Pro Football Focus recently put together their ranking of the top ten tight ends heading into the 2018 NFL season, and a familiar face made an appearance. George Kittle showed up at No. 10 just behind Chicago Bears tight end Trey Burton. PFF had this to say about Kittle:
Another player that has flashed big-time potential, Kittle now has a quarterback to take advantage of his skill set in Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers rookie caught 43 of the 61 passes thrown his way last year (70.5 percent), and broke eight tackles with the ball in his hands, averaging 6.2 yards per reception after the ball ended up in his hands. He has speed to burn and the potential to vault himself up this list.
Kittle was active for all but one game last season, but various injuries slowed him down at times. He finished the season with the most snaps at tight end, but Garrett Celek rotated with him at times.
In spite of that, Kittle finished the season strong when Jimmy Garoppolo took over a starting quarterback. This was a particularly interesting nugget about his success with Garoppolo:
Just a sample of what you can expect from my Tiers column...— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) July 25, 2018
George Kittle's 11.78 yards per target in Jimmy Garoppolo's five starts is the best clip for any rookie TE since target-tracking began (in 1992).
There are a lot of mouths to feed in the 49ers offense, but if Kittle can stay healthy, he could find himself in the mix. Looking at the 49ers current crop of pass catchers, the top in terms of receptions will likely include some combination of Pierre Garçon, Jerick McKinnon, and Marquise Goodwin. After that, Kittle will be competing with Trent Taylor and others for opportunities. If I were to make a prediction, I could see the reception leaderboard ending up something like Garçon, McKinnon, Kittle, Goodwin, Taylor in that order.