I was listening to some podcast on Friday when this jackass chuckled while saying that “you’re not starting George Kittle” in Week 5. The Niners rookie, of course, then went off for a 7-83-1 line on 9 targets against the Colts.
Oh wait. No. I got that wrong.
I was recording a podcast on Friday. And I was that jackass.
Now, Kittle hit the weekend 1.1% owned in ESPN fantasy football leagues. And he reached the middle of the 4th quarter of that game with just 2 receptions on 3 targets. So if we replayed the whole week, I still wouldn’t rank Kittle among the position’s top 12. But it certainly gave me something to think about.
This feels like it’s been an ugly season at TE with wacky names flying into the weekly top 12 from all over. But it hasn’t actually been all that different from the start of each of the past 2 years.
So far, 35 different TEs have turned in at least 1 PPR top-12 week. In 2016, we had 31 different TEs do so over the 1st 5 weeks. In 2015, we got 32 of them.
Injuries to Tyler Eifert, Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, Greg Olsen and now Charles Clay and Travis Kelce have raised the prominence of TE volatility early in 2017. But the week-to-week scoring has fallen pretty much in line with the past 2 years.
Just like in 2016 and 2015, only 1 TE has finished each of the 1st 5 weeks among the position’s top 12. (This time it’s Zach Ertz. We got Olsen in 2016 and Eifert in 2014.) One other TE has delivered 4 top-12 finishes, compared with 2 such TEs in each of the previous 2 years.
Six total TEs have produced 3+ top-12 weeks, compared with 8 in 2016 and 2015. And 16 total have finished at least 2 weeks inside the top 12. We had 17 of those guys through 5 weeks last year and 16 in 2015.
So if it feels like things are going crazy at TE right now, just keep in mind that it’s always a little crazy. Blame the low target volume (vs. WRs) and high TD reliance.
Of course, that’s what makes this position streamable in the 1st place.
On Kittle, the lesson is not so much that I underestimated Kittle. It’s that the volatility at TE means I need to give more serious thought to whether a certain player is set up to do more than he has to date.
In Kittle’s case, the matchup was there (the only reason I mentioned him to begin with). I liked the scoring upside of the Colts-Niners matchup (as I said during the same day of podcasts), and I certainly know that San Francisco is limited at WR. So, really, I should have seen at least some sleeper potential to Kittle – even if I wouldn’t have projected him as a Week 5 starter.
Kittle, by the way, faces an even better scoring matchup this week, according to our Strength of Schedule formula. I’ll go ahead and say here that he’s playable as your starter, and I’ll select a different TE in the spot below …