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Last week I posted that we would have a fantasy football league for the upcoming season through Yahoo and I'll be getting that set up in the next day or two. If you haven't commented expressing interesting, head over there and let me know if you are in fact interested. I'm away from my computer for much of today but I'll work to get the league started Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
The 49ers current free agency plans make it difficult to fully assess their fantasy football value. The one obvious question we had answered was the return of Frank Gore from his brief holdout. Gore is arguably the top 49ers player when it comes to fantasy football. Running backs in general have considerable value, but when you factor in his receiving abilities it only increases. Throw in the fact that he will likely be a prominent member of the Jim Harbaugh West Coast Offense and you're talking about a big time fantasy threat.
The second most prominent option is undoubtedly Vernon Davis. While Gore is routinely the top member of the 49ers in fantasy drafts, Davis is one of the top tight ends selected. Two years ago he was the highest scoring tight end in fantasy football, but that was due in part to his huge touchdown numbers. In 2009 he put up 13 touchdowns, which more than made up for his 965 yards. He figures to be a prominent member of the 49ers offense once again and a high value pick.
After Gore and Davis, things get a little bit tricky. Generally the next player would be Michael Crabtree. Even before his current foot injury he was a tough one to figure out as he was probably at best a third receiver. Wide receivers are tough to figure out given how many there are in the NFL, and how much league rules can impact wide receivers.
If you are in a point per reception league, it drastically changes the value of both receivers and running backs that catch a lot of balls out of the backfield. Such differences could be a huge difference when you are considering the various 49ers for fantasy purposes. The 49ers are a tough team to figure out on offense for fantasy purposes in part because they could very well be spreading the wealth among a variety of weapons.
Gore and Davis will get their numbers, but after that, fantasy value could take a decidedly negative turn. This is particularly true if Crabtree's foot injury drags on longer than expected. Foot injuries can be tough for professional athletes. Bill Walton suffered through foot injuries his entire career and it cut short what could have been an all-time great career. While football is different from basketball, a wide receiver must have healthy feet. Let's just hope his feet can get healthy sooner rather than later.
Beyond Crabtree, the offensive weapons are questionable for fantasy purposes. Guys like Delanie Walker, Josh Morgan, Kyle Williams, and others could be hugely essential aspects of the 49ers offense. For fantasy purposes however, they likely won't provide a whole lot of value. I'd imagine some 49ers fans will grab them out of simply loyalty, but they'll be dropped fairly quickly. Walker or Morgan might step up in the Harbaugh offense, but I just can't imagine it being enough to just a fantasy draft pick.
Arguably the biggest question mark, fantasy-wise, heading into the 2011 season is the 49ers defense. Some people play with individual defensive players (IDP) while others go for team defense. Personally I choose team defense. The 49ers are still in the midst of figuring out their free agency plans for the likes of Aubrayo Franklin and Dashon Goldson and that could very well play into how the 49ers defense operates as a fantasy entity.
Two years ago the 49ers ended up with the highest scoring team defense courtesy of a huge number of turnovers. If the 49ers can bring back Franklin and Goldson, they might be able to make up for their question marks at cornerback. The next two or three days could very well be a huge determining factor in the value of the 49ers defense as a fantasy entity.