George Kittle is coming off a strong season and set up for more fun, serving as a centerpiece of the San Francisco 49ers offense. Kittle was one of the top tight ends in fantasy last year. He proved to have a terrific connection with Brock Purdy. This was especially true for his red zone prowess when he caught 11 touchdowns last year. That blew his previous career high out of the water. He was a top-five tight end last year. Can he maintain that pace this year?
2022 Season Recap
Kittle was having a typical Kittle season until Week 13, when Brock Purdy became the regular quarterback. Prior to that, Kittle was fluctuating up and down with great weeks and not-good weeks. It was a coin toss whether he would do well. In Week 6 and 7, Kittle had over 170 yards and 14 receptions with a touchdown. Then, in Weeks 8-12, He had just 11 catches for 170 yards. The only saving grace was his three touchdowns. He just wasn’t consistent, and it started to aggravate fantasy owners. Luckily, once Purdy entered the picture, Kittle took off. He maintained his season averages of four catches and 51 yards, but he caught seven touchdowns in six weeks. He was a red-zone monster. Finally, Kittle was back to dominating the fantasy leaderboards.
For the whole season, Kittle had 60 catches on 86 targets, 765 yards, and 11 touchdowns. Yet, if Purdy had started the whole season, Kittle would’ve had an eye-popping 18 touchdowns. In the playoffs, he continued to have a strong connection with Purdy with ten catches over three games for 164 yards, though he failed to get into the endzone. The advanced metrics loved Kittle’s 2022 season. He was a top-10 finisher in many categories, such as target share (19.8%), routes run (414), air yards, points per game, yards per route run (1.85), expected points per game, and many others. Kittle proved that tight ends can work deep into the field and that with a lot of targets, they can make special things happen.
2023 Season Projections
With Purdy now pretty much the official quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, expect another strong season from Kittle. He has a strong connection with Purdy. Purdy relies on him often, especially in sequences when he has to get the ball out fast or is under pressure. Plus, Kittle makes quarterbacks look really good. He was first last year in QB rating per target. And when Kittle does get the ball, he’s always moving north. Kittle doesn’t go down easily and can routinely create gains of 10+ yards.
Combine that with his deadly red zone presence, and that’s why I have Kittle finishing as a top-three tight end in fantasy football this season. The 49ers are going to be scoring a lot. Kittle being relied upon so often in the areas that matter most, like the end zone, will buoy his fantasy points. Expect at least 12 touchdowns and as many as 16. This depends on Kittle’s health along with Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and Christian McCaffrey. But, so long as Kittle is healthy, Kyle Shanahan will continue to create routes to get Kittle the ball in space and for big yardages. He is a top-three fantasy tight end this year and perhaps for the next few years.
Long-Term Dynasty Outlook
Kittle is right in the middle of his prime years as a tight end. Remember, unlike other skill players, tight end prime years often extend to 32-34 and begin as early as possible, but usually 25-26. It’s a much longer and safer prime to buy into for a dynasty than, say, a running back or wide receiver. Hence why it’s perfectly acceptable to still hold onto Kittle if you plan to contend over the next couple of years. He’s only 29. He typically misses a couple of games a year but is otherwise traditionally healthy and able to rely upon. You will want a good backup, but he isn’t a high-risk player to contend with. There are very few tight ends with higher upside than Kittle, especially when you factor in his age, offense, and usage.
Consider the fact that last year’s yardage was the lowest for any season he’s played in 14 or more games since 2017, and he still put up big numbers. His floor is extremely safe. His ceiling is as high as Mark Andrews/Travis Kelce if he gets enough touches and touchdowns. I’d be willing to pay for Kittle with a late-first-round pick if I’m a tight end away from competing. Or if I need a tight end that I can trust to be a reliable safety valve of fantasy points.
As for rebuilders, sell him because you can get a cheaper tight end that could pan out very well, like Dalton Kincaid or Trey McBride. Plus, you could get multiple seconds or a late first. Kittle is a star tight end in both the fantasy and NFL world. He’s elite at everything. He’s one of the safest tight ends to have on your dynasty team, so long as you’re okay with him missing a couple of games a year.
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As always, May the Force be with You…