Since we're just going to discuss 49ers, I imagine it's not really giving away my entire draft strategy. However, aside from Frank Gore, many of the players discussed would be sleeper-type players. Up to this point we've had some very brief discussions of the 49ers potential fantasy impact. The preseason will answer some more questions, but in the the meantime, I thought I'd give the 49ers roster a once-over and throw out guys who could have some sort of fantasy impact.
Including our Niners Nation Fantasy League (register for the free drawing by Thursday!), I'm in 3 fantasy football leagues. One is a dynasty league where you keep an entire 28 man roster. Another is a keeper league in which you can keep up to 3 players. The NN league is a year-by-year league without keepers (at least not yet). I mention all this because this analysis is aimed at one and done leagues. Keeper and Dynasty leagues are a little too involved with each league having a million different rules that impact certain players' value. In a one-and-done league you can account for most, if not all the variables.
Alex Smith: If he is the starter, he's got the arm and ability to put up some quality numbers. If he looks to be the starter, I think he's definitely worth a late round pick as your backup QB if you've got a very strong #1 option. If you waited too long and grabbed a guy like David Garrard, you might want a more solid backup option.
Shaun Hill: When I see him in action he comes across as more of the game manager type who will win football games, but won't put up huge numbers. He put up a nice 3 TDs against TB, but didn't break 200 yards in any of this 3 appearances. I think he definitely falls into the better real QB than fantasy QB (which I have no problem with as a 49ers fan).
Frank Gore: Gore is a no-doubt first round pick thanks to the huge combined yards I fully expect. He managed to finish 10th in points for running backs, in spite of the 49ers anemic offense. And, if you're in a league that offers a point per reception, I think he's absolute gold.
DeShaun Foster: His only real value is as a handcuff to Frank Gore if you're concerned about injuries. This offense is built around Gore and Foster is not going to put up the kind of numbers that would justify having him on your roster.
Vernon Davis: Davis is going to put up big time fantasy points this year. He finished 15th among tight ends last year after his 52 receptions, 509 yards a 4 TDs. ESPN is projecting 59/623/6 but I think his receptions and yards could be even bigger. Mike Martz wants to take advantage of his speed a little more often, meaning bigger plays and more yards. I don't know if he'll necessarily crack the Witten/Gates/Gonzalez/Cooley barrier, but I think he could get to the 5th or 6th spot this season. I think the Duke is a very viable option as a starting TE. If you can get Cooley, Witten, etc... maybe you go with them as a safe pick, but I think Davis's upside is immense.
Delanie Walker: I include him here only because the discussion around Walker has been more prominent this year than last. Martz has really taken a liking to Walker and it makes me curious about him. I don't think he has a lot of value in a normal league, but he's got keeper potential. He's a guy worth keeping an eye on as a potential waiver wire steal.
Bryant Johnson: I go with Johnson first because I think for the 2008 season, he has the most fantasy upside. He's out of the shadow of Boldin and Fitzgerald and looking to make a name for himself. He could be a spectacular crash and burn, but he might be worth a look as your 3rd or 4th receiver.
Isaac Bruce: I'm not sure how much Bruce has left in the tank, but if he stays healthy and relatively fresh, he gives Smith/Hill the most consistent target they've ever had. ESPN thinks projects 65 receptions, 866 yards and 6 touchdowns. While those aren't spectacular, they would blow away anything the 49ers put on the field last year. For now Bruce is a bye-week fill in but if the offense gets it going, he could be an ok flex option.
Arnaz Battle: It'll be interesting to see if his numbers go down because of the increase in receiving options. ESPN points to him in a Mike Furrey role in the slot, and to quote them it isn't a bad thing. He'll never be spectacular but he's probably a good bye week fill in if you have multiple byes with which to contend. Did anybody here have him on their fantasy team as more than a bye week fill in?
Others: Jason Hill probably has the most upside of the remaining wide receivers if he can stay healthy, but he'll be on the waiver wire so no need to spend a pick on him. Ashley Lelie is injured and has a lot of work to do before he can become a productive fantasy receiver.
Joe Nedney: With only 19 field goal attempts, Nedney was not a viable fantasy option. If the 49ers can move the ball a little more, he's consistent enough to be worth a look. Until then he's a better real kicker than fantasy kicker.
I steadfastly maintain that this defense has the potential to be a top 10 defense. Fantasy-wise, the 49ers were one of the worst producing defenses. Until they develop a legit pass-rush they cannot be relied on in fantasy football. While turnovers and points off turnovers are certainly possible, they cannot be relied upon.
Some leagues do offer IDPs, or individual defensive players, although ours will not be one of those leagues. If you're in an IDP league, Patrick Willis is obviously money in the bank and will probably be one of the first defensive players taken. Justin Smith might be worth a look if he is going to be spending a lot of time in the outside linebacker role. If the pass rush develops, Nate Clements will have value as a pass rush means more hurried passes, meaning the potential for more interceptions. Also, he finished 2nd among cornerbacks in tackles, so that's certainly a plus for fantasy purposes.
So, there you have it. Aside from Frank Gore and Vernon Davis, a lot of the 49ers fantasy potential ranges between not much and high risk. I guess it just comes down to whether you're a gambler or not.