Iowa TE George Kittle isn’t going to dazzle you with a 5 minute highlight reel that showcases him stretching the seem and Moss’ing safeties and corners alike. He also won’t catch your eye with gaudy production, securing only 48 catches for 737 yards and 10 TDs on his entire collegiate career. What will catch your eye, was his 94th percentile 4.52 40 yard dash at the combine and a blocking reel that is the best of any tight end in this draft.
Let’s bring some context to the lack of production for Kittle. It’s no secret Iowa is not known for having a dynamic passing game and they only average 150 yards through the air last year. Additionally, Kittle contributed to 10 of Iowa’s 34 passing touchdowns over the last two years, a sizable market share of 29% despite only being a starter for his last year. Compare that to arguably the best receiving threat in this draft, Miami TE David Njoku, who caught 9 of Miami’s 45 touchdowns over the last two years (20%) and the numbers can be somewhat forgiven.
I’m not calling Kittle a better receiving prospect than Njoku. I ran those numbers blind as was surprised by the result. Kittle has a lot of work to do in that part of his game, but the fact remains, he will see the field immediately with his polished, nasty run and pass blocking skill set that surpasses a good amount of the tackles in this draft.
Name: George Kittle
Size: 6’4″ 247
Class: SR (RS)
Comparison: Gary Barnidge (Cleveland Browns)
Draft Grade: Early 3rd Round
Combine: 40 Time – 4.52, Bench – 18 Reps, Vertical – 35″, Broad – 132″
Bottom of the screen, Kittle is a DOG pic.twitter.com/Yup6SYJ8uE
— Michael Kist (@MichaelJKist) March 22, 2017
Positives: Seek and destroy blocker. Latches on with good hand placement/leverage/length, rolls hips, and drives defenders with very good lower body strength. Uses athleticism to get angles when blocking on the move. Finishes with physicality and aggressive demeanor. Crafty when selling run action and waits for defender to commit before releasing. Soft, reliable hands; flashes one handed catches and has only one career drop. Very good speed to stretch seams. Works back to quarterback on scramble drills, showing his number. Surprisingly hard to bring down in space after the catch. Adept at pass blocking (allowed 1 pressure over last 2 years). Athletic bloodlines.
Negatives: Not many examples of high point catches. Lacks nuance as a route runner. Struggles to separate, especially on breaking routes at the top of his stem. Needs to use his size to box out more effectively. Ran limited route tree in a run heavy offense. Hasn’t flashed ability to sit in soft zones. Struggles vs. inside speed on outside zone plays. Will get caught leaning to far over his toes on blocks. Should add 10 pounds to frame to handle inline duties more effectively.
Outlook: Kittle will get drafted as a blocker first with the hopes of developing him into a solid receiving threat and eventual TE1. Will likely be used in 2 tight end sets for the power run game, as an H-back, and potentially as a fullback, which may be his best fit if he route running remains a long term concern. A player you want to love in regards to his upside but is a considerable projection if you’re looking for more than TE2 or FB1.