George Kittle contract: Checking on 8 TEs picked ahead in 2017

George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers, John Lynch (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers, John Lynch (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /
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George Kittle, Iowa Hawkeyes
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

How are the tight ends picked ahead of George Kittle in 2017 doing?

The San Francisco 49ers may have stunk it up with their top two picks in the 2017 NFL Draft (Solomon Thomas, Reuben Foster) but they managed to get one of the best NFL Draft steals in the last two or three decades in the fifth round — Iowa tight end George Kittle.

Even die-hard Iowa fans had no idea what Kittle would become at the NFL level. His 2017 NFL Scouting Combine performance was unexpected enough.

Kittle caught only 48 passes in his four years with the Hawkeyes, and even though 10 of those catches went for touchdowns, nobody could have anticipated that he would be one of the most highly valued offensive skill players in NFL history.

Kittle agreed to the richest deal for a tight end in league history, a five-year, $75 million deal with the 49ers just ahead of training camps starting up league-wide.

Kittle blew the other top tight end annual salaries out of the water with this contract, beating the next best (Hunter Henry, Austin Hooper) by nearly $5 million per year.

Even with that considered, Kittle probably could have (and should have) gotten more money, so this was a good-faith deal on Kittle’s part to stick with the 49ers while also taking a record-setting contract.

If you put Kittle’s contract up against wide receivers, he would have just barely missed the top 10 in the NFL right now in terms of annual salary, and his $40 million in guarantees are 16th-most for offensive players in the non-quarterback category.

In terms of on-field impact, even if the contract doesn’t quite reflect just how dominant Kittle has been over the last three years, there’s no doubt that he was under-drafted and the 49ers have done a great job of putting him in position to succeed.

Even though this is a torturous activity for other teams, it’s worth looking back at the fact that Kittle — a fifth-round pick — was the ninth tight end selected in his own draft class. Now he’s the best tight end in the game and a transcendental type of player at the position in terms of his ability to catch passes, run after the catch, and block.

Where did other teams go wrong?

Let’s take a look at the eight tight ends taken ahead of Kittle in the 2017 NFL Draft and how their careers have been going.