George Kittle set for another big season heading into last year of rookie deal

After being drafted in 2017, the tight end has broken an NFL record and made two Pro Bowls.


The Daily Iowan

Iowa tight end George Kittle holds up the ball after scoring a touchdown during the Iowa-Nebraska game at Memorial Stadium on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. Kittle scored the first touchdown of the game. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers, 28-20, to finish off a perfect regular season.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

The Iowa football program is sometimes referred to as “Tight End U” due to its tradition of producing professional players at that position.

From 2012-16, the Hawkeyes had tight end George Kittle, who is now breaking records in the NFL. After amassing 737 yards and 10 TDs in the Black and Gold, he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Since moving to the west coast, Kittle has found success, including making the Super Bowl last season. With that, here’s a year-to-year breakdown of what he’s done in the NFL.

2017 season

As a fifth-round pick, the former Hawkeye had to work his way up. Kittle earned the starting tight end position at the start of the season despite competition from five other tight ends

Under first-year head coach Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers got off to a 0-9 start. In his first three games, Kittle caught eight passes for 48 yards.

Though the 49ers did lose all their games in October, Kittle picked it up and amassed just over 200 yards and caught his first NFL TD pass on Oct. 8 against the Indianapolis Colts.

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It’s probably not a coincidence that he did improve in October, because in the middle of the month, former Hawkeye quarterback C.J. Beathard took over the starting job for the 49ers. Beathard was drafted in the third round of that year and was the Hawkeyes’ starter the previous two seasons.

After missing the 49ers first win of the season in week nine, Kittle returned to the field and had a nice December. The 49ers won all their games that month and Kittle caught 15 passes for 224 yards.

2018 season

With Jimmy Garoppolo, Beathard, and Nick Mullins all starting quarterbacks for the 49ers that season, it’s reasonable to believe that Kittle could have fallen into a sophomore slump.

The exact opposite happened.

Kittle scored at least one TD and caught at least 239 yards in every month. With Mullins under center for every game in December, Kittle caught for 554 yards and two TDs. In the last game of the season, Kittle broke the NFL record for most receiving yards by a tight end in a single season, finishing with 1,377. He was named to the Pro Bowl.

2019 season

It wasn’t as explosive as the 2018 season for Kittle, partly because he missed two games due to injuries. Still, he had a nice season with five TDs and 1,053 yards with Garoppolo starting.

His best months were October and December, where he had over 375 yards receiving and two TDs in both of them. He made the Pro Bowl for the second time.

After the first four weeks of the season, Pro Football Focus gave him the highest grade in the NFL, beating out Khalil Mack, Drew Brees, and Calais Campbell.

The playoffs were a disappointment statistically for Kittle, as he had 71 yards combined in three games, though that was probably because the 49ers relied more on their rushing attack in those games.

The future

The 2020 season will be Kittle’s last under his rookie contract. If he continues to be successful, Kittle should be one of the highest paid tight ends in league history. The only questions is if that contract will come from the 49ers.