With the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft set to kick off on Thursday, April 29, San Francisco 49ers fans are hopeful that the franchise secures another franchise-caliber player with the No. 3 overall pick.
Though not all NFL stars are acquired equally — just ask former fifth-rounder George Kittle. Now entering year two of the five-year, $75 million contract extension that made him the league’s highest-paid tight end last August, Kittle has long since proven himself to be a game-changer on the field. However, the former Iowa Hawkeye came pretty close to suiting up for the arch-rival Seattle Seahawks back in 2017.
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Kittle Was Minutes From Landing With Seahawks
On Tuesday, April 28, Kittle joined FanSided national NFL reporter Matt Verderame on the Stacking The Box podcast. During the interview, the All-Pro tight end reflected on his personal NFL draft experience four years earlier.
According to Kittle, who was expecting to be picked between rounds two and six, the Seahawks were in the process of trading up to pick No. 146 to select him before, moments later, the 49ers pulled the trigger to deny their NFC West foe the chance.
“It was probably a minute before the Niners called me, my agent said, ‘Hey, the Seahawks are calling,” Kittle told Verderame on Stacking The Box. “They said they’re trading up to get you.’ And then, literally, I’m on the phone with him, my agent, and — he’s on my dad’s phone — and then I got a call from the Bay Area, and I was like, ‘I’m getting a call from the Bay.’ He was like, ‘Hang up on me and answer that.’ I was like, ‘Alright, sick.’
“The next thing I know, I’m talking to John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, saying that they’re drafting me, and they’re excited to work with me. I was like, ‘I’m excited to be there. Let’s roll.'”
In seven career regular season matchups against Seattle, Kittle has been mostly held in check by the Seahawks’ dynamic linebacking corps and secondary, with only 28 receptions and 341 yards to show. The 27-year-old has otherwise taken the league by storm with consecutive seasons of at least 85 catches, 1,053 yards and five touchdowns in 2018-19 before a broken bone in his left foot limited him to only eight games in 2020.
Kittle Looking ‘Swole’ During Offseason Training
While Kittle was able to return for the team’s final two games last season following a six-week stint on injured reserve, the 49ers’ top target continues to ramp up his offseason training to come back stronger in 2021.
An Instagram video posted by his trainer Josh Cuthbert on April 11 shows Kittle moving some serious weight around during a group workout.
With the 49ers expected to choose between three rookie quarterbacks — Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones — on Thursday night, the club’s situation under center remains fluid with Jimmy Garoppolo also still in the fold. Plus, the Niners may also be in the market for some added depth at the tight end position following the retirement of Jordan Reed, last year’s No. 2 option when healthy.