San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle is out for Sunday's season opener against the Chicago Bears because of a groin injury, according to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle.
The sudden development surely will have fantasy football managers scrambling to set their Week 1 lineups. The tight ends available on the waiver wire might not be as decorated as Kittle, but there are some options that have favorable matchups that could be worth taking a look at.
NBC Sports fantasy football expert suggests Isaiah Likely of the Baltimore Ravens, Mo Alie-Cox of the Indianapolis Colts and Robert Tonyan of the Green Bay Packers as top waiver-wire adds this week. There are other options as well, such as Gerald Everett of the Los Angeles Chargers and Irv Smith of the Minnesota Vikings, so fantasy managers who have Kittle on their rosters need not panic.
Matthew Berry @MatthewBerryTMR
Not ideal. TE’s available in more than 75% of Yahoo leagues that I like tomorrow include Isaiah Likely, Mo Ali-Cox and Robert Tonyan. I like Likely all season long - if he’s available that’s who I would pick up <a href="https://t.co/qIDYmzXLPy">https://t.co/qIDYmzXLPy</a>
Jamey Eisenberg @JameyEisenberg
Plan on Kittle being out this week. Some replacement options to consider who are available in more than 40% of <a href="https://twitter.com/CBSSports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CBSSports</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FantasyFootball?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FantasyFootball</a> leagues …<br><br>David Njoku at CAR <br>Gerald Everett vs. LV<br>Evan Engram at WAS<br>Irv Smith vs. GB<br>Albert Okwuegbunam at SEA<br>Robert Tonyan at MIN <a href="https://t.co/aU8MEpgq1c">https://t.co/aU8MEpgq1c</a>
A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Kittle is one of San Francisco's most consistent weapons, so his presence in the passing attack will surely be missed.
But what does Kittle's absence mean for the fantasy production of 49ers receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel?
Samuel will likely maintain his status as San Francisco's top receiving option. He has proved himself to be a reliable No. 1 receiver and a fantasy football powerhouse after earning first-team All-Pro honors in 2021.
The versatile fourth-year wideout is likely to remain the focal point of San Francisco's offense going forward.
Aiyuk is a more complicated case, though.
The 24-year-old had an inconsistent sophomore season in 2021, finishing with 56 catches for 826 yards and five touchdowns. He recorded over 100 receiving yards just once in 17 games.
Aiyuk reportedly had a strong training camp, so there is some hope that he's ready to fulfill his potential. He will see more passes coming his way with Kittle out of the lineup.
Fantasy owners should remain cautious with the Arizona State product, and he should stay on the bench unless there's a desperate situation at receiver.
Samuel, on the other hand, is a must-start as long as he remains healthy. He will maintain his target share even after Kittle returns, so fantasy owners can rely on him until the end of the season.
Kittle's absence will also impact quarterback Trey Lance, who is in his first year as San Francisco's starter. Lance will no longer have the big tight end as his safety blanket, so Samuel and Aiyuk will have to step up to keep the 22-year-old signal-caller comfortable.
It can be expected that Lance will be using his ability as a runner more with Kittle out of the lineup. Elijah Mitchell should also have more opportunities out of the backfield, but fantasy managers should be wary of Lance taking goal-line carries away from the starting running back.