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Countdown to 2021 fantasy football drafts: George Kittle No. 20

George Kittle comes in at 20 in our fantasy football rankings countdown to the 2021 NFL season.

George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers works out during training camp at SAP Performance Facility on July 28, 2021 in Santa Clara, California. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

George Kittle makes his return after several injuries derailed his and the 49ers’ 2020 season. The Niners were coming off a Super Bowl loss and looked poised to get back to the big game, but too many injuries occurred. Can Kittle’s return stabilize an inconsistent offense with a quarterback controversy?

To commemorate the 2021 NFL season, we’ll be counting down the 75 best fantasy football players in the league. Picking a Top 75 is subjective, especially when you are projecting a whole season of accumulated fantasy points, but that’s part of the fun. We’ll assume what I see as an average league, which is 12 teams, .5 PPR scoring and a roster of 1QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE, & 1RB/WR/TE. Kickers and defenses need not apply.

Change is the nature of the NFL beast, so trades and injuries will likely impact this list as we go along, but hey, this isn’t rocket science. We’re here to have a little fun and build up some much needed anticipation for a league cast in the shadow by baseball, soccer, hockey, etc. Sarcasm aside, the NFL is addictive and we’re here to give your daily fix as we close in on the season.

The official fantasy football drafting tiers can be found here.

No. 20, George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers, TE

Kittle is back after missing half the 2020 season with a foot injury. He is one of the best receiving tight ends in the league and should be the biggest part of the 49ers’ passing offense. Expect the star to get a lot of touches early as a he hopes to have a massive campaign for San Francisco.

Competition for touches

The 49ers like to mix and match personnel, but don’t expect Kittle to be off the field much. He’ll be in competition for targets with Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, but should still be considered the primary weapon in that facet of San Francisco’s offense.

Team offensive expectations

This is an offense built around the running game but will certainly look to be more dynamic through the air if the skill players stay healthy. QB Trey Lance is getting a lot of hype in the offseason, but it looks like QB Jimmy Garoppolo will still be the starter at the moment. A lot of how Kittle performs will hinge on who the quarterback eventually is.

What’s his upside?

If he stays healthy, Kittle has the potential to be the top receiving tight end in the league. He’s up there with Kansas City’s Travis Kelce in terms of physical ability, but Kelce happens to play a bigger role in his offense than Kittle. If the 49ers start throwing the ball more, Kittle owners could benefit greatly in fantasy leagues.

What’s his downside?

Kittle has had some injury concerns during his career, so there’s always the chance he misses time. However, the bigger problem would be San Francisco’s insistence on running the ball and the possibility of Lance/Garoppolo finding a connection with Samuel or Aiyuk over Kittle. Those factors could push Kittle towards the middle of the top 10 when it comes to tight ends by the end of the season.

Projection

81 receptions, 1,020 yards, 7 touchdowns