How 49ers tight end George Kittle is elite with the ball in his hands


George Kittle pulled off one of the best catches of the year Thursday night in the 49ers' 34-3 trouncing of the Raiders at Levi's Stadium.

And he did it with his eyes closed

“I closed my eyes, 100 percent," Kittle said after the win. “Yep. I just kind of stuck an arm out there, and it fell in my hand.”

While the catch was spectacular, what Kittle did after was just as impressive. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end showed off his elite speed as he raced past Raiders defenders. 

On his 71-yard haul, Kittle reached a top speed of 20 mph, which is the second-fastest by a tight end this season, according to Next Gen Stats. Of the six fastest speeds by a tight end with the ball in his hands, Kittle has three of them. 

Kittle ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, placing him third among tight ends in that draft class. Only Evan Engram and O.J. Howard ran faster times.

In his second season, Kittle has been among the best in the NFL with the ball in his hands after making a catch. That isn't just for tight ends, either. 

Through nine games this season, Kittle has 41 receptions for 692 yards and three touchdowns. He already has exceeded his totals in yards and touchdowns this season from last, in six less games, and is just three catches away from topping the 43 receptions he had as a rookie.

Kittle was selected in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, so the 49ers clearly have a steal here.

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