Why the Slide?: George Kittle

By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Why the Slide?: George Kittle, TE, Iowa
By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Three years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. A year later, we started the Why Slide? series, and this year, it is back. Feel free to email me requests for “Why the Slide?” and “Why Undrafted?” at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely respond.

During the months prior to an NFL draft, there are always some lesser-known prospects who end up being hyped as steals. One of those players for the 2017 NFL Draft was Kittle. The senior made 22 receptions for 314 yards with four touchdowns in 2016. He also did a solid job as a blocker for the Hawkeyes. Kittle went on to put together a good combine workout, which further accentuated the hype around him. However in the 2017 NFL Draft, Kittle slid to the fifth round before being selected.

In speaking with team sources, Kittle slid to the middle portion of the third day of the 2017 NFL Draft because that is where teams were grading him out. A few teams said they had graded Kittle as a sixth-round pick. Thus, the media buzz that Kittle could be a third-round pick didn’t accurately reflect where teams were placing Kittle on their draft boards.

In my final 2017 NFL Mock Draft, I had the 49ers drafting Kittle at the end of the fourth round. San Francisco traded away that pick, but did end up drafting Kittle three picks later at the top of the fifth round. I heard from sources that Kittle was Kyle Shanahan’s kind of tight end, and it made a lot of sense as the 49ers needed some depth at the position. Shanahan likes to use double-tight end sets, and Kittle has the versatility to contribute as a blocker and a receiver. Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek had modest production last year, but obviously played with bad quarterbacks. Kittle should rotate with those two as a trio, and before long, Kittle could be one of the top-two tight ends for San Francisco. Rebuilding teams with new coaching staffs and front office typically favor the players they drafted over holdovers they inherited, too, so Kittle landed in a good situation to carve out a NFL career with the 49ers.

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