I had the honor of chatting with ESPN’s Senior Fantasy Football Analyst Matthew Berry this past week about his early PPR rankings and his thoughts and expectations for 49ers players, including Jimmy G, the backfield situation, and the team’s lone threat at wide receiver.
The conversation was much more casual compared to a normal interview, but it was nonetheless just as informative and enjoyable. Since there wasn’t a traditional back-and-forth of questions and answers, I decided to structure this by topic, starting with his initial ranking - or lack thereof - for Jimmy G and move on to each of the players discussed.
On Jimmy Garoppolo’s 2020 expectations and why he wasn’t included in his top-20 quarterbacks:
Berry: “For Jimmy Garoppolo, it has not seemed, so far, that Kyle Shanahan has wanted to tell Jimmy G to go and win games for him. Listen, the 49ers had a phenomenal season last year. They came within seven minutes of winning the Super Bowl, and they were dominant. My expectation is they’re going to do (in 2020) what worked for them last year, which was run the ball and play great defense and win the ball-control battle. Jimmy G will be fine from an NFL standpoint but fantasy-wise because the QB position is so deep, he’s not a guy that you think has significant upside just because of the way that offense goes.
“He gives you nothing with his legs in the same manner that Tyrod Taylor, Kyler Murray, Josh Allen, or Deshaun Watson, ya know, there’s a number of mobile quarterbacks that give you a lot with their legs. Lamar Jackson, obviously. He’s not a mobile quarterback. And then you’re like, is there going to be a significant passing volume? And you don’t expect that either because Kyle Shanahan has always wanted to be a run-first coach and, given the stable of RBs they have in San Francisco, why would you blame him? This is always the challenge of ranking running backs with quarterbacks here is that the position is so deep that there are going to be a lot of quarterbacks who aren’t drafted in fantasy leagues that will be very viable starters on a weekly basis. Again, it’s the deepest position in fantasy. That’s why I don’t have Jimmy G inside my top-20.”
“I’d much rather take a flier on a second QB on a Tyrod Taylor, or last year with Lamar Jackson, who was drafted as QB15. Take a guy like that, and if all the pieces fall right, could be a fantasy superstar versus a guy who could just be “solid to above average,” which is Jimmy G’s fantasy point-of-view will be. Again, he just doesn’t run, and that offense isn’t built (right). It’s a good defense, and they’re not going to get into a lot of shootouts where he is going to be throwing a lot. Ya know, not a tremendous amount of volume for Jimmy G.
On Raheem Mostert and the rest of the 49ers’ backfield
In this section, I began by asking if he felt the San Francisco backfield is another Patriots situation where you never know who to trust on a week-to-week basis.
Berry: “Yes. It already has. I don’t think you can say it will turn into that because it already is. I mean, you literally have three guys, and you’ve had times over the course of a year where Shanahan has said, on a Wednesday, tells you Tevin Coleman is ‘their guy,’ but then on game day you have Raheem Mostert breaking off a long run and then the next week they’re feeding Mostert. I mean, I think they’re very lucky. General Manager John Lynch and Shanahan have done a great job doubling down. They have a really deep running back roster. And that’s before you get anything out of Jerick McKinnon. We’ll see what happens when McKinnon comes back and if he’s still on the team. But it’s a super deep roster. It’s a really good running back room. Fantasy-wise I think it’s going to be a situation to avoid because, on any given week, one of those guys could go off, and Shanahan likes to play the hot hand, which makes sense from his point-of-view but fantasy-wise, it’s frustrating.”
Michael: For the sake of picking a guy, which one would you bet ends the season with the most fantasy points out of those three?
Michael: I agree. If the momentum continues the way he ended last season, and if they give him any sort of consistent run with double-digit carries because he was way more efficient when he got at least 10+ carries.
Berry: “The other piece of it is, is that Matt Breida and Coleman have struggled with injuries throughout their careers. Ya know, what’s the phrase? ‘The best ability is availability.’ Mostert has gotten the opportunities and made the most of them. So that’s another reason. The 49ers RB that I would draft first this year is Raheem Mostert.”
On Deebo Samuel and his expected usage this season:
Berry: “God, I love Deebo Samuel. I think he’s a special player and, if you go back and look at some of the stuff I talked about a year ago when he was coming out of the draft, I was talking about the fact that I thought the Niners got a deal in Deebo. I really loved him for dynasty, and he came along even quicker than I thought he was going to so - and that’s a credit to Kyle in that he found different ways to get the ball in Deebo’s hands. To answer the second part of your question, yes, 100 percent.”
“Kyle Shanahan at the combine said that he’s the ‘most fearless player I’ve ever coached or most fearless player he’s ever seen’ ... I think that’s the quote, and just when you’re an offensive-minded play-caller the way Kyle Shanahan is you want to get the ball in your most-talented players’ hands as much as you can. So Deebo’s not going to sneak up on anyone this year. He’s certainly going to get more attention from defenses, and you’re going to have to be more creative in how you get the ball to him, get him the ball in space, and so I certainly expect him to be utilized in the run game as much as last year, and I think the sky’s the limit for the kid. I think he’s going to be, or if not already, he should be a very trendy sleeper for fantasy leagues this year. I think he’s going to explode in year two.”