👆 if you set fantasy football lineups (or make player prop bets), then you need to see this 👆
It's a new era in San Francisco. After 5 seasons of Jimmy Garoppolo (and a little bit of Brian Hoyer, CJ Beathard and Nick Mullens), the 49ers are preparing to unleash last season's 3rd overall pick, Trey Lance, as their new starting QB and hopeful franchise blue chip.
While a shakeup at QB can often create some uncertainty for fantasy football purposes, we know enough about Kyle Shanahan and his 49ers to know what to expect; a run-heavy focus that should be magnified even further under Trey Lance and his rushing prowess.
Shanny's offenses tend to play pretty efficient ball in both the ground and air game, finishing 16th, 4th, 15th and 7th in offensive yards in the last 4 years despite finishing 21st, 19th, 9th and 25 in plays executed.
They've been predictably solid on the ground, finishing 11th (2018), 2nd (2019), 14th (2020) and 5th (2021) in rushing attempts and 13th, 2nd, 15th and 7th in rushing yards (not to mention 30th, 1st, 11th and 6th in rushing TDs).
Meanwhile, in the same 4 seasons, the 49ers have barely thrown the ball, finishing 20th, 29th, 16th and 29th in passing attempts. That said, they've been rather efficient through the air, finishing 15th, 13th, 12th and 12th in passing yards (plus 17th, 11th, 20th and 14th in passing TDs).
Those trends are likely to continue to stretch to both extremes with Lance under center, as the Niners will surely want to utilize his legs and hide his arm/decision making in year 1. Expect another run-heavy campaign—perhaps the heaviest ever in Shanahan's career—from the Niners in 2022. I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if the '22 Niners finish the season with the most rushing attempts in football and/or fewest passing attempts in football.
Trey Lance 📈
After using the 3rd overall selection on him in last year's draft, the 49ers have officially turned to Trey Lance as their hopeful franchise QB in 2022. It's been reported with frequency that Lance is a bit raw as a passer and has certainly had his struggles in training camp. That's why above I mentioned the 49ers are likely to become even more run-heavy than previous seasons.
But it's not just because he's raw as a passer. It's also because he's likely to be elite as a rusher.
Lance figures to be one of the most mobile—if not the most mobile—QBs in football for years to come. That's a cheat code in fantasy football. And if he can put it together as a passer, the sky is the limit; eventual QB1 overall is absolutely within his range of possible outcomes (highly unlikely this year, to be clear).
For what it's worth, Draftkings Sportsbook has Trey Lance pegged for 3500 passing yards, 21 passing TDs, 10 interceptions, 500 rushing yards and 5 rushing TDs. In other words, Vegas has Lance penciled in for 284 fantasy points, which would have been QB 10 last season.
Fantasy Drafts 👍: Trey Lance is currently the QB 13, drafted around pick 102 (mid 9th round). He seems likely to exceed that just in rushing alone. Drafted within 6 spots of Lance in either direction are Drake London, Dawson Knox, Robert Woods, Melvin Gordon, Bills DEF, Rhamondre Stevenson, Ken Walker and Christian Kirk. Lance is an ideal late-round QB target.
Draft Kits: I have Lance in Tier 2D of my fantasy football Draft Kits with Kirk Cousins and Derek Carr
Dynasty Leagues: Lance is an exciting hold for dynasty leaguers.
Elijah Mitchell, Tyrion Davis-Price, Jeff Wilson and Trey Sermon
For all their success as a unit, San Francisco has been a maddening destination for RBs in fantasy football during the Kyle Shanahan era. In 5 years as the Niners head boss, the 49ers haven't had a single rusher hit 1,000 yards, and only two of them have even hit 900.
Heck, dating back to even before the Shanahan era, the 49ers have not had a 1,000 yard rusher since Frank Gore went for 1,106 yards in 2014.
Over the last four seasons, the absolute best fantasy football finish at RB in a 49ers uniform is a three way tie between Elijah Mitchell (last year), Raheem Mostert (2019) and Matt Breida (2018) at RB 26 overall. You read that right; the Niners, one of the best rushing units in football, haven't produced so much as a fantasy football RB2 in nearly half a decade.
What's more, in two of the last three years, San Fran has pumped three different RBs into the top 50 but none higher than RB 26.
TLDR; the 49ers are a terrific running team, but it's tough to find an individual contributor in that backfield that you can rely on on a weekly basis. Elijah Mitchell was the best bet last year with 14.2 PPR points per game (which, to his credit, was the 17th best average among RBs), but can we expect the 6th round pick to build on that now that Jeff Wilson (appeared in just 6 games last season) is healthy, 2021 3rd round pick Trey Sermon is another year developed and, oh yeah, the 49ers also spent another 3rd round pick this year on LSU's Tyrion Davis-Price?
Here's the thing; there is fantasy football value in this backfield, but it's on a weekly basis, not a year-long basis. Keep that in mind when drafting and considering waivers during the season.
For me, I'm passing on Elijah Mitchell in drafts and instead spreading out shares of Jeff Wilson, Trey Sermon and Tyrion Davis-Price this season in deep leagues (while flagging them as potential in-season pickups in standard sized leagues).
Elijah Mitchell 👎 - Elijiah Mitchell is currently the RB 21, drafted around pick 51 (early-mid 5th round). Drafted within 6 spots of Mitchell in either direction include DJ Moore, Darren Waller, DK Metcalf, Josh Jacobs, Lamar Jackson, Mike Williams, Breece Hall, JK Dobbins, Brandin Cooks, Antonio Gibson and Kyler Murray. Simply put, Antonio Gibson is the only one in that batch I'd want less than Mitchell. I'm completely out on Mitchell this season.
Jeff Wilson, Trey Sermon and Tyrion Davis-Price 👍 - Jeff Wilson (RB 71, 18th round), Trey Sermon (RB 77, 23rd round) and Tyrion Davis-Price (RB 64, 17th round) are all terrific free/late-round dart throws. If you're in a deep league, know that the pecking order based on preseason usage currently seems like it goes Mitchell > Wilson > Sermon > TDP. Also know that's easily subject to change. Still, each of these guys are terrific late round stabs. If you're in a shallow league, star all three of these guys as potential in-season pickups.
I have Mitchell in Tier 2C of my fantasy football Draft Kits with Antonio Gibson, Kareem Hunt, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Melvin Gordon and more.
I have Wilson, Sermon and TDP in Tier 3B with Mike Davis, Gus Edwards, Raheem Mostert, Sony Michel and more.
Dynasty Leagues: IMHO, Elijah Mitchell is a screaming sell-high candidate, while Trey Sermon is a screaming buy (extremely) low candidate. TDP is a late 2nd/early 3rd round rookie pick and Jeff Wilson is just a hold.
After an injury-ruined sophomore campaign in 2020, Deebo Samuel absolutely exploded onto the scene in 2021, racking up 310 PPR points (20.7 per game) for to finish WR 3 overall.
Safe as can be, Deebo hit 15 PPR points in a whopping 80% of his games (including hitting 20 in 46.7% of his games which tied for 2nd best with Davante Adams) and he never once finished under 10 PPR points.
He also carried a higher ceiling than most, hitting 30 PPR points in 20% of his games which was more frequent than anyone not named Cooper Kupp or Davante Adams.
What he "lacked" in targets, catches and touchdowns—114, 73 and 6 respectively ranked 21st, 22nd and 19th among WRs—he more than made up for in carries (51, 2nd most), rushing yards (320, 2nd most) and rushing TDs (7, most). And despite finishing 22nd in the league in catches, he somehow managed to put up 1,310 receiving yards, the 5th most among WRs.
TLDR: Deebo touched the ball 124 times for 1,630 yards and 13 TDs.
Deebo sent 49ers fans and fantasy football players on a rollercoaster of emotions this offseason, complaining about being used like an RB, demanding a trade and genuinely looking like he was on the way out of San Francisco.
But in the ultimately signing a three-year, $71.55 million contract with $58.1 million guaranteed, returning to San Francisco and changing his tune, saying he's willing to do "whatever it takes" to win (including being used like a RB at times).
Ultimately, the 49ers figure to remain among the most run-heavy teams in football which could come at the expense of a few Deebo targets. But assuming they'll continue to use him at times in the backfield, he'll get plenty of opportunities regardless.
Deebo remains a high-upside WR1 in 2022.
Fantasy Drafts 👍: Deebo Samuel is currently the WR 6 being drafted around pick 16 (mid 2nd round). Truthfully, I've seen him slide to the back half of the 2nd round closer to pick 20-21 frequently as well. Joe Mixon, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, Travis Kelce, D'Andre Swift, Alvin Kamara, Nick Chubb, CeeDee Lamb, Aaron Jones, Tyreek Hill, Javonte Williams, Mark Andrews, Josh Allen and Saquon Barkley are all drafted within 6 spots in either direction of Deebo. Of that batch, Diggs, Lamb, Barkley and Kelce are the only names I wouldn't hesitate to take over Deebo.
Draft Kits: I have Deebo in Tier 1B of my fantasy football Draft Kits with Mike Evans, Davante Adams and more.
Dynasty Leagues: Deebo remains an exciting hold for dynasty leaguers. Maybe there's a teeny tiny chance to "buy low" with a somewhat depressed ADP? But I doubt it.
Brandon Aiyuk 📈
2020 PPR points: 184.5 (WR 35) - PPR points per game: 15.4 (WR 18)
2021 PPR points: 153.6 (WR 37) - PPR points per game: 9.6 (WR 56)
An exciting 5th round fantasy football pick last summer, Brandon Aiyuk took us on a wild ride that started out with severe disappointment as Aiyuk was benched in week 1 start the season. It took a half the season for him to finally get rolling; not exactly what you want from your 5th round pick.
But in week 9, Aiyuk caught fire and was the WR 24 over the final 8 weeks of the fantasy season. He's looking to build on that success, and reports out of Niners camp have been glowing recently with NBC Sports' Peter King saying Aiyuk has been "the star" of 49ers camp and The San Francisco Chronicle's Eric Branch reporting that Aiyuk "appears poised for a breakout third season."
Working against Aiyuk, of course, is being 2nd (or even 3rd) in line for targets in a run-heavy scheme that figures to get even heavier.
Still, Aiyuk carries massive upside for a guy that's drafted towards the end of the 8th round this season.
Fantasy Drafts 👍: Brandon Aiyuk is currently the WR 39 drafted around pick 94 (late 8th round) near names like Tyler Lockett, Zach Ertz, Rashod Bateman, Matthew Stafford, Chase Edmonds, Drake London, Dawson Knox, and Robert Woods. Put simply, Bateman is the only player in this range I'd take over Aiyuk (disclaimer; depending on how my roster is built to this point, I might take Stafford as my QB1 or Edmonds as my RB 3/4).
Draft Kits: I have Aiyuk in Tier 3C of my fantasy football Draft Kits with Tyler Lockett, Julio Jones, Robert Woods and more.
Dynasty Leagues: If there's a buy-low window, that seems likely to slam shut soon. Get your offers in now before it's too late.
Danny Gray 📈
The 49ers used their 3rd round draft pick on SMU's Danny Gray a speedster that torched the combine with a 4.33 40 yard dash.
Impressively, Gray caught 2 of 4 targets for 99 yards and a TD in the 49ers preseason opener vs the Green Bay Packers.
More importantly than that, Gray played with the first-team offense and hit a 76-yard TD from Trey Lance on their 2nd drive of the game.
Now, to set proper expectations, remember this is going to be an extremely run-heavy team, and Gray is, at best, no higher than 4th on the target totem pole behind Deebo, Aiyuk and Kittle.
Still, seemingly overnight, Gray went from a mere dynasty league stash to someone we should have our eyes on in season-long leagues. I also love him as a last round dart throw in best ball.
Fantasy Drafts 👍: Gray is currently free as can be in fantasy football leagues, drafted as the WR 117 around pick 295 (mid-25th round). He's not someone to draft in "normal" standard sized leagues, but he's someone to have on your radar as a potential pickup.
Draft Kits: I have Gray in Tier 5A of my fantasy football Draft Kits with Curtis Samuel, Marquez Callaway, David Bell and more.
Dynasty Leagues: Gray is an exciting 3rd round pick in dynasty rookie drafts.
Jauan Jennings 📉
Jennings was one of my favorite end-of-season stashes last season in dynasty leagues in hopes he'd seize the WR3 role in San Francisco. While's he's been solid and offseason reports have been glowing, his days as a barely-fantasy-relevant WR in San Francisco are likely numbered with 3rd round pick Danny Gray showing out already this year. Still, deep leaguers should have Jennings on their radar.
2018 PPR points: 258.7 (TE 3) - PPR points per game: 16.2 (TE 3)
2019 PPR points: 222.5 (TE 2) - PPR points per game: 15.9 (TE 2)
2020 PPR points: 125.1 (TE 19) - PPR points per game: 15.6 (TE 3)
2021 PPR points: 192 (TE 3) - PPR points per game: 14.8 (TE 3)
Despite another run-heavy offense and playing through calf injuries that he reportedly never got over last season, Kittle still managed 88 targets (7th most among TEs), 66 catches (7th), 900 receiving yards (4th), and 6 TDs (6th) for a TE 3 finish, his 4th straight season inside the top 3.
He's been among the safest TEs in football—a position that's far from safe in this game—hitting at least 10 PPR points in 72.6% of his last 51 fantasy football games. Only Travis Kelce has a better rate of hitting 10 PPR points than Kittle among the top tier TEs.
Likewise, Kittle's been able to touch 20 PPR points in 25.49% of his games (only Kelce has a higher rate) and, fun fact, Kittle's been able to hit 30 PPR points in 7.8% of his games, a higher rate than everyone—including Kelce.
Like the rest of the 49ers pass catchers, working against Kittle is tough target competition in a run-heavy offense that figures to get heavier.
Still, entering his age 29 season, George Kittle finds himself lower on fantasy football draft boards than any time in recent memory, making it fair to wonder if he ends up one of the steals of 2022.
Fantasy Drafts 👍: Kittle is currently the TE 4 drafted around pick 41 (mid 4th round). Frankly, I've seen him go as late as the late 5th round and often after Darren Waller. Usually drafted in Kittle's vicinity are David Montgomery, Justin Herbert, Michael Pittman, Cam Akers, Diontae Johnson, Terry McLaurin, Jaylen Waddle, Travis Etienne, DJ Moore, Darren Waller, DK Metcalf, Josh Jacobs and Lamar Jackson.
The tough part when drafting Kittle is knowing the studly WRs you'll miss out on. That said, if you're in a pinch, I wouldn't blame you for taking your swing on Kittle, especially when you do see him in the 5th round.
Draft Kits: Logan Thomas is in Tier 1B of my fantasy football Draft Kits with Kyle Pitts and Darren Waller.
Dynasty Leagues: Kittle's more of a hold than anything. On one hand, there's some buy-low appeal there since his ADP is so depressed this season; people are worried about him. On the other hand, he's been pretty beat up already this season and he's entering his age 29 season, potentially creating a sell high opportunity if he looks like same old George.
That's a wrap on the San Francisco 49ers! If you prefer your content via YouTube, be sure to subscribe to the BBFF channel so you don't miss anything! Likewise, if Podcast is more your jam, don't forget to subscribe to the BBFF podcast!
Next up: The Los Angeles Rams!