How do you improve on the most receiving yards by a tight end in NFL history? Turns out George Kittle already knows how. Heading into his third season as a pro, Kittle said Kyle Shanahan offered a suggestion. And don't forget that during his nine seasons as a coordinator, Shanahan coached three tight ends -- Houston's Owen Daniels, Washington's Chris Cooley and Cleveland's Jordan Cameron -- who went to at least one Pro Bowl. "Coach Shanahan said that out of all the tight ends he's ever had, I do a lot of things really, really well," Kittle told the San Francisco Chronicle. "But I'm still third [among that group] in route running. So, that's one of the challenges he gave to me. And that's certainly one thing I'll focus on this offseason." Kittle already demonstrated in his second season he has a chance to be special. In fact, as Pro Football Focus pointed out, no player in the PFF era has ever racked up more yards after the catch in a single season than Kittle did in 2018. Not just tight ends -- every position. His 873 yards after the catch were also 200 more than we've ever seen from another tight end before. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider that his targets came from backup quarterbacks all season.
Expecting at least some degree of regression seems like a wise approach here (did we mention Kittle had more yards after the catch than anybody in the NFL?). And to be fair, as impressive as his 2018 campaign was, we've yet to see him work for an extended period with starter Jimmy Garoppolo, who went down with a torn ACL last September.
2019 Bottom Line
Don't pay attention to the downside. Regression is always possible and pretending Jimmy G is somehow going to be a lesser QB than the Nick Mullens-C.J. Beathard combo that replaced him is silly. More importantly, once you get past the top-three tight ends, it seems like you're taking your chances at the position. Kittle is locked firmly in that top tier. Draft accordingly.