Missing half of the season with a left foot injury, Kittle was not able to live up to his status as one of the top TE’s in fantasy this past season. But no, make no mistake about it, when healthy, Kittle is one of the top three TE’s in the league, only being rivaled by Travis Kelce and Darren Waller. Playing like the real-life version of the Hulk, Kittle is the top receiving threat on the 49ers, as evidenced by his two seasons with 85+ receptions and over 1,000 yards receiving when healthy. If he is healthy for this upcoming season, Kittle is the best friend a quarterback could ask for and is worthy of a high fantasy pick.
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As mentioned earlier, Kittle missed half of the season with a foot injury, so his counting stats are not spectacular. However, in the eight games, he did play, Kittle was fairly productive. He had breakout games against the Rams and Eagles, where he tallied a total of 292 yards and 2 touchdowns on 22 receptions. He also had some down games where he only had 2 catches and 39 yards against the Seahawks and 44 yards on 4 catches against the Cardinals and Dolphins. Kittle had a super productive 12 yards per reception last season. The issue was that he was hobbled by a bad foot and just could not stay on the field long enough to turn that average into meaningful fantasy production.
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I expect Kittle to return to the megastar must pick fantasy TE we remember hyping him up to be before the 2020 season. Having almost a full year to recover from his injuries, the 27-year-old should be at the top of the fantasy mountain this upcoming season. Kittle plays like a bull in a China shop, and he has one of the top yards after contact amongst all receiving threats. Kittle should also see plenty of targets as the 49ers receiving corp is mostly young and unproven. Their other top receiving threats are Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and Richie James. While Kittle has never been a true red-zone threat, his career-high in touchdowns is 5. Kittle has plenty of opportunities throughout the rest of the field to make up for it. Expect a giant year from Kittle.
ADP & Auction Value
ADP: 19, Rounds 1-2, TE2
Auction Value: $23
Kittle had a massive fall-off in production from last season, but that didn’t stop the projections from ranking him as the second TE off the board behind Travis Kelce. Kittle and Darren Waller are the only TEs fighting for a selection in the 19-21 range or the second round in a 12 man league. Kittle is worthy of this spot in the draft because of the targets he sees on a game-to-game basis. In the past 3 seasons, Kittle has seen 63, 107, and 136 balls thrown his way, which is more than a majority of receiving options in the NFL. Kittle should be considered for a second-round selection because of the opportunity volume he sees weekly.
Kittle’s floor will be primarily linked to his health. If he’s healthy for the whole season, then Kittle is one of the top three TEs in the game. If he’s not, then that’s a different story. Kittle still managed to be semi-productive when he was playing through injuries, but he far from the game-wrecking TE we were accustomed to seeing. Kittle operated more as a TE2 when hampered by injuries in terms of fantasy production, which is still good enough to win a championship, but you better have the perfect team around him if you try to go that route.
Yeah, Kittle is a top 2 or 3 TE when he can play the full season, no doubt about it. He could even manage to become the #1 TE in fantasy, but the way Kansas City funnels the ball to Travis Kelce, it’s unlikely. Kittle is certainly worth a high-to-middle second-round pick in a 12 person league because having a must-start regardless of matchup, super productive TE like Kittle feels so good as a fantasy owner. Having to never worry about the TE position is such a luxury to have, and that’s what you get when you draft Kittle. I would not recommend drafting him over other top-tier running backs or wide receivers, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if Kittle outscores those same sunning backs and receivers by the end of the year.
San Francisco 49ers Offense
The 49ers ranked 15th in total offense in 2020, and that was for a reason. The 49ers were famously plagued with injuries this past season causing them to lose key offensive starters in Jimmy Garappolo, Raheem Mostert, and the man of the article, George Kittle. Without these 3 for much of the season, the 49ers struggled on offense. There were some bright spots for their backups as they scored 33 against the Patriots and 33 against the Cowboys, but for the most part, the 49ers averaged a mediocre 22.9 points per game after Jimmy Garrapolo left the game in a crushing Week 5 loss to the Dolphins. However, Kyle Shannahan is known as an offensive genius throughout the league, and if he gets all of his key starters back, then we can see a resurgence in this 49ers group back to the team that averaged 29.9 points per game and almost beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl 2 years ago.
Strength of Schedule
Coming off of a disappointing 6-10 season, the 49ers now have the easiest strength of schedule this upcoming season. Now, no games in the NFL are free wins, but the 49ers have some relatively easy games as they get to play some bottom-of-the-barrel teams in the Lions, Eagles, Texans, and Jaguars. Their toughest games are the games against their division rivals in the Rams, Seahawks, and Cardinals, but they also have to face off against previous playoff teams in the Colts, Titans, Bears, and Packers. The 49ers should get off to a quick 2-0 start as their first two opponents are the Lions and Eagles. Then they go onto their toughest stretch of games in Weeks 3-10 when they have to play teams that have an average expected win total of 9.17. The rest of their season then mellows out as they play teams with an average expected win total of 7.79. Don’t expect to sit Kittle for any of these matchups.