The San Francisco 49ers are moving forward with a lot of unfamiliar faces.
2016 Review: The San Francisco 49ers sadly made more news off of the field with the Colin Kaepernick debate than they did on it with flat-out poor play on offense. Although Kaepernick did put up solid paper stats, the team offense produced bottom tier results of 31st in total yards and 27th in total points (19.3 per game). This was largely due to inefficient passing for the league worst average of 181.2 passing yards per game. Say what you want about The Kneelers TD to INT ratio, but the team simply could not move the ball down the field. By the end of last season, the only viable 49ers options in your fantasy lineup were either Carlos Hyde (matchup dependent) or Kaepernick on occasion (because he can run and was cheap on DraftKings).
2017 Changes: The most significant news was the 49ers finally kicked GM Trent Balke to the curb and replaced him with the highly inexperienced former player and commentator, John Lynch. Lynch then made a splash when he hired Falcons offensive architect (and Super Bowl scapegoat) Kyle Shanahan as the new head coach. I’m not sure if it has made the news yet, but the 49ers let go Colin Kaepernick and replaced him with whitest available option on the market in Brian Hoyer. The team also signed Pierre Garcon to an outlandishly front-loaded contract and brought in a plethora of backup RBs that could chip away at Hyde’s carries. We will cover this concept more in this article as well.
2017 Outlook: The 49ers are certainly in rebuilding mode and seem content with finding some of the key players to build around this year and perhaps answering the question of a longterm QB next year. The team could see some significant improvements in the passing game with a more classic, dropback approach (Hoyer has had moderate success in Cleveland, Houston and Chicago when it comes to fantasy output), so they should improve statistically there. Overall, the 49ers still have a lot of question marks offensively and only have a few somewhat desireable fantasy options heading into 2017.
Most Reliable Fantasy Player: With only a few draft-worthy players, Pierre Garcon is certainly being paid to be a primary WR this year with $16 million in his first year with the 49ers. He’ll have some moderate-to-weak competition with Bruce Ellington and Jeremy Kerley also seeing some targets, but Garcon was brought into San Fran to be an offensive leader and to be the primary target. Considering he’ll be playing under the Julio Jones offensive model (certainly tweaked some I imagine), he could be a top 20 or even top 15 targeted WR this season (although Garcon is clearly not as talented as Julio). Garcon is a low risk potential high reward wideout this season.
Biggest Potential Bust: The past two seasons Carlos Hyde has been overranked in fantasy drafts as a solid second round pick and some experts even believed he was a possible top 15 player. Hyde has missed nearly 40% of his games as a feature back, but has effectively pounded the rock for over 1,400 yards and 9 TDs in his last 20 starts. His value has finally dropped to a more realistic solid RB2 ranking, but he has some concerns for playing time considering the acquisitions of Tim Hightower, Kapri Bibbs, and rookie Joe Williams. Hyde’s short-lived feature back days may be over, so he scares me as a projected high end RB2.
Best Sleeper: Joe Williams was the RB the team invested in this year in the draft and he’s often listed as a potential sleeper in dynasty leagues. If Hyde hits a wall yet again and the team has little to play for as expected down the stretch, Williams could see the bulk of the carries if the team feels ready to move on from Hyde. He’s certainly worthy of a dynasty draft dart throw.
Overrated Sleeper: The 49ers don’t have many players to be disappointed in considering the expectation is so low, but Vance McDonald has never lived up to his sleeper lore. Granted he hasn’t exactly had the best dropback passers slinging the pigskin either, but there are too many better options at TE and I don’t want a guy that has never produced like he’s projected to.
Most Intriguing Storyline: With a rebuilding team and a new offensive mind, every key offensive position could see some significant changes in 2017 or have a new starter by 2018. Hoyer may have his last chance to be an NFL starter, Hyde needs to prove he can last and be that feature back, and Garcon leads a WR group that has few established options. By season’s end will these players still be leading each unit or will the 49ers completely tear down the system?
One Interesting Fantasy Stat: Did you know that the 49ers, a team that spent most of last year behind teams by significant margin, were a top 5 running team in the league in total yards? Mind….blown.
One Thing I Was Right About (Last Year): Um that Yahoo’s Brad Evans was smoking crack when he listed Carlos Hyde as a top 15 fantasy draft pick.
One Thing I Was Wrong About: I didn’t want any 49ers on my team honestly, so it escapes me at the moment. Maybe that Kaepernick would be worth starting occasionally?
Best Porn Name: 3rd string safety Vinnie Sunseri sounds like a good Italian kid that could star in The Dongfather and Ray Ray Armstrong is simply a great name. But DeForest Buckner does like to Fuc…..well you get the idea.
Final Thought: We miss Patrick Willis as an IDP superstar (although NaVarro Bowman is like Baby Patrick Willis). We also miss his amazing WAG.