Questions remain about Jimmy Garoppolo, but deep 49ers motivated coming off Super Bowl loss

Dalton Del Don, Matt Harmon and Scott Pianowski
·8 min read

The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the eventual start of the 2020 draft season. Here, we’ll tackle pressing fantasy questions, #FantasyHotTaeks, and team win totals. We conclude the series with the San Francisco 49ers.

Only Dalton seems to believe in Jimmy G this season, ranking him in the top 15. Is this well beyond Garoppolo’s most likely outcome for 2020, or is there hidden value in selecting him?

Matt: Dalton has made his case for Jimmy Garoppolo to me many times on the Yahoo Fantasy Football Podcast over the last few months. He has a multitude of good points. I think those add up to make the case that Jimmy Garoppolo will have many big weeks that help you win a head to head matchup. I just don’t see the upside for Garoppolo to develop into anything more than a priority streamer. We know the 49ers want to lean toward being a run-heavy offense. The supporting cast is weaker than it was in early May, following Deebo Samuel’s offseason injury. The opening schedule (vs. Cardinals, at Jets, at Giants, at Eagles) is in his favor. So Garoppolo could get off to a nice start and be a solid QB1 to start the year. Still, if I’m deploying the late-round quarterback strategy, I want the player I’m targeting to have a pathway to be a high-end, every week starter. I don’t see that in the range of outcomes for whoever is piloting this offense.

Scott: Kyle Shanahan builds successful running games, no matter the personnel. And the Niners have the foundation of an excellent defense. So it’s impossible to imagine Garoppolo playing with his hair on fire weekly, a volume collector. Garoppolo is also unlikely to run much. George Kittle is obviously a god at tight end, but the receiver collection is nothing special if we assume Deebo Samuel is out on opening day.

If you want to use Jimmy G as your No. 2 quarterback in a Superflex format, or a depth guy in Best Ball, knock yourself out. I don’t see how you can build an upside case. The volume is unlikely to be there.

Dalton: He got 10.0 YPA(!) on first downs last year and plays for a team that just scored the second-most ppg and likely to be fast-paced but will almost certainly regress on defense in 2020, resulting in higher volume. During the offseason, the team added Trent Williams at left tackle, a receiver who led college football in yards after the catch average (with the third-lowest drop%) with a wingspan like Calvin Johnson in the first round of the draft and saw Jalen Hurd and Jerick McKinnon return. During Matt Ryan’s second full year as a starter in Kyle Shanahan’s offense (like Garoppolo will be this season), he threw for nearly 5,000 yards with 38 touchdowns and won MVP. Garoppolo was blitzed by far the highest rate while still recovering from knee surgery last season, and there’s room for further growth having fewer career starts than Baker Mayfield and fewer career pass attempts than Sam Darnold. The 49ers also have one of the more favorable QB fantasy schedules, so Jimmy G’s ADP is comically low.

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George Kittle's 2020 ADP puts him smack in between the likes of Chris Godwin, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kenny Golladay, Mike Evans, and OBJ. Are you comfortable selecting him here among these big names at glamour positions, or is it better to pass?

Dalton: Kittle is the only player I’d consider in the first three rounds of a draft who’s not a running back, as he could be set for a historic season at tight end. He’s an injury risk but also just led the NFL (including WRs) in yards per route run (and RACR) by a wide margin, and he’s the clear No. 1 target on an underrated passing offense with Deebo Samuel suffering a Jones fracture. I’m still likely to go RB at that stage of drafts, but Kittle also has a green light schedule (the NFC West is going to be high-scoring this season) and appears to have taken the offseason seriously. Since he has the upside (he led the NFL in nullified TDs over just 14 games last season) to separate himself from the rest of his position unlike any other, Kittle is a smart second-round pick (and far superior to Godwin, Evans and OBJ).

Scott: Kittle is a viable alternative in the second round, if you don’t love the wideouts there (or if you feel you can do just as well with Round 3 receivers, which you likely can). Kittle’s modest touchdown counts are probably a stone fluke; some year, even by accident, he’s going to score 8-10 times. If you remove quarterbacks from the debate, Kittle might be the most valuable player in the entire league.

Matt: In the wake of the Deebo Samuel injury, much of the industry has been in hot debate about who will be the next man up. Does Dante Pettis return from the wilderness? Will Brandon Aiyuk get off to a hot start? Is Jalen Hurd the ultimate super sleeper? To me, the answer to any of those questions hasn’t been all that important, as I’m projecting the big riser in the wake of Samuel’s loss to be none other than George Kittle. The Iowa product set a career-high 136 targets back in 2018 but I think he could smash that number in 2020. We saw two tight ends post 150-plus in 2018 (Kelce and Ertz) as issues arose in the receiver corps around them. That’s already the case in San Francisco. Kittle is set up for a monster season as the center of this passing game’s universe.

A Kyle Shanahan backfield is great in reality but trickier in fantasy. Who are you putting your chips on this season, especially with Raheem Mostert requesting a trade?

Scott: I expect the Mostert situation to be smoothed over, but it’s hard to aggressively invest in someone with his track record (as much as I like the story); this could be another Justin Forsett pitfall. Tevin Coleman is the value pick, but he might not have the body type to handle a heavy workload. And maybe Shanahan doesn’t want anyone in this backfield touching the ball 18-20 times a game. It’s a fantasy paradox: we know Shanahan will build a strong running game, but the production might be so splintered and spread out, fantasy players can’t consistently benefit from it.

Matt: Personally, I haven’t been drawn to any of these players at their ADP. If Raheem Mostert has more of a receiving resume, he’d be a safer pick at his current draft slot. Tevin Coleman is appealing as a later flier who enjoyed some successful moments in his first season with the team. But he’s not a priority target for me. Jerick McKinnon is still lurking. The sharp move for this backfield is exactly how we all played it after Week 1 last year: Be aggressive in adding the latest hot hand on the waiver wire and never got too committed.

Dalton: Mostert just led the NFL in rushing DVOA by a wide margin and produced 792 yards from scrimmage with 12 touchdowns over the final eight games. I liked him as a fourth-round target, especially with a bigger upcoming workload (Matt Breida and his 142 touches left, while Tevin Coleman finished 43rd out of 45 qualified RBs in rushing DVOA and is one of Injury Predictor’s most likely RBs to go down in 2020) and with the team also adding LT Trent Williams. All bets are off if Mostert gets traded, of course, and it’s not like he didn’t already come without risk (28 years old and zero career NFL starts), but given how little leverage he has, I still expect Mostert to return and be the lead back in a Shanahan offense at a discounted ADP.

[2020 Draft Rankings: Overall | QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | DST | Kickers]

San Francisco 49ers Projected Lineup.
San Francisco 49ers Projected Lineup.

#FantasyHotTaek

Matt: Jalen Hurd records more fantasy points than Brandon Aiyuk. This take is meant to shine more positivity on my hopes for Hurd, rather than pessimism toward the rookie. Aiyuk may have a large learning curve heading into the NFL, as he simply just did not defeat press in the rare moments he did see that type of coverage in college. He will have to be schemed open, much like Samuel was as a 2019 rookie. However, while they both win after the catch, Aiyuk is far more apt at electric elusive moves whereas Deebo played like a bully. Hurd, as a former 1,200-yard rusher in the SEC turned wide receiver, could slide into those packages far easier. Kyle Shanahan has spoken positively about Hurd and his potential to fill roles as a runner, H-back and slot option.

OVER/UNDER on 10.5 Win Total from BetMGM

Dalton: The 49ers play in a competitive division and history hasn’t typically been kind to Super Bowl losers the following season. But this team remains loaded (adding Trent Williams and two first-rounders during the offseason, and what if Dee Ford is actually healthy?), has extra motivation coming off such a devastating loss, and continuity seems especially important given our current unique circumstances. Whether or not you believe in Jimmy G, this offensive system should be highly productive (one could easily argue Kyle Shanahan is a top-three NFL commodity), and the defensive line should again be a force, so give me the OVER despite the high number.

Follow Matt: @MattHarmon_BYB

Follow Scott: @scott_pianowski

Follow Dalton: @daltondeldon

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