Niners Live is back with the second installment of our Developmental Stage and this time our star attraction is none other than tight end George “Mr. Smash Mouth” Kittle.
Who is George Kittle?
Proclaimed as the best overall tight end in college football in 2015, the 6’4 and 247 lbs. Kittle was selected in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL draft with the 146th overall pick out of Iowa. During his career, he amassed 48 receptions for 737 yards, and 10 touchdowns to go along with 15.4 average yards per catch. In his final season at Iowa, he was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick even while being hindered by a foot injury in the second half of the season, not to mention he also impressed at the scouting combine posting a 4.52 40-yard dash time.
Versatility, Value and a Winning Attitude
It was clear that after the 49ers tried and failed to trade TE Vance McDonald during the draft, that they had already found his replacement. “Kittle was a player that we grew to really like and particularly where he was, he was a guy that we wanted to get,” General Manager John Lynch said. “We thought it was a tremendous value.” Kittle not only had a high grade in run blocking, he allowed only one quarterback pressure over his final two seasons at Iowa.
He not only brings great speed and impressive blocking to the table, he also possesses the invaluable attitude of being a team player. “If [Iowa] wanted me to run two routes a game and block for the rest of them, that’s what I did,” Kittle said. “You know, I put my team before anything that I wanted to do. So I’m a person that could care less about stats. I just care about winning games.”
Recapping his rookie Deal: The 49ers signed Kittle to a four-year deal worth $2.4 million with a base salary of $465,000 guaranteed for 2017.
During mini-camp Kittle saw extended action with the first team and, as of now, has to be the early favorite for the regular season starter. Per Matt Maiocco, Kittle asserted himself as the team’s top rookie and set himself up to compete for the starting job in training camp.
Although it is still early in the offseason, John Lynch says Kittle has already performed beyond the team’s expectations since they drafted him in April, and even went as far as to single him out on a recent podcast as someone who stood out during spring workouts.
Setting himself apart from the competition
As far as the competition goes, Blake Bell remains a mystery of some sort and Vance McDonald certainly has the ability to be a big-play waiting to happen as discussed by Niners Live shortly after the 2016 season, but is losing ground to Kittle as the season draws closer. Veteran Logan Paulsen will most likely serve as a mentor to the young and upcoming talent, while Garrett Celek could very well not even make the 53-man roster and find himself on the outside looking in especially if UDFA Cole Hikutini looks to fit the part.
The rest of the offseason will surely tell the story. Between the upcoming training camp and pre-season, we’ll see who steps up to the plate to challenge Kittle for the throne. For now, it appears that the Rookie, because of his all-around versatility, is proving to be the standout of the group and if he continues to impress, he indeed, as Niners Live predicted, will start in 2017. STAY TUNED!!!
Niners Live side note: We recently discussed; Developmental Stage featuring QB C. J. Beathard.
Please join us again soon on Niners Live, the home of the faithful fan and analyst from an objective/analytical lens, of course.
As always, keep your eyes wide open, 49er fans. Niners Live will be watching with you. #eyeswideopen and often imitated but never duplicated… Go Niners
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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, Irvin Johnson Staff Writer at Niners Live. Co-Author, Editor Niners Live.