As the San Francisco 49ers roll through their bye week, I thought we could take a look at their development in the world of fantasy football. Some folks could not care less about fantasy football, but as I've said in other posts, it can help provide us with some insight into the performances of the players and the team as a whole. Additionally, feel free touse this as a general fantasy football discussion heading into tomorrow's action.
Arguably the most consistent fantasy performer for the 49ers this season has been the defense/special teams. I generally prefer a team defense/special teams over individual defensive players. The 49ers defense has been tremendously valuable thanks to its aggressive nature. Even if they give up a decent amount of points, the sacks and turnovers create great value. And while Ted Ginn Jr. has not returned any more kicks or punts for touchdowns, the threat is always there.
Over the last three weeks, Frank Gore has been the big fantasy performer. While Alex Smith has made some big throws during that time, Gore's runs have been pivotal for the offense. If he can keep it up, Gore will be right back near the top of the ranks among valuable running backs. It has been a fairly bizarre year for running backs, with guys like Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene struggling immensely. Gore seems to be back on track after early struggles.
Vernon Davis remains the leading pass catcher for this offense, but in reality, it is rather difficult to figure out which 49ers receivers/tight ends to stick with on a regular basis. For the most part you are likely going to continue starting Davis whatever the matchup. He is seemingly due to blow up, but honestly, who knows when that will happen. He had two scores against Tampa Bay and a 100+ yards against Cincinnati, so it is definitely there.
His fellow tight end Delanie Walker remains an interesting option. He doesn't have monster numbers, but he has reached a career-high three touchdowns and is an intriguing little part of the offense. For fantasy purposes, he likely qualifies as a bye week option with some upside but not much more at this point. He has tremendous overall value to the 49ers offense, which I am plenty pleased with. He just isn't going to blow up frequently for fantasy purposes (unless HUGE blocks is a stat in your league).
The wide receivers are a big mystery on this team. Michael Crabtree seems to be emerging as a go-to guy, but with Braylon Edwards likely back in the mix soon, it's hard to tell what the future holds for any of the receivers. Ted Ginn has gotten some reps, but nothing consistent. And Kyle Williams had his big touchdown catch but has been ignored much of the rest of the time. As Crabtree continues to get healthier and the foot becomes less of an issue (we hope), it will be interesting to see if he becomes that go-to guy on a consistent basis.
One "intriguing" fantasy option, if you want to call him that, is quarterback Alex Smith. He is not a guy you will start every week, but he could actually prove to be an interesting bye week fill-in. For example, I have Drew Brees in a money league and Brees' bye is week 11. It just so happens that the 49ers face the Arizona Cardinals at Candlestick Park that week. I picked up Alex Smith off waivers for the sole purpose of starting him that game. There are few opportunities to start Alex Smith in fantasy football, so it's kind of fun to take advantage of it.
We can't forget about kicker David Akers. The Philly game aside, Akers has had a very strong year, showing he has not lost anything on his deep kicks. He remains an excellent fantasy start week in and week out in part because of the accuracy, but also because the 49ers offense is becoming more and more effective.
The 49ers are an interesting team in 2011 from a fantasy perspective. They do have a few notable standouts, but many of their skill position players are tough calls primarily because the offense is developing significant efficiency in distributing the ball around the field. Of course, I can live with fantasy inefficiencies if it gets the 49ers deep into the playoffs. I can very much live with that.