49ers' George Kittle falls short of 99 Madden 21 rating according to leak

49ers' George Kittle falls short of 99 Madden 21 rating according to leak

George Kittle is the best tight end in football, and arguably the best receiver regardless of position. Full stop.

But while the 49ers tight end has become a household name during his three-year NFL career, it appears his exploits haven't been enough to get him into a very select group: The "Madden 99 Club."

Details from Madden 21 slowly have been trickling out, and a potential leak by Twitter user "LeadingNFL" showed which players have been given a 99 overall rating in the latest iteration of the popular video game. While Patrick Mahomes, Christian McCaffrey, Aaron Donald and Stephon Gilmore all got the nod, Kittle came up just short in his quest for video-game greatness.

For 49ers fans who care about such things, this should be seen as disrespectful to the league's premier tight end. While Kittle is grouped with star receivers Michael Thomas and De'Andre Hopkins with a 98 rating, a case can be made that he deserves to be a member of the "Madden 99 Club," because of his ability to break tackles and his dominant ability as a run-blocker.

You'll find no arguments from me on any of the four members of the "Madden 99 Club."

Mahomes cemented himself as the best quarterback in the NFL when he erased a 10-point deficit against Kittle and the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV. He's an unquestioned 99. As is Donald.

Gilmore was the best cornerback in football last season, and has been as dominant as they come since joining the New England Patriots. McCaffrey put up a tremendous season in 2019 despite being saddled with below-average quarterback play for the entire season. He's as elite a weapon as the NFL has to offer.

[RELATED: Kittle questions social distancing in 2020 NFL]

But Kittle belongs in that conversation. He caught 85 passes for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns last season, and his catch-and-run against the New Orleans Saints was the type of memorable play that soon won't be forgotten.

Kittle, who is trying to work out a contract extension with the 49ers, is in good company with Thomas and Hopkins. Those two, along with Julio Jones, are the three best receivers in the NFL, and Kittle certainly belongs on their level.

It's hard to break into the "Madden 99 Club." Perhaps one more season of dominance will get Kittle the point he needs to join video game immortality.

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Arik Armstead excited for Dion Jordan to join him on 49ers' D-line

Arik Armstead excited for Dion Jordan to join him on 49ers' D-line

Before there were Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, there was Dion Jordan.

Jordan was a standout defensive lineman at Oregon, who became a first-round draft pick -- the No. 3 overall pick of the Miami Dolphins in the 2013 draft.

Jordan has not lived up to those NFL expectations due to suspensions and injuries. But he will get another chance this season with the 49ers after signing a one-year contract with the club last week. He has 10.5 career sacks. The 49ers will be his fourth NFL team.

Jordan, 30, will have the opportunity this summer to win a spot as a backup on the 49ers’ defensive line behind edge rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

After an offseason that saw Buckner get traded to the Indianapolis Colts, Armstead said he is looking forward to playing with another of his college teammates.

“Man, it’s great,” Armstead said Monday on a video call with Bay Area reporters. “Dion was a guy I looked up to and have for a long time, especially in college, being a freshman and he was a senior, you know, big man on campus. And I always appreciated him for sticking up for me and not being one of those seniors who talk down to freshmen and try to haze freshmen.”

Jordan was a four-year player at Oregon, where he registered 7.5 sacks as a junior and five sacks as a senior. Armstead was a role player as a freshman with a half-sack. Armstead declared for the draft following his junior season. The 49ers selected Armstead with the No. 17 pick in the 2015 draft.

“Dion was always my big homie,” Armstead said. “I loved playing with him in college and being able to learn from him. He played at a high level and set a standard for us in college and something to achieve and dream and dream of achieving one day, which was playing well at Oregon and then being a top draft pick.”

[RELATEDHow 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo, Trent Williams feel about fan-less games]

One year after Armstead entered the NFL, Buckner was the No. 7 overall pick of the 49ers. Armstead credits Jordan with leading the way.

“He kind of paved the way for me and DeFo and we knew someone who did it at a high level, so it was amazing to follow those next couple of years and try to do the same thing he did,” Armstead said.

How 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo, Trent Williams feel about fan-less games

How 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo, Trent Williams feel about fan-less games

While hope appears to be running out on following through with any semblance of a legitimate college football season, the NFL is moving forward with some significant changes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

NFL stadiums will not be rocking this fall -- at least not like past seasons.

The best-case scenario is that mask-wearing fans will occupy a small percentage of seats this season in some NFL venues. More likely, there will be no fans in at least the majority of stadiums.

"You'll have to bring your own juice," 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said last week. "I'll tell you what, our team, that's one thing that we don't have a problem with, though, bringing the energy.

“We bring it every day in practice, and you see it out there during training camp already. The first walk-through basically felt like full speed.”

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Veteran offensive lineman Trent Williams points out that most of the time when football players work at their craft, there are no fans around. After all, jobs are won in practices. And other than some sessions in training camp during a normal summer, there are no spectators to provide a jolt of energy.

“It's going to be weird not to have fans, but the majority of football we play, there’s nobody watching us,” Williams said. “We’ve been playing the game our whole life. The fans make this sport what it is. Game days, they put that extra cherry on top and makes the experience a dream.”

At its basic level, however, Williams said nothing at all changes for the men who play the sport.

“The game is a game, whether there are fans there or not,” Williams said. “We have to execute. As professionals, that’s all we can hang our hats on. We got to be professionals and play the game when it’s probably not the easiest thing.

“Like Jimmy said, you got to bring your own juice.”

The NBA season has resumed in the bubble of Orlando, Fla. While each NFL team practices at their own facilities without the controlled environments, Williams said he believes the NBA is leading the way for how to move forward in playing a high-energy sport in a nearly empty building.

“I think the NBA has kind of shown us how it can be done, virtually,” Williams said. “And I think they’ve done a great job with that. So I’m encouraged by that, and I think we’ll be OK.”

[RELATEDTrent Williams expects Jerick McKinnon 'breakout' 2020 season]

If there is one advantage, it is for quarterbacks of visiting teams. Garoppolo said he is looking forward to the road experience, where there will not be the usual complications of communicating with teammates in a loud environment, such as Seattle or New Orleans.

"It will be different. No silent count will be needed on the road," Garoppolo said.. "So that's a luxury. I'm pretty excited about that one. It'll be different.

"We're just going to have to adapt to it and change on the fly. And I'm sure there'll be some hiccups along the way. But the better we can adapt, and the more quickly we can adapt, the better."