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2022 Fantasy Focus: San Francisco 49ers

When the San Francisco 49ers traded up in the 2021 NFL draft for Trey Lance, the writing was on the wall as to the future of the 49ers. After a year of sitting, Coach Kyle Shanahan has determined that the next main quarterback of the 49ers will be Lance. This is after Jimmy Garoppolo led them to the NFC Championship last year.

While Garopollo does have his issues, one can’t deny what a risk Lance is. He has tremendous mobility and an impressive arm. Yet, he’s made many mental errors and has had accuracy issues. The potential is clear, and the 49ers are in business if he reaches it. They’ll be one of the best offenses in the NFL. If he fails to reach his potential or busts, Coach Shanny and GM John Lynch could be out of jobs after trading three first-round picks for Lance.

The 49ers made the playoffs as a Wild Card team with a 10-7 record. They were led by Deebo Samuel having a career year, and Elijah Mitchell’s unexpected rookie breakout. The team was 13th in points (427) and seventh in yards (6,387). They ran the 25th most plays (1,046) while averaging the most yards per play (6.1). When they had the ball, they were lethal with it. San Fran did have issues with turnovers, ranking 22nd with 24. The 49ers were 12th in passing yards (4,221), 14th in touchdowns (26), and 19th in interceptions with 14.

San Francisco was fifth in rushing attempts with 499, seventh in rushing yards (2,166), and fifth in touchdowns with 22. The team ran the ball at a 47.7% clip while passing at a 52.3% rate. I’d expect those rates to continue with a tad more rushing, with Trey Lance running the offense in 2023.


Trey Lance

The San Francisco 49ers are pinning their hopes on the young quarterback Lance. He has big shoes to fill in, replacing Garopollo, who led them to a Super Bowl appearance and NFC Championship appearance. Last year, Lance started two games due to an injured Jimmy G, and he appeared in five games total, three of which were for trick plays or rushes. He wasn’t outstanding in his limited playing time. He had a 57.7% completion rate and 603 yards for five touchdowns and two interceptions. The yards/touchdowns are nice, but the completion percentage showcases the inaccuracy issues. He did rush for 168 yards on 38 attempts. He’ll be a solid fantasy quarterback, but I’m not sold on the real-life NFL quarterback skills.

Regardless, Lance is only 22. He’s extremely young and has growing to do still. He will get better. Lance has the perfect mix of deep throws and rushing ability. If he can shore up his accuracy, he can easily be a QB1 in dynasty within a year or two. However, he is a risk. If you can get him in a rebuild, that’s ideal. He’s an excellent quarterback to build around with his youth and inexperience. I’m not sure I would want him as my QB2 as a contender. Lance has tons of upside, but his first starting year will have some growing pains.

In 2022, my projections for Lance are a 63.2% completion rate, 4,126 yards, 21 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 37 sacks, 156 rushing attempts, 796 yards, and six rushing touchdowns with ten fumbles. This equates to a QB2 score of 21.2 ppg in six-point touchdown leagues.

Jimmy Garoppolo

I’m honestly shocked Garoppolo is still on the 49ers. After the news that he signed a new contract that lowered his cap hit from $27 million to only $6 million to start the year, it’s a great deal. If Lance is a huge bust or struggles a ton, Garoppolo is a proven veteran starter that can take the 49ers’ offense to the playoffs. This is true if Lance gets hurt. It also allows the 49ers to have three more months to attempt to trade Garopollo rather than release him for nothing. The 49ers’ players love him. It’s a great deal all around and protects the San Francisco 49ers while allowing Garopollo to earn more money.

It was clear that he still can lead a team to the playoffs, although I’m not sure he’s a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Last year, Garopollo played in 15 games and had 3,810 yards with a 68.3% completion rate and 20 touchdowns. He threw 12 interceptions and led the league in yards per completion at 12.7. He added on 51 rushing yards and three touchdowns over 38 attempts. He’s by no means a mobile quarterback. I didn’t make any projections for Garopollo since Coach Shanny’s odds of starting him over a healthy Lance are slim this year. Unless Lance sucks, which I didn’t predict, I don’t see Garopollo starting. He’s a great quarterback to hold in a dynasty. He’s only 31 and will find a new team in the off-season at the latest. Hold him in the dynasty unless someone overpays.

Running Backs

Elijah Mitchell

Mitchell surpassed all expectations that the San Francisco 49ers had for him. Not only did he average 15 ppg in fantasy, but he proved he was the RB1 that the 49ers had been searching for. Mitchell’s mix of speed and power won the team over. Although he struggled with injuries, Mitchell still scored highly impressive in the 11 games he played in. Over that span, the running back had 963 yards on 207 rushing attempts, five touchdowns, 20 targets, 19 receptions, and 137 yards. He didn’t fumble once, which was impressive for a rookie. Buy him in dynasty as he has a bright future in the NFL.

I ultimately see Mitchell leading this team in the running back room so long as he can stay healthy. He’s a strong running back that can make people miss or break through tackles. He proved he has what it takes last year, and I see that remaining true this year so long as he stays healthy. Lance will take some rushing work from him, which limits his ceiling. However, Mitchell will be a reliable RB2 when he plays and can have multiple RB1 weeks. My projections this year for Mitchell are 201 rushes, 966 yards, six touchdowns, 28 targets, 23 receptions, 159 yards, and a touchdown. This is good for 11.8 PPR ppg over 15 games. See if you can’t snag him as an RB3 for your contending dynasty team. He’s only 24.

Jordan Mason

Mason is pulling a Mitchell 2.0. The 49ers drafted Tyrion Davis-Price as their thunder back to Mitchell’s lightning. Instead, Davis-Price struggled a lot this preseason, while undrafted rookie Mason bulldozed his way over the field. He made the roster and unseated Trey Sermon, a third-round pick in 2021. Shanny doesn’t care about the draft cost; he plays the best guys. At this point, Mason is the second-best running back on the team. He has the potential to be the team’s RB1 if Mitchell misses any time. Mason has the speed, patience, and unrelenting pursuit for extra yardage. I’m making him the second running back to own on the 49ers roster. He’s likely available off your waivers or for a late pick. Go grab him. He has the most upside compared to cost on this entire roster.

My predictions for Mason are limited because he will be the second back and playing behind a rushing quarterback. Despite that, I have him rushing 73 times for 341 yards, six touchdowns (due to being the goalline back), 22 targets, 19 receptions, 135 yards, and a receiving touchdown. This is equal to 6.4 PPR ppg. Excellent numbers from a running back no one gave any thought to a few months ago.

The Others

Jeff Wilson will get his touches, but he might soon be the odd man out in the 49ers’ rushing scheme. He’s still recovering from injury but hold onto him on your dynasty roster. Every 49er back is worth rostering due to the injuries that plague this room. Any back on this team could be a week or league winner. The same is true for Davis-Price, who was taken in the third round of the NFL draft. He has good potential to be the thunder back in Shanahan’s system. However, he’s had a rough preseason. This has landed him low on the totem pole. He’ll get work this year so hold onto him in dynasty. Perhaps he will wind up the lead back later this year. If I have him in any dynasty leagues, I’m stashing him in my taxi.

Wide Receivers

Deebo Samuel

Oh my Deebo. Deebo, Deebo, Deebo. Sorry, it’s so much fun to write, read, or say. Samuel had a career breakout in 2021, establishing himself as one of the few players who can be prolific in the receiving and rushing game. That’s why he wanted a contract extension and got one from the 49ers. They knew they couldn’t afford to lose one of the most unique talents in the NFL. Last year he was a top-five wide receiver in fantasy. Samuel had 121 targets, 77 receptions, 1,405 yards, 768 yards after the catch, 18.2 yards per reception, six touchdowns, 59 rushes, 365 yards, and eight touchdowns, and was an All-Pro player.

This year, Samuel will be seeking to replicate his 2021 season, although with less rushing. He will still get plenty of rushing work, but the 49ers can’t risk him getting hurt as a running back. This limits the ceiling of Samuel, but with Lance’s arm, perhaps his ADOT (average depth of target) can be even larger than his NFL-leading number last year. I currently have him as WR5 on PPG and WR8 on total points for a wide receiver in PPR. My projections are 32 rushes, 201 yards, two touchdowns, 130 targets, 81 receptions, 1,329 yards, six touchdowns, and a two-point conversion which equals to 17.6 ppg over 16 games. See if you can’t buy Samuel in dynasty since he’s only 26 and beginning his prime. He’s a WR1 contender’s dream.

Brandon Aiyuk

Aiyuk started the 2021 season in the doghouse but eventually found his way. Once out, he continued to put good numbers eerily similar to 2020. Aiyuk’s a talented intermediate-deep route runner with solid hands. He has good speed. Aiyuk has worked a lot with Trey Lance, and it appears he’s developed immense chemistry with the young passer. This certainly could pay off in the regular season. Aiyuk’s cheaper than he should be in dynasty, making him a buy. He’s only 24 and will be a reliable WR3. See if you can’t snag him for a late-first-round pick. In 2021, Aiyuk had 84 targets, 56 receptions, 826 rushing yards, five touchdowns, 17 rushing yards, and two fumbles.

This year, he will be a more reliable wide receiver that should consistently put up points with a few big weeks. I would play him as a flex wide receiver rather than rely on him for one of my top-three spots. This shows in my projections as well. I have Aiyuk down for 59 rushing yards, 95 targets, 56 receptions, 820 yards, five touchdowns, and 10.9 PPR ppg. He’s going to be an excellent player to have in dynasty for a long time as he’s only just entering his age-24 season.

Jauan Jennings

The San Francisco 49ers usually have three wide receivers on the field; this year, it’s Jennings’s turn. After being taken in the seventh round, he had a solid rookie year in 2021. He saw 38 targets, 24 receptions, 282 yards, and five touchdowns. Jennings has been impressive in the preseason. This has seen him lock up the WR3 job, but that does mean he’s fifth in the target sheet. Jennings won’t see enough targets to be a weekly fantasy option unless Samuel or Aiyuk gets hurt. However, he’s a great depth wide receiver who will be valuable should an injury occur. Snag him off waivers. As for the 2022 season, I project him for 46 targets, 34 receptions, 359 yards, and two touchdowns with 4.8 PPR ppg.

The Others

Danny Gray has excellent potential to be the 49ers’ deep threat, but it will likely take a year for him to develop. He has plenty of talent, but he’ll have to prove it on the actual NFL field before Coach Shanahan trusts him enough. He’s a great buy-low candidate that you should stash in your taxi this year. He has tremendous year-two breakout potential. This is especially true with Lance’s arm. As for Ray-Ray McCloud, he can be left on waivers. He has very little potential to be a fantasy name on your team in 2022.

Tight Ends

George Kittle

Kittle has been a top-five and usually top-three tight end for the past few years. This year will be no different, especially on a per-game scale. Kittle seems to always miss at least two-three games due to his all-out play style. Despite that, he made the Pro Bowl for the third time in 2021 after he had 71 receptions, 94 targets, 910 yards, six touchdowns, and 20 rushing yards. Kittle’s an elite talent at receiving and blocking makes him one of the most fearsome players in the NFL. It helps that he appears to be unafraid of anything too. No wonder the San Francisco 49ers love him.

This year, with Lance as the quarterback, presents a new challenge. Lance likes to throw deep, which isn’t always Kittle’s forte. However, Shanny will get the ball into the hands of his second-best receiver. He’ll script plays and ensure that Lance throws to him. After all, a tight end can often be a young quarterback’s best friend. This year, I’m predicting Kittle plays in 15 games for the San Francisco 49ers. My projections have him rushing for 24 yards, getting 105 targets, 75 receptions, 947 yards, and five touchdowns. This is a 13.5 PPR ppg average and ranks as the TE5 in ppg and TE6 in total points. If you need a tight end as a contender, see if you can’t acquire Kittle since he still has multiple years of prime time left as he enters his age-29 season.

The Others

The only tight end worth having in dynasty on the San Francisco 49ers is Kittle. Charlie Woerner and Ross Dwelley are not worth rostering even if they are starting. You can safely ignore the tight end room on the 49ers should Kittle miss any time in the 2022 season.

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As always, May the Force be with You…

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