Despite lingering QB and OL questions, the San Francisco 49ers arguably have the most stars in the entire NFL. We can draft them all on Underdog Fantasy with promo code 'UNDERBLOG' to match your first deposit up to $100. We have the biggest fantasy football tournament of all time ($15M) right now.
The overall play volume and 4th-down conservativeness can be frustrating, but Kyle Shanahan is the man. His offenses have been 4th, 15th, 7th, and 5th in yards with sub-par QB and OL play. It helps that this is arguably the best pass-catching group in the NFL, all of whom have versatile skillsets. The 49ers ranking 7th in big play passes on the No. 26 average depth of target and No. 23 deep-ball catch rate is simply outrageous but makes the uncertainty at QB less of a fear going into 2023. Of course, the ceiling of the team is tied to whoever wins the QB competition (and their health). Meanwhile 2022's No. 1 EPA allowed defense is littered with All Pro talent once again.
2-WR Sets (1st in snaps, 49% of snaps)
WR: Deebo Samuel --> Danny Gray
WR: Brandon Aiyuk --> Jauan Jennings
SLOT TE: George Kittle --> Brayden Willis (R)
INLINE TE: Ross Dwelley --> Cameron Latu (R)
3-WR Sets (30th in snaps, 43% of snaps)
WR: Deebo Samuel --> Danny Gray
WR: Brandon Aiyuk --> Chris Conley
SLOT: Jauan Jennings --> Ray-Ray McCloud
TE: George Kittle --> Ross Dwelley
RB Usage (9th in expected half PPR)
GOAL LINE: Christian McCaffrey --> Elijah Mitchell
PASSING DOWN: Christian McCaffrey --> Jordan Mason
Offensive Line (bad beyond their LT)
LT: Trent Williams (still a total stud)
LG: Aaron Banks (mid returning starter)
C: Jake Brendel (mid returning starter)
RG: Spencer Burford (mid returning starter)
RT: Colton McKivitz (career backup)
Reports and leadership comments suggest Brock Purdy is the starter, assuming his rehab continues to go well. On 280 dropbacks as a 7th-round rookie, Purdy was the QB13 in completion percentage over expected and the QB13 in PFF grade, yet was the QB2 in yards per attempt and QB4 in EPA per play. Like Jimmy Garoppolo, his numbers were better than his actual game play. Unlike Jimmy, Purdy does create time in the pocket, which gives the impression that he's a creator himself. However, PFF charted him with the 35th-best big play throw rate and he was the QB3 in yards after the catch per completion (6.2). I also charted him with my own eyes with a ton of dropped INTs. Does any of that matter for fantasy in this offense? Probably not much. He averaged 231 passing yards (would've been QB16) and 2.0 passing TDs (would've been QB5) in his 8 healthy games. That is QB2 production if 1) his elbow still works and 2) he can hold off an unexpected breakout from Trey Lance or Sam Darnold. I personally would like to see a few Lance starts early, while giving Purdy a few extra weeks to rehab, as there's more theoretical upside in all capacities with Lance. Sadly, "theoretical" could be the key word there.
In a win for regression, Deebo Samuel was the WR24 in fantasy points over replacement per game last season on WR13 fantasy usage. His TDs dropped from 14 to 5. His yards per catch dropped from 18.2 to 11.3. Nagging injuries certainly hurt him in both categories, but the real culprit was a massive dip in deep-target production. He had 1 reception on targets traveling 20+ air yards compared to 8 the previous season, while his average depth of target fell to a lowly 5.1 yards. There wasn't much of a touch change with CMC in the mix, but we have to be fearful that the big plays aren't going to return back to the rare 2021 levels. He's a boom-bust WR2, while Brandon Aiyuk continues to emerge. ... As the 49ers' primary intermediate and deep threat, Aiyuk was the WR37 on WR41 usage in his 3rd season. His skillset is more valuable than that in real life, but insane target competition, limited QB play, and the lack of schemed/underneath targets hurt his path to upside. In fact, he just had 1 game (of 20) with 85+ yards last season and only 1 game with 8+ receptions despite CMC, Deebo, and Kittle all missing time throughout the year. The fear is that this is a D.J. Moore profile all over again (better player than fantasy asset). ... Jauan Jennings is a fine enough slot No. 3 receiver as a former 7th-round pick, but he doesn't see enough targets to matter even in best ball leagues. He was the WR127 per game last year.
George Kittle once again scored more TDs than his usage would project. Last year's numbers were a bit much even by his high standards, however. He comfortably led the position with +5.0 TDs over expected, but despite this, he was just the 51st overall player per game in fantasy points over replacement. Like last year, drafting Kittle at cost is hoping that his random spike weeks happen to come when you need them most. If he scores anywhere near his 6.0 expected TDs, then he's very tough click in Round 4/5. The 30-year-old had a career-low 1.8 yards per route run last season, which still was enough to be the TE4 in that stat.
Christian McCaffrey averaged 4.9 receptions, 15.0 carries, 92 total yards, and 1.0 total touchdown in his 12 healthy games with the 49ers, including playoffs. That would've been the RB2 in receptions, the RB3 in total TDs, and the RB5 in total yards. The 27-year-old set career highs in yards after contact per carry and broken tackle rate, too, so he's pretty good still! The only real difference is slightly less odds of a legendary peak ceiling, given the presence of other elite skill players and the history of a committee under Shanahan. McCaffrey was on pace for 381 touches across 17 games from 2018-2021 versus 339 in San Francisco. It's insane that's a knock on him. ... Elijah Mitchell had between 9 and 20 touches in his 6 healthy games with CMC, with the caveat being that all 6 games were wins (on a ridiculous +96 point differential). His stand alone value is limited to fluky, flex-worthy long TDs in best ball, but the insurance appeal is obvious. Mitchell had 18+ touches in 11-of-14 games in 2021. The 25-year-old has a solid-enough 4.4 yards per carry through two NFL seasons. ... For the deep league sickos, Jordan Mason has my attention on tape. He happened to lead the '22 rookie class in PFF rushing grade, success rate (53%), yards after contact (4.2), and yards per carry (6.0).
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RB1 Christian McCaffrey (3.9 overall) --> Buying
WR17 Deebo Samuel (33.7) --> Mixing in
WR28 Brandon Aiyuk (51.2) --> Soft fading
TE4 George Kittle (60.8) --> Soft fading
RB41 Elijah Mitchell (124.2) --> Buying
QB24 Brock Purdy (175.4) --> Mixing in
QB31 Trey Lance (210.4) --> Fading
RB77 Jordan Mason (215.7) --> Mixing in