NFL free agency started on March 18th, but technically does not end until the end of the season. However, after a firehose of news the first week, and another run the second week, things quiet down to a trickle. There are still big names out there, but it’s going to take some time to get them signed, sealed and delivered.
With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at where teams stand after the early rush of free agency and what it means for fantasy football. We’re going to take a look at the skill positions, breaking down what the starting lineup and reserves will look like to assess fantasy value heading into August drafts.
Today, we’re taking a look at the San Francisco 49ers. They made a big trade of defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, but otherwise were relatively quiet in free agency. The team did not re-sign Emmanuel Sanders, instead signing Travis Benjamin to provide depth at the wide receiver position. The team also restructured Jerrick McKinnon’s contract.
Starter: Jimmy Garoppolo
Backups: Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
Garoppolo completed his first full season as a starter, playing 16 games a year removed from an ACL tear shortening his first season as the 49ers starter. After helping guide the 49ers a Super Bowl appearance, his performance was greeted in the offseason by rumors the 49ers were interested in free agent quarterback Tom Brady. Nothing came of that in spite of Pro Football trying to make it happen.
Garoppolo remains the unquestioned starter in San Francisco and coming off a year in which he was the 14th ranked fantasy quarterback. The 49ers downgraded at wide receiver in signing Benjamin to replace Sanders, but might have an upgrade at running back if McKinnon can remain healthy.
Garoppolo was worth starting at times last season, but was inconsistent. If you think he can take a step forward in 2020, he would likely be firmly in the bottom end of the QB1 range. If you think he does not take a step forward, he’s just outside that range at best.
Starter: TBD — Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, Jerick McKinnon
Backups: Jeff Wilson
The Shanahan family has never made life easy for fantasy owners when it comes to running backs. Last season, Mostert ranked 26th in standard leagues and 29th in PPR leagues, Coleman ranked 39th in both styles, and Breida ranked 46th in both styles.
The 49ers did not make any offseason additions or subtractions to the position, but instead restructured McKinnon’s contract. He missed the past two seasons with knee issues, and it would have no surprised nobody to see the 49ers part ways with him. Instead, they’re doubling down to a certain extent, making this depth chart that much more difficult to figure out.
Odds are decent someone in this group gets traded. If I had to bet on the 49ers highest scoring fantasy back, I’d go with Mostert. If I were to go with the most likely trade candidate, I would go with Breida. None of them is an RB1 at this point, and it’s a wait and see group that frankly is probably worth avoiding in drafts because of the uncertainty of snap dispersal.
Starters: Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor
Backups: Jalen Hurd, Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis, Richie James, Travis Benjamin
Emmanuel Sanders departed in free agency, and the team signed Travis Benjamin to add some depth to the unit. Sanders and Samuel were the top two receivers for the second half of the 2019 season, with Samuel finishing the season as the leading wide receiver at 57 receptions for 802 yards and three touchdowns, to go along with 14 rushing attempts for 159 yards and three touchdowns.
Samuel is a strong candidate to enter the 2020 season as the team’s No. 1 wide receiver. He finished last season ranked 26th in standard fantasy football leagues and 31st in PPR leagues. His versatility as a pass catcher and a rusher bode well for his overall fantasy value, and his upside suggests WR2 territory.
The big question for this group is if the 49ers invest one of their two first round picks in the position. They are in a position to potentially grab a top-shelf option like CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, or Henry Ruggs at No. 13. One of them would be huge for dynasty leagues, but in Kyle Shanahan’s offense will offer value in single-season re-draft leagues.
Starter: George Kittle
Backups: Ross Dwelley, Daniel Helm
Nothing changed here and nothing will change this year. Kittle is the guy and the team’s top pass-catcher. He finished the season as the second-highest scoring tight end in PPR leagues and the third-highest scoring tight end in standard leagues, but was tied for first in points per game, having missed two games due to injury.
Kittle missed two games with a knee injury, and played through a broken bone in his ankle late in the season, making his fantasy performance that much more impressive. Even if the 49ers add a receiver in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Kittle is going to remain one of the top two or three tight ends in the game if he stays healthy.