The 2017 NFL draft featured a fairly deep tight end class, and the San Francisco 49ers let it come to them to a certain extent. The team selected Iowa’s George Kittle in the fifth round, and amidst their attempt to trade Vance McDonald, the team is clearly looking to make some changes at the position.
Earlier this week, Pro Football Focus released their list of ten mid-round draft picks that could prove to be gems from this class. Kittle showed up fourth on the list, and was one of only two offensive skill position players. Here’s what the article had to say about him:
One of the better all-around tight ends in the draft, Kittle is a shifty route runner and a solid run blocker, and his ability to block on the move could make him a do-everything option for the 49ers. Expect Kittle to compete for snaps as a “move” tight end, but he can also contribute as a traditional fullback in new head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Kittle was the No. 5 tight end on our final draft board, and the 49ers are hoping to get production similar to his 2015 season, when his 82.3 overall grade was fifth in the nation, despite playing only 383 snaps.
Kittle is viewed by most as a potential “move” tight end, which sometimes is referred to as the “Joker” role. Old friend Danny Kelly put together a detailed breakdown of the role leading up to the 2013 NFL draft.
It is an interesting label because in the past, that kind of role was viewed as primarily a pass catcher. Kittle can do a little bit of everything, but is viewed as a strong blocker. His NFL.com profile talked about in an h-back role, which is often viewed more as a mix of tight end and fullback. The Joker tight end is often viewed as a mix of tight end and wide receiver.
It will be interesting to see just how the 49ers plan on mixing Kittle into their offensive framework. They’ve got Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, and Blake Bell carrying over from the last front office. They added Logan Paulsen in free agency, and now have Kittle. Of course, the addition of Kyle Juszczyk as an “offensive weapon” will also be something to watch in how all this plays out. The upside to creativity!