Getting a top TE has become a more popular strategy in drafts, but who should you go for out of George Kittle or Darren Waller in 2021? Let’s be honest, that’s the tier break of reliable TE options (considering Kelce will be off the board)
Waller really was a late breakout player in his NFL career, after struggling with off-the-field issues. However, after having a great 2019 season, he backed it up with another great performance in 2020. That 2019 season he had 117 targets, a target share that is in the realm of a top tier receiver, not a TE. That share grew in 2020, which really solidified him as a good receiving option.
The offense flows through Waller, and there is no reason to think that it will change. The team have made some changes on the offensive line, which could hamper their running game, and have allowed receivers to leave the team. Nelson Agholor left the team, signing for New England. Not a true WR1, but he was replaced with John Brown and Willie Snead, who are far from that. Even if someone who is on the roster steps up, with Henry Ruggs or Bryan Edwards the most likely, it’s unlikely that Derek Carr will look elsewhere on the field.
One big thing is what can we expect from the 49ers? Just two seasons ago, the team won their division and made a run all the way to the SuperBowl. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out in 2020 as the team lost a number of starting players through injury. That meant the offense that worked so smoothly in 2019, didn’t operate in the same way.
The offense is built around the run, with the team running the ball often and controlling the clock. However, that doesn’t leave alot of (deliberate) volume for Kittle. Due to that reduced target volume, Kittle has only managed to be fantasy relevant because he has been extremely efficient with the targets he has gotten. With a healthy receiving corps, there is even more competition for targets. Brandon Aiyuk looked like a great receiver, and Deebo Samuel has shown his ability in the past few seasons (although has missed time with injury).
The team have also drafted Trey Lance, who is waiting in the wings to be given the starting job. His style is alot different from the pocket passer Jimmy Garoppolo. Instead, he is going to be looking to run the ball if he doesn’t see an open pass. That is likely to restrict the passing volume even further, and with the receiving competition, there isn’t alot of opportunity for Kittle to impress.
So who to go for?
The two are going very close to one another, with different sites having one over the other. Based on way that both teams operate their offense, and the importance of both of them. For me, it has to be Waller. The pass volume for the whole team will be there, and Waller is the primary target for the offense.
If it hadn’t been for his 2019 season, where he finished as TE2, Kittle likely wouldn’t be in this tier. However, don’t forget that that finish was also due in part to Waller only scoring 3 TDs. I’d take advantage of a teams leading receiver giving you an advantage over the field (except the person that draft Kelce).
Image Credit: Jeffrey Becker – USA TODAY Sports