Fantasy Football Would You Rather: Travis Kelce vs George Kittle for the Top Tight End
Ben Heisler and Bill Enright
Over the next several weeks, the SI Fantasy team will be taking a look at two different players; either on the same team as part of a desirable fantasy offense, or two players close in ADP (average draft position). The goal is to answer the following question: “Would you rather take Player X at this ADP, or Player Y at that ADP?”
This exercise is particularly helpful in fantasy football drafting to help prepare in real-time for when the desired player gets “sniped” by another fantasy owner in drafts.
In our opening installment of fantasy “Would You Rather?” SI Fantasy analyst Bill Enright will be making the argument that Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce in the second round is the better overall pick based on talent, projections, and value. I will make the counterpoint argument for fellow top tier tight end George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers in the third round.
Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (TE1, Advanced ADP 21)
Bill Enright’s argument for Kelce over Kittle based on ADP
Travis Kelce and George Kittle are both so dominant, so productive, and so uniquely skilled to put up WR1 type numbers; despite being listed as tight ends. The debate between deciding which to draft is less about the individual player, and more about the teams that they play on.
There’s not much of a difference in their stats from 2019. Both had five touchdowns and both had over 100 targets. Kelce had a slight edge in receptions (97 to 85) and receiving yards (1,229 to 1,053). Factor in Kittle missing two games and he likely would have met Kelce in both of those categories.
Now that we know their stats are similar, let’s take a look at their offenses.
Kansas City dialed up 607 passing plays in 2019 compared to San Francisco’s 453. The 49ers' pass attempt total was the third lowest in the NFL. While passing touchdowns was nearly the same with 30 from the Chiefs and 28 from the 49ers, those roughly 100 extra passes from Patrick Mahomes (and Matt Moore) amounted to an extra 600 passing yards. Kittle may have the benefit of being a few years younger than Kelce, but considering how close their stats are the last few years, I’m taking Kelce given his edge in the quarterback category with Mahomes and an offense that throws at a rate near the top of the NFL.
49ers TE George Kittle (TE2, ADP 26)
Ben Heisler’s argument for Kittle over Kelce based on ADP
I already have gone on record with George Kittle as my TE1 for 2020, so this will come as no surprise that I would absolutely prefer Kittle in the third round compared to Kelce in the second.
DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a knock on Travis Kelce. In fact, it’s incredibly difficult to find one considering he’s been the number one fantasy tight end in PPR since 2016.
My claim on Kittle as this year’s TE1 is based on a new projected amount of volume and consistency at the quarterback position that even a player as terrific as Kittle has not even had the opportunity to reach in his three-year career.
In 2018, Kittle finished behind both Kelce and Zach Ertz as the No. 3 TE in fantasy. Yet, he lead all tight ends with 1,377 receiving yards despite 15 fewer receptions than Kelce, averaging an impressive 15.6 yards/reception over Kelce’s excellent 13.0.
Meanwhile, 2018, Kelce’s quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, went on to win the NFL MVP, tossing 50 touchdown passes and finishing as the QB1 by 62 points over Matt Ryan.
George Kittle had Jimmy Garoppolo for not even three full games! Most of the year, he racked up numbers with Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard chucking the rock around the Bay Area and beyond.
In 2019, Kittle dealt with a few nagging injuries and somehow managed to make it into 14 games. He finished as the TE2, leading ALL WRs/TEs in yards-after-catch as well as yards-per-route-run.
Kittle had more than 20% of the 49ers air yards a season ago as well as just under 23% of the team’s receiving targets last year. With Deebo Samuel recovering from a broken leg, he’ll be asked to carry even more of the load. Even better news for Kittle fantasy owners is the 49ers have one of the most passer-friendly schedules to begin the year. In their first five games, they face the following five teams:
After the first several games, along with the return of Samuel to the lineup, I expect things to be fairly even down the stretch of the season. But Kittle has a chance to break out to a big lead and not look back as the TE1 this season.
While many sites offer ADP data, SI Fantasy’s Advanced ADP takes ADP data collection to the next level. Each player’s unique draft position is not just averaged out, but it also has takes the last 10 high-stakes drafts in the Fantasy Football World Championships. Who cares where your neighbor Bob decided to draft this year’s breakout sleeper candidate? Wouldn’t you like to know where the BEST fantasy players are in the world are taking him?
To find out where BOTH Travis Kelce and George Kittle are going based on the most recent 10 Online Championship and World Championship drafts, subscribe to SIFantasy's Advanced ADP and use code TD30 for 30% off your first two months!
Would You Rather? Travis Kelce or George Kittle?
Bill Enright: Travis Kelce in Round 2
Ben Heisler: George Kittle in Round 3
Where do you weigh in? Are you on #TeamKelce? Or #TeamKittle for 2020?
MORE FROM SI FANTASY