George Kittle broke the single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end in 2018. And yet, he was even better in the 2019 season.
Pro Football Focus hands out the Stephenson Award to their top-graded player at the end of the season. The award has gone to defensive stars Aaron Donald and JJ Watt in five of the last seven seasons. That changed this season, though.
Kittle is taking home the hardware as PFF's highest-graded player for the 2019 season. The 49ers' star tight end finished with a 95.0 grade, the best ever for a tight end in the PFF era (2006-19).
Kittle, 26, dethroned former Patriots star Rob Gronkowski as PFF's best season by a tight end. Gronk previously held the honor with a 92.0 grade in the 2011 season.
While he missed two games with knee and ankle injuries, Kittle still had 1,053 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He had 85 receptions on 107 targets, good for a highly-efficient 79.4 catch percentage.
George Freakin’ Kittle 😱😱😱pic.twitter.com/y7ywfKYM2L— 49ers on NBCS (@NBCS49ers) December 8, 2019
There's no doubt Kittle is one of the most dangerous players in the NFL with the ball in his hands. His combination of size and speed is deadly, and he catches nearly everything thrown his way. But like Gronkowski of the past, Kittle is more than just a receiving tight end.
Kittle was ranked as PFF's fourth-best blocking tight end. That's extremely high for someone who led his team in receiving yards.
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In just three years, Kittle has gone from a steal as a sixth-round draft pick to perhaps the best overall player in all of football.
Kittle has a Super Bowl ring on his mind with a win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Miami, but "best player in the NFL" has a pretty nice ring to it, too.
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).