George Kittle comes in at No. 7 on NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2020 list

Kittle is the highest-ranked tight end on this year’s list.


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.

Robert Read, Sports Editor

George Kittle has established himself as one of the top players in the NFL since being drafted in 2017, and his peers have noticed.

The former Hawkeye and current member of the San Francisco 49ers is No. 7 on the NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2020 list, which is voted on by the league’s current players. Kittle is the top-ranked tight end on the list.

This is Kittle’s second time on the list. He was ranked No. 29 last year.

After being drafted by the 49ers in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Kittle quickly exceeded expectations. Kittle was the team’s starting tight end as a rookie and finished with 515 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Then, he followed that up with one of the best seasons any tight end has ever had.

In 2018, Kittle broke the NFL’s single-season receiving yards record for a tight end, finishing with 1,377 yards on 88 receptions. He also hauled in five touchdowns and was named to his first Pro Bowl.

This past season, Kittle topped the 1,000-yard mark a second time, recording 85 catches for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns. With Kittle as the premier playmaker on offense, the 49ers went 13-3 in the 2019 regular season and appeared in Super Bowl LIV.

Kittle was named to another Pro Bowl following the regular season and earned his first career All-Pro nod.

“He can make all the plays,” Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Joe Schobert said on NFL Network. “He lines up at receiver, he runs receiver routes… He lines up in the backfield, ran a jet sweep. You don’t see too many tight ends running a jet sweep.”

“Once the ball is in his hands he’s like a running back,” Arizona Cardinals linebacker De’Vondre Campbell said on NFL Network. “And he’s faster than you think.”

Another aspect of Kittle’s game that has helped him become one of the best players in the league is his blocking ability.

Some players at the position are premier pass-catchers, but can’t be asked to carry much weight in the running game. San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan utilizes Kittle as one of the key blockers in his schemes.

“You’ve got to bring your lunch box with him,” Cincinnati Bengals safety Vonn Bell said on NFL Network. “Most players don’t [block] like him. He can really sustain a block on a defensive end, not just a chip block. He’ll actually get in there with the O-linemen, get his nose in there. That’s what separates him.”

“I love his play just because he wants to block,” New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said on NFL Network. “And it’s rare for a tight end to want to block.”

Kittle was at Iowa from 2012-16. He caught 48 passes for 737 yards and 10 touchdowns in his Hawkeye career. His six receiving touchdowns as a redshirt junior in 2015 were the most for an Iowa team that finished the regular season 12-0.

The 2020 season is the final year on Kittle’s rookie contract. Some reports indicate Kittle could become the highest-paid tight end in league history on his next contract.

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