2016 fantasy football depth charts: San Francisco 49ers
(Editor’s note: As we lead up to the season, Director of PFF Fantasy Jeff Ratcliffe is breaking down each team’s depth chart from a fantasy perspective. Catch up on the work so far here.)
Following an ugly year under Jim Tomsula, the 49ers went out and hired former Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. That means a much higher-volume offense in San Francisco and the potential for more fantasy value out of this squad. But first, Kelly is going to have to decide who he wants under center: Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert. That’s not quite a Montana-or-Young decision.
From nearly winning the Super Bowl to getting benched, it’s been a roller coaster ride for Kaepernick over the past few seasons. In 2013, he finished as fantasy’s No. 10 quarterback, and he ranked 15th in 2014 – one spot ahead of Cam Newton. But things came crashing down last year. Kaepernick managed just eight starts under Tomsula, grading out as the worst starting quarterback to play at least 25 percent of his team’s snaps. He also ranked 20th in fantasy points, and was one of just eight quarterbacks below 0.40 fantasy points per dropback.
Kaepernick is coming off shoulder surgery, but has been cleared for camp. Still, Gabbert will open camp as the starter, and reportedly has the edge on Kaepernick for the job. Looking back at his body of work, it’s hard to believe that Gabbert went 10th overall in the 2011 draft. Since then, he’s started 35 games, completing just 55.8 percent of his passes at a clip of 6.0 yards per attempt. He’s almost dead-even on touchdowns to interceptions (33:31) and has taken a sack on 8.5 percent of his dropbacks. Despite all of these negatives, Gabbert was actually promoted to starter over Kaepernick last season, and wasn’t really that bad. Over the final nine weeks of the season, he ranked 18th in fantasy points, outscoring Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan and Alex Smith. Given the volume in Kelly’s offense, the winner of this job will be on the QB2 radar.
San Francisco 49ers projected 2016 offense with 2015 grades:
The 49ers have one of this year’s most popular bounceback candidates in Torrey Smith, who is in a great situation to produce in Kelly’s up-tempo offense. That certainly wasn’t the case last year, as he posted abysmal numbers in the 49ers lackluster offense, finishing as fantasy’s No. 49 receiver. To his credit, Smith ranked fifth among wide receivers with 6.8 yards after catch per reception, and was the only qualifying receiver to average more than 20 yards per reception. Smith only saw 16 deep targets, but that was 28.6 percent of his total targets. Even with the 49ers’ shaky quarterback situation, Smith’s target volume should take a healthy jump this season. He’s a threat to post WR3-plus numbers.
Quinton Patten and Bruce Ellington will round out three-wide sets with Patten on the outside and Ellington in the slot. There really isn’t anything special about Patton as a player, but he was one of just two receivers to average more than 7.0 yards after catch per reception last season. The other one was Martavis Bryant. So there’s some upside with him. Ellington is a smaller player (5’9, 197) who has good speed and is a favorite of Kelly’s. While both receivers have some appeal, neither figures to be more than a fringe fantasy option with DFS appeal.
There isn’t much to get excited about with the 49ers’ tight ends. Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell are all in the mix. McDonald as the favorite to lead the group in targets just as he did last season. That being said, he saw just 47 targets in 14 games, catching 30 for 326 yards and three scores.
[Should Torrey Smith be going higher in drafts? Can you get value picking him? Check out our PFF Draft Master tool and try a mock draft, complete with offensive line grades, full projections and all the PFF data.]
At running back, Carlos Hyde sits atop a relatively thin depth chart. Against the Vikings in Week 1 last season, Hyde racked up 168 yards and two scores on the ground and was the No. 1 fantasy running back. From Week 2 until Week 7 – when Hyde suffered the foot injury that ultimately landed him on injured reserve – he tied for 37th in fantasy points. To be fair, a lot of this was beyond Hyde’s control. He was extremely elusive, causing 35 missed tackles on 126 touches. On a per-touch basis, only Marshawn Lynch forced a missed tackle more frequently than Hyde (27.8 percent). But San Francisco’s lackluster offense led to runs of 15-or-more yards accounting for just 16.2 percent of Hyde’s yards. But in fully healthy and in Kelly’s offense, Hyde has the potential for heavy volume. He’s oozing with upside as a borderline RB1.
On the defensive side of the ball, the 49ers have the reigning top fantasy linebacker in NaVorro Bowman. He’s a good bet to repeat this year with limited competition for tackles and a high likelihood for more snaps due to the pace of Kelly’s offense. Likewise, Antoine Bethea will benefit from the pace and should be considered a DB1 option.