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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen A. Smith tried to convince co-hosts that George Kittle isn’t the best tight end in football

Aug 12, 2020 at 10:30 AM--

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle is widely considered to be the best tight end in football. He is likely to become the game's highest-paid tight end soon.

Kittle was the top-ranked tight end in the NFL Top 100 Players of 2020. He wasn't just the highest-graded tight end last season by Pro Football Focus; he was the analytics site's highest-graded NFL player, period. Who owns the NFL's single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end? That would be Kittle.

None of that mattered to ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith. He diligently argued — unsuccessfully — this week to convince his co-host Max Kellerman and guest-host Booger McFarland that Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs, not Kittle, is the NFL's best tight end.

"He's had about four or five (it's four) consecutive 1,000-plus-yard seasons," Smith said of Kelce. "He's good for at least 85 receptions a season. I think last year he had about 97 for twelve-hundred (yards) and change. Travis Kelce's the real deal as far as I'm concerned."

Smith goes on to note that Kittle deserves a lot of credit for his blocking.

"But outside of that, I don't see anything that he's bringing to the table that Travis Kelce can't bring or hasn't brought over the last several years," Smith continued, "and there's something to say about your resume. I think Travis Kelce is that dude. I think he's the best tight end in football.

"Kittle's right there with him. Please don't get me wrong ... but I also think, if you're San Francisco, you've had to rely upon him a lot more as well because you were bereft of weapons at the wideout spot until, really, Deebo Samuel came on the scene last year."

Kellerman's response?

"You're wrong," he said as McFarland laughed.

Kellerman notes that Kittle averages more catches, yards, and yards per catch than Kelce. Only that last one is accurate over the last two seasons, though. Then you have his ability to make things happen — forcibly, if necessary — once he has the ball in his hands.

"Kittle's specialness, even there, as much as he can catch it is the way he runs it, the way he refuses to go down, which is inspirational to watch," Kellerman explained.

And it is Kittle's skill as a run-blocker that separates the 49ers tight end from Kelce.

"Kelce is a great tight end, but I don't think there's really a debate right now," Kellerman added. "The number one guy in the business is Kittle."

McFarland notes that each tight end is perfect for the system in which he plays, praising Kelce's route-running and Kittle's blocking. In the end, he went with Kittle as his "total package" tight end.

"I think the spot that puts George Kittle over the top is when he gets the ball in his hands," McFarland said while reminding Smith of the play against New Orleans that saw Kittle dragging Saints defenders downfield with him.

Smith didn't want to hear it, arguing that Kelce's lengthier resume makes him the clear top choice. He also didn't waste an opportunity to throw shade on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo once again.

You can watch the entire heated debate below.

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