Who Is George Kittle, and Should We Actually Care?
It is fair to say that 49ers general manager John Lynch is developing something of a wheeler dealer reputation during his first few months on the job.
Few will forget how he secured extra picks to drop down a spot in the first round of the 2017 draft, all while still ending up with the player they probably would have taken anyway. He enhanced this reputation earlier this week when he sent tight end Vance McDonald, a recipient of a quite ludicrous contract from the last regime, on his way to the Steelers for a fifth-round pick. This does leave the 49ers TE corps somewhat lacking in experience. But it should mean early exposure to NFL waters for rookie George Kittle. Who is George Kittle, you may find yourself asking. Well, let me introduce you.
The 49ers spent a fifth-round pick on George Kittle out of Iowa in this year’s draft, the 146th overall selection. He only became a regular with the Hawkeyes in his last two seasons, in which he secured 42 of his 48 career receptions, 604 of his 737 receiving yards, and all 10 of his career touchdowns. He finished the 2016 season with 22 receptions for 314 yards and four scores. Invited to the NFL combine, he posted the third fastest forty-yard-dash time among TEs at 4.52 seconds. Only five prospects surpassed his 35-inches on the vertical. If we look at Kevin Cole’s NFL combine drills that really matter for TEs, we can see that these two marks are very much in favor, but Kittle’s poor showing of just 18 bench reps seriously dings him.
In his seminal work on this year’s TE class, Phil Watkins was not too sanguine on Kittles chances of emerging as a viable long term starter in the NFL, as you can see below.
However, according to Player Profiler, Kittle’s closest comparison is Dustin Keller. Keller enjoyed a productive run with the Jets from 2008-2012. He was the TE12 over this span with 631.3 PPR points.
New 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has made use of the TEs in his offenses in Houston, Washington, Cleveland, and Atlanta. The TE1 in these offenses drew an average of 12 percent of total team targets. As the table below shows, he has coaxed production out of a disparate group of players.
Of course, we must always remember that, even with an enviable opportunity share, George Kittle is still only a rookie. Since the year 2000, only seven rookie TEs have amassed more than 500 yards, while only two have exceeded seven TDs.1
Despite “only” having to compete with the likes of Garrett Celek, Jeremy Kerley, and Trent Taylor for targets behind Pierre Garcon, the learning curve in that first season has held back far more promising players than Kittle. He may pop up in your optimal lineup in best ball leagues from time to time, but in terms of pure fantasy, Kittle is just an intriguing dynasty stash in deep leagues at present. But certainly, a name to remember.
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- Although one of those rookies to pass 500 yards was the aforementioned Dustin Keller. (back)