surpassing all expectations isn’t enough, Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers will need to surround Kittle with more talent during the upcoming off-season if they want his production to carry over into the play-offs.
- ^”NFL George Kittle -ESPN”. ESPN.com. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
- ^Fann, Joe (April 29, 2017). “San Francisco 49ers Draft Iowa TE George Kittle”. 49ers.com. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
- ^”Spotrac.com: George Kittle contract”. Spotrac.com. Retrieved December 11, 2018.