As the mercury rises and we inch closer to training camp openings, our resident fantasy football aficionados, Brad Evans and Derek Brown, profile their favorite Booms, Busts, Breakouts and Bets for every NFL team. Giddy up, gamers. Today’s topic: The Golden Gate Gold Miners.
When he was on the field last year, George Kittle proved he is still among the league's elite at the tight end position and the unquestioned leader of this passing attack. In Weeks 5-7, when he, Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel all played at least 62% of the snaps, Kittle led the team with a 27% target share.
Last year, he ranked first in yards per route run (2.94) among tight ends and was the TE3 in fantasy points per game. Despite being limited to only eight games, he was still fifth at the position in total yards after the catch. Regardless of whether Jimmy handsome or Trey Lance is under center, Kittle is set to smash oncoming tacklers like Stone Cold Steve Austin does beer cans. Kittle is ready to open up a can of whoop-ass in fantasy football. Can I get a hell yeah? — Derek Brown
Trey Lance, QB
Smoke signals bellowing from the Bay Area this offseason steadily and consistently signaled the rookie QB would be inserted into the starting lineup sooner rather than later. From beat writer reports to Steve Young, all suggested Lance would push Jimmy Garoppolo for reps over the season’s first half, if not well before. Kyle Shanahan tossed water on the notion at the beginning of training camp, but the youngster’s extraordinary football IQ, multidimensionality and NFL-ready skill set suggest a change of the guard could happen after the Niners’ bye in Week 6.
It’s pure guesswork if that will indeed be the case, but from the point of promotion on, Lance is likely to churn out a top-12 QB line. Think of him as a more polished Jalen Hurts, a player who possesses the arm strength, processing acuity and RPO-based wheels to deliver instant results. Some will question the jump from the FCS level to the pros, but operating behind a top-10 offensive line, supported by a plus defense, blessed with dynamite weapons and attached to a brilliant offensive coach, he’s in a paradisical situation. Over a dozen starts he could amass roughly 2,500 pass yards, 450 rush yards and 20 total touchdowns. He and Justin Fields are the best draft-and-stash options in deeper formats. — Brad Evans
2021 Fantasy Football Busts – 49ers
George Kittle, TE
Twisted steel and sex appeal? Not exactly. Kittle, as DBro so eloquently described, may have Stone Cold tendencies, but it’s doubtful he’ll apply many finishing moves on the opposition. Uncertainty at QB combined with his storied injury history — he’s only played in a full season once in four years — bizarre TD underproduction — five is his career high — and occasional concentration struggles (8 drops in ‘20) suggest his 24.77 ADP (TE3) is artificially inflated.
Admittedly, Kittle is a fantastic seam gasher and is tough to wrangle after the catch (6.23 YAC/rec in ‘20), but it should shock not a soul if cheaper options T.J. Hockenson and Kyle Pitts surpass him. If you’re aiming for a top-tiered TE in your draft, focus your attention on Darren Waller — available at nearly the same price point in average drafts — over Kittle. — Brad Evans
Deebo Samuel, WR
Deebo Samuel is a yards-after-the-catch maven, but with a healthy George Kittle returning and sophomore Brandon Aiyuk also in the target pecking order, it's difficult to see him paying off at his ADP. In the three games Kittle, Aiyuk and Samuel were all in the lineup full-time, Samuel averaged 11.4 fantasy points per game. Last year that would have made been 49th at the WR position. He's currently being drafted as the WR35 (73.1 overall).
At that spicy ADP, it's difficult to roster a player who operates as a running back catching dumpoff passes without a red-zone role. Across his seven games played, he drew two red-zone targets and deep targets while averaging a target distance of 2.6 yards. Tyler Boyd, Michael Gallup and Mike Williams are all being drafted within five picks of Samuel and will see red-zone and downfield work with paths to upside. Draft any of these three receivers over Samuel easily. — Derek Brown
Fantasy Football Breakouts for the 49ers
Trey Sermon, RB
Well built at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, equipped with excellent stop-and-start abilities, elusive off the jump and tough between the tackles, Trey Sermon meshes perfectly in Shanahan’s zone-based scheme. Last season for Ohio State he racked an impressive 4.04 yards after contact per attempt and forced a missed tackle on 28.4% of his rushes. In other words, don’t listen to critics who contend he’s too slow. Given his downhill lean and break-tackle power, he will plow earth behind San Francisco’s mound-moving offensive line.
Raheem Mostert and Wayne Gallman will be heavily involved. Still, if Shanny is true to his 500-carry word, it’s plausible Sermon snaps up 200-225 touches. Do that, and he’ll tuck inside the RB top-30 in 0.5 PPR, finishing in the range of 800-850 combined yards with 5-7 TDs. Oozing with upside, he’s a marvelous mid-draft buy at his RB31 ADP (82.54 overall). — Derek Brown
Trey Sermon, RB
Trey Sermon landed in a dream scenario in San Francisco. Before the NFL Draft, when I dove into his prospect profile, I hoped that he landed in a zone-heavy scheme that would take advantage of his talents. In 2017 and 2020, when he was in zone concept rushing attacks, he finished 15th and 19th among all collegiate running backs with 75 or more rushing attempts in yards after contact per attempt. Last year the 49ers utilized zone on 66.1% of their rushing plays.
Marry that with an offense that featured the 11th-highest rushing rate (45%), and you have the perfect recipe for Sermon to decimate all in his path. San Francisco should have no problems getting him into the open field after ranking 10th in second-level yards and ninth in open field yards in 2020. Sermon is a zone scheme steamroller that will fill up highlight reels by the season's end. — Brad Evans
Best Bets for the 49ers 2021
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