After a record-breaking sophomore season in 2018, George Kittle followed it up with another solid fantasy campaign. In 14 games, Kittle recorded 107 targets, hauled in 85 receptions for 1,053 yards, and reached the end zone five times. As a result, he was able to rank inside the top three for TE fantasy points despite dealing with nagging injuries.
|George Kittle 2020 Projection||93||1137||6||120||240.7||15||12.2||1|
|George Kittle 2019 Stats||85||1053||5||107||222.5||15.9||12.4||0|
Even though George Kittle is one of the most talented tight ends in the league, he does benefit from Kyle Shanahan’s system. Shanahan’s scheme is an excellent fit for Kittle because it utilizes FBs, motions, tight formations, and play-action plays to confuse defenses. These factors help Kittle gain separation from linebackers while providing him with excellent opportunities to gain yards after the catch.
Speaking of yards after the catch, Kittle is the best TE in the league at picking up YAC. In his second season, Kittle broke the Pro Football Focus’ record for most YAC by a receiver or tight end. Even more impressive, Kittle has the highest YAC/reception amongst all WRs and TEs dating back to 2018, according to PFF.
Despite a busy off-season, San Francisco’s decision to let Emmanuel Sanders leave in free agency was the only move that impacts George Kittle’s fantasy projections. After the Niners traded for Sanders in Week 8, he became a focal point for their offense. Of all the 304 targets dolled out to San Fran pass-catchers from Weeks 8 through 17, Sanders recorded 61 of them. This corresponds to an approximate 20% target share, which ranked only behind Kittle and Deebo Samuel on the 49ers.
Amongst a crowded receiving corps, Sanders’ target share moderately cut into opportunities for George Kittle. This was especially apparent on play-action passes and throws across the middle, where Sanders excelled with the Niners. Sanders’ departure leaves a sizeable number of targets that could go Kittle’s way next season. Barring any more off-season moves or a shocking draft decision, Kittle’s target share could increase from his current 30% mark in 2019, which was already impressive.
One of the most integral aspects of Kyle Shanahan’s system is his emphasis on running the football, especially on outside-zone runs. Last season, San Fran was so committed to rushing the ball that they ran more than every team in the NFL besides Baltimore. This does wonders for Kittle’s on-field production because he is the best blocking TE in the entire league.
However, since blocks are obviously not scored in fantasy football, their run-heavy playcalling slightly hinders his ceiling. This probably won’t keep Kittle out of the TE1 status since he is the most utilized playmaker on the Niners. Plus, this system will continue to open up the play-action game, where Kittle excels. Nevertheless, the fact that the Niners run the ball more than they pass it could be the deciding factor that makes Kittle less productive than Travis Kelce.
Heading into 2020, none of the 49ers’ tight ends pose a significant threat to George Kittle’s fantasy projections. According to FantasySP, TE Ross Dwelley only totaled 22 targets last season, which is only a fraction of Kittle’s team-leading 107. This signals that Kittle will most likely receive the lion’s share of opportunities for the foreseeable future.
As of right now, Deebo Samuel is the only receiver who could poach opportunities away from Kittle. In 2019, Deebo Samuel was a fantastic fit for the Niners offense because of his route running skills and ability to gain yards after the catch. On the surface, Samuel’s presence could seemingly steal from Kittle’s fantasy opportunities. Although it will also benefit Kittle by discouraging defenses from double-teaming him. Therefore, he will probably continue to gain separation from defenders and pick up explosive plays.
In terms of the rest of the receiving corps, none of them are likely to hinder Kittle’s fantasy production. Last season, WR Kendrick Bourne led all Niners pass-catchers in terms of touchdowns and had the highest completion percentage in the red-zone. However, it is important to note that he tied for fourth amongst all Niners pass catchers in terms of red-zone targets, so he is more so efficient than he is productive. Furthermore, while WRs, Dante Pettis, and Marquise Goodwin have shown flashes, they have never had long-term consistency. Therefore, it looks like George Kittle will remain the most utilized pass-catcher on San Francisco’s roster.
In terms of his ceiling, George Kittle could be the best TE in fantasy football next season, even though there are other great tight ends. For instance, Darren Waller, Mark Andrews, and Austin Hooper had break-out seasons in 2019. However, nothing is preventing any of them from becoming one-hit-wonders like Gary Barnidge after 2015. Zach Ertz is another great TE1/2 option, but his noticeable regression coupled with the Eagles’ inconsistent offense makes it unlikely that he’ll outperform Kittle. Therefore, Travis Kelce is the only competitor for Kittle in terms of TE fantasy rankings.
As of right now, I can’t envision George Kittle falling below TE1 status. Last season Kittle was roughly 32 fantasy points behind Travis Kelce, and he possibly could have surpassed Kelce if he hadn’t missed two games. This is important because it signals that minor/mild injuries won’t be enough to prevent Kittle from being in the TE1 echelon. Likewise, the Niners run-heavy emphasis, nor the presence of Deebo Samuel look to be enough to hinder Kittle’s fantasy stats.
Currently, Kittle is the 31st ranked player in 2020 fantasy projections and the second-best tight end behind Travis Kelce. Given his ability to perform well in spite of obstacles, like injuries, Kittle is one of the safest players to add to your fantasy roster. Especially, considering that George is one of the few tight ends who play consistently well throughout a season, he will be an excellent fit for risk-averse fantasy owners. If you can draft him in the mid 4th round, that would be a great chance to select him.
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