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Mining your way to fantasy gold - 49ers edition

Greetings Niners Nation, recently I was approached by Fooch to write front page articles here at NN. To put it simply, I was absolutely thrilled and without hesitation accepted the opportunity.  This is the main reason I've gone from "Dre" to "Andrew Davidson" (if anyone noticed).  The NFL is easily my favourite sport to follow - you’ll notice some extra "u"s in my writing (like favourite) it’s not an error, I’m Canadian. While my mind and body reside in Ontario, my heart is in San Francisco (points for cheese?). Being a fan of both the 49ers and the NFL, I really enjoy participating in fantasy football each season. Over the course of my years, I’ve grown from a 49er homer, to a shrewd fantasy GM (well I like to think so). I’ve also studied journalism and philosophy in my university/college days, so you’ll understand why I am sometimes in outer space.

During my (hopefully long) time here, I will be writing columns with a focus on fantasy football. In August, you’ll be treated (or sedated) with a fantasy preview of each NFL team. My primary focus over the long haul: the San Francisco 49ers. With this in mind I ask the Nation: what type of suggestions do you have with regards to 49ers-related fantasy material (or fantasy material in general)? Also, what type of leagues do you guys prefer to play in (keeper leagues, 12-14 man leagues, etc.)? The more input the better, and I’m curious just how many of us here at Niners Nation follow fantasy football. Onto my debut column...

Over the course of the preseason, a lot of discussion has gone towards the team’s coaching staff, positional analysis and chances of success. What we haven’t talked a lot about, is the fantasy value of the San Francisco 49ers. Which 49er players are worth drafting, and what kind of fantasy production can we expect?

Over the past few days, I participated in 30 mock drafts, using Yahoo! Sports Mock Draft tool. This is a fantastic feature Yahoo! offers, and it is free. If you want to scout out what players are being selected when, this is a great tool for you. Of the 30 drafts I participated in, I recorded which 49ers players were drafted, and where (and how often).

49ers Appearing in Mock Drafts:

  • Frank Gore – Avg. Selection* 13; Percent Drafted 100%
  • Michael Crabtree – Avg. Selection 95; Percent Drafted 100%
  • Vernon Davis – Avg. Selection 142; Percent Drafted 70%
  • Isaac Bruce – Avg. Selection 141; Percent Drafted 10%
  • Joe Nedney – Avg. Selection 140; Percent Drafted 3.3%
  • San Francisco DEF – Avg. Selection 125; Percent Drafted 6.7%

*-100th selection=10th pick, round 10 in 10 team leagues; 6th pick, round 9 in 12 team leagues; 3rd pick, round 8 in 14 team league

After the jump, I breakdown the 49ers mentioned, and I've got a question for Niners Nation at the end of the column...

Let me begin by saying do not draft Shaun Hill if you are playing in a standard league.  When referring to standard league, I mean a 10-12 team league, with basic fantasy scoring rules, and a roster of 1 QB, 3 WR, 2 RB, 1 TE, 1 K, and 1 Team DEF.  A player like Shaun Hill won’t serve a lot of fantasy purpose, mainly because there are 32 starting QBs in the NFL, and you’ll be fighting for one of the top 12.  It is safe to say Shaun Hill is not a top 12 quarterback in fantasy football (or the NFL).  If Shaun Hill wins the starting job, teams will be better prepared to face him in 2009.  Now, on to everyone’s favourite fantasy 49er.

Frank Gore

Frank Gore typically was the most popular 49er taken, and for good reason.  Gore is the feature running back, and the team’s offense rests on his shoulders.  While Gore doesn’t pile up the TD total, he certainly gets the ball enough to be a valuable starting RB on your fantasy squad.  Since you likely won’t have to invest a first round selection on Gore, he’s one of the better compliments to your stud RB.  Glenn Coffee should only provide positive impact on Gore’s fantasy game, helping keep Gore’s legs fresh and productive for a full season.  Coffee may steal some goal line carries, and TDs, but as previously stated Gore is not a TD factory in the first place.

In 2008, Gore finished 14th amongst RBs in fantasy scoring; in 2007, 10th.  Gore will score enough points to warrant starting, and is a top-tier RB2.  If drafting 8th or 9th in a 10-man league, you should be able to find Gore on the way back in round 2. In 12 or 14+ team leagues, Gore is hands down a first round selection and lower-tier RB1.  Fantasy Forecast:  1600 total yards, 8 total TDs

Michael Crabtree

Is it a surpise to anyone that the second most popular fantasy 49er is Michael Crabtree?  The Texas Tech rookie scored 41 TDs in two seasons with the Red Raiders, so it’s easy to see why people are drafting Crab in the fantasy game.  It would be silly to think Crabtree can score 19 or 22 TDs in his rookie season, but with most fantasy rosters requiring 3 starting WRs, Crabtree may be a nice fourth option to rotate in against favourable match-ups.  The 49ers offense relies heavily upon the success of the running game, and if it can open up the passing game, Michael Crabtree should score some TDs.  He’ll be battling with Josh Morgan, Brandon Jones and Isaac Bruce for playing time, but his upside is too good to pass on from a fantasy perspective.

Some rookie WRs had success in 2008, like Eddie Royal (20th amongst WRs in fantasy points), DeSean Jackson (28th) and Donnie Avery (44th), so it’s not a complete stretch to say Crabtree could produce immediately.  He’ll be a marginal WR3, and a pretty decent option as depth on the bench, especially if you can grab him in the early 100s.  Fantasy Forecast:  750 total yards, 6 Total TDs

Isaac Bruce

Speaking of 49ers receiving targets, Isaac Bruce and Vernon Davis were two other names that popped up in the mock drafts.  Bruce was only selected 3 times, and for good reason.  The aging Isaac Bruce likely won’t repeat his 2008 numbers, which saw him ranked 25th in WR scoring.  With second year man Josh Morgan developing, and newly signed Brandon Jones, Bruce could see limited chances in a run heavy offense.  Bruce’s fantasy impact in 2009 isn’t worth risking a draft pick on, and he’d be a much better waiver wire acquisition.  The same can be said about Morgan and Jones, don’t worry about drafting these guys.  Fantasy Forecast:  400 total yards, 2 Total TDs

Vernon Davis

Vernon Davis, on the other hand, may be worth selecting as a reserve tight end in round 15.  With the Mike Martz system gone, Davis stands a better chance to repeat his 2007 numbers (15th in TE scoring), than his 2008 totals (27th).  Much speculation around 49ers camp is regarding Jimmy Raye’s system, and its potential of prominent production from the tight end.  While the truly hopeful 49ers fans are anticipating the arrival of Tony Gonzalez in the form of Vernon Davis, it’s unlikely to happen.  That’s not to say VD won’t produce, but don’t draft him anticipating top 5 scoring numbers.  Davis isn’t much more than a reserve on fantasy teams, even in a TE-friendly system.  Fantasy Forecast: 500 total yards, 4 Total TDs

Joe Nedney

For a player that finished 12th amongst kickers in 2008, I’m a bit surprised that Joe Nedney’s name didn’t appear more often.  Nedney might be the 49ers most valuable offensive weapon, and at the very least, he’s dependable.  In most fantasy leagues a 40+ yard FG is worth 4 points, and Nedney’s accuracy beyond 40 yards is impressive (29 of 34 from 40+; 6 of 11 from 50+ since 2005).  Don’t put too much stock in Nedney’s 26th finish in 2007; the 49ers offense was simply brutal.  On the flip side, Nedney definitely benefited from San Francisco’s poor red zone offense in 2008.    Regardless, Nedney is worth considering as your fantasy kicker, as he was held without a FG in just two contests in 2008.  Fantasy Forecast:  27 FGM; 37 XPM

San Francisco – Team DEF

In 2008, San Francisco fantasy defense finished 23rd in scoring.   A big problem for the 49ers was a lack of pass rush; the team totalled just 30 sacks.  With no consistent pass rush, the team intercepted just 12 passes, and recovered 6 fumbles.  The bright side of things was on special teams, where the team blocked 3 kicks (2 went for a TD).  The team defense as a unit had 3 TDs, a respectable, yet average total.  In 2009, the 49ers have a challenging schedule; one forces me to recommend staying away from drafting the unit.  If you are in a pinch, SF vs. STL in week 4 is a favourable matchup early on in the season.  After that, week 10 vs. CHI is a potentially good start, but the 49ers don’t face a truly favourable matchup until week 16 vs. DET (most fantasy league’s title game).  Fantasy Forecast: 35 sacks, 14 INTs, 10 FR, 3 TDs, 2 Blk Kicks

Ask the Nation

My question to Niners Nation:  Will Josh Morgan be the most productive fantasy WR on the team in 2009? 

First, my thoughts on the subject:  I’ve projected Crabtree (750 yards, 6 TDs) and Bruce (400 yards, 2 TDs), because they were the only two WRs to appear in the mock drafts.  Right now, you’ll get a bonus Josh Morgan forecast, free of charge.   Fantasy Forecast:  600 total yards, 4 TDs

All fantasy stats were based on Yahoo! default scoring in public leagues from 2008 and 2007.