Could 49ers' Kittle be Gronk 2.0? Jimmy G thinks so

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  • By Jelani Scott NFL.com
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Claiming to see similarities between a 6-foot-6, 260-pound force of nature and any other person on Earth sounds like a task only possible on MythBusters, but Jimmy Garoppolo believes he's seen enough to offer an interesting take.

In a recent interview with Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback was asked to compare current teammate tight end George Kittle to former teammate Rob Gronkowski, whom he shared a locker room with for three seasons with the Patriots.

On paper, the men fit a similar profile -- Kittle is listed at 6-foot-4, 250 pounds -- but Garoppolo thinks the comparison extends way beyond that.

"There are a lot of similarities -- on the field and a little bit off the field, too. George is tremendous. The energy he brings every day, how he goes about his business -- he's always having fun while he's doing it," Garoppolo said. "Very similar to Gronk, they both enjoy what they do.

"It makes everything more enjoyable. It's fun to be around, and it's contagious. To have a guy like that makes our team so much closer as well as much better."

Like Gronkowski, Kittle has quickly become a contributor in his first two seasons and managed to stay mostly healthy while doing so. Kittle played in 15 games with seven starts in 2017, missing only one game due to a leg injury, and started all 16 games in 2018. Gronk played in 32 games with 27 starts to begin his career.

Yes, the age gap is something to consider -- Gronkowski began at 21 after playing two years at Arizona while Kittle was 24 entering his rookie season after staying four years at Iowa -- but their numbers are still staggeringly alike.

Kittle contributed 1,892 yards and seven touchdowns on 131 receptions (199 targets), fielding passes from the likes of Garoppolo, who only played nine games in that span, Brian Hoyer, C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens. Gronkowski, on the other hand, hauled in 132 receptions (183 targets) for 1,873 yards and 27 touchdowns, thanks to Tom Brady, who continues to age in reverse to this day. The TD total gives Gronk the edge but it's worth noting both players earned Pro Bowl nods in Year 2.

If Garoppolo, coming off a torn ACL, can stay on the field in 2019, perhaps he and Kittle can create some Brady and Gronk-eqsue magic. It wasn't too long ago that Jimmy G was fielding such comparisons to Tom Terrific, both as a potential successor before being traded in 2017 and as the leader in San Francisco.

Regardless, Kittle still has a little ways to go to match Gronkowski's impact both as a playmaker and party animal; a reign that produced numerous accolades, most notably three Super Bowl rings.

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