The injury that Kittle sustained in Week 9 of the 2018 season was described as fractured rib cartilage by Brian Witt of NBC Sports Bay Area. It's an issue that came to light following the conclusion of the campaign, at which time Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com relayed that the tight end played most of the second half of the season with a cracked rib. Regardless of the exact injury terminology used, Kittle's 88-catch, 1,377-yard season looks even more impressive when considering the discomfort he worked through beyond Week 9. Following the retirement of Rob Gronkowski, Kittle approaches the coming season as one of fantasy's elite tight ends, in the top tier at his position along with Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz.
Kittle spent part of his record-breaking season playing with a cracked rib, an injury he initially suffered Week 9 against the Raiders, Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com reports. The 49ers listed Kittle with a chest injury the following week, limiting him to non-contact work in practice before he posted a 9-83-0 receiving line against the Giants. He returned to full participation after a Week 11 bye and ultimately finished his second pro season with an NFL record for receiving yards (1,377) by a tight end. Kittle only scored five times on 88 catches, but his marks of 15.6 yards per catch and 10.1 per target were remarkable by positional standards. It's possible his best work is still to come, as Kittle is only 25 years old and should get to play with Jimmy Garoppolo (knee) in 2019. It won't come as any surprise if Kittle and/or Travis Kelce make(s) another run at the TE yardage record. There hasn't been any indication that the cracked rib is still an issue.
Kittle caught nine of 14 targets for 149 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's loss to the Rams and set an NFL single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,377 yards. Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce broke the previous record earlier in the afternoon, but Kittle's 43-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter allowed him to exceed that mark. The 25-year-old was a breakout performer despite spending most of the season receiving passes from C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens after Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL in Week 3. Kittle ended up with 88 receptions on 136 targets and five touchdowns as he will undoubtedly enter 2019 as one of the top fantasy targets at tight end.
Kittle caught seven passes for 74 yards in the 49ers' Week 16 loss to the Bears. With the 49ers trailing for much of the second half, they were forced to throw the ball frequently, resulting in Kittle leading the team with 12 targets. His performance could've been better, but when he was open for a potential touchdown in the end zone, a defender grabbed his arm, keeping him from securing the pass. Despite a number of difficult matchups, he's only been held to fewer than 50 yards once over his last nine games.
Kittle caught three of eight targets for 51 receiving yards during Sunday's 26-23 overtime win against Seattle. Kittle has blossomed in his second season out of Iowa, entering Sunday just 117 yards behind Travis Kelce for the league lead at the position. Seattle has excelled at defending tight ends all year -- ranking fourth-best in both catches and receiving yards allowed. That trend persisted in Week 15, as Kittle was contained to his second-lowest receiving output since Oct. 15, and his fewest number of receptions since Week 2. The fantasy playoff slate doesn't get any easier for those who have been leaning on Kittle's bountiful production all season, as San Francisco takes on Chicago's No. 3 scoring defense in Week 16 before closing out the year on the road against Seattle. (Both remaining opponents ranked top 10 in tight end receiving yards allowed entering Sunday.)
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|1||09/08||@Tampa Bay Buccaneers||22||7.88|
|6||10/13||@Los Angeles Rams||23||7.89|
|12||11/24||Green Bay Packers||8||5.50|
|14||12/08||@New Orleans Saints||14||6.22|
|16||12/22||Los Angeles Rams||23||7.89|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||100||66||946||4||41||14.33||118|