First off, an update: Last year the SB Nation football sites cut a deal with FleaFlicker.com and Fanhouse that provided us a platform for fantasy football leagues. More importantly: it provided us with funding for prizes for our various leagues. At this point in time, it does not look like that deal will be happening this season. Even if that does not work out for 2009, we'll definitely do some kind of fantasy football league(s) and we'll work out some kind of prizes. More to come on that as the summer progresses.
In the meantime, an area we have not touched on all that much this offseason is the fantasy implications of your 2009 San Francisco 49ers. It's hard to get to much into it when we haven't even reached training camp, but given the quiet time right now, I thought it was a tpic worth dipping into. The folks at NFL.com thought so as well (and helped inspire my post) as they discussed who would be the top fantasy receiver in San Francisco.
It's safe to say that Frank Gore is likely to be the top fantasy performer for the 49ers in 2009. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to predict that. So, I'm curious who people think will be the number 2 fantasy performer for the 49ers. Or maybe you think somebody will outperform Frank Gore. The potential players who could do that is a fairly short list, but you're more than welcome to make that argument. A separate article was discussing Michael Crabtree's potential fantasy impact and included a top 5 + sleeper list of 49ers:
1. Frank Gore
2. Michael Crabtree
3. Isaac Bruce
4. Shaun Hill
5. Vernon Davis
Sleeper: Josh Morgan
In looking over that list, I could definitely see Vernon Davis creeping higher. If what we hear is true, Davis could be putting up some very solid numbers as a receiving tight end. If he's going to convert that into fantasy prowess, he'll need to add up the YAC and convert some red zone opportunities into touchdowns. However, if anybody has the athletic ability to do that, it would be him. I'm not really sure where I'd draft the Duke/Duchess (great one Fearless Frog), but I could see him being a big time sleeper among tight ends.
I'd suggest Shaun Hill as a potential sleeper backup QB option, but I'm really not sure how much you trust him lasting the season as the starter. Additionally, an offense that plays to his strengths might not be the greatest fantasy offense for a QB. In one of my leagues I definitely see myself grabbing him as a homer pick, but if I was in a strictly neutral win at all costs mode, I doubt I'd go near him with a 10 foot pole at this point.
Finally, the wide receivers in San Francisco. I do think there is some very solid depth at the position and it could turn into quite a strength for the 49ers. However, that does not necessarily mean great fantasy options in 2009. I actually think the safest bet at wide receiver will be Isaac Bruce...if he's starting at the beginning of the season. While I definitely could see him losing his starting job at some point in '09, while he's in the starting lineup, I see him as a safety blanket for Hill/Smith. He won't put up monster numbers, but I could see him being a very reasonable flex option.
I do think Josh Morgan will improve on his 2008 season, but I think he'll still be a bit inconsistent and not a safe fantasy play week to week. I hope I'm wrong, but I just don't see the safe fantasy option at this point. Brandon Jones will get his chances to play but he's just such a wildcard at this point. Even if he wins a starting job out of training camp, he'll probably fly under most draft day radars. And then there's Jason Hill. I could see him turning into a consistent Isaac Bruce type where he'll never be considered the greatest of all time, but he'll quietly put up solid numbers. I'm not saying he'll put up Bruce numbers, but they'll be quiet like Bruce has done. As great as that could be long term for the 49ers, short term for fantasy football it's probably not what you're looking for.
As for Michael Crabtree? It's safe to say I have absolutely no clue what to think about him in a single year league. I've got the #1 pick in a dynasty league and as I'm happy at QB and running back, I'm stoked to take Michael Crabtree with that pick. Given that my team is building for the future, I couldn't be happier. However, in 2009, it's tough to tell what Crabtree will do. Given his limited practice avaialbility so far, we'll have to wait until training camp to see what exactly his deal is. Injuries will play into the wide receiver race, so we'll definitely tune in to that.
In the end, you're looking for the weekly W in fantasy football. The 49ers have some solid football players who will help them win games, but I think they're at least a year a way from churning out legit fantasy guys outside of Gore. Davis has legit upside in 2009 given the offense and Bruce is that safety blanket. The rest of the guys are serious roles of the dice.