This past summer, Fantasy Twitter whispered about a little known tight end out of Iowa who was taken in the fifth round with the second pick by the San Francisco 49ers. He is an elite level athlete who smashed the NFL combine. That player was 49ers rookie tight end, George Kittle.
George Kittle did little during his four years playing at Iowa; catching only 48 passes for 737 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns. Kittle did only drop one pass during his four seasons of production though. The vast majority of Kittle’s production came in his Junior and Senior seasons as he redshirted in 2012 and then really only saw playing time starting in 2015 and 2016.
Kittle turned heads when he came out to the NFL combine where he jumped out of the gym and tore up the track. Measuring in at 6-4 and 247-pounds, Kittle then ran a 4.52 40-Yard Dash which measures as a 117.7 (94TH-Percentile) Speed Score. Speed Score takes height, weight and 40 Yard speed to give a metric with which to compare players. Kittle also posted a 132” Broad Jump (98TH-Percentile) and a 35” Vertical Jump (73RD-Percentile). At Iowa’s Pro-Day he ran a 4.07-second 20-Yard Shuttle which would have been the Combine’s third-fastest time since 2007 at the position.
In the first draft held by new General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan, the team targeted Kittle for a role in Shanahan’s offense. The team already had high-priced tight end Vance McDonald on the team, but by the end of the preseason Kittle had already outplayed McDonald and took his spot as the 49ers starting tight end. The Niners were so confident in Kittle’s talent that they traded McDonald to the Steelers.
Over his first eight games as a rookie, Kittle has posted 24 receptions on 37 targets for 250 receiving yards and 1 receiving touchdown. In the 49ers offense he is third on the team in routes run, fourth in targets and third in receiving yards.
On Monday the 49ers made a trade for Jimmy Garoppolo, which is a significant upgrade over C.J. Beathard. After acquiring Garoppolo, the 49ers wasted little time in releasing Brian Hoyer. Garoppolo has an extremely small sample size to consider when we look at his stats. He was also playing for the Super Bowl champion Patriots last season and now comes to a 49ers team that is largely devoid of talent. He looked good while playing during Tom Brady’s suspension and fans should be excited as the team acquired their QB of the future. The 49ers got a player who has proven NFL experience for a draft pick. During the 2018 draft, the 49ers will be able to focus on selecting the best player in the first round instead of targeting a quarterback.
The addition of Garoppolo is good for the long-term fantasy outlook of Kittle. He is a strong improvement over Beathard and Hoyer. Garoppolo likely won’t be starting for a few games and the team is likely to take it week by week as he learns Shanahan’s playbook.
As I wrapped up this article, the team placed wide receiver Pierre Garcon on the Injured Reserve with a neck injury. This opens more opportunity this season for Kittle to continue to get targets and workload within the offense.
This is wheels up for Kittle in dynasty, and he is a player that is likely on the FA heap in shallower leagues and a player you can acquire in others. Take a shot Kittle and enjoy the payoff next season.