San Francisco's defense is in a state of flux. I know it, you know it, but there is a good chance someone in your fantasy football league doesn't. Seattle will be the first team defense to go and then it will be some order of Carolina, San Francisco and Denver. There are a few ways to approach team defenses in fantasy, but I'm from the school of either being early or being late (like 2nd to last round late). If you want the San Francisco defense you will need to be early. With all the concern around the changes in the 49er defense their current average draft position in round 9 doesn't offer much value.
No one can predict how the 49ers defense will adjust to the loss of NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith. However, we should have a pretty good idea early on as they face four quality offenses the first 4 weeks (Dallas, Chicago, Arizona, and Philadelphia). Most analysts predict the team's defense will take a step back which will cause the offense to be more aggressive. It's hard to argue against this idea since the team may be without two of its best defensive players to begin the year. The secondary is solid, but defenses that can't generate a pass rush will sooner or get burned in a pass happy league.
A step back is not akin to falling off a cliff a la Wylie Coyote. In regards to overall defense, we are still looking at a top 10 squad. Guys like Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and Ahmad Brooks give me confidence and Vic Fangio is one of the best defensive minds in the game. If the 49ers can cause a few more turnovers and find a solution to their return game then fans and fantasy owners don't have too much to worry about. I just can't recommend reaching for this defense in fantasy this year.
Individual Defensive Players (IDP)
While most fantasy leagues tend to use team defenses there are a few of us that go a bit deeper by drafting individual defensive players. We likely have a problem, but I'll be damned if it isn't more fun. As you might imagine, The San Francisco 49ers have several guys on defense that will go on draft day and a few to keep your eye on as the season progresses.
Patrick Willis (LB)
Patrick has been an IDP star throughout his career, but when NaVorro Bowman came onto the scene, P Willy's numbers took a hit. Bowman will miss at least half the season and Willis stands to reenter the LB1 conversation. After guys like Lavonte David and Luke Kuechly are drafted, Willis should be on your radar as someone who can rack up those precious tackles.
Antoine Bethea (DB)
The new guy in town is coming off a season of 100+ combined tackles. Of course, the Colts and 49ers were worlds apart in regards to run defense last year. The tackle total may dip a bit as running backs should have more trouble getting to the second level against San Francisco, but if you draft a DB late Bethea is a player of interest.
These guys below aren't must drafts, but keep their names in mind in case of injuries or disappointments.
Patrick Willis will likely take on Bowman's old role, leaving the second inside linebacker position open. Wilhoite hasn't been named the starter opposite Willis yet, as both he and Chris Borland have played well this preseason, but Michael does have experience on his side. He filled in for Willis last year for a few games and did not disappoint.
Let's hope Reid's concussion concerns are behind him. The 2nd year safety showed great ability last year with 9 games of 5+ combined tackles, 4 interceptions and 11 passes defended. Those numbers don't exactly set the world on fire for fantasy, but they aren't bad for a rookie who missed some time.
When he is on the field he is among the best bets to lead the league in sacks and tackles for a loss. The only question is the length of his suspension. Don't get caught sleeping on Smith. Someone in your league will be targeting him after the draft and he has proven to be a game breaker in IDP leagues.
What round would you take the San Francisco defense this year? Did I miss any IDP options? Drop a comment and good luck this season!
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