Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

PFF identifies George Kittle as the 49ers’ best draft decision in the past 5 years

Mar 4, 2021 at 5:59 AM--

Last month, Pro Football Focus identified defensive tackle Solomon Thomas as the San Francisco 49ers' biggest draft mistake over the past five years. It obviously hasn't been all bad in the eyes of the analytics site, though. Analyst Michael Renner just identified the best draft decision for each NFL team in the past five years and selected tight end George Kittle for the Niners.

"This is a pick that's so much of an outlier it has to earn this distinction," wrote Renner. "With 4.52 speed and an 11-foot broad jump, Kittle really should never have gotten to Pick 146 in the first place. That's the type of explosiveness it takes to be a difference-maker at the position."

Renner isn't the only one who was surprised to see the Iowa product fall to the fifth round.

"Kittle was a player, as I indicated, that we grew to really like and particularly where he was, he was a guy that we wanted to get," general manager John Lynch said shortly after making the selection in 2017. "We thought it was a tremendous value."

Kittle went on to post back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2018 and 2019, being named to Pro Bowls in each of those seasons and earning first-team All-Pro honors in 2019. He has recorded 264 receptions for 3,579 yards and 14 touchdowns in his four NFL seasons.

San Francisco signed Kittle to a five-year, $75 million extension last offseason, making him the highest-paid tight end in the league. Kittle missed eight games due to injuries last season but still hauled in 48 passes for 634 yards and two touchdowns, including a 15-catch, 183-yard, and one-touchdown performance during a Week 4 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Aside from being more available in 2021, Kittle recently identified other areas where he would like to improve.

"I would like to get better at the longer-distanced routes, some longer-distanced third-down stuff, just getting open in man coverage," Kittle said last month. "I think there's definitely plays that I could have made this year that I didn't make. So, just being able to finish those plays. And that's just confidence in yourself, how you talk to yourself, so I'm not too worried about that. But it just gives me something to work on, just consistency."

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