Fantasy Football 2012: 49ers Prospects

In recent weeks, our newest writer DuckNeck Merton has been putting together some quality rundowns of fantasy football position-by-position, mixing in 49ers as appropriate. While we continues that weekly fantasy breakdown, I thought I'd take a look strictly at 49ers possibilities. I have drafts starting to creep up, so now seems like as good a time as any to figure out which 49ers I might consider.

The 49ers have a fairly deep roster at numerous positions, but for the purposes of fantasy football, there are a lot of question marks surrounding who will be contributing what. I think there are some decent every week options, as well as useful bye week fill-ins, but generally speaking, you'll want to watch out for getting a little too homerific with your fantasy squad.

Quarterback

Unless you feel like rolling the dice on a big upswing in performance, Alex Smith is not an every week fantasy option. At the same time, he could prove to be a decent bye week fill-in. For example, in week ten the Green Bay Packers are on their bye. If you have Aaron Rodgers on your roster, why not roll out Alex Smith when he faces the St. Louis Rams at Candlestick Park? Or if you have Matthew Stafford, why not roll out Alex Smith in week five against the Buffalo Bills at home?

Running Backs

If you are in a straight re-draft league (as opposed to keeper or dynasty), this is a tough position to figure out. Frank Gore will be the lead back, but how many carries does he lose to Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Brandon Jacobs? I think the 49ers will present a dynamic rushing attack, but for fantasy purposes, I don't think I would touch this situation with a ten-foot pole.

Is there any reason to mess with this if you are trying to win a fantasy league? My thought is if you felt compelled to draft a 49ers running back, I'd recommend taking Kendall Hunter late rather than Frank Gore early. You could stash Hunter on your bench to see what exactly his role will be, and how many carries he'll grab from Gore. Other than that, Brandon Jacobs will be at best a touchdown vulture, and LaMichael James could be doing just about anything.

Wide Receivers

Simply put, Michael Crabtree remains your best bet if you are thinking of drafting a 49ers wide receiver. I think he will be particularly solid in points per reception (PPR) leagues. He was the 49ers leading receiver last year, and while I think Vernon Davis could potentially pass him, I still think Crabtree is a decent third or fourth receiver option in fantasy right now. That could improve, but we also don't quite know how the 49ers are going to roll out their offense this year.

After that, it's crapshoot. Randy Moss could be a guy who gets on the field fairly frequently, or he could be looking at 20-25 snaps a game. If he is limited in his snaps, are you prepared to roll the dice hoping for a single big play each game? Doubtful, but maybe you're a gambling person. There could be upside with Moss, but again, who knows at this point.

In reality, the 49ers wide receivers as a whole are tough to figure out. I suggest Crabtree is the best bet, but even that is not a certainty until we see what this offense plans on doing week one against the Packers. That does not make for great fantasy selections.

Tight Ends

Although Vernon Davis has slipped from people's minds a bit behind the likes of Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Gates, I think he is due for a big year. After seeing his upside in the two playoff games, I don't see how we can't be excited for what he could do with the full 2012 season. He was up and down during much of the 2011 regular season, admitting some frustration at times with learning the offense. However, after a full season plus an entire offseason, I have to think Davis has as much upside as any tight end out there. That's not to say he'll outperform Gronkowski, but whereas I think we know the height of Gronkowski, I also think Vernon Davis has more room for growth.

As for Delanie Walker? Even if he is back 100% in time for the season, I don't think he'll ever develop into a viable fantasy option as long as he continues playing with Vernon Davis. Walker himself admitted he knows some weeks he won't get a lot of targets because that's not what is best for the team. Some weeks he will see a lot of looks, but given how hard it is to predict when that will happen, it is best to avoid Walker, except for incredibly deep leagues where you might need a second tight end.

Defense

It's safe to say the 49ers defense is as good an option as there is out there. They benefited last season from a huge number of turnovers, but even if that number goes down, it remains a defense with a lot of potential for providing points. Even without a lot of turnovers, they won't give up many points, which gets you scoring in the basic points allowed category. And I still think there is room for a good number of turnovers. I'd consider them as high as any defense in fantasy football.

Kicker

David Akers set a record for points last season, but ideally his field goal total will come down a bit as the 49ers offense hopefully finds more consistency in the red zone. Even with fewer field goal attempts, he will remain a very valuable kicker. Of course, with kickers and fantasy football, most people employ the strategy of drafting them in the last round due to the replaceable nature of the position.

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