Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

George Kittleā€™s rookie stats with 49ers impressive when compared to high-profile NFL tight ends

Jul 3, 2018 at 10:11 AM--

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle had 43 receptions for 515 yards with two touchdowns during his rookie NFL campaign last year. With Jimmy Garoppolo as his quarterback, he had a breakout Week 17 performance against the Los Angeles Rams, registering four catches for 100 yards. Kittle had three games with 50-or-more reception yards. Two of those games came in the final three weeks of the season.

Kittle put up those numbers despite an injury-plagued season. He had to deal with hamstring, calf, hip, chest, back, elbow, and ankle injuries as a rookie. The high-ankle injury was his most restricting during the season because it prevented him from properly planting his foot.

"We always knew he was hurting, but for him to get away, clean his body up, get healthy, to come back and just watch how he moves right now, it just shows us how banged up he was," said head coach Kyle Shanahan last month.

Kittle spent much of the offseason building muscle mass and looks forward to entering the 2018 season completely healthy and, hopefully, staying that way.

"I had ups and downs, obviously, throughout the season," Kittle said last month. "I think it's something that you just get used to yearly. It's also a lot different coming in as a rookie ... You're training the whole offseason. You don't really have any time off for your body to recover. I think that kind of led to it. I definitely wasn't feeling as good as I do now than I did last year. Feeling really good now, so I'm just really looking forward to being on the field healthy."

Tight ends coach Jon Embree believes a healthy Kittle can be a dangerous weapon on the football field this season for Garoppolo to utilize.

"His thing is staying healthy, as it is with a lot of players," Embree said. "I think if he's able to do that, everyone's going to be pleased what he brings to the table for us."

What was impressive about Kittle's injury-plagued rookie campaign was how it compares to the rookie seasons of some high-profile NFL tight ends. Below is a look at a handful of those names and where Kittle's statistics rank among them.

Name Year Team Rec Yds TD
Rob Gronkowski 2010 NE 42 546 10
George Kittle 2017 SF 43 515 2
Jordan Reed 2013 WAS 45 499 3
Zach Ertz 2013 PHI 36 469 4
Greg Olsen 2007 CHI 39 391 2
Antonio Gates 2003 SD 24 389 2
Jimmy Graham 2010 NO 31 356 5
Vernon Davis 2006 SF 20 265 3

Because of his 2017 performance, Kittle's name has become a popular answer when attempting to identify a potential breakout player for the 49ers this year.

"Kittle could wind up being one of those 800-yard candidates this season, particularly if you subscribe to the notion that players make their biggest leaps between years one and two," wrote our own Peter Penacy.

"Fifteen of those (43) catches, for 224 yards and one touchdown, came in the final five games when the offense was starting to click," shared our own Vincent M. Wu. "He's already on the path to showing what he can do."

The healthy Kittle and the rest of his teammates will report to training camp on July 25.

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