2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Iowa TE George Kittle

We’re back again breaking down prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft, set to kick off on April 27th through the 29th. Our goal this season is to write reports on at least 150 players and hopefully, as many as 200. It will, of course, have a focus on Pittsburgh Steelers’ wants and needs but we will look big-picture too at the best players in this year’s draft.

If there’s a player you would like us to breakdown, let us know in the comments below. Today, another tight end for you to examine.

George Kittle / TE Iowa 6’4″ 250 lbs #46

The Good:

– Nice build for tight end with powerful legs and good use of leverage
– Great motor and never takes plays off. Very blue-collar-like
– Very effective blocker both on line and out in space with multiple pancakes
– Reliable receiving target and caught roughly 60% of all passes thrown his way in 2016
– Can run away from linebackers in middle of field on slants and on edge
– Smart player
– Special team abilities
– Plays hurt

The Bad:

– Possesses just average speed and separation ability in the middle of field (seam) both off line and detached
– Route running needs improvement and especially when getting in and out of breaks
– Not used any as a fullback in backfield
– Didn’t motion a lot and wasn’t asked to split zone block
– Body catches at times
– Not statistically productive in passing game

Bio:

– 2016: 22 catches, 314 yards, 4 TDs
– Career 48 catches, 737 yards 10 TDs
– 49 college games played
– (1) 100-yard receiving game during college career
– Lower leg injury forced him to miss a few games in 2016
– Father, Bruce Kittle, is a former Iowa offensive lineman (1977-79, 1981) – Cousin of former Iowa tight end Henry Krieger Coble

Tape Breakdown:

The main thing I took away from Kittle while watching his tape is his ability to block in addition to his workman-like attitude. While I didn’t include many gifs of it below, he had several pancake blocks in the four games that I watched and he always finishes plays. As you would probably expect from a Iowa tight end, Kittle was used more as a blocker than he was as a pass catching option.

Below are two plays that really show you how effective and consistent Kittle is as a run blocker. In the first play, a goal-line power run against Miami of Ohio, Kittle blocks down inside very effectively and in turn the fullback and pulling guard have plenty of room to lead the running back into the end zone.

On this play below against Minnesota, Kittle easily drives the edge defender way outside and up the field and it helps result in an explosive run.

Do you like black and gold pancakes? If so, Kittle’s tape is full of them and here’s one Mike Mayock of the NFL Network posted on Twitter that he found on some all-22 footage from the game against North Dakota State. Beautiful domination on display here.

Kittle is also an effective pass blocker as well. On this play below against Minnesota, he gets beat initially off the edge and even flat-backs before recovering and taking the rusher around the quarterback after having his faced crossed. This was perhaps Kittle’s worst pass protecting effort that I observed and he still managed to win nonetheless even though the deep pass attempt was ultimately intercepted.

While Kittle wasn’t used extensively at Iowa as a receiving option, he still made several big plays and showed that he could get himself open and especially on brilliant play designs. As you can see below in the game against North Dakota State, Kittle does a great job of selling a run block before releasing down the far sideline wide open for an easy pitch and catch explosive play off of play action.

There’s both good and bad in this next play below against North Dakota State. You’ll see Kittle come across the backfield at the snap out of the left h-back position like it’s going to be a split zone run with window dressing behind him. Kittle then runs a wheel route and leaves two committing defenders in trail for an easy catch down the sideline. After making the catch, however, Kittle doesn’t move the football to his outside arm and thus exposes it to the middle of the field. He ultimately has the football stripped from him and luckily a teammate is there to make the recovery.

Some more good and bad mixed in one single play against Miami of Ohio. Here, Kittle gets a free goal-to-go release and his short crossing route results in him easily running away from the defender. The pass to him is ultimately a very catchable one that he drops in the end zone. This was a third down play and Iowa had to settle for a field goal.

I had to dig deep to find a large selection of game tape on Kittle and I’m glad I did. While he certainly isn’t one of the top tight ends in this year’s class, he’s one of the more well-rounded ones and as mentioned several times, really blocks well.

While Kittle might not ever be an every-down tight end in the NFL, he certainly can function as a number two in an offense that likes to use multiple ones. The Steelers are certainly one of those teams and with David Johnson unlikely to be back in 2017, Kittle could probably wind up being an upgrade over him should he ultimately land in Pittsburgh.

As I was going through Kittle’s tape I was hoping to see him get some snaps as a lead-blocking fullback but that wasn’t to be the case. Even so, I think he could handle such a role. I also hoped to see him used as a split zone and move blocker, but that also wasn’t the case. Once again, however, I think he has the skill set needed to do that.

Kittle is obviously more old school tight end than he his new age but that’s fine. While I hate player comparisons, I couldn’t help but think that Kittle reminds me a little of former NFL tight end Dallas Clark, who just so happened to also play his college football at Iowa. Maybe a shorter version of current NFL tight end Jack Doyle, who I really enjoy watching play.

In summation, I see Kittle being drafted somewhere during day-three and possibly in the fifth or sixth round. If the Steelers want to draft a tight end on day three, I fully endorse them selecting Kittle as he already looks great in black and gold. I can’t wait to watch him participate at the scouting combine in a few more weeks. You won’t be sorry if you spend an hour or so watching his 2016 tape.

Projection: Day Three

Games Watched: vs Miami (OH), vs North Dakota State, at Minnesota, at Penn State

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram
Derek RiversRyan AndersonJoshua DobbsJordan LeggettSamaje Perine
Corn ElderBucky HodgesJames ConnerCooper KuppStanley Williams
Fred RossJamaal Williams

  • Alleghenys

    This guy just looks like a Steeler.

  • PaeperCup

    because he’s wearing black and yellow.

  • Spencer Krick

    Yes please!

  • PaeperCup

    Only good blocking TE in the draft? Gosh, I miss it when TEs were built like this. But I guess the new breed is proving to be very effective.

  • falconsaftey43

    Watched him a lot previously and really liked him. Great blocker as Dave pointed out. Probably a good route to go this draft. They don’t have a really good blocking TE and it provides the ability to go 2 TEs if Green gets hurt again.

  • VaDave

    We have the new breed on the roster already. That 4th gif where he ran a route down the sideline looked an awful lot like our second offensive play against the Colts that Heeeeaath hauled in during our playoff run to the Super Bowl.

  • Alleghenys

    Right. That was the joke.

  • PaeperCup

    ahhhh, gotcha haha.

  • PaeperCup

    Green yes….James kinda. Grimble, I guess. But none hit the marks of a starter.

    I know right!….I actually wonder if this guy is underrated as a pass catcher seeing him run routes like that.

  • Joey

    There has to be a “The Pot calling the kittle black…” or something joke

  • blackandgoldBullion

    A TE that can block! Imagine that. Not flashy. Perfect. Take him in round 6.

  • Jaybird

    God , just seeing Iowa’s uniforms is enough to get my heart pumping and the hair on my arms to stand up! Love the Black and Gold.

  • VaDave

    Green maybe, but the day you see any of Grimble, James, or Johnson deliver a down block like Kittle can, will be a day for much rejoicing.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    This was a guy that I felt could be a decent blocking TE but that is where it ended for me. I had mocked him before to us in the 7th but I just do not see anything higher then that. I wouldn’t be upset if we do pick him then as we do need a blocking TE but I like guys like Josiah Price, Cethan Carter and Michael Roberts better although Roberts will go earlier then the others.

  • The Truth

    Yep, I would rather have Kittle than any other TE in the draft.

  • Steve

    VaDave – You hit he mark, Kittle does remind me of Heath Miller. But as well as this kid blocks will be interesting to see him pancake a few in the NFL.

  • Steve

    Would be nice to see Iowa in the all black with Gold numbers.

  • Hagen Rinde

    nice day today!

  • popsiclesticks

    OJ Howard can block.

    EDIT: Just saw this was 20 days ago.

  • Zach Clary

    As a Hawkeye fan I love Kittle and I feel like he really fits that Heath Miller mold. I think he’s a better receiving threat than the stats portray, he is just such a good blocker that he wasn’t used extensively as a receiver which I honestly feel hurt our offense in Iowa City. I would absolutely love to see him trade his Hawkeye Black and Gold, for the Steelers Black and Gold.

    That block against North Dakota State was the stuff of dreams.