From the beginning of training camp, Niners Live predicted that George Kittle would win the starting tight end job. We show you why he has the makings of being the best 49er Tight End since Vernon Davis and has even more to offer.
Up Close and Personal
When the San Francisco 49ers drafted George Kittle in the 5th round, the immediate assumption was he would help the development of his college teammate C. J. Beathard and do nothing more than that. Kittle, however, made skeptics take notice from the very beginning at the NFL combine with an impressive workout that featured an eye-popping 4.52 40-yard dash and broad jump of 11 feet and a 35-inch vertical jump (all seen in this video). Throughout the rookie minicamp and the preseason he has done nothing short of lighting up the field. So much so that the organization made the decision to trade Vance McDonald to the Pittsburgh Steelers and cut Blake Bell, making Kittle the starting tight end. So how did Kittle stand out from the rest of the tight ends during the preseason? It was because he excelled in all four areas: power, speed, hands and blocking ability.
His Speed and Power is authentic
It’s one thing to have an impressive time in the 40-yard dash, but how that translates into a game is what makes a tight end stand out in the NFL. Kittle stands 6’4” 247 lbs., which makes him a matchup problem for linebackers and safeties everywhere. He is able to create separation, whether it’s man-to-man or disguised coverage where many tight ends benefit from play action. The speed and power of George Kittle was on full display against the Denver Broncos in this video of his 29-yard touchdown reception.
Blocking is an Art he relishes
Coming from a Big-10 school like the University of Iowa where the power running game is like a second religion, it’s essential for any tight end to be successful at blocking. This is what separated Kittle even more from McDonald and Bell in training camp. As this video shows, Kittle had absolutely no problem blowing up the hole, allowing the running back a lane for the touchdown. It also makes Kittle different from former 49er and current Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis, because he actually relishes contact, whereas Davis tried his best to avoid it. It’s funny how Kittle is wearing the number Davis wore during his tenure with the 49ers.
His Hands are as good as advertised
His junior year at Iowa was his breakout season, where he had 48 catches for 737 yards and 10 touchdowns. His senior stats fell off because of the injuries to Beathard, which caused the Hawkeyes to abandon the passing game. Kittle still led the team with six touchdown receptions. During training camp, Kittle continued to display that he has the ability to make tough catches, which wasn’t always the case with McDonald or Bell. In this video, he was able to get separation from Reuben Foster and make a diving catch on a Brian Hoyer thrown ball.
The Bottom Line Is
George Kittle displayed the skills and the attitude to earn the starting tight end position. While some in the press believe the 49ers traded away their best player to the Pittsburgh Steelers; Vance McDonald wasn’t even the best at his position on the San Francisco 49ers. Having a tight end who can excel at all facets of the game is rare in today’s NFL. General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan believe that Kittle is a game changer, and the 49ers may want to hold off on retiring the number 85 for the foreseeable future.
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author and new Staff Writer @NinersLive.net, David Edmondson. Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims