Lamar Jackson

Where 49ers' George Kittle should rank among 10 best in NFL Top 100

Where 49ers' George Kittle should rank among 10 best in NFL Top 100

The 10 best players in the NFL will be unveiled in the final segment of NFL Network's NFL Top 100 on Wednesday, and 49ers tight end George Kittle is among them.

Where exactly he falls within the top 10 (as voted on by his peers) will be revealed soon enough. As for where he should be ranked, however, I can tell you right now.

First, here's a look at the players that will comprise the top 10.

It's hard to complain about any member of that group. In Kittle, you have the best tight end in football. In Aaron Donald, you have arguably the best defensive player in the game. Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson were all fantastic-or-better in 2020. 

Stephon Gillmore is the definition of a lockdown corner. Hopkins and Michael Thomas are nearly impossible to cover 1-on-1. And though quite different in stature, Derrick Henry and Christian McCaffrey prove equally tough to stop when they get the ball in their hands.

However ...

I'd argue that Kittle should be ranked ahead of most of them.

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He is as dangerous and reliable of a receiver as Thomas and Hopkins, but they can't come close to comparing to his value as a run-blocker. He has to be ranked ahead of both of them, though Thomas surely should be the top-ranked receiver.

Henry, though the NFL's leading rusher last season, is fairly one-dimensional. That said, that one dimension is awfully impressive. Kittle has got to be ranked ahead of him, too.

While quarterback is the most important position on the field, odds are that the three signal-callers will be sprinkled throughout the top 10, with Mahomes, Jackson and Wilson ranked in that order. Kittle should be somewhere in between.

Donald is unstoppable. If Mahomes isn't No. 1, it should be him.

As for Gillmore and McCaffrey, they're the best players at their respective positions, but neither was as dominant as Kittle was last year.

So, here are my predictions for the top 10 players in the 2020 NFL Top 100:

1. Mahomes
2. Donald
3. Jackson
4. Kittle
5. McCaffrey
6. Thomas
7. Gillmore
8. Wilson
9. Hopkins
10. Henry

[RELATED: Nick Bosa's NFL Top 100 ranking leads 49ers to troll Joey]

Where Kittle ends up ranking ultimately is of no consequence. Whether it's first or 10th, he's an absolute stud, and clearly, the rest of the league knows it.

49ers' Raheem Mostert was NFL's third-most explosive runner in 2019

49ers' Raheem Mostert was NFL's third-most explosive runner in 2019

We know 49ers running back Raheem Mostert is a supreme athlete. How supreme? Well, last season, he was the third-most explosive ball-carrier in the NFL.

NFL.com's Nick Shook has been taking some deep dives into "Next Gen Stats" throughout the last few weeks, and on Wednesday, he delved into the most explosive runners the league has to offer. In order to do so, he had to establish some criteria.

In order to qualify for the top 10 most explosive runners from last season, each player had to attempt a minimum of 100 carries, at least 20 of which went for 10-or-more yards. Then, to determine the hierarchy, the percentage of runs in which they reached 15 mph or faster was the defining factor. Once the numbers were crunched, it painted Mostert in some astonishing light.

Last season, Mostert reached 15 mph or faster on an amazing 28.5 percent of his touches, which was the third-highest rate in the league behind Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. To further that, he reached at least 20 mph on four rush attempts, a benchmark equaled by only seven other players; Mostert accomplished the feat with fewer total carries than any of them.

In fact, Mostert's average speed of 13.75 mph per touch ranked first among all running backs who had at least 100 touches last season. That's blazing fast. If that number is difficult to believe, well, just turn on the tape of the NFC Championship Game, in which Mostert accounted for four touchdowns and 226 yards from scrimmage on 31 total touches. I guarantee you the Green Bay Packers believe it.

[RELATED: 49ers' Mostert looks forward to running behind Williams]

Mostert seemed to pick up momentum as the season wore on, and projects to have a much bigger role in San Francisco's offense in 2020. His explosiveness is a tremendous fit for coach Kyle Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme, and there is every reason to believe the 49ers will be even more potent on that side of the ball in the season ahead.

If he stays healthy, Mostert should blow his previous career-high for touches in a season out of the water. If that's the case, well, good luck catching up to him.

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Re-grading Jimmy Garoppolo trade: 49ers receive A-plus, Patriots get D-minus

Re-grading Jimmy Garoppolo trade: 49ers receive A-plus, Patriots get D-minus

Teams that trade with the New England Patriots do so at their own risk. Bill Belichick seems to get the better end of the deal more often than not.

So when the 49ers acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in exchange for San Francisco's second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, there was plenty of excitement, but also a lingering question as to whether or not Belichick knew something they didn't. 

Two-plus seasons later, Garoppolo already has exceeded the value the 49ers gave up in that transaction, and the trade in general can be viewed as overwhelmingly in San Francisco's favor.

Bleacher Report's Brad Gagnon included it in the nine most impactful NFL trades of the last decade, and he firmly agrees. In re-grading the trade, he gave the 49ers an A-plus, while the Patriots received a D-minus.

"The San Francisco 49ers' decision to acquire potential franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots at the 2017 trade deadline has rarely looked bad," Gagnon wrote. "When the deal went down, it was widely perceived as a worthwhile risk for the price of a second-round draft pick. When Garoppolo won his first five starts with a weak 49ers team that year, the deal began to look like a coup.

"And now, with the 49ers coming off a Super Bowl season with Jimmy G under center, and with New England high and dry under center following Tom Brady's departure in free agency, it's beginning to look like a stroke of genius."

Since acquiring Garoppolo, the 49ers have won 19 of the 24 regular-season games he has started. Only the Baltimore Ravens' Lamar Jackson has a better winning percentage among qualifying NFL quarterbacks over that span.

While Gagnon concedes that Garoppolo still has ample room for improvement, he argues that he was worth more than a second-round pick -- particularly to the Patriots, who now don't have Garoppolo or Brady. Of course, the trade isn't just about Jimmy G; there's another side to it as well.

As what Gagnon refers to as "the draft's ultimate wheeler-and-dealer," Belichick and the Patriots did well to turn the second-rounder they received from San Francisco into multiple players. Several, in fact. The problem for them is they got plenty of quantity, but not enough quality.

Through a series of trades, New England turned the 49ers' second-round pick, another 2018 second-rounder, two 2019 third-round picks, a fourth-, a sixth- and two seventh-round picks in 2019, a 2020 fourth-rounder and a 2021 sixth-round selection into:

  • cornerback Joejuan Williams
  • linebacker Christian Sam
  • running back Damien Harris
  • offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste
  • defensive lineman Byron Cowart
  • tight end Dalton Keene
  • punter Jake Bailey
  • quarterback Jarrett Stidham

Not exactly a collection of stars.

[RELATED: Jimmy G-Kittle is a better QB-TE combo than Brady-Gronk]

Now, it certainly seems like the Patriots are expecting Stidham to start this season. If he performs well, they'll obviously have gotten much more out of the Garoppolo trade than it currently appears. But, as Gagnon summarized, as things currently stand, "there's no argument right now that the Patriots have gotten the better end of this deal."

Garoppolo has led the 49ers to many wins since the trade, but the transaction itself was a major victory.

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