As I briefly mentioned earlier this week when discussing the LA Rams’ situation at tight end, George Kittle was the steal of the 2017 NFL Draft. It’s the type of football gospel that becomes even more astounding when you consider that the 2017 tight end class was considered “stacked” but Kittle fell all the way to the fifth round. Here’s what SB Nation’s Dan Kadar said prior to the 2017 draft:
Tight end is one of the strongest positions in the 2017 NFL draft. There’s good first-round talent with players like O.J. Howard of Alabama and David Njoku of Miami and good Day 2 targets with players like Evan Engram of Ole Miss and Bucky Hodges of Virginia Tech.
The class also features two stellar small-school players in Ashland’s Adam Shaheen and South Alabama’s Gerald Everett. Then there’s Jake Butt of Michigan, who would be near the top of the rankings had he not tore his ACL in the Orange Bowl.
The class is deep and talented and could feature potentially eight top 100 picks. That would be the most since 2006 when nine tight ends went in the top 100.
Hodges fell to the sixth round and never played in the NFL. Butt fell to the fifth round and has appeared in eight career games with 10 total catches.
Five tight ends went in the top-50, including Howard, Njoku, Engram, Everett, and Shaheen, but Kittle—the 146th pick, one spot behind Butt—has more than double the career yards of all of them save Engram. And Engram isn’t even close.
Kittle hasn’t been the perfect picture of health, either.
Having already missed three games this season with a calf injury but he returned in Week 9 against the Arizona Cardinals and had six catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. It’s a familiar stat line for Kittle, and hitting the century mark becomes even more likely against the Rams.
Over his 4.5-year career, George Kittle has had 12 career games over 95 receiving yards...and five of those have come against the Los Angeles Rams.
Over San Francisco’s current four-game winning streak against the Rams, Kittle has had eight catches for 103 yards, seven catches for 109 yards, and five catches for 79 yards. He was inactive for the other contest, so Deebo Samuel stepped in for 11 catches and 133 yards.
It will now be up to Raheem Morris to do what Brandon Staley and Wade Phillips couldn’t: contain George Kittle.
According to numbers found at Pro-Football-Reference, tight ends have been targeted 75 times this season against the Rams defense, tied with the Ravens for the second-most targets in the league. Only the Eagles (81) have more. Those targets have resulted in 53 catches for 548 yards, but just three touchdowns allowed.
LA has managed to avoid most real “star” tight ends, however.
Rob Gronkowski was held to four catches for 55 yards on eight targets.
Engram was held to three catches for 24 yards on five targets.
T.J. Hockenson was targeted nine times, catching six passes for 48 yards.
But Kittle and Jimmy Garoppolo at least have a long history together and the 49ers tight end has proven time and time again to be a valuable and dangerous threat for San Francisco’s offense. The Rams opened as 4.5-point favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook this week, but that line has already moved to 3.5 points and is getting closer to being a coinflip in Vegas in large thanks to Kittle proving healthy against the Cards.
Stopping Kittle on Monday Night Football will be difficult regardless, because that’s who Kittle is and that’s what Kittle does, but could Morris and Sean McVay manage to hold him to under 70 yards this time?