TE DEBATE: DARREN WALLER vs. GEORGE KITTLE 2021
TE DEBATE: DARREN WALLER vs. GEORGE KITTLE
By John Falabella
This article will debate who the better TE pick is this season: George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers or Darren Waller of the Las Vegas Raiders. I am sure we all know that Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs is the #1 TE in all of football and should be the first TE off the board in your fantasy draft, but who should be the second?
Darren Waller is coming off consecutive one-thousand-yard seasons and has become the number one receiver in Las Vegas. George Kittle had similar seasons in 2018 and 2019 but was limited to eight games in 2020.
George Kittle had his best season in 2018 when he went for 1,377 yards on 88 catches and 5 touchdowns. But will he ever be able to match these numbers?
Kittle followed up his best season in 2018 by gaining 1,053 yards on 85 catches and 5 touchdowns over 14 games in 2019. His catch total was almost identical to his best season, but his production’s big difference came from his yard/catch. In 2018 he averages 15.6 yards per catch, while in 2019, that number dropped to 12.4. Kittle emerged as the number one option for the 49ers in 2018, and he proved he could do the job. This warranted extra attention in 2019 and led to his drop in yardage.
The 49ers Tight End also played only 14 games in 2019 but had he played 16 games, he was on pace for:
96 catches – 1203 yards – 6 TDs
Kittle’s breakout season in 2018 led to 167 fantasy points, and his full-season projections for 2019 would have put him at 156, so he was close to matching his 2018 production.
In 2020 Kittle faced more injuries and only played half the season (8 games). If we project those numbers over 16 games, he would have had:
96 catches – 1268 yards – 4 TDs
These numbers would have earned him 150 points in 2020, which would have once again put him close to matching those 2018 numbers… but remember, these are projections due to missing games for injury.
Darren Waller had a great season in 2019 when he went for 1,145 yards on 90 catches and 3 touchdowns. He was by far the most productive receiver on the Raiders in 2019 and took that label into 2020.
When George Kittle emerged as the #1 option for the 49ers, his numbers went down. Would Darren Waller‘s numbers do the same?
Waller followed up his 2019 season with 1,196 yards on 107 catches and 9 touchdowns. Like Kittle, Waller‘s yards/catch numbers also fell from 12.7 to 11.2, but the rest of his numbers went up.
Waller’s 2019 season totaled 141 fantasy points, while his 2020 season totaled 173. (Travis Kelce had 207 in 2020).
George Kittle will enter this season as the #1 receiver once again for the 49ers, but with the presence of wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, his number of opportunities may decrease. Like Kittle, both of these receivers missed time in 2020.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has returned to health and should be under center for most of the season, but first-round pick, Trey Lance, will be looming in the background should Garoppolo not produce or get injured (again). Garoppolo has great chemistry with Kittle, but will he have that same connection with Trey Lance?
Finally, the 49ers have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball and are set to be a power again in 2021. This means they will be winning games, and when the 49ers win, they run the ball. In 2019, when the 49ers advanced all the way to the Super Bowl, the 49ers ran the ball over 51% of the time, and we may see that recipe again in 2021, which would, once again, lead to less opportunity for Kittle.
Darren Waller will enter this season as the #1 receiver once again for the Raiders, but they only have Henry Ruggs, John Brown, Willie Snead, Bryan Edwards, and Kenyan Drake in the passing game. While these are adequate supplemental players for the Raiders, there is a lack of top options to go to besides Waller, and he has already proven he can produce when given extra attention from the defense.
Durable quarterback Derek Carr loves to throw to Waller and will continue to do so, but the Raiders also have Marcus Mariota should Carr get injured or falter. In Mariota’s only game action of last season, Waller went for 150 yards and a touchdown.
Finally, the Raiders have not been very good in years and will most likely be an average team again in 2021. This means that the Raiders will be throwing more than they run it (The Raiders threw the ball 54% of the time in each of the last two seasons), giving Waller even more of an opportunity to shine.
I would love to have George Kittle on my fantasy football team in 2021, but if it is time to pick a TE and both of these players are on the board, I would choose Darren Waller without hesitation.
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