The San Francisco 49ers are officially into the offseason following a 2018 season that did not meet expectations. This isn’t a position that exceeds expectations, this is a player that far exceeded expectations. Yeah, we could probably call this the “George Kittle stock report” and call it a day. Believe it or not there are other tight end and when you weigh them along with Kittle, it makes things a bit concerning.
Beyond Kittle, there’s Garrett Celek and then a in/out of players in the position. We’ll try to keep this to those on the roster to close the year.
George Kittle: Stock through the roof
There’s really nothing else to say about George Kittle that hasn’t been said over the last week. He has the NFL single-season record for most receiving yards by a tight end, a 49ers team record for most receptions by a tight end, and came within five yards for an NFL record of most yards by a tight end in a single game.
What the hell were scouts thinking letting him drop in the 2017 NFL Draft?
Kittle’s run blocking hasn’t been talked about, but it’s also been a highlight. His 74.9 run blocking grade from Pro Football Focus is third in the league. Kittle is the whole package and now a focal point of Kyle Shanahan’s offense. The 2017 draft may have disappointed some, but the argument to make is: “Yeah, but the 49ers got Kittle.”
Garrett Celek: Stock down
Celek Time...what happened? Celek Time in 2018 might have been broken. While he played in 15 games, he started in only one game for the year (as opposed to 13 in 2017), and got a quarter of his receptions from 2017 (33 receptions down to five).
Yes, we can argue that Kittle happened, but that is still not a great number given that Celek is coming one of his better seasons as a pro. The problem was, you can’t point the finger at Celek, because he wasn’t used much in the pass game. He was thrown to eight times. Perhaps a bit of Celek schemes can be used now that coverages are clamping down on Kittle, Celek has shown he’s capable as a pass catcher.
His run blocking hasn’t been bad, but serviceable. Maybe that’s the plan now. It is baffling they don’t run some misdirection with him given all the attention Kittle got. Then again, Kittle kept making plays so it may have not been needed.
Ross Dwelley: Stock down
I know what you’re thinking: “WHO?!” Dwelly was promoted from the team’s practice squad due to Cole Wick’s release after the latter dropped an easy touchdown pass in Week 5. After his promotion, Dwelley played in the remaining 11 games and notched two receptions for 14 yards as a rookie. If he were to make competition with Celek, he didn’t do much to separate himself. With 11 games and only two receptions, the 49ers may want to look further at the tight end position.
Overall position: Stock slightly up
Kittle’s monster presence adds so much to the tight end position, but there’s one problem: No Kittle could be a disaster. If Kittle were to be injured or sidelined, the 49ers don’t have anything that shows the position can keep going through a season. Celek has shown he can put together some great games, but the 49ers certainly didn’t show it in 2018. Some depth for the position could be useful.
I want to say the stock on this unit is up, but the tight end unit is not the George Kittle unit, no matter how dominant Kittle is.