49ers

George Kittle rated 2017 NFL Draft's No. 2 player by Pro Football Focus

George Kittle rated 2017 NFL Draft's No. 2 player by Pro Football Focus

George Kittle already is one of the biggest draft steals in 49ers history. And as far as the 2017 NFL Draft goes, it remains a joke he landed in San Francisco's lap all the way in the fifth round.

The 49ers took the tight end with pick No. 146 in the draft. That might have been 144 picks too low, a.ka. the 49ers' original draft slot before trading down one spot with the Chicago Bears and taking defensive end Solomon Thomas.

By Pro Football Focus' three-year average of grades, Kittle has been the second-best player from the '17 draft, behind only Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes. 

Mahomes, only played in one game as a rookie as he sat behind Alex Smith, but he did win MVP his second year in the league. Kittle only has missed three games in three years while getting better and better each year. 

Though he broke the single-season receiving yards record by a tight end in 2018, Kittle was seen as an even better all-around player last season while missing two games to leg injuries. Kittle wasn't just PFF's highest-graded tight end, he was their highest-graded overall player in all of the NFL. 

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. 

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Despite missing 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. Through three seasons, Kittle has 216 receptions for 2,945 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. 

There's no doubt Kittle is in line for a major payday soon, too. His rookie contract end after the 2020 season, but the 49ers certainly hope to strike a deal before then. 

[RELATED: Lynch expects George Kittle contract extension 'in due time']

“George is certainly a priority,” 49ers general manager Lynch told NBC Sports Bay Area. “I don’t anticipate -- you never say never -- but George is going to be Niner. We think too highly of him. I think he loves the (environment).

“We got to find the right deal and we’ll continue working towards that. We’re not going to put any timetable on that. But George is certainly is a priority for us. We love everything about him. We love everything he brings to the Niners.”

49ers' Raheem Mostert explains tough decision to play 2020 NFL season

49ers' Raheem Mostert explains tough decision to play 2020 NFL season

Raheem Mostert has a secure role on the 49ers.

And he had an adjusted contract to account for the possibility -- if not likelihood -- that he again will be the team’s leading rusher.

Yet, it was not a simple decision for Mostert and his wife, Devon, to go ahead and report to training camp in Santa Clara.

“I’m not going to be opting out, but it was a long, very long, and tough discussion with my wife,” Mostert said Wednesday on a video call with Bay Area media.

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There have been 54 players around the league who officially have opted out this season over concerns about the spread of COVID-19. Wide receiver Travis Benjamin on Tuesday night became the first player on the 49ers to announce his decision to opt out

Mostert was among the first athletes to take the threat of the coronavirus seriously. He announced on March 4 he was canceling an appearance out of an autograph show in Santa Clara.

Devon and the couple’s 13-month-old son Gunnar remain in Cleveland. The couple is expecting their second child in late-September.

But Mostert finally has built his career to the point where he will be able to provide for his family. It would have been difficult to pass up a season at a time when Mostert is in his prime.

“She understands the importance of me being out here, being able to provide for the family and all those good things,” Mostert said. “We had more positive talks than negative.

“We’ve been able to communicate on a day-to-day basis, just understanding each other’s feelings and make sure she’s at ease, especially during her time with this with the uncertainty of COVID, as well as having the (upcoming) birth of our second boy.”

[RELATED: 49ers need Taylor now more than ever with Benjamin out]

Mostert said he is not certain if he will return to Cleveland to be with his wife early in the football season for the birth of their second child. He and Devon will continue to weigh the pros and cons. But Mostert said coach Kyle Shanahan pledged his full support of whatever the Mosterts decide.

“He told me, ‘Hey, man, we’re always here; whatever you need, we’re going to provide that for you; and we’re going to make sure everything is in your corner,' " Moster said of Shanahan.

49ers need production from Trent Taylor with Travis Benjamin's opt-out

49ers need production from Trent Taylor with Travis Benjamin's opt-out

The 49ers almost certainly will be in the market for another speedy wide receiver after Travis Benjamin announced his decision Tuesday night to opt out of the upcoming season.

Benjamin’s exit marks the fourth 49ers receiver from the player-organized offseason workouts who will not be on the field when the team’s practices begin.

Deebo Samuel, the team’s top receiver, could be out for the first six weeks of the regular season after undergoing offseason foot surgery to repair a Jones fracture. Slot receiver Richie James is also on the non-football injury list due to a fractured wrist.

The 49ers recently waived another slot receiver, former Notre Dame standout Chris Finke, who failed a physical due to a hamstring injury.

While the 49ers could bring in another wide receiver for training camp, they certainly will expect one of their own to soften the blow of Benjamin's absence.

Benjamin had a history with 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan from when they were together with the Cleveland Browns in 2014. When asked after his signing why he is such a good fit for the offense, Benjamin answered, “Speed. Kyle loves speed.”

Benjamin, like James and Finke, is a slot receiver and a strong option as a punt returner.

Now, it’s more important than ever that Trent Taylor remains healthy and in a contributing role.

Benjamin’s spot on the 49ers’ roster for 2020 was not guaranteed after signing a one-year contract with the 49ers. He said he knew his job was to come in to compete for a job. He caught just 18 passes for 216 yards and one touchdown over 17 games in the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers.

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After 54 players around the league already had chosen through Tuesday to opt out of the season due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, Benjamin made his announcement. He wrote in a statement that he made the decision “after much consideration and discussion” with his family.

Benjamin will remain under contract to the 49ers for the 2021 season with a salary cap figure of $1.05 million. Receivers Kendrick Bourne and Taylor are scheduled for unrestricted free agency after this season.

[RELATED49ers' Jerick McKinnon excites Jimmy Garoppolo as pass-catching option]

Benjamin, 30, an eight-year NFL veteran, came to the 49ers as an insurance policy. Taylor, if healthy, always wa considered the 49ers’ top option at slot receiver.

The problem is that Taylor has not been healthy since his rookie season in 2017. Taylor caught the same number of passes (43) as George Kittle during their rookie seasons. Taylor had 430 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

He also was productive as a punt returner with a 9.4-yard average on 30 returns.