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Dark Horse 49ers

This year’s 49ers team has a sense of intrigue with Kyle Shanahan in the mix. My previous breakdown of the 49ers offense broke down which players figure to be the main components. However I wanted to bring some light to some dark horses who may surprise if given the opportunity this season:

CJ Beathard

Just a few days ago I was listening to an interview with John Lynch with CBS Sports Radio. In that interview he discussed that they took Beathard in the 3rd round (higher than most people predicted) as Kyle Shanahan pinpointed him as a QB that fit his system perfectly, and did everything that he wants from that position. He went on to state that his statistical production was hindered in college by a poor O-line in his senior year and a run heavy scheme. However, if he were to have played in a more Pro-style offense, he would have crept into the higher rounds. He also noted that when he had key cogs in his O-line there in previous seasons, we were able to see what he’s capable of. To an extent that can be seen from his stats below:

During his time at the University of Iowa, the O-line saw Brandon Scherff, Andrew Donnal, and Austin Blythe all leave to the NFL draft. The grandson of longtime GM Bobby Beathard, C.J. has football in his blood. With Brian Hoyer the only man in the way of a starting job, there have been plenty more difficult routes to a starting job. Hoyer is considered by many to be a stop-gap at the position. Particularly suited to Shanahan’s offense, Beathard ran play action with regularity.

Immediately following the draft, Shanahan noted that Beathard “reminds him most of Kirk Cousins”. Quite an interesting comparison given the link between Cousins and the 49ers lately. Shanahan also noted that “he processes the game so well. He’s tough as s**t, so he’s got a chance”.

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein noted, “He’s a pro-style quarterback who dealt with nagging injuries to key pass catchers and himself in 2016. His 2015 tape was more impressive, but deep-ball accuracy issues, poor pocket awareness, and unnecessary hesitation as a passer shows up in both seasons. Beathard plays checkers with safeties rather than chess, which could always hinder his ability to attack down the field with success. Could be a career backup who finds himself in the action at some point down the road.”

It sounds like there’s a chance that Beathard could see the field at some point this season. Although he doesn’t profile as the best QB in this class, I trust Shanahan’s ability to mold him. That to me gives him some value as a rosterable player…particularly in 2QB formats.  In most rookie ADPs he’s not even ranked in the top 50. A QB that could be starting in a Shanahan system, who’s cheap as chips, has dark horse value for me.

Matt Breida

The front office distaste for Carlos Hyde has been well documented this offseason. Despite being a talented back, the 49ers simply don’t see him as a fit for their system. This has led to many people jumping on the Joe Williams bandwagon as it was heavily reported that Shanahan banged the table to acquire him.

However, since camp began, the reports on Williams haven’t been too positive. I try not to read too much into camp reports as the correlation isn’t necessarily too indicative of actual production. Matt Maiocco most recently reported that “Williams has gotten off to a slow start” at camp. There have been whispers that Tim Hightower has thus far been the best fit for the system, but another undrafted rookie has caught my eye…Matt Breida.

The Sacramento Bee reported early on that Breida had “shown more highlight plays than Joe Williams”, during spring practices. It goes on to note that Breida’s “speed was apparent, as well as his ability to catch balls and wheel upfield”.

You could be easily forgiven for not being familiar with Breida. He wasn’t atop most people’s draft boards this spring. However, out of all draft eligible RBs he had the highest SPARQ score. The 5’11”, 190 pound back ran a 4.39 40 yard dash, had an 11’2” broad jump, 23 bench press reps, as well as a 42 inch vertical. He is lightning in a bottle. After a very productive career at Georgia Southern, the 49ers made him one of the highest paid UDFAs in the class. Additionally, 49ers running backs coach Bobby Turner has a history of turning unheralded prospects into productive NFL players during his time under both Mike and Kyle Shanahan. According to PFF, Breida’s 60.3 breakaway percentage was 2nd highest in CFB behind only Dalvin Cook. Furthermore, his 3.61 yards after contact was in elite company alongside Leonard Fournette (3.65) and ahead of top 2016 prospects Ezekiel Elliott (3.54) and Derrick Henry (3.38).

After 2 Heisman caliber seasons in 2014 and 2015, Breida’s stats fell off in 2016. This has attributed to a rookie coach who was unable to continue running their triple option scheme, as well as numerous QB injuries. A breakdown of his stats can be seen below:

Many have declared his peculiar 2016 drop off as the reason he went undrafted. However, from the sounds of things he has come back with a vengeance as he looks to make it in the NFL. Similar to Beathard, Breida is another guy ranked outside the top 50 rookies in most ADPs. At this price I find it very hard to pass up on a guy who could have a role in a Shanahan backfield. If you have the roster space I urge you to give him a look.

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About Jon Diment

Dynasty has caused many fights with all my friends, and I'm totally okay with the fact that fantasy football is now consuming our lives. The thrill we get every Sunday is like no other and makes it all worth it. I hope that my advice helps make your dynasty teams good enough to take your mind off life's other troubles. Currently working in business operations for the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL. Follow me on twitter: @DynastyJon