Fantasizing About: The San Francisco 49ers

QUARTERBACK:  In case you haven’t heard, this is a fork in the road season for Alex Smith.  After Smith was named the starter for an ineffective Shaun Hill Week 8 of last season, we saw a lot of good Alex and bad Alex.  It was a classic case of bad QB rating against good defenses (59.7 and 42.3, against the Cards and Eagles respectively) and good QB rating against bad defenses (97.5 and 97.6 against the Lions and Rams).  Luckily for Smith, the Lions and Rams were also his last two games, thus ending his season with a little confidence boost.  The Niners echoed that confidence by not seriously go after a QB (McNabb in free agent or Clausen in the draft).  And there’s no better way to scream ‘Alex Smith is our quarterback’ then by drafting OT Anthony Davis and OG Mike Iupati in the 1st round.

Smith has lived up to the ‘I’m the man’ challenge so far, impressing his teammates and coaches with his off-season workout regimen.  Even Vernon Davis declared there is no other QB he’d rather have throwing to him. Team leader, check.  Better protection, check.  Consistency, still TBD.

From a fantasy perspective Smith did amass one 300 yard game, and can pad the stats pretty nicely from the shot gun formation (hint hint, Singletary).  And with a full training camp working with weapons Crabtree, Gore, and Davis, the numbers should rise big time.  The INTs remain to be seen.  But this is still a run first team (see Gore) and the most fantasy owners can hope for from a productivity standpoint is just alright.

One of the Niners biggest off-season acquisitions is that of fellow former number one in the draft, David Carr.  He’s great insurance should Smith be injured or ineffective, but the 49ers confidence in Smith makes Carr just a good bench warmer…for now.

Do or die time, Alex!

RUNNING BACK:  The last couple of seasons Frank Gore has been slightly overvalued, generally projected in the 6-10 overall range and then producing like a 15-20 overall kind of guy.  But this could truly be the year of the super-elite Gore thanks to that aforementioned revamped o-line.  Gore should minimize those 1-yard gains that often plagued him last year, even as he rushed for 1,120. There are rumblings of more of a split situation with Glen Coffee and Moran Norris, an idea Gore has yet to warm up to.  But worry not, future Gore owners. Singletary had similar notions this time last year and Coffee only amassed 83 carries the whole season—even after starting three games for an injured Gore.

Gore’s the man in SF, Singletary’s a running game first kind of guy and as long as he keeps that right ankle taped up he should improve upon his 239 rushing attempts of a year ago. Plus, don’t forget about his history of breaking long ones (bonus points!) — and his asset as a receiver.  Top 5 running back alert!

It’s still a bit early to anoint Coffee or Morris as your Frank Gore insurance pick.  Expect the pre-season, and Singletary’s outspoken nature, to clarify things a bit.

WIDE RECIEVER:  Michael Crabtree. Michael Crabtree. Michael Crabtree.  It’s all about the Crabtree.  WR coach Jerry Sullivan is impressed with his off-season work, including the 49ers edict to learn all three receiving positions.  Considering he had 625 yards in 11 games on a weak passing team  as a rookie, Crabtree is clearly poised to be a 1000 yarder this year.   If the 49ers turn into an offensive juggernaut, Crabtree becomes a Top 10 receiver. But that’s still a big if.

Who will line up opposite of Crabtree remains to be seen.   Josh Morgan and Jason Hill are the likely candidates, which creates a weak spot for the 49ers.  Morgan in particular had difficulty running routes and doesn’t have the best hands, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see hill nab that spot.  Former stud-in training Ted Ginn Jr was signed in the off-season. Ginn is poised to be a kick returner, but if he can ever solve his faulty hand issue that plagued him in Miami he could make some wave sin the Niners receiving corp.

Ready for superstardom?

TIGHT END:  It’s hard to believe the same play soft/bad attitude guy of two seasons ago is the same Vernon Davis. Well really, he’s not.  The new Vernon Davis is not only a team leader, but one of the best tight ends in the league. Davis was tied for the league lead in receiving touchdowns last season with 13, and fell just short of 1000 yards.  Davis is a beast.  He looks open even when double-covered.  He’s a bruiser, frequently able to turn a 15 yard completion into a 25 yard play.  If Alex Smith is the quarterback the coaches are praying for,. V.D. may very well become the league’s most productive tight end.  And even if the Niners get the 2009 Alex Smith, Davis is still top 5 at his position.

KICKER:  Joe Nedney.  Awesome.  Accuarate.  Once gave an opposing fan the middle finger. Nuff’ said. 

SPECIAL TEAMS:  The hiring of Kurt Schottenheimer and signing of the aforementioned Ted Ginn Jr. should give the 49ers some possibly of TD returns.  49ers fans are hoping that stud punter Andy Lee is no longer considered one of the top five players on the team.

DEFENSE:  Other than filling a few back-up roles and signing of DE Travis LaBoy, the 49ers have made few moves this off-season. The makeup of the successful blitzing/not as successful defending the deep pass defense will remain largely unchanged.  The 49ers drafted USC Safety Taylor Mays in the 2nd second round but he shouldn’t see much playing time right away.  The biggest “addition” is the return of starting cornerback Nate Clements, who missed virtually all of last season with a shoulder injury.  If Clements can return to even close to his 2004 Pro Bowl form the 49ers secondary will be much improved.   The six games in their own division (Rams, Seahwaks, and the Leinart-led Cards) are enough to make the 49ers defense a hot commodity.  Oh yeah, and they have a guy named Patrick Willis.

Always on the attack!


Wk Date Game Stadium Time (ET)
1 Sep 12 SF @ SEA Qwest Field 4:15 PM
2 Sep 20 NO @ SF Candlestick Park 8:30 PM
3 Sep 26 SF @ KC Arrowhead Stadium 1:00 PM
4 Oct 03 SF @ ATL Georgia Dome 1:00 PM
5 Oct 10 PHI @ SF Candlestick Park 8:20 PM
6 Oct 17 OAK @ SF Candlestick Park 4:05 PM
7 Oct 24 SF @ CAR Bank of America Stadium 1:00 PM
8 Oct 31 DEN @ SF Wembley Stadium 1:00 PM
9 Bye
10 Nov 14 STL @ SF Candlestick Park 4:15 PM
11 Nov 21 TB @ SF Candlestick Park 4:05 PM
12 Nov 29 SF @ ARI University of Phoenix Stadium 8:30 PM
13 Dec 05 SF @ GB Lambeau Field 1:00 PM
14 Dec 12 SEA @ SF Candlestick Park 4:05 PM
15 Dec 16 SF @ SD Qualcomm Stadium 8:20 PM
16 Dec 26 SF @ STL Edward Jones Dome 1:00 PM
17 Jan 02 ARI @ SF Candlestick Park 4:15 PM