The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the end of July as training camps open. We’ll tackle pressing season-long fantasy questions, Best Ball tips (new on Yahoo for 2019) and team win totals. Next up, the San Francisco 49ers.
The San Francisco 49ers weren’t able to deliver much in the way of wins or fantasy glory last season, thanks in no small part to the devastating ACL tear suffered by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 3. Also, Jerick McKinnon’s season-ending ACL injury made a mess of this team’s backfield plans. But that doesn’t mean the 49ers didn’t flash. George Kittle emerged and catapulted his way to the top of the fantasy tight end crop. Matt Breida proved himself the running back version of Wolverine. With Kyle Shanahan running the show, a healthy Niners offense in 2019 has a lot of fantasy intrigue.
Though he’ll be pressed by Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida, indications suggest Tevin Coleman will spearhead San Francisco’s RB turnstile. At his current price point (66.1 ADP, RB29), is the former Falcon OVERVALUED, UNDERVALUED or PROPERLY VALUED?
Andy: It feels wrong to open this preview with a boring answer, but I happen to think Coleman is PROPERLY valued by the early-drafting fantasy community. If you can land him anywhere in the Round 5-7 range, you should feel good about the profit potential. Coleman had a terrific season on Shanahan’s watch in 2016, gaining 941 scrimmage yards and scoring 11 touchdowns on just 149 touches. I’ll be surprised if any back on this team sees more than, say, 220 carries, but Coleman has proven himself to be a steady, efficient all-situation RB. No, he wasn’t a reliable fantasy contributor on a weekly basis last year, but that was a volume issue. Coleman ultimately made nine house-calls and he averaged 4.8 YPC. He’s a quality player.
McKinnon is returning from a significant injury and he’s never been a particularly effective back when trusted with heavy workloads. It’s hard for me to view him as a serious threat to Coleman. Breida, however, has been mostly terrific. He gained 1,075 scrimmage yards last season, averaging 5.3 YPC. My expectation is that he and Coleman will dominate this team’s backfield touches when healthy.
Brad: UNDERVALUED. There are many denizens of Fantasyland who would rather freely surrender information to Russian hackers via the FaceApp than invest a single dime in the Niners backfield. Coleman, however, isn’t some wrinkly option on his last leg. Previously under Shanahan’s tutelage, in 2016, he was RB17 in .5 PPR as a tandem rusher. Including that year, he’s finished RB22 or higher in .5 PPR leagues three straight seasons, consistently outperforming his draft day ADP. His underlying numbers have been equally impressive. Last year, for example, he compiled 2.91 yards after contact per attempt, was RB12 in yards created per carry and ranked RB2 in breakaway run rate. Still in his prime at 26, there’s much to like.
McKinnon and Breida are skilled threats who could undermine Coleman when healthy. But the last phrase is most important ... when healthy. Tissue paper offers more durability. Throw in San Francisco’s expected top-ranked run-blocking line along with the fourth-easiest projected schedule and Coleman is a fantastic mid-draft target capable of 1,100 total yards with 7-9 TDs.
Jimmy G is back in the game
Expectations for Jimmy Garoppolo (152.5 ADP, QB22) are mixed after a knee injury prematurely derailed his 2018 campaign. TRUE or FALSE, Jimmy G finishes inside the QB top-20 in traditional Yahoo leagues (4 pts/pass TD, 1 pt/25 yards passing)?
Andy: TRUE, barely. Garoppolo has produced an impressive 8.5 Y/A over his nine games with San Francisco, so we have to like his chances to finish with 4,200-plus passing yards if he plays a full season. There’s no rushing component to his game and his receiving corps, beyond Kittle, is full of question marks. So let’s not pretend that Garoppolo is anything close to a no-doubt QB1 for fantasy purposes. But we’ve seen him produce respectable numbers while throwing to a collection of misfit receivers in the past. It’s not unrealistic to think he can deliver a Kirk Cousins-ish season, which would land him easily inside the top 20 at his position.
Liz: TRUE. Coming back from an ACL injury gives me pause, but ultimately… I was bullish on Garoppolo last year and I’m bullish on him again this year. Reportedly GTG for training camp, Jimmy G will enter 2019 with a healthier, broader, and more experienced stable of weapons. Coached up by one of the greatest offensive minds of the modern era, Garoppolo has the opportunity to build on his late-2017 effort. It was then that he ripped off 11 money throws in 5 starts (compared to Tom Brady’s 13 in sixteen starts) and kept his chill with a pressured completion percentage of 52.5 (QB1).
I imagine it might take a minute settle into a rhythm, but a few big after-the-catch plays from George Kittle and/or Dante Pettis should boost Jimmy’s confidence while padding his stats. He’s my QB16 heading into 2019
Player Pick ‘Em
Using average draft position as the basis, who will yield the most fantasy return on investment: George Kittle (23.9, TE3) or Dante Pettis (72.6, WR32)?
Brad: PETTIS. *Cowers in fear awaiting Behrens’ Kittle-fueled rage* Yes, George, who recently showed he can bench press an armored truck, is one of the king’s of the TE jungle, but in a value-based game, his teammate possesses more profitability. As Matt Harmon’s #ReceptionPerception tracked, the sophomore receiver proved wonderfully efficient in his first season. Solid across the route tree, he posted a 70.2 success rate versus man coverage. It’s no wonder why many Bay Area beat writers believe he’ll be the clear-cut No. 1 in short order.
Pettis earned rave reviews from Jimmy G and Shanahan earlier this summer. The former marveled at the wideout’s chiseled frame. The latter lauded his route expansion and improvement. If Garoppolo remains upright and lives up to the hype, it’s conceivable Pettis registers 70-plus receptions with 1,000-1100 yards and 5-7 TDs. In other words, his second-season leap could match what Kenny Golladay accomplished last year.
Liz: PETTIS. There is no denying Kittle’s ability to crush after the catch (857 YAC) and I fully expect him to light it up again this season. However, there are more mouths to feed in SF now, which will likely force Kittle to experience a target regression. I just can’t pull the trigger on drafting a player at peak value in rounds where elite talent is still available.
Pettis, on the other hand, is brimming with potential. Having received praise from both his QB and his HC, the second-round pick is expected to work as the 49ers’ No. 1 WR. Excelling down the stretch last year, Pettis posted WR2 fantasy numbers from Weeks 12 through 15 before suffering an MCL injury in Week 16. Converting over 65 percent of his targets (with Nick Mullens under center) and flashing solid after the catch ability, Pettis pulled down four TDs in his final four healthy games of the season. Assuming he can stay in the lineup, Pettis is capable of top-25 FF stats. He’s currently a high-upside value at his given ADP.
Best Ball Bargain Bin
Andy: I’m happy to take MARQUISE GOODWIN in the back-half of any draft, best-ball or standard. He’s likely to be a boom/bust receiver in 2019, but the big weeks are going to be special. Goodwin was outstanding during Garoppolo’s five starts in 2017, averaging 5.8 receptions and 76.8 yards per game. He also happens to be one of the fastest dudes in the league, a player capable of taking any touch to the end zone.
Brad: JERICK MCKINNON. Worries his leg tendons would explode in an innocent game of Spikeball are warranted, but, when physically able, McKinnon is a dynamite, elusive dual threat. In 2017, he forced a missed tackle on 20.0 percent of his carries. If he doesn’t suffer a setback, 40-45 receptions are on the horizon. For thrift-mined PPR players, he’s a quality stash at his near No. 100 overall ADP.
Mad Bets (From FanDuel Sportsbook): San Francisco 8 wins OVER (-110) or UNDER (-110)
Andy: Can I imagine a scenario in which all the key pieces remain healthy and Kyle Shanahan’s squad breaks out in a big way? Sure. I won’t rule out the possibility of a 9 or 10-win season. But would I actually bet on it? No.
If this group can simply improve by four wins and finish at .500, that’s progress. I’m gonna say PUSH, 8-8.
Liz: OVER. Look at Andy being all prudent… and probably right. I’m going to lean into optimism. The NFC West is, perhaps, the most intriguing division in the league this year. With the Rams likely to regress, and the Cardinals a completely reworked squad, anything is possible. Here’s to the 49ers staying healthy and finally up-leveling. Give me nine wins.
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