It's tough to read new 49ers head coach Chip Kelly, but it appears
as if Blaine Gabbert has secured himself the starting quarterback
role in San Francisco, thus giving himself an interesting fantasy
situation for the 2016 season. Gabbert, a former top-10 NFL Draft
pick, was once the laughing stock of the league, but saw a career
resurrection in San Francisco this past season. While his 20.8 fantasy
points-per-game certainly didn't light the world on fire, what Gabbert
did was provide some stability at the most important position on
the football field - something which previous starter Colin Kaepernick
certainly was not doing. While it's hard to get behind him as a
starter even in deeper 14 or 16 team leagues, Gabbert does provide
some upside for those looking for a deep QB2.
It was only a season ago that then-Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford
was the darling of fantasy experts who enjoy the "wait on a
quarterback" draft strategy. While the shine might be worn
off on the Chip Kelly offensive scheme, there's still a real chance
that Kelly could rekindle the flames of what was once a promising
young NFL career. Bradford was disappointing, but still finished
as the No. 22 fantasy quarterback in what ended up being Kelly's
final season in Philadelphia. It's hard to imagine that the move
to the Kelly system won't at least be an improvement. The 49ers
receivers left quite a bit desired in 2015 and they didn't do much
to address the problem during the off season. Still, Gabbert is
at least worth consideration as a bye week replacement.
It's hard to imagine a player rising and falling more quickly than
San Francisco's $114 Million man, Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick not
only failed to live up to expectations under his new deal, but he
even lost his starting job during the 2015 season. To make matters
worse, he lost his job to another player who had previously flopped
as a starter, Blaine Gabbert.
Kaepernick's role now will almost certainly be as the primary backup
despite his skill set arguably being more appropriate for the new
49ers offense under head coach Chip Kelly. While there is always
the chance for an injury to Gabbert, Kaepernick should not be considered
a draftable fantasy option at this time.
One potential thing to keep an eye on is the 49ers dealing Kaepernick
to another team that could be dealing with an injury or extremely
subpar play at the position prior to the trade deadline. The team
reportedly tried to move him during the off-season and was unable
to come to an agreement with a suitor, but that doesn't mean that
other teams won't become more desperate as the season rolls on.
Carlos Hyde has been the subject of much discussion among fantasy
experts this off season after his season was cut short by injury
in 2015. As a former second round NFL Draft pick, Hyde's physical
abilities are not really in question, but his inability to stay
on the field has certainly been a concern. When healthy, Hyde
has been one of the best under-the-radar stud running backs in
the league. If you consider the horrendous supporting cast, coaching
and game flow that he's had to endure, Hyde has produced far better
than he should have. Now in a new, high-octane offense, expect
Hyde to get more total snaps and be used, particularly late in
tight games, to close out the opposition.
While he's known as more of a bruiser, Hyde also has the elusiveness
to slip tackles and get around the edge as needed. He has reportedly
lost a substantial amount of weight this off-season in preparation
for his new role in the San Francisco offense - a sign that he
is not taking his job as the starter lightly. One aspect of Hyde's
game that we'd like to see more of is his usage in the passing
game. While he did up his catches-per-game number in 2015 from
what he did in 2014, Hyde still hauled in just 11 total receptions
in seven games. That'd put him at a pace to finish the season
at a measly 25 catches. While that number shouldn't go down, Kelly
is known for using multiple backs to keep everyone fresh, however,
so don't be surprised if other backs spell Hyde on passing downs
from time to time.
Hardly anyone knew of Shaun Draughn heading into the 2015 NFL
season, but fantasy owners who took a chance in him in free agency
ended up getting decent value when both Carlos Hyde and Reggie
Bush went down with injuries. With the 49ers in an absolutely
desperate situation, Draughn quickly became one of the most highly-utilized
backs in the league. He was on the field for more snaps than most
of the elite backs, largely because of the team's poor depth at
the position, but also because his versatility allowed him to
be effective on both running and passing downs.
While he is not skilled enough to take over Hyde's role as the
team's primary back, Draughn is good enough to play a role similar
to that of Ryan Mathews from the 2015 season in Chip Kelly's offense.
This gives some value as a late-round sleeper who could contribute
some unexpected value in PPR formats. He also offers solid handcuff
potential given Hyde's extensive injury history.
Torrey Smith has long been one of the prime examples of unfulfilled
potential, but even the lackluster seasons he had in Baltimore
couldn't compare to the abysmal production that fantasy owners
got out of the 49ers' top receiver in 2015. Smith finished the
season with career lows in yardage, receptions and tied a career
low with just four touchdowns. Certainly not all of the blame
can fall on Smith himself as he was just one part of what was
the NFL's most anemic offense - one which scored just 238 points.
Still, Smith does have to share some of the blame as he didn't
create the kind of separation that he had in previous seasons.
While those who owned Smith in 2015 might be shy to give him a
shot again, that could actually work into the favor of fantasy
owners who are willing to believe in Smith's skills and the new
high-paced Chip Kelly offensive system. Kelly's offense has had
its struggles, but one thing is for sure - it's been able to get
receivers open deep. And when it comes to deep pass catchers in
the league, there aren't many better than Torrey Smith. Given
his almost comically low ADP, Smith allows for a low-risk, high-upside
option late in drafts.
Likely to begin the season in the 49ers' starting lineup, Jerome
Simpson does offer limited value for those in very deep leagues,
but his upside is extremely limited. We've seen Simpson show flashes
of brilliance throughout his career, but he's never been able
to do it on a consistent basis. Not only that, but he's one drug
offense away from being suspended for an entire season. He really
doesn't have much value for most formats unless there's an injury
to Torrey Smith. Even then, his upside isn't great.
He hasn't been on a football field since 2014 at Georgia Tech,
but that hasn't stopped second-year 49ers wide receiver DeAndre
Smelter from gaining steam within the fantasy community. Smelter's
6'2", 230-pound frame might remind some of Dallas' Dez Bryant
- and Georgia Tech does have the pedigree of putting out beasts
like Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas in recent years - but
there's no reason to think that Smelter is anywhere near that
level of a talent.
Still, the 49ers depth chart is almost completely bare of high-potential
talent, so if you're looking for someone to target on this roster
from a dynasty standpoint, Smelter is probably the guy you're
looking for. He's really the only receiver on this roster who
has real "breakout" potential.
Most believed that it would be Garrett Celek who got a big uptick
in fantasy production when Vernon Davis was traded away from San
Francisco this past season, but much to the surprise of many fantasy
owners, it was actually Vance McDonald who seemed to get substantially
more usage in the passing game. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert has
been vocal this off season regarding McDonald, noting that the
offense needs to utilize his speed and athleticism to create matchup
problems for defenses. Gabbert himself predicted a breakout year
for McDonald which doesn't necessarily mean high-end fantasy value,
but could translate if he's given the opportunity to play the
role that Zach Ertz (75-853-2) played in Philadelphia this past
season. McDonald is the tight end to own on this team, but understand
that the likelihood that he replicates the kind of numbers that
Ertz did, in his first year in the Kelly system, is unlikely.
With the 49ers shipping away Vernon Davis mid-season in 2015,
the 49ers tight end position quickly became a sight for sore eyes.
Veteran Garrett Celek gained some fantasy steam when the Davis
trade was made, but he was unable to capitalize on the opportunity.
Celek did, however, sign a four-year contract with the team this
off season, signifying that the team does have some long-term
plans for him. Whether that translates to fantasy success remains
to be seen, but he is the younger brother of Philadelphia tight
end Brent Celek who had some success in the Chip Kelly offense
in recent years.