It feels like we’re living in the golden era of pass-catching tight ends. Aside from maybe the future Hall of Famer in Kansas City (Travis Kelce), there’s no player better at the position than the San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle. He’s put up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in just his second and third years in the NFL and is the top pass-catching option for the reigning NFC Champions. What does he have in store for 2020?
Bovada has his receiving yards total for 2020 set at 1,075.5 (over -115; under -115), 22.5 yards above his 2019 output over 14 regular-season games. Should bettors hammer the over? Let’s investigate.
Kittle has played 17 regular season games (essentially one full season) with Jimmy Garoppolo as his starting quarterback. In those games, Kittle has been targeted 127 times on 474 passing attempts. That’s a whopping 26.8% target share! Given the lack of premier options at the wide receiver position—especially pre-Deebo Samuel’s breakout—that shouldn’t come as a total shock.
The 49ers are a run-heavy offense with a quarterback who likes to get Kittle involved early and often. Kittle is also very versatile and may begin any given play lined up outside the numbers, in the slot, or as an in-line tight end. His high target share follows him to the red zone, where he was targeted on about 26% of Garoppolo’s throws in 2019. In essence, Kittle is a true do-it-all tight end.
So why does that matter? Betting any receiving-related total requires confidence in a player’s situation and volume. Both are heavily in Kittle’s favor.
Garoppolo threw 476 passes in 2019 and if we include his three starts in 2018, he has a 16-game average of… 475.8 passing attempts. So that’s a good number to work with. Assuming Kittle plays a full 16-game season at his 26.8% target share, that equals about 128 targets. Given Samuel’s injury and likely delay to the start of his season, you may want to add a few more targets on top of that.
Kittle has averaged 9.8 yards per target from Garoppolo in his career. Over 128 targets, that equals 1,254 receiving yards. That works out to around 78.4 yards per game, near his two-year average of 81.0. Kittle needs to average only 67.25 yards per game over 16 games to go over the total or keep that 78.4 yards per game average over 14 games. With that injury cushion built in, there’s no reason not to wager on over 1,075.5 receiving yards (-115).
While there are no current reception or touchdown props available at the time of writing, let’s see what those stats could look like in case those betting options become available.
Kittle has a 76.5% catch rate with Garoppolo as his QB. That breaks down to about 98 receptions over 128 targets. Considering he’s yet to cross the 90-catch threshold in his career, there may be an opportunity to make some money taking the over on a future catch listing.
How about touchdowns? Kittle’s scored a touchdown every 25.4 targets with Garoppolo. That equates to a season total of five touchdowns, which is his exact total each of the past two seasons.
Kittle is one of the most exciting offensive players in football and looks to challenge his 2018 campaign for the best season of his career in 2020. Ride the wave before the sportsbooks adjust.