The Fantasy Football season is fast approaching, and our Fantasy Six Pack team is rolling out team previews. This time, I'm here with the 2021 Fantasy Football San Francisco 49ers Preview.
Did you know that the San Francisco 49ers have only had four winning seasons in the last 17 years? And each of those years, they made it to at least the Conference Championship. So after finishing 6-10 last year, what will it be this year: another losing season or a playoff run?
All of the information in the 2021 Fantasy Football San Francisco 49ers Preview is up to date as of June 22nd.
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2021 Fantasy Football San Francisco 49ers Preview
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Jimmy G has been on one hell of a roller coaster since his arrival in 2017. He was a proclaimed star after going 5-0 in his first starts, then missed 13 games the next season. In 2019, he led the Niners to a 13-3 record but came up short when it mattered in the Super Bowl. In 2020, he was mediocre at best in his six games, looking like he would never achieve the upside that many once thought he had.
The Niners made their feelings clear, trading up to select Trey Lance with the third pick of the 2021 draft. Lance will be the future in San Francisco, the only question is when will he take over for Garoppolo?
Niners fans and dynasty owners may have to wait until 2022 to see Lance as a starter, as he has only played 19 career college football games. That level of inexperience means he may need to ride the pine for a year and soak up all the knowledge he can. In that time, Garoppolo will be a capable bridge quarterback.
However, he won't be an option for most standard leagues. Although the Niners' receiving corps was dealing with injuries, Jimmy G still averaged a paltry 10.7 fantasy points per game in his six starts. Even in 2019, his best season as a pro, he only averaged 15.2 fantasy points per game, 24th in the league.
If Garoppolo gets seriously injured and misses time, as he has in two of the past three seasons, then we may see Lance sooner than expected. While Lance is raw, he is talented and offers massive upside as a running quarterback. He's a better prospect than Jalen Hurts and has more talent surrounding him, so if he stepped in, he could be a high-end QB2.
Since Kyle Shanahan joined the Niners in 2017, the Niners have probably had the NFL's truest running back committee. They consistently rotate running backs (including a fullback) depending on matchups and the hot hand, which limits all of their fantasy upsides.
That's not going to change this year, as not only will the Niners return three of their top four rushers from last season, they added third-round pick Trey Sermon to the backfield. A meniscus injury to Jeff Wilson that occurred in May (4-6 months recovery) will help clear up this backfield.
Mostert is the incumbent and assumed starter. He's by far the most accomplished back of this group, having turned 282 career carries into 1,590 yards (5.6 YPC) and 11 touchdowns. He's only two years removed from an RB20 season, but I have major concerns about investing a pick into him at his current ADP of RB25.
Firstly, Mostert is injury-prone. In his four years in San Francisco, he's missed 20 games, including eight last season. Secondly, he's entering his age 29 season. There's been statistical research that shows running backs tend to take a sharp decline in production after their year 28 season. The third is the addition of Sermon.
The Niners traded up to draft Sermon in the third round. He's a talented runner who is comfortable with Shanahan's outside zone system. Most importantly, he's a good pass-catcher out of the backfield, especially when compared to Mostert who has never caught more than 16 passes in a season. That alone, and the injury to Wilson, will help Sermon eat into Mostert's workload. If Mostert also suffers a decline in production due to his age, this could be Sermon's backfield sooner rather than later. He's a great late-round RB choice at a current ADP of RB50.
In back-to-back years, the Niners have drafted two wide receivers who almost mirror images of one another. Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel are both do-it-all receivers who are tough after the catch and are also dangerous on jet sweeps and end-arounds - perfect for Shanahan's offense. Samuel had an injury-plagued 2020, but posted 961 yards and six touchdowns his rookie season. Compare that to Aiyuk who put up 825 yards and seven touchdowns in just 12 games as a rookie, and you can see why the Niners are excited about their young duo.
For fantasy purposes, Aiyuk is my preferred target since when he and Samuel were both on the field, he was used in the prototypical WR1 role. He sported an aDOT (Average Depth of Target) of 9.03 yards while Samuel's was a minuscule 2.2 yards. Samuel is used more like a gadget player and lines up all over the place on the field, meaning his fantasy production may be less consistent. Aiyuk is fairly valued at his current ADP of WR27, but Samuel is overpriced at WR34, given his low aDOT and the fact that he is the third option in this passing attack.
A name to keep an eye on is Jalen Hurd, who was drafted with the 67th pick of the 2019 NFL draft. He missed his rookie season with a back injury and the 2020 season with an ACL tear. He's a former college running back who rushed for 1,200+ yards as a true freshman at Tennessee, before having success at Baylor as a wide receiver. The Niners don't run a lot of three wide receiver sets, but if he's healthy, his talent may force Shanahan to find a role for him.
George Kittle is, along with Travis Kelce, a no-brainer top-tier tight end for both fantasy and real football. Kittle put up back-to-back top-three finishes at the position in 2018 and 2019 and would have in 2020 (3rd in points per game) if not for an injury that cost him eight games.
He's a lock for 100-120 targets and with weak as the tight end position is this year, could really set you apart from your league mates. The price might seem high at the 21st overall pick, but if you can get steady production from Kittle while eight of your other teammates are having on and off weeks with their mid-tier tight ends, that could be a huge difference.
The Niners have a solid core on both the offensive and defensive side of the football, but who will Kyle Shanahan trust to steer the ship? Will it be returning wonderboy Jimmy Garappolo or the future face of the franchise Trey Lance?
Either way, this should be a productive, fun-to-watch offense. While Shanahan's schemes to allow for players to perform at their best, it also spreads the love as the Niners have not produced many fantasy superstars outside of Kittle. Drafting a Niner this season is a great way to shore up the depth on your team, not necessarily a league-winning piece.
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