After their first three games produced mixed results, fantasy owners are starting to question whether the San Francisco 49ers are still viable fantasy options in 2014.
Coming into this season, it seemed like the 49ers were going to be chalk full of fantasy goodness. The assumption was, that with NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith missing time, the offense would play with a much more wide open philosophy and that offensive coordinator Greg Roman would allow quarterback Colin Kaepernick to be more dynamic.
The 49ers have looked like an offensive juggernaut in the first halves of their first three games, but something seems to happen to them when they go to the locker room at halftime and come back out for the second half. They haven’t looked nearly the same, getting outscored 49-3 in the second half of games.
Part of the frustration falls on Roman and his questionable play calling. The offensive line hasn’t been as impressive as in previous seasons. Tight end Vernon Davis has been injured, which had a huge impact on the Niners offense over the team’s last five quarters. He went out at the end of the game against the Bears and did not play against the Cardinals.
The fantasy potential of the Niners going forward is a huge question mark at this point. They will need to prove that they can complete four quarters and return to what made them among the best in the NFL before fantasy owners can fully buy in.
The 49ers’ signal caller was a top 10 at quarterback in many fantasy analysts’ preseason rankings, including myself. Thus far, Kaepernick has shown flashes of that tremendous potential value, but his second half woes have brought that upside to a screeching halt.
Going forward, Kaepernick can be a top 10 quarterback, and fantasy owners should keep him around. When the offense is clicking, the value is immense, and if Kaepernick and the 49ers can finish four quarters, he will be the top 10 guy many anticipated. Owners should be starting a quarterback they can play on a week-to-week basis until Kaepernick shows he can play well for four quarters.
While Frank Gore is never a sexy name going into fantasy drafts, he is consistently a fantasy producer who helps fantasy owners week-to-week. However, Gore has not looked like his usual self this season. Three things have emerged as serious concerns for Gore owners going forward.
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- The 49ers offensive line play has been a shell of what it is expected to see. Typically they are the dominant force, making huge holes for the 49ers rush attack.
- Carlos Hyde is a real threat to Gore’s value. Hyde looks impressive, makes good decisions, and has produced when he had his shot.
- Roman’s play calling, especially in the second half, has leaned heavily on the passing game. The second half of the 49ers game against the Cardinals only saw three carries, one of which was by Frank Gore.
Gore’s owners will want to monitor the situation in San Francisco. As long as Hyde is splitting carries and the 49ers offense isn’t nearly as run focused, Gore is a flex option at best. When the Niners’ defense is restored to full health, the offense may look much more like the offense of old, restoring Gore’s value.
While the 49ers offense hasn’t been running at optimal form, fantasy goodness is still available to be had. Michael Crabtree started slow in Week 1, but that was mainly due to injury. He’s been stud since. In the two weeks since opening week, Crabtree has 17 catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
Stevie Johnson has continued to make himself a part of the 49er passing game. Johnson, who was featured in my preseason waiver wire targets to track, made Week 3 his coming out party, with nine catches for 103 yards. While fantasy owners will want to see if Johnson is still heavily involved in the passing attack when Vernon Davis returns in Week 4, he may be worth a stash as his value could rise, especially with bye weeks kicking off.
The next three games for the 49ers include matchups vs. the Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Rams. These three weeks will be pivotal for the 49ers’ fantasy value going forward. I expect a marked improvement in the second half of games in the coming weeks.
However, if the next three games go the way of the first three, owners of Kaepernick and Gore should start to worry. Crabtree and Davis owners likely won’t need to worry as their production should remain steady.