George Kittle is set to the return to the 49ers’ lineup this week, but can he be trusted in championship-winning fantasy lineups for Week 16?
Injuries have played a big role in the San Francisco 49ers being 5-9 this season, but they are about to get a key player back. According to Omar Ruiz of NFL Network, tight end George Kittle will play on Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals.
#49ers Star TE George Kittle WILL play Saturday vs Cardinals, Kyle Shanahan said in his zoom press conference. Said he felt “great” and that he’ll be on somewhat of a pitch count. Shanahan said Kittle is one of the healthiest players they have.
— Omar Ruiz (@OmarDRuiz) December 24, 2020
Kittle has not played since Week 8 due to a foot injury that landed him on IR. Week 16 was always his likeliest return, under an easy assumption the 49ers still had something to play for. They have been eliminated from playoff contention, but Kittle will still play.
Can George Kittle be trusted in Week 16 fantasy lineups?
Through Week 8, Kittle was TE2 in standard and 0.5-point PPR scoring (TE3 in full PPR). He also missed two early games in that span with a knee injury. He was injured in Week 1 against the Cardinals, a game in which he had four catches for 44 yards.
The phrase that Kittle will be on “somewhat of a pitch count” on Saturday will make fantasy managers cringe. As will the the fact the 49ers, with Nick Mullens (elbow) now out too, will have C.J. Beathard starting under center. However, it’s worth noting Beathard and Kittle have history dating back to the University of Iowa.
The Cardinals had been a sieve against tight ends for a couple years, but 2020 has been a different story. Entering Week 16, driven by allowing just three touchdowns to the position all season, they have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends (8.31 per game; Yahoo 0.5-point PPR).
Kittle, when healthy and without questions about his snap count, is of course a no-brainer fantasy starter. If his snap count is indeed limited on Saturday, his workload seems sure to be focused on situations (red zone, third down, etc.).
Anyone who drafted Kittle surely hung onto him through his IR stint, unless there was a serious roster spot/IR spot crunch at some point. So even with a lot of risk attached to him, his return is a late Christmas gift to his fantasy managers and the upside is worth betting on in all but the most unique circumstances.