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.
Highest 3-year PFF grades on offense from the 2017 NFL Draft— PFF (@PFF) May 9, 2020
1. Patrick Mahomes - 93.7
2. George Kittle - 91.9
3. Chris Godwin - 90.8
3. Christian McCaffrey - 90.8 pic.twitter.com/5IvXL3ilv9
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.
[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]
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.
“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.”