QB Colin Kaepernick
(2012 QB Rank – #27, 15.6 FPts/G)
After taking over for a concussed Alex Smith in Week 10 against St. Louis, Kaepernick never relinquished the starting position, leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl loss to the Ravens. He established himself as a solid playmaking quarterback, capable of winning games both with his arm and his legs. Despite playing in the 49ers’ conservative offense, he topped 200 passing yards in six of his seven starts while throwing for ten touchdowns and three interceptions in those games. Even more impressive was his rushing ability, as he gained 415 yards with five touchdowns on just 63 carries. And that’s not counting the playoffs where he ran for a quarterback playoff record of 181 yards against the Packers in a Divisional Playoff win. Entering the offseason, Kaepernick appeared on the verge of being a top five fantasy QB, a prognosis that grew even more sound with the trade for wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Shortly after that, Michael Crabtree suffered a torn Achilles tendon that could cause him to miss all of the 2013 season. While that dampens Kaepernick’s outlook somewhat, he remains a solid option as a mid-tier QB1 for the upcoming season.
RB Frank Gore
(2012 RB Rank – #11, 12.4 FPts/G; #10 PPR, 14.2 FPts/G)
Gore is like a Timex—he just keeps on ticking. There was little difference between his production in 2011 and 2012 other than one key area: receptions. He ran for just over 1,200 yards for the second year in a row. with eight rushing touchdowns, but he was more involved in the passing game in 2012, catching 28 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown. And that wasn’t just because Kendall Hunter missed five games due to injury, since Hunter caught only nine passes on the season. At 30 years of age, Gore is bound to hit the wall at some point, but it doesn’t appear this will be the season that occurs. He averaged a solid 4.7 yards per carry last year, although part of that was aided by running behind arguably the league’s best run-blocking offensive line. The bigger concern is whether the offensive game plans will call for Gore to approach the 286 touches he had last season. With Hunter back from injury and 2012 and second-round pick LaMichael James due for a larger role, the 49ers could limit Gore’s regular-season workload in order to keep him fresh for a playoff run. That would prevent him from hitting double-digit fantasy points in 14 of 19 games, which shows just how consistent he was in 2012. With so much talent surrounding him in the backfield, Gore should be considered a mid-tier RB2 with little upside in 2013.
RB Kendall Hunter
(2012 RB Rank – #58, 5.0 FPts/G; #60 PPR, 5.8 FPts/G)
It has been an interesting two-year run in the NFL for Hunter. After an impressive rookie season in which the 2011 fourth-round pick ran for 473 yards and two touchdowns while chipping in 195 receiving yards, the 49ers chose another smallish back in the 2012 draft to challenge him, using a second-round pick to acquire LaMichael James. Hunter not only held him off but was even more impressive, rushing for 371 yards in 11 games while averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Unfortunately, a ruptured Achilles tendon ended his season in Week 12. That was followed up with the 49ers drafting Marcus Lattimore in the fourth round of this year’s draft. While it doesn’t appear Hunter is in the 49ers’ plans as a starting option down the road, James has done little to warrant taking his backup job away, so Hunter should enter the season as Frank Gore’s main handcuff. With Gore hitting the magical age of 30, Hunter rates as a solid handcuff and one who could be worthy of flex consideration in larger leagues.
RB LaMichael James
(2012 RB Rank – #108, 3.9 FPts/G; #114 PPR, 4.6 FPts/G)
After playing in Oregon’s spread offense in college, James was expected to have a redshirt season in 2012 as a rookie second-round pick, playing behind Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. And that’s exactly what happened, with James not even dressing until Hunter was lost for the season in Week 12. After that, James played reasonably well with 125 yards on 27 carries and three receptions for 29 yards. However, the backup job appears to be Hunter’s to lose in 2013, with all indications that James will need a great preseason to unseat him. That makes James nothing more than a late-round flyer in 2013 and a dubious one at that. In addition, his value in dynasty leagues took a hit with the fourth-round selection of Marcus Lattimore, further crowding the team’s backfield.
RB Anthony Dixon
(2012 RB Rank – #100, 2.5 FPts/G; #111 PPR, 2.5 FPts/G)
If there’s one thing you can say about Dixon, it’s that he’s a survivor. Despite seeing his production decline in each of the last two years after he ran for 237 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a rookie sixth-round pick in 2010, Dixon should hold on to a roster spot once again in 2013, provided rookie fourth-round pick Marcus Lattimore doesn’t make a miraculous recovery from his knee issues. While Dixon has done little, he is worth knowing about because both of Frank Gore’s main backups, LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter, lack the size necessary to handle major touches. If Gore goes down, Dixon could be a solid flex option as a short-yardage and close-out runner.
RB Marcus Lattimore
(2012 RB Rank – N/A)
The 49ers took a flier on Lattimore in the fourth round of this year’s draft even though he has little chance of playing in 2013 due to the horrific knee injury that ended his collegiate career. The South Carolina product would have otherwise been a first-round selection given his solid size, speed and athletic ability, and there is a chance he could take over for Frank Gore in the 49ers starting lineup at some point down the road. And it’s worth noting that San Francisco has some experience going this route, having acquired Gore in the 2005 draft despite his injury issues. Even though there are no assurances that Lattimore will fully recover, he is worth stashing on your dynasty league roster because of his potential.
WR Anquan Boldin
(2012 WR Rank – #31, 7.8 FPts/G; #30 PPR, 12.1 FPts/G)
The 49ers’ decision to acquire Boldin for just a sixth-round pick turned out to be a great move after the team lost Michael Crabtree to a torn Achilles tendon in May. That opens the door for Boldin to take over as the team’s lead wide receiver, but the question is how much gas the 32-year old Boldin has left in the tank. While he was lights out during the Ravens’ four-game march to a Super Bowl victory last season, he has failed to top 1,000 receiving yards over the past three seasons, despite being Baltimore’s leading receiver. And there are warning signals on the horizon. Even though he’s a possession receiver at this point in his career, he caught just 58 percent of his targets last season, hauling in 65 receptions for 921 yards and four touchdowns. However, since the 49ers have major issues on the wide receiver depth chart below him, Boldin is expected to have a major role in the team’s passing offense in 2013, along with tight end Vernon Davis. Consider Boldin a WR3 but one who is a bit risky and could be in line for an inconsistent season while facing the solid cornerbacks that reside in the NFC West.
WR Michael Crabtree
(2012 WR Rank – #15, 10.3 FPts/G; #15 PPR, 15.6 FPts/G)
In 2012, Crabtree finally showed the league that he was worthy of being the 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft. With a full training camp and solid play from his quarterback, Crabtree emerged as a true lead receiver, hauling in 85 of his 127 targets for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. That is impressive production considering San Francisco’s offense is based heavily on the run. Unfortunately, a torn Achilles tendon suffered in May cast a major cloud over Crabtree’s prognosis for the 2013 season. Rather than being a candidate to emerge as a WR1 for fantasy purposes, he is not expected to be available until mid-November. And by available, we mean available to begin practicing. Since a torn Achilles is a major issue for a wide receiver, we don’t see Crabtree being startable in any fantasy format in 2013. Consider stashing him in your dynasty league.
WR Mario Manningham
(2012 WR Rank – #76, 4.8 FPts/G; #73 PPR, 8.3 FPts/G)
While Manningham has more talent than he is given credit for, he made a major blunder when he signed with the 49ers prior to the 2012 season. Rather than being a key contributor as a backup with the Giants, he went to San Francisco in order to secure a starting position but ended up sharing that role with Randy Moss in a 49ers offense that relied heavily on the run game and rarely threw deep. Or not to Manningham, at least. Torn ACL and PCLs ended his season in Week 16 but by then he had done little, with just 42 receptions on 57 targets for 449 yards and a touchdown. While there is an opening for a larger role in 2013, with Michael Crabtree expected to miss much of the season with a torn Achilles tendon, Manningham’s slow recovery casts doubt on his ability to open the season in the starting lineup. He isn’t worth drafting but could be a worthwhile one-week fill-in if he can return to health early in 2013.
WR Austin Collie
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
With a major hole in the depth chart at wide receiver, the 49ers signed Collie early in training camp and he will have an opportunity to carve out a role in the team’s passing attack in 2013. A torn patellar tendon ended his 2012 season in Week 1, and concussions have plagued him throughout his four-year career, although he did manage to remain healthy for 16 games in 2011. While Collie is just two years removed from a 2010 season in which he had 649 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in just nine games, we don’t expect him to put together a bounceback season in 2013. He fits best working out of the slot, and slot production just hasn’t been a major factor in San Francisco’s offense during Jim Harbaugh’s two years leading the team. Collie might be worth taking a flier on in deeper leagues, but that’s about it. And keep in mind that he isn’t even a lock to be on the 49ers opening-day roster.
WR Quinton Patton
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
The 49ers used a fourth-round pick to acquire Patton and the plan was to relegate him to a minor role as a rookie. However, Michael Crabtree’s torn Achilles tendon, Mario Manningham’s slow recovery from a torn ACL, and the lack of development of 2012 first-round pick A.J. Jenkins have given Patton a path to playing time in 2013. The Louisiana Tech product has solid size and, provided he can learn the team’s playbook and show some dependability in the preseason, he has a decent chance to open the season in the starting lineup. With Jenkins looking like a bust and Manningham and Kyle Williams both coming off knee injuries, we won’t be all that surprised if Patton starts in Week 1. Of course, there is no telling if he can produce. Monitor the 49ers’ situation at wide receiver and consider grabbing Patton off the waiver wire early in 2013.
WR A.J. Jenkins
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
Despite possessing a depth chart featuring Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, and Randy Moss, the 49ers used a 2012 first-round pick to acquire A.J. Jenkins. While he displayed excellent speed and playmaking ability at Illinois, he was considered a raw prospect, and that proved to be prophetic when he failed to catch a single pass during his rookie season. In fact, he barely played. With offseason reports indicating that Jenkins had done little to impress the 49ers brass despite Crabtree being out with a torn Achilles tendon, he got shipped off to Kansas City in exchange for Jonathan Baldwin. Perhaps the change in scenery will do him some good, but he won’t do any good for your fantasy team this year.
TE Vernon Davis
(2012 TE Rank – #15, 5.7 FPts/G; #20 PPR, 8.4 FPts/G)
Is this the year Davis reemerges as an upper-tier fantasy TE? After a monster year in 2009 with 965 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns, Davis once again topped 900 receiving yards in 2010 while scoring seven touchdowns. Since then, he has been a major disappointment; especially last season when he hauled in just 41 passes for 548 yards and five touchdowns. With Colin Kaepernick taking over for Alex Smith at quarterback in Week 9, Davis went AWOL from the 49ers offense. He was targeted just 12 times over a six-game stretch from Weeks 12 to 17, catching six passes for 61 yards and no touchdowns. The good news is that he topped 100 receiving yards in both of the 49ers’ playoff games, and he should figure prominently in the team’s passing attack in 2013 with wide receiver Michael Crabtree expected to miss most of the season with a torn Achilles tendon. Anquan Boldin will help fill the void left by Crabtree’s injury, but he is no longer a true No. 1 receiver and the team lacks quality depth behind him. Add it all up and Davis should be line for a solid season in 2013. Just remember that we’ve said that before.