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49er Fantasy Football Preview: Is Anquan Boldin A Strong WR3 Option?

When it comes time to draft your 3rd or 4th wide receiver you could go with young guys who could break out or with a reliable veteran. Anquan Boldin falls firmly in the latter, but he is Kaepernick's best target for shorter routes and 3rd down conversions. Here is how he stacks up with the other receivers going in the mid to late rounds.

Ezra Shaw

Just in time for the last wave of fantasy football drafts; we take a look at the notable San Francisco receivers and their relevance in fake football. Be sure to see our previous previews for running backs, tight ends, quarterback and team defense/special teams/IDP.

Without Michael Crabtree catching everything in sight for at least the first half of the season, the rest of the San Francisco receiving options are surrounded with question marks. In the real world, I don't think it's as big of an issue as many make it out to be. In the fantasy realm, I only see one receiver worth drafting in almost every format.

Anquan Boldin

Remember when we used to hate this guy? Yeah, me either. All is forgiven now that Boldin is the most dependable wide receiver on the 49ers. Had Michael Crabtree not ripped his foot off (medically speaking) this would have been quite the duo. Now, Boldin will look to work short and intermediate routes, similar to Crabtree's role in 2012. He may be getting up there in age, but I actually like him in PPR leagues this year. His size and chemistry with Kaepernick make him a fantastic security blanket and 3rd down conversion machine. In standard leagues he is a WR4 with decent upside going between rounds 7 and 8. Not a bad price for a guy who just had a monster playoff run.

Projected 2013 stats - 75 receptions, 900 yards, 4 TDs

You'll often find yourself looking for a third wideout in rounds 6-8. You can take a trusted name and hope for something similar to last year's production (Boldin, Greg Jennings, Steve Johnson) or you can take a flier on a younger player who could break his way into the top 25 at wide receiver (Tavon Austin, Golden Tate, Cecil Shorts). Boldin is currently ranked as about the 35th best receiver in fantasy and around 31st in PPR leagues. Here are 4 other receivers going in the same range and how I stack them up to the new San Francisco #1.

Boldin vs. Tavon Austin

The grizzled vet vs. the young gun. Many expect that Austin will be used in St. Louis in a similar way the Packers use Randall Cobb; lining him up in different positions to figure out ways to get him in open space. You have to ask if 40-50 touches for Austin is more valuable than 70 or so for Boldin. I'm not a big fan of drafting rookie wideouts in fantasy, but Austin isn't your typical greenhorn. Even with his quicks, I'm still worried about Sam Bradford and the offense's ability to produce a fantasy relevant receiver. I'm giving the nod to Boldin in PPR, but Austin is a mighty fine 8-9 round pick especially in keeper leagues.

Boldin vs. Stevie Johnson

Both receivers are notoriously reliable in fantasy. It just seems Johnson lost a good chunk of his fantasy appeal when he cut his Mohawk. However, he has remained a steady WR3 who consistently puts up 1000 yards receiving and 7 to 8 TDs. You can't be overly confident in those numbers this year. EJ Manuel has looked good in the preseason, but will rest until Week 1 after having a procedure on his knee. Also, if Manuel doesn't pan out, Kevin Kolb could be the starting QB for the Bills this year and he himself is dealing with a concussion. In the words of Groundskeeper Willy, "Back to the loch with you Nessie". Boldin has a far better quarterback situation and that means a lot when looking for a WR3

Boldin vs. T.Y. Hilton

This really depends if your league is PPR or standard. Boldin is a solid bet at WR3 in PPR leagues, but the yardage and touchdowns may be difficult to come by. Hilton is the second best receiver on his team, but is currently third on the depth chart. Indy is expected to tone down the offense and feature more 2 tight end sets. This pours some rain on the Hilton parade, but I think he will make enough big plays to edge out Boldin in standard leagues. The downfield attempts will still be there, just perhaps with less frequency.

Boldin vs. Mike Williams

Despite not being able to grab him in any draft this year, I think Mike Williams puts up his best numbers this season. Sure, Vincent Jackson is a freak of nature and the preferred target, but Williams excelled to be a serviceable WR3 last year. There is still some concern about Josh Freeman and Tampa's offensive line. I wouldn't recommend trying to predict injuries or demotions, so if all things remain the same Williams could notch 70-80 receptions, 1000 yards and 7-9 TDs. He is a popular sleeper pick this year, so he will come at less of a value than Boldin.

Here is how I rank these 5 receivers as WR3 values

1. Mike Williams

2. T.Y. Hilton

3. Anquan Boldin (#2 in PPR)

4. Tavon Austin

5. Stevie Johnson

49er Receivers To Put On Your Watch List

Quinton Patton

We should know better to not let a few preseason performances hype us up on a guy, especially a rookie wideout who dances like my uncle at a wedding, but Patton looks like he may be able to contribute immediately. He'll see significant snaps while Manningham and Crabtree are out. I'm not too familiar with his complete skill set, but I've heard comparisons to Reggie Wayne; a skilled route runner with decent, but unspectacular breakaway speed. If any 49er receiver not named Boldin is going to be a fantasy starter by season's it's Patton.

Kyle Williams

Currently, Marlon "Can't say my name without sounding drunk" Moore is penciled in as the San Francisco WR2 opposite Boldin. However, there is a good chance the WR2 receiver spot is a revolving door depending on the formation. Williams really only had one game with Kaepernick last season and he netted 2 receptions for 60 yards before his season ending injury. Vernon Davis isn't the only deep threat on this team and Williams' speed makes him a decent candidate for a breakout season. 50 receptions, 800 yards and 5-6 TDs are attainable.

Marlon Moore

It looks like he will get the start opposite Boldin to begin the season, but who knows if this will be true come week 3. He has been able to get open in the middle of the field against defenses this preseason, but it's difficult to see him being useful in fantasy until we see his role in the red zone or more consistency.

Michael Crabtree

Stay posted on his recovery and if all looks good come November be ready to pounce. He may eat up your bench space for a few weeks, but when he comes back he could come in handy down the stretch especially in deeper leagues.

That wraps it up for fantasy previews. Good luck to everyone still drafting. Starting next week we'll begin breaking down the weekly opponents. First up are the Green Bay Packers and I'll try in vain to stop hating on Jermichael Finley.