The San Francisco 49ers and tight end George Kittle put together a miraculous turnaround last season. After staring at a 3-5 record midway through the season the 49ers won seven of their final nine games to finish the year 10-7. That record placed them third in an especially competitive NFC West, but it was good enough for a wild card matchup with the Dallas Cowboys.
Upon beating the Cowboys in the wild-card round, San Francisco then followed up with a 13-10 upset over the top-seeded Green Bay Packers. A 20-17 loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams ended San Francisco’s turnaround season, with all eyes on making another run in 2022. Kittle returns to help the 49ers towards their goal and does so with a new quarterback under center for the coming season.
2021 season statistics & fantasy finish
Receiving: Kittle caught 71 passes for 910 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged 65.0 receiving yards per game and 12.8 yards per reception.
Fantasy: He finished fifth among fantasy tight ends in PPR scoring with 198.0 points and 14.1 points per game. Kittle ranked fourth in standard scoring with 127.0 points and 9.1 points per game.
49ers offseason moves
San Francisco beefed up their secondary after signing Charvarius Ward away from the Kansas City Chiefs. They also upgraded their pass rush by drafting defensive end Drake Jackson out of USC in the second round. Most notably, they locked in their top offensive weapon in Deebo Samuel with a three-year, $71.5 million contract extension. Though not an official roster transaction, the 49ers also confirmed that Trey Lance would be assuming the starting quarterback role for 2022.
2022 best-case scenario
Having Lance under center will hopefully give San Francisco more opportunities to stretch the field and take deep shots. In today’s league where large yardage gains are essential to an elite offense, the best case scenario would be for Kittle to be on the receiving end of Lance’s shots downfield. Another top-five fantasy finish and a return to another 1,000-yard receiving season would be a win for Kittle fantasy owners.
2022 worst-case scenario
There could be a fear that Lance’s athleticism eats away at scoring opportunities for some of the 49ers' established threats, including Kittle. The veteran tight end is always a red zone threat, but could Lance end up extending plays with his legs and find the endzone himself as opposed to seeking out one of his receivers? Having fantasy scoring opportunities taken away and a lack of chemistry with Lance could be a frustrating outcome for fantasy owners.
Lance will have his growing pains but for the large part I like what he adds to the 49ers' offense, and I think Kittle will benefit accordingly. Kittle finished with 910 receiving yards last season and with Lance more than comfortable looking downfield I like Kittle’s chances of returning to the 1,000-yard receiving mark for 2022. A top-5 finish in PPR and standard scoring is very much a reality, and Kittle could potentially make the case for the top spot depending on his chemistry with Lance.