5th round (#147) – TE George Kittle, Iowa (6.4 | 247 | 4.52)
After an awesome performance at the combine, I don’t think the Bears will be able to steal Kittle in the seventh round as I predicted in my last pre-combine mock. Kittle was a top performer in two of the four drills he competed in, including the 40-yard dash where he finished with the third fastest time among tight ends (only .01 seconds behind consensus top-20 pick O.J. Howard).
I don’t think there is any relation to former White Sox slugger Ron Kittle, but George could also be a fan favorite in Chicago. It’s a loaded class at tight end in this year’s draft, so Kittle isn’t getting much attention despite his impressive combine, but he has mid-round talent and an aggressive playing style that Bear fans will love.
He’s got good length, great speed, and soft hands as a receiver, but it’s Kittle’s blocking that could win him a starting job with the Bears. Kittle has the frame of a big wide receiver but uses sound technique and low pad level to get a surprising amount of power in his blocks. He’s had no trouble driving B1G defensive ends and linebackers off the ball with a healthy number of pancake and domination blocks.
Kittle has been such a good run blocker for the Hawkeyes that Pro Football Focus named him their #1 college tight end coming into the 2016 season. Unfortunately for Kittle, he missed a few games with injury this year and Iowa rarely ever passed the ball. Their run-heavy offense did allow Kittle to shine as a blocker, which is a rare trait among this year’s tight end draft class.
As a receiver, Kittle has 42 catches for 604 yards and 10 touchdowns in two seasons as a starter. The numbers don’t jump out at you, but Kittle did lead the Hawkeyes in receiving touchdowns over that stretch. Iowa rarely throws, but when they did Kittle was one of their primary targets.
He’s fast enough to get open down the seam, has shown reliable hands, and is surprisingly dangerous with the ball in the open field. His route running looks a little stiff but overall he has the potential to be a weapon in the passing game, especially the red zone.
Kittle has the tools to be a solid, three-down NFL tight end and shouldn’t take too long to get there. His game is actually very similar to another former Hawkeye, C.J. Fiedorowicz, a 3rd round pick in 2014 who is currently the Texans starting tight end.
An extremely deep tight end class could push Kittle down to the middle of day three, and if it does he would be a steal for the Bears. I’d even be fine with the Bears using one of their fourth round picks on Kittle, if they didn’t think he’d still be there in the fifth.