Pro Football Focus is in the process of releasing their 2019 Top 101 player rankings, and San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle’s monster year has shot him from off the rankings in 2018 to near the top of the rankings this year. PFF ranked him No. 13 overall, marking the highest ranking of a 49ers player since Patrick Willis was No. 10 back in 2012.
It’s not surprising he showed up so high given the kind of year he put together. He set an NFL record for tight end receiving yards with 1,377. He also set a 49ers franchise record for tight end receptions with 88. He averaged 15.6 yards per reception, which ranked No. 13 among ALL pass catchers.
ESPN ranked him No. 2 with 784 yards after the catch, while PFF had him No. 1 with 873 yards after the catch. There is some crazy context to PFF’s number.
No player in the PFF era has ever racked up more yards after the catch in a single season than Kittle did in 2018. Not just tight ends – everyone. His 873 yards after the catch were also 200 more than we’ve ever seen from a tight end before. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider that his targets came from backup quarterbacks all season.
Kittle brings incredible tools as a tight end, which accounts for some of his dominance. But Kyle Shanahan’s play-design and play-calling are also important factors. One requires the other, but Shanahan took advantage of Kittle’s skills and helped put him in a position to succeed. One requires the other, and both deserve a ton of credit.
The sky’s the limit for Kittle, and he will be looking for ways to improve his craft this offseason. He is working with newly minted Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez in the coming months before the offseason workout program to further his craft. Combine that with a hopefully healthy Jimmy Garoppolo and maybe some more weapons to draw away defenders, and 2019 could be an even bigger year for Kittle.