Jimmy Garoppolo took his first loss in the NFL as a starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and unfortunately didn’t help his fantasy football owners in the process. Fortunately, he may have found the NFL’s next All-Pro tight end in George Kittle.
Allow me to formally introduce you to the George Kittle Show.
On Sunday, there weren’t many positive takeaways for the San Francisco 49ers offense, albeit against a stout Minnesota Vikings defense. However, the second-year tight end takes home the gold medal for the most positive aspect of the 49ers’ Week 1 offensive performance.
With the Niners’ No. 1 receiver, Marquise Goodwin, battling a quadriceps contusion for the better part of the game, Kittle thrived.
Kittle finished with nine targets and five catches for 90 yards on a day when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw for only 261 yards against a ferocious defense.
It’s hard to believe, but Kittle could have had an even better, more monstrous day against the Vikes. If not for a few unlucky breaks, such as a dropped ball on a wide-open deep pass that could have gone 60-plus yards and an overthrown pass in the end zone just off his fingertips, Kittle could have legitimately had 200 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
If you didn’t watch the whole 49ers game, this didn’t show up on the box score and may have easily slipped past you.
Kittle’s Week 1 performance may go under the radar, but it shouldn’t be taken lightly. In 2017, the Vikings gave up only 67 catches for 596 yards and three touchdowns to the opposing teams’ tight end.
But digging deeper into the statistics, there’s more to like about Kittle than his catches and total yards. Graham Barfield, a managing editor at NFL.com who has been tracking Kittle for a while, captures an intriguing stat from Next Gen Stats about Kittle:
Kittle’s high average depth of target, which is in the same realm as the New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski, screams upside and a continuation of high-yardage chunk plays.
These chunk plays are exactly what fantasy football owners should be looking for in their TEs.
With a similar height (6-foot- 4), weight (250 pounds), and speed (4.50-second 40-yard dash), it doesn’t stop there with the Gronk comparisons.
Barfield tweets again just how good Kittle was in his rookie campaign. Get this:
"Kittle gained 2.57 yards per route run with Jimmy GQ, most among TEs. Kittle also averaged more YPG as a rookie (34.3) than Gronk (34.1), Ertz (29.3), Olsen (28.0) did in their first year."
If these metrics are any sign, Kittle will be a major force in a potent 49ers offense that will be hyper efficient and productive in moving the chains down the field.
This particular play shows how the 49ers will get Kittle involved. In some ways, it reminds me of the creative plays Kansas City Chiefs offensive guru Andy Reid calls to get his tight end, Travis Kelce, involved.
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And it’s simple plays like these that get me excited for what Kittle (Zeus 2.0? Or maybe Poseidon?) can be.
Just like Reid, the 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is known for being uber creative with his offenses. This is especially true when it comes to getting the most out of his tight ends, as Ethan Wagoner of ESPN.com explains here:
"In two seasons with Shanahan in Atlanta, Falcons tight ends were fifth in the NFL in yards per catch (12.18) and third in yards before first contact with a defender (11.07). With Shanahan in 2014, Browns tight ends ranked second in yards per catch (15.22) and first in yards before first contact (14.33)."
It’s about to be George Kittle’s world. And we’ll all be living in (watching) it.
Fantasy Football Advice
It’s simple. If you have Kittle, keep him and start him every week, no matter the opponent.
Kittle thrashed a Vikings defense that was first-ranked defense against tight ends in 2017, an encouraging sign that he can rack up yards even against the toughest of opponents. With or without Goodwin healthy, fantasy football owners are looking at a potential top-five TE all year long.
If you don’t have him stashed already, trade for him right now before the hype train destroys any chance of him having value in a trade.
This week Kittle finished fifth in PPR scoring at the tight end position, and that’s without taking into account his unlucky breaks.
It’s George Kittle #SZN, baby.