As we gear up for another fantasy football season, it is time to once again take a look at the 49ers in search of who can help you on your way to victory. Analysis in these previews is in regards to the player's ability to generate fantasy points. We'll start things off with a look at Colin Rand Kaepernick.
It's Sunday night, September 8, 2013 and you are strutting around your living room. Why? Well you started Colin Kaepernick Week 1. That 400-yard, 3-TD game had you feeling like the cock of the walk. Fast forward to Week 14. You've gone from a mighty fine strut to the fetal position. Why? Well that Week 1 game wasn't a sign of things to come. It was an outlier. Not in a good Malcolm Gladwell sort of way, either. Kaepernick would throw for over 200 yards only 5 more times that season and it was clear he wasn't going to take any risk running the ball excessively during the regular season. What was to be a breakout season was much more in line with what you expect of a quarterback going into his first full season.
In 2014, there is still plenty of hype around the young QB. New deal, new weapons and a healthy Michael Crabtree are all reasons to buy in. However, even with his Top 5 upside there are reasons to be hesitant.
A common fantasy football drafting philosophy is to not draft a quarterback in the first few rounds. In short, it's the idea that the point differential of an elite first round QB and one drafted in say round 5 isn't significant enough to warrant spending an early pick on a signal caller. You'll miss out on Manning, Rodgers and Brees, but you will be stocking up on positions with less depth (wide receiver and running back). Currently (before any 49er preseason games have been played), Kaepernick average draft position ranges from round 7 to 10 in 12 team leagues. That puts him in the company of Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo and Jay Cutler. What's the difference between these 4 and Kap? All either have a proven record of fantasy success or the best receivers in the league. Still, Kaepernick fits the mold of a QB that will be available even after you load up other positions. Here is a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of drafting Kaepernick as a starter this year.
Reasons to target Kaepernick
Upgrades at receiver
Bruce Miller. That probably wasn't the name you were expecting to see, but the fact that a fullback was third on the team in targets last year speaks volumes. The receiver situation is a bit murky, but let's assume the staring 3 wideouts are Crabtree, Boldin and new addition (not New Edition) Stevie Johnson. Add in Vernon Davis as a deep threat and you have the best receiving corps San Francisco has seen in a long time.
The 49ers will start the season with a new starting safety, a cornerback coming off a season ending injury, no NaVorro Bowman or Glen Dorsey, and we are still waiting to see how many games Aldon Smith will miss. It's easy to see why many pundits and analysts are predicting a step back for the once dominant defensive squad. If the 49ers begin to allow more points, it is safe to assume they will become more aggressive in their offensive play calling. Not ideal for the team, but a direct benefit to Kaepernick's fantasy numbers.
When Week 1 rolls around, Kaepernick will be starting his 29th game (just under two seasons of work). You'd be hard pressed to find someone who believes he has reached his peak. Add on the fact that he gets a nearly full camp to work with Crabtree and all signs point to a career year.
Reasons to avoid Kaepernick
Too many quality alternatives
As stated above, Colin is being drafted in the same neighborhood as a few QBs who have a clearer line to success. Cam Newton has proven to be a top 5 fantasy commodity. Tony Romo struggles to stay healthy, but if his arm doesn't evaporate due to overuse, Dallas' defense will require him to throw a ton. Jay Cutler may have the best wide receiver duo in football and Matt Ryan's arsenal isn't anything to sneeze at either. Frankly, these four are safer picks than Kaepernick who burned owners last year who fell in love with his potential.
Defense Takes A Step Back, But Remains Dominant
I'm not saying the San Francisco defense won't miss a beat, but the team has excellent depth to deal with the loss of Smith, Bowman and Dorsey. Vic Fangio is defensive wizard who has been given ample time to plan for all the changes. He'll devise a way to generate a pass rush and keep the heat off the unproven corners.
Run first philosophy
The Niners addressed their receiver problem(s) over the off season, but may have also locked in Frank Gore's long term replacement with Carlos Hyde. The team has gone to two straight NFC championship games leaning on the run and a strong defense. Opening up the offense is one thing, but the 49ers finished second to last in pass attempts per game in 2013. You can add 10 attempts to the average (a significant uptick) and they would only rise to the middle of the pack. Last year's stats only mean so much, but consider the 49ers only face 4 of the top 10 offenses from 2013 this year. Outside of these games, it's hard to see why San Francisco would stray too far from a winning formula.
If I'm waiting on a QB, I'd try my best to take the four quarterbacks previously mentioned before Kaepernick. He could very well put together his first top 10 fantasy season, but it's hard to promote him as a viable late round QB given the offensive philosophy and his hesitancy to use his legs for anything more than picking up a first down here and there. I rank him as the 13th best fantasy QB this year. Ideally, I'd rather have him as a backup QB/bargaining chip than a starter. He gets several favorable matchups the first four weeks (Dallas, Chicago & Philly). If I can land Kap as a backup and he shows well early on, then I'm trying my best to move him.
Projected Stats: 3,837 passing yards, 27 passing TDs, 10 interceptions, 575 rushing yards, 5 rushing TDs.
Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a $100,000 Fantasy Football Contest for Week 1's NFL games. It's only $10 to join and first prize is $10,000. Starts Sunday, September 7th at 1pm ET. Here's the link.