Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: George Kittle
- San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle has a great matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' struggling defense.
- On the flip side, Bucs TE Cameron Brate can exploit the 49ers defense on Sunday with Jameis Winston under center.
The 2018 NFL season is still on pace for a record-breaking campaign with an average of 24.2 points per game per team. The action continues with a 10-game main slate that kicks off on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
In this positional breakdown, I’m looking at three tight ends at the top of the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
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Model Tight Ends
Two of the tight ends who stand out in the FantasyLabs Pro Models face each other this weekend.
- George Kittle: $6,200 DraftKings; $7,500 FanDuel
- Cameron Brate: $3,600 DraftKings; $4,400 FanDuel
George Kittle: San Francisco 49ers (+2.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 54 Over/Under
UPDATE (11/25): Center Weston Richburg (knee) is in. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon (knee) is out, and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (personal matter) is also expected not to play. Buccaneers strong safety Jordan Whitehead (concussion) is officially questionable but likely to play after full practices on Thursday and Friday.
Kittle has been such a revelation this season. He leads the team with 71 targets, 50 receptions, 775 yards receiving and a magnificent 542 yards after the catch.
To put some context to that number: Kittle has more yards after the catch than any NFL wide receiver. He has a 105 yards after the catch more than Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who ranks second. When Kittle gets the ball, he moves.
Coming out of the Week 11 bye, quarterback Nick Mullens should be more comfortable with the offense, and that should benefit Kittle, who has been the Mullens’ go-to receiver.
In his two starts, Mullens has gifted Kittle with team-high marks across the board: 14 targets, 13 receptions, 191 yards receiving, 137 yards after the catch and eight receiving first downs. Even with Mullens, Kittle has produced.
And now he has the honor of facing perhaps the worst defense in the league. The Bucs have allowed a league-high 32.9 points per game, and they’re 31st in pass defense against tight ends (35.8% DVOA). They’ve allowed a top-two mark of 13.5 FanDuel points per game to the position.
They have been trashed by almost every starting-caliber tight end to face them.
- Zach Ertz (Week 2): 14.9 FanDuel points, 11-94-0 receiving on 13 targets
- Vance McDonald (Week 3): 19.2 FanDuel points, 4-112-1 receiving on five targets
- Trey Burton (Week 4): 15.6 FanDuel points, 2-86-1 receiving on four targets
- Austin Hooper (Week 6): 17.6 FanDuel points, 9-71-1 receiving on 10 targets
- David Njoku (Week 7): 13.2 FanDuel points, 4-52-1 receiving on six targets
- Greg Olsen (Week 9): 16.6 FanDuel points, 6-76-1 receiving on six targets
- Jordan Reed (Week 10): 7.1 FanDuel points, 4-51-0 receiving on six targets
- Evan Engram (Week 11):7.6 FanDuel points, 2-66-0 receiving on two targets
And to make matters worse, Tampa’s entire defense is the walking wounded.
Cameron Brate: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5) vs. San Francisco 49ers, 54 O/U
UPDATE (11/25): Right tackle Demar Dotson (knee, shoulder) is in. Center Ryan Jensen (knee, shoulder) is questionable after a limited practice on Friday. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson (thumb) is questionable but expected to play after a full Friday practice. Running back Ronald Jones (hamstring) is officially questionable but likely to play after practicing in full all week. 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster (arrested, domestic violence) was taken into custody on Saturday night and seems unlikely to play on Sunday.
In addition to the high over/under, three main factors favor Brate this weekend.
First of all, superstar-in-the-making O.J. Howard (ankle) has been placed on injured reserve, so Brate should get almost all of the tight end work to himself.
Second, quarterback Jameis Winston is once again the starter, and since his 2016 breakout season, Brate has had stark quarterback-based splits, performing much better with Winston than with Ryan Fitzpatrick.
While these splits are apparent even in the games with quarterback changes, I’ve removed such games from the sample so the trend may be better seen.
- Brate with Winston (28 complete games): 8.9 FanDuel points, 5.1 targets, 3.5 receptions, 42 yards, 0.5 touchdowns
- Brate with Fitzpatrick (eight complete games): 2.5 FanDuel points, 2.5 targets, 1.3 receptions, 11.4 yards, 0.13 touchdowns
Even on a per-attempt basis, Winston has funneled more production to Brate.
- Adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A) with Winston (153 targets): 8.8
- AY/A with Fitzpatrick (29 targets): 6.7
Positional Breakdowns & News
Be sure to read the other Week 12 positional breakdowns.
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