The San Francisco 49ers head into the 2013 season with high hopes for a potential Super Bowl, but they still have a few questions to answer. The team's defense improved tremendously, and while the team added several players on offense, there still remain questions about how the offense will sort out beyond the big names. Kenneth Arthur from Field Gulls put together a detailed fantasy preview of the 49ers, but I wanted to focus in on players who might out-perform their draft position.
The big names for fantasy purposes are Colin Kaepernick, Vernon Davis and Frank Gore. Anquan Boldin will be a contributor this year, and I think a solid one, but he is a bit lower on the fantasy radar. His current average draft position (ADP) is late sixth, early seventh round. Kap, Davis and Gore are the guys that will be going fairly early.
Kap is a guy that has people's interest, but he still ends up going behind Matt Ryan and Cam Newton. He is generally going ahead of the likes of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. That group of quarterbacks will include at least one or two guys who will build on last year and put up monster fantasy numbers.
Some question Kap's fantasy potential without Michael Crabtree, but if his connection with Vernon Davis is developing like we're hearing, and Anquan Boldin proves a solid safety valve, Kap could climb the rankings among quarterbacks. Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning are the consensus top group, but with Kap's scrambling skills on top of the designed runs, the point possibilities are pretty impressive. I understand why some are concerned, but I really think there's a chance we see serious breakout stuff from Kap.
Davis' last (and arguably only) truly dominant fantasy year was 2009, when he had 965 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. He's been a great overall tight end for the 49ers, but from a purely fantasy perspective, his performances have been marked with inconsistency. Unfortunately, blocking does not translate to fantasy totals.
We've heard a whole lot of talk about Davis and Kap connecting like crazy in practices. They got off to a slow start last season when Kap took over, but in the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl, Davis had a combined 11 receptions for 210 yards and a touchdown. Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez are all generally going ahead of Davis, but if the Kap-Davis connection catches on, he could climb into the mix with that group of elite fantasy tight ends.
Vance McDonald is a guy who could be a significant boon to the 49ers offense. He is learning much of the art of blocking, but his work in Rice's spread offense has him set to become a potentially solid pass-catching option for Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers are fans of two tight end sets, but the last couple years, Delanie Walker has been an inconsistent pass catcher. Walker is a great blocking tight end, but he seemed to make the spectacular catches and drop the easy ones.
McDonald missed the second preseason game, but in the opener against Denver, he showed great hands and great moves after catching the ball. He is not a guy you need to be drafting in your fantasy leagues, but if you end up with a question mark at tight end, keep an eye on McDonald through the first few games. I don't know that he'll bust out as a viable fantasy option, but I like his chances more than Delanie Walker last year.
In looking through the rest of the roster, Kendall Hunter could prove to be the handcuff to Frank Gore. Other than that, everybody is a fantasy free agent flyer. Kyle Williams and Marlon Moore seem likely to get the early starting nods opposite Anquan Boldin, but maybe Quinton Patton ends up as that breakout receiver.
Patton has not been catching many balls in practice due to his finger injury, but the passion is there, and you know Harbaugh loves it. Patton is not a guy you draft outside of dynasty leagues, but is there a chance he surprises us and becomes the No. 2 receiver this team has been looking for this offseason? I have nothing to base this on other than the excitement of one-handed catches and the drive he seems to have. But, why not?