The San Francisco 49ers had themselves a draft in 2017 and it’s safe to say the first year of production was a success. Now we look to year two to see what members of that draft class can really separate themselves from the rest of the NFL.
One of those positions the team would love to have with that separation is the tight end position. I’ve read some comments on the site where some think the position needs some upgrading, and some jumping up and down when Rob Gronkowski may have become available (which never happened). Personally, I felt George Kittle and Garrett Celek showed enough potential in 2017 that it’s worth seeing the tandem together. The lack of depth behind them concerned me, but I didn’t think it was worth stunting Kittle’s development or putting Celek on the bench to get Gronk.
Kittle in particular showed enough is rookie season that he could really emerge as a valuable tight end in the NFL. Apparently ESPN agrees because Kittle made it in as one of the six tight ends under age 25 poised to be a star. Here’s what Nick Wagoner said about Kittle in his write up for the list:
Assets: Despite entering the league as a fifth-round pick, Kittle made an instant impact in his rookie season. He finished with 43 receptions for 515 yards and two touchdowns after winning a starting job right away. Kittle’s ability as a pass-catcher and a blocker means he will have no shortage of opportunities in coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense and, with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, Kittle will have a better, more accurate passer throwing him the ball.
Obstacles: The biggest issue Kittle faced as a rookie and will face moving forward is injuries. At various points last season, Kittle dealt with hip, ankle, chest, elbow, back and leg injuries. Some were more serious than others and he missed only one game, but those ailments contributed to his fluctuating usage in the offense. Kittle also struggled with drops, (his five were tied for 13th-most in the league), and though his hands became more consistent as the season went along, he’ll need to maintain that consistency to reach his potential. --
Kittle played a crazy amount of snaps in 2017 (77 percent) to open things, but his on-field presence diminished as the season wore on in the final nine games. This is partly due to the emergence of ‘Celek Time,’ and also to the aforementioned injuries listed above. The one thing we know is Kittle is crazy tough and will work through injury like the best of them.
If he can stay healthy, do you see Kittle emerging as a star tight end in 2018?