Tight-end has always been the most scrutinized and controversial position in fantasy football. The struggle doesn’t come from projecting the overall TE1 but more so recognizing the value that a top tier TE will give you and the opportunity cost of not taking a world-class wide receiver or RB with that pick. First, we have to discover the consequence of mispredicting the top tight end.
TE1 vs TE2
Over the last five years, the TE1 scored 8% more fantasy points than the TE2. While that might not seem like a huge difference, on average, the TE1 finished five spots higher in half ppr receiver rankings compared to the TE2. Furthermore, the average TE 1 finished as the wide receiver eleven, but the TE 2 (on average) finished as the wide receiver seventeen. If you pick the wrong blocking wideout you could be missing the difference between a middling wide receiver two compared to a low-end wide receiver one. Clarifying this proves the importance of the Kittle versus Kelce Discussion.
I’ve recognized three main criteria to judge the two talented pass catchers: quarterback play, targets, and schedule.
The dissection of Kittle’s case for the TE 1
Kelce is lucky that this isn’t a discussion on who’s the best overall tight end (it’s kittle). Kittle is arguably the most talented tight end we’ve seen since the emergence of prime Gronk. He led all receivers in yard after contact in 2019, was 1.1% away from tieing Micheal Thomas catch rate, and recorded his second consecutive thousand-yard season. But Kittle is held back in his offense, playing with sub-par game manager Jimmy Garoppolo and in a run-heavy Kyle Shanahan system. Garoppolo consistently missed skittles (George Kittle) in the middle of the field and threw Kittle into contact. Another issue is his lack of targets, because of Shanahan’s scheme and Garoppolo’s weakness Kittle only managed 107 targets last year. This is an issue because on average a wide receiver one gets targeted at least 142 times. Kittle has to overly rely on his yards after catch ability to make up for the low target numbers. On the plus side, Kittle had a deuce of touchdowns held back last year showing elite touchdown upside. He also has the second easiest tight-end schedule. The twenty-six-year-old Iowa product is oozing with talent and can become the next perennially all-pro tight-end. But, even the uptick in targets from Deebo Samuel’s injury won’t give him enough volume. Plus, Garoppolo won’t give him the quality of targets to compete as the tight end one. Kittle most likely won’t be the top tight end, but he could be the most efficient one with his after-catch ability and a subpar schedule; he should be a great value as a midround third-round pick.
Why Kelce is this year’s TE1
If it’s not Kittle, its Kelce (no argument for anyone else). The Superbowl winner not only has the right of being Patrick Mahomes’ red-zone target but also his number one target (sorry Tyreek). What separates Kelce from Kittle is the sheer volume and quality of passes he consistently gets. He has averaged 131 targets over the last four years and will be catching passes from the highest-paid football player in the most dynamic offense in the league. Impressively, he has had four consecutive thousand-yard seasons even with Alex Smith for two of those. His 30th ranked tight end schedule is brutal, but the Chiefs are a threat to score 28+ no matter who they play. He’s turning thirty-one this season but Mahomes and the Chief’s quality counters his potential regression. Kelce isn’t nearly as talented as Kittle is, and if they were to switch places Kittle would be drafted in the early second round. No knock to Kelce’s talents, but Kittle is just that good. Draft the Chief as a late second-round pick in all formats and be happy to avoid the hard game of late-round and streaming tight ends.
Kittle: 90 receptions 1,170 yards 6tds- 192 fantasy points
Positive touchdown regression and an uptick in receptions from the Deebo foot fracture plus an increase in Jimmy’s efficiency will help Kittle put up his third consecutive thousand-yard season.
Kelce: 101 receptions 1,263 yards 8tds- 224.8 fantasy points
Fully expect Kelce to explode for his best season and cement himself as part of the greatest QB TE combo in NFL history with Mahomes.