Start George Kittle As Fantasy TE1 In His Return, Elijah Mitchell Would Be RB2 If He Plays vs. Cardinals
Getty Images. Pictured: 49ers TE George Kittle, RB Elijah Mitchell
With one injured 49er set to take the field on Sunday, another playmaker’s status may be in jeopardy.
Two-time Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle (calf) will make his return from IR for the 49ers’ Week 9 showdown with the Cardinals after missing the past three games, while rookie running back Elijah Mitchell (ribs) is listed as questionable for Sunday.
I review the latest updates below and project what fantasy football managers should expect from each player should both start.
Click the dropdown to expand more details on their injuries
George Kittle & Elijah Mitchell Injuries
Latest status (as of Saturday): Head coach Kyle Shanahan told media on Friday that the team will activate Kittle from Injured Reserve and will play Sunday.
Mitchell, meanwhile, is listed as questionable after missing the first practice of the week before logging limited sessions on Thursday and Friday.
Earlier version (as of Thursday): Kittle is taking steps in the right direction to return from a three-game hiatus. He suffered a calf injury in the 49ers’ Week 4 matchup versus the Seahawks and had been TE11 through four weeks, averaging 8.3 fantasy points in half PPR scoring.
The 49ers opened the practice window for their star tight end and he’s been practicing all week. He is expected to make his return against the Cardinals come Sunday.
Mitchell is dealing with a rib injury that held him out of practice on Wednesday. He was a limited participant on Thursday, wearing the blue non-contact jersey, which is still a good omen for his availability come Sunday.
He is coming off consecutive 100-rushing yard games with a touchdown and has been a stud all year. He has three top-eight finishes in five games played and is currently RB30, averaging 13.3 fantasy points per game in half PPR.
Hopefully, he can record a full practice on Friday, which would dispel our anxieties for this game.
Kittle Worry-o-meter: 3 out of 5.
Mitchell Worry-o-meter: 2 out of 5.
Fantasy Outlook If Active
Kittle missed the first meeting of the season between these teams in Week 5, but is an immediate mid- to high-end TE1 if healthy.
He has struggled with injuries of late, but was the No. 3 and 2 tight end for fantasy in 2018 and 2019, respectively. He remains a high-upside play, even in a brutal matchup against the Cardinals, whose defense has allowed the fewest fantasy points to the position this season.
If active, Mitchell is a must-start and should be considered a high-end RB2 — even in a relatively difficult matchup. Arizona’s defense has also been stingy against the run and has allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to the position all year.
Fantasy Outlook If Inactive
If Kittle misses another week of action, the 49ers would likely deploy a combination of Ross Dwelley and Charlie Woerner at tight end. The pair have combined for eight catches, 92 yards and one touchdown all year; neither is an attractive option for fantasy.
There is no telling how Kyle Shanahan might wield this backfield if Mitchell misses time. He has seen no fewer than 61% of snaps and has been a stud in every game in which he has been healthy (missed Weeks 3 and 4 with a shoulder injury).
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk has the most running back snaps on the depth chart (244), followed by Mitchell (195), then Trey Sermon (83) and JaMycal Hasty (41). Sermon would be the logical next choice, though the rookie saw zero snaps last week against the Colts and is not a reliable fantasy option.