George Kittle Fantasy Outlook: Is He an Elite Fantasy Football TE or a Bust?

San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle showed a connection with Brock Purdy last season, but should fantasy football managers label him as an elite option?

San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle was able to provide strong fantasy football value at the brutal tight end position last season thanks to a spike in his scoring numbers. Not only was his 11 scores a season ago the best of his career, it was his first campaign with more than six touchdowns on his ledger.

The scoring allowed him to retain strong value last season, but one cannot help but look at the limited volume (131 catches in his 29 games over the past two seasons) and worry about his floor. Is Kittle a true threat to be the best fantasy TE not named Travis Kelce, or is he too risky to consider with an early-round pick?

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George Kittle’s Fantasy Outlook

Kittle was nothing short of special last season with Brock Purdy under center. The rookie didn’t throw a touchdown pass until December … and yet, Kittle caught more TD passes from him in 2022 than he has in any regular season prior.

Yes, Deebo Samuel missed three of those games, but still, there was no denying the connection. Whether it was big plays (four touchdowns of over 25 yards) or goal-line plays (three touchdowns under five yards), there was nothing this tandem couldn’t do.

Kittle’s aDOT dropped by 24.2% in 2022 from 2021, something I think fantasy managers should be encouraged by. Based on his career rates, most will pencil in touchdown regression, but if the dip in aDOT is here to stay, his fantasy value can survive a drop-off in scores.

The only real moving piece on the offensive side of the ball for the 49ers entering the season is the health of Purdy. Sam Darnold and Trey Lance are on this roster and would greatly impact the math behind a Kittle projection, but, at the moment, Purdy is the quarterback that this team is banking on.

Editor’s Note: Lance has been traded to the Dallas Cowboys.

Assuming that’s the case, this offense is going to function much like last season: embrace the versatility of Christian McCaffrey/Deebo Samuel, encourage the growth of Brandon Aiyuk, and leverage the wide-ranging skills of Kittle. It’s unlikely that this offense sets any scoring records, but they offer a high floor that fantasy managers can count on.

Is Kittle a Tier 1 Fantasy Tight End?

As good as Kittle is, he faces an uphill battle in the spreadsheets. My top three tight ends are Travis Kelce, T.J. Hockenson, and Mark Andrews, all of whom are more critical to the success of their respective offenses than Kittle is. That’s just a fact, and it helps create a nice fantasy floor at a position that falls off a cliff in a hurry.

MORE: Fantasy Football TE Busts 2023

If you’re willing to overlook the difference in role (Kelce and Andrews are the unquestioned top pass catcher in their offenses while Hockenson’s role as the No. 2 seems safe), the raw number of opportunities to produce makes for a convincing argument — that is, if you’re with me in answering “no” to the posted question.

Here are the percentage of games last season in which the considered players ran over 30 routes.

The 49ers ranked 29th in dropback rate a season ago — hence the underwhelming number above — and that simply gives Kittle a better chance at a dud performance. This isn’t an anti-Kittle stance; it’s an anti-Kittle role stance, given what the other elites have.

Should Fantasy Managers Draft Kittle at His ADP?

Kittle’s ADP is highly variant based on your league structure, but he is either considered the end of Tier 1 or the top of Tier 2. No matter how you split it, I’m not clicking his name … I’m either paying all the way up, waiting another round or two to get the other TEs in my second tier (Dallas Goedert, Kyle Pitts, or Darren Waller), or punting the position altogether.

By now, you’re well aware that I’m high on Jacksonville’s offense, and Kittle is currently coming off the board in the same general range as Trevor Lawrence and Christian Kirk. Give me the Jags in this range, and I can figure out the tight end position later.

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