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San Francisco 49ers fantasy football team preview

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Who to target and avoid in fantasy football from the San Francisco 49ers. 

NFL: NFC Championship-Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of opponent, Kyle Shanahan’s ability to design runs will forever keep his team in the top tier of rushing offenses. For this reason, we should always target pieces of his backfield. However, there’s cause for concern over presumed starter Raheem Mostert. Presumed backups Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon are where the real value can be found. Likewise, the lethality of late-round members of San Fran’s passing game is still not yet understood by the drafting masses. Jimmy Garoppolo is on the verge of a career year for a litany of reasons, none less so than his own quarterbacking ability.

Sharp Football Strength of Schedule:

  • 12th softest blend of pass defenses
  • 14th softest in terms of the opponent’s defensive passing efficiency
  • Mid-tier blend of rush defenses
  • 3rd toughest in terms of the opponent’s defensive rushing efficiency
  • 13th toughest in terms of the opponent’s offensive passing efficiency
  • 4th toughest in terms of the opponent’s offensive rushing efficiency

Quarterback

Jimmy Garoppolo is one of the premier late-round quarterbacks of 2020. In the two seasons that he’s qualified (min. 100 pass attempts) for Completion Percentage Over Expected (CPOE) he’s registered positive ratings. CPOE is a measurement that describes how truthful a quarterback’s raw completion percentage is. Tough throws, downfield where the receiver has little separation are more difficult to make than dump-offs to an open running back. CPOE finds the difference between raw and actual completion percentages. A positive rating means he performed above expectation. A negative rating means he inflated his raw completion percentage with easy throws and/or failed to complete tough passes.

While the 49ers schedule has some tough opponents Weeks 7-13, nearly every game in 2020 features at least one of a good opposing offense that will push the pace or a dreadfully exploitable pass defense. In many cases, it’s both. Weeks 1-6 and 14-16 offer mouthwatering matchups with the likes of the Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins, the Washington Football Team, Dallas Cowboys and again the Cardinals in Championship Week 16. Expect Jimmy G to frequently blow up box scores as a QB1.

Garoppolo’s success will not only come from a generous Strength of Schedule though. He had a criminally underrated 2019 season. As Warren Sharp notes in his 2020 Football Preview, Garoppolo was Top 2 in yards per attempt, Expected Points Added per attempt, and success rate when facing Cover 3 base defenses on early downs last year (p.310). HC Kyle Shanahan deftly exploited rules that make life tougher on defenses over the middle by having Garoppolo target the middle of the field at a league-high rate, to smashing success (p.310). For those wondering if CPOE lied about the quarterback’s ability to throw deep, San Francisco led the league in 20+ yard passing gains (p.310).

Draft Jimmy Garoppolo aggressively at his 12.05, QB21 ADP and expect Top 12 fantasy results.

Wide Receiver

Update 8/23/20: Brandon Aiyuk appears to have pulled his hamstring in his left leg. Soft tissue injuries in training camp are not good as they often linger into the first month of the season. If the player doesn’t take enough time to heal, it can be a problem even longer. We need to monitor Aiyuk’s status vigorously. HC Kyle Shanahan favorite Kendrick Bourne is now a serious candidate for WR2/flex value.

Update 8/17/20: With Jalen Hurd possibly tearing his ACL, Brandon Aiyuk’s floor and ceiling have soared ever higher. Trent Taylor and Kendrick Bourne now also become even interesting late-round dart throws. It’s a tragic case, to be sure.

Deebo Samuel suffered a Jones fracture in mid June and his 2020 return date is far from certain. The Jones fracture is particularly tricky, as it is a break in the 5th-metatarsal (pinky toe bone that exists between the ankle joint and the toe joint), a portion of the foot “considered a watershed area that heals poorly and is prone to chronic (stress) injury”. On the August 3rd Lefkoe Show (19:45 minute mark), Adam Lefkoe told guest Evan Silva that HC Kyle Shanahan seriously considered taking WR Brandon Aiyuk over DL Javon Kinlaw with the team’s first 1st Round pick (No. 14). Instead, they took Kinlaw and then traded up from No. 31 to No. 25 to grab the coveted Yards After Catch beast, Aiyuk. Aiyuk is also a talented kick/punt returner in college — a trait that frequently bodes well for NFL rushing/receiving production. With Samuel likely to go on PUP, Aiyuk has access to a serious role in Week 1 and beyond. Consider him as a flex with WR2 upside. His current 16th-round, WR68 ADP is an outrageous steal. He’s easily worth a selection as early as the 8th or 9th.

Second-year man Jalen Hurd, whose 2019 season was cut short due to injury, is an extremely intriguing late-round target. The 6/4”, 230lbs college wide receiver/running back flashed in the 2019 preseason. Hurd offers a unique dual position ability, possessing the size to be a power-back and the receiving skills to play receiver. It’s no guarantee, but Hurd has the chance to take over the starting slot role, vacated by Emmanuel Sanders who packed his bags and left for New Orleans this offseason. Hurd offers dynamic goal line rushing potential as an upside asset. Aggressively target Hurd towards the end of drafts.

Trent Taylor, a talented but underused player, will be competing with Hurd for slot snaps. He offers little upside, similar to the slow and steady Kendrick Bourne. Both will find the endzone a handful of times this season but unless another receiving corps injury occurs, they are unlikely to get meaningful snaps.

Dante Pettis Truthers, best of luck to you.

Tight End

George Kittle’s positive touchdown regression is coming. Clearing 85 or more receptions in each of the last two seasons while totalling 1,377 and 1,053 receiving yards, respectively, he’s managed just 5 touchdowns in each campaign. Statistically speaking, Kittle should’ve been somewhere in the 8-10 TD range. Although Aiyuk stands to benefit from Deebo Samuel’s expected Jones fracture absence, KittleJimmy Garoppolo’s go-to passing game option — should have a career year. For the duration of Samuel’s time off the field, Kittle could see 10 targets per game. He’s a fine option ADP of 20th overall.

Should Kittle miss time this season, backup tight end Ross Dwelley filled in admirably last year. He’s not rosterable if Kittle is healthy though.

Running Back

Perhaps the most hotly contested RB ADP (5.05, RB26), Raheem Mostert has drafters puzzled. The rush-only, 28-year old journeyman found success in Week 12 last season when Shanahan committed to him as his lead back, as Shanahan-favorite Tevin Coleman was battling injuries. Mostert flashed his rushing upside, but failed to do much of anything in the passing game. In Weeks 10 and 11, before the switch was made, Mostert totalled 3 targets per game. One Mostert took over as lead back, Mostert never saw more than 2. Once Coleman was healthy though, he was immediately slotted in as the lead back for the 49ers first playoff game. Coleman was carted off with an ankle injury in the Feb. 1st game against the Packers, and Mostert was again the starter. Meanwhile, Jerick McKinnon appears fully healthy from his 2018 ACL tear and has been drawing rave reviews from the team on his route running ability. Tevin Coleman is being drafted at 8.11, RB40 and Jerick McKinnon is largely going undrafted. What we have in Mostert is a talented rusher, playing in a scheme that can make any back a true success. He’s pitted against Coleman, who may be the most favored player of the head coach’s entire coaching career — and he has almost no access to passing game work. Do not draft Raheem Mostert at his current ADP. If he falls 2 or more rounds, go for it. But the best strategy will be to take Coleman at the 8th/9th round turn. Adding McKinnon with your final pick in the draft is a savvy move as well.

Kicker

We like Hall of Fame kickers on league-dominant offenses. Robbie Gould checks both boxes.

Defense/Special Teams

Some negative regression should hit the ‘9ers D/ST this season after an outstanding 2019. They’re still a top-notch unit though.