At first glance, Kaepernick’s numbers from a year ago weren’t all that bad. He completed 60.5% of his passes. He had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 19 to 10. He threw for a career-high 3,369 yards. On the ground, he contributed a career-high 641 yards. However, after being drafted as a mid to lower tier QB1 in most leagues, he finished the season as the 16th ranked fantasy quarterback mainly because his passing touchdowns declined from 21 to 19 and his rushing touchdowns declined from four to one. 49ers observers will tell you that the team struggled to move the ball at times and Kaepernick was a big part of the problem. He struggles against better defenses, lacks accuracy and doesn’t always take what opposing defenses are giving him, hence an offseason spent under the tutelage of Kurt Warner. Will it help? We’re not so sure. Kaepernick failed to top 20 fantasy points in nine of 10 games from Week 5 to Week 15 and had less than 220 passing yards in 10 games. With a pair of aging receivers in Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, Kaepernick’s best bet to regain QB1 status is with his legs, but will new offensive coordinator Geep Chryst allow him to run the ball more frequently? Perhaps but with a tough schedule on tap in 2015 we view him as a mid-tier QB2 with some upside.
With Frank Gore having signed with Indianapolis in the offseason, Hyde will take over as the 49ers lead back in 2015. The 5’11”, 230 pound former 2nd round pick enjoyed a solid rookie season gaining 333 yards and four touchdowns on 83 carries while adding 12 receptions for 68 yards as a receiver. He enjoyed a stellar collegiate career at Ohio State and, at 5’11” and 230 pounds, is built to handle a workhorse role as a pro. Unfortunately for Hyde, his path to fantasy success is going to be a little tougher than it was for Gore during his last few years in San Francisco. With head coach and offensive guru Jim Harbaugh having left the team and an offensive line that lost a pair of Pro Bowl quality players in Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis, the 49ers could struggle on offense in 2015. With Reggie Bush and Kendall Hunter backing up Hyde, he is in-line for a Gore-type workload in his first season as the team’s starter. While Hyde has breakout potential, we can’t endorse him as a RB1. More likely, Hyde will settle into low RB2 production unless the whole 49ers offense exceeds expectations.
At 30 years of age and coming off an injury plagued, disappointing season in Detroit, Bush joins the 49ers backfield where he is expected to work as a change of pace, pass receiving option behind second year player Carlos Hyde. While the expectation is that Bush won’t get much playing time, it is important to remember that this is a team that may struggle in 2015 and spend more time playing catch up than in previous years. In Detroit, Bush enjoyed a solid season in 2013 with over 1,500 total yards and seven touchdowns before seeing his production decline to 550 yards and two touchdowns last season as an ankle injury caused him to miss five games and limited his effectiveness in several others. While his days as a leading back and potential mid-tier RB2 are behind him, Bush could provide value in larger leagues and PPR formats as a player who will likely catch 50 passes in 2015. He rates as a mid-tier RB4 in standard leagues and an upper tier RB4 in PPR formats.
Despite coming off an ACL injury that caused him to miss all of the 2014 season, Hunter was re-signed by the 49ers in the offseason and will compete with Reggie Bush and rookie 4th round pick Mike Davis to backup presumptive starter Carlos Hyde. While Hunter has been productive when healthy, averaging a solid 4.6 yards per carry on 262 career carries, he hasn’t emerged as a great pass catching option out of the backfield (just 27 career receptions) and it seems apparent the 49ers do not view him as feature back material, likely due to his size at 5’7” and 199 pounds. Since Hunter was taken in the 4th round of the 2011 draft, San Francisco has drafted LaMichael James (2nd round), Marcus Lattimore (4th round), Carlos Hyde (2nd round) and Mike Davis (4th round). And during the offseason they added Reggie Bush to back up Hyde. Hunter doesn’t have any fantasy value in 2015.
Taken in the 4th round of this year’s draft, Davis joins a crowded 49ers backfield that will feature Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush and Kendall Hunter in 2015. That doesn’t bode well for his fantasy prospects this season. However, the 5’9”, 223 pound South Carolina product has some value in dynasty formats since only Hyde seems like a surefire bet to return to the team in 2016.
After four solid, yet hardly spectacular years in Baltimore after being taken in the 1st round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Smith was signed to a five-year, $40-million in the offseason to join the 49ers. While Smith has blazing speed and has proven adept at finding the end zone with 30 touchdowns in his career, he has failed to develop into a solid all around wide receiver. Joining the 49ers, Smith leaves a solid deep ball thrower in Joe Flacco in order to catch passes from Colin Kaepernick, a player who has struggled with his accuracy throughout his career. In his final year in Baltimore, Smith finished as the 19th ranked wide receiver, catching 49 of his 92 targets for 767 yards (all career lows), but a career high 11 touchdowns. Since his touchdown production is all but guaranteed to decline as he moves to a less effective offense, Smith will need to improve as a short and intermediate option in the passing game to remain a lower tier WR2 for fantasy purposes. After four years in the league, we don’t see that happening. That makes Smith an upper tier WR4 with upside and one who will almost certainly struggle with consistency.
After failing to top 1,000 receiving yards during his final three years in Baltimore, the fantasy community was ready to write Boldin off when he signed with the 49ers prior to the 2013 season. However, Boldin proved the naysayers wrong during his first year in San Francisco, catching 85 of his 129 targets (65.4% completion to target rate) for 1,179 yards and seven touchdowns as he finished the season as the 15th ranked fantasy wide receiver. Nonetheless, he was written off again prior to the 2014 season but posted nearly identical stats with 83 receptions for 1,062 yards and five touchdowns, finishing as the 22nd ranked wide receiver. At 34 years of age (35 in October), what is in store for Boldin in 2015? Well, Michael Crabtree and Stevie Johnson are no longer in San Francisco and while the 49ers signed Torrey Smith in free agency, the net result is positive for Boldin. Smith’s speed should take coverage away from Boldin and the team lacks a proven, consistent 3rd wide receiver with the enigmatic Jerome Simpson the frontrunner to fill that role. Nonetheless, Boldin’s advancing age and lack of speed lead us to believe that a reduction in his production is likely. While his touchdown count should remain steady, we don’t see him reaching 1,000 yards unless the 49ers spend plenty of time playing from behind (a not unrealistic possibility). He rates as a lower WR3 or upper tier WR4 with a slight boost in PPR formats.
Entering his seventh year in the league, Simpson moves on to his third team having signed with the 49ers in the offseason. A one-trick pony capable of stretching defenses, Simpson caught 48 passes for 726 yards and a touchdown last year with the Vikings. In San Francisco, he will serve as a deep threat behind starters Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith provided he beats out Quinton Patton, Bruce Ellington and rookie DeAndre Smelter for that role. Since Simpson’s career highs are 50 receptions, 726 yards and four touchdowns and he has caught just 145 of 286 targets during his career, he isn’t a player that we can recommend adding to your fantasy roster.
49ers general manager Trent Balke keeps using mid-round picks on wide receivers and keeps striking out. First it was Patton, taken in the 4th round pick in the 2013 draft. Then it was Bruce Ellington in the 4th round of the 2014 draft. And this year they drafted DeAndre Smelter in, you guessed it, the 4th round. Did we mention that they traded a conditional 4th round pick to acquire Steve Johnson (since departed) last year? And what did they do after deciding they weren’t going to re-sign Michael Crabtree? They signed Torrey Smith in free agency. That tells you all you need to know about the fantasy prospects of this trio. If you’re in a dynasty league and have a roster spot to fill, Smelter would be my pick. He is coming off an ACL injury and would have gone higher in the draft had he not suffered the injury.
On the plus side, Davis is entering the final year of his contract. Moving to the negatives, he is a 31-year old tight end coming off the worst year of his career who struggled with a lingering back injury for much of 2014. While Davis averaged just under 60 receptions, over 800 yards and 8.8 touchdowns during the five-year period from 2009-2013, he appeared to have lost a step last season and his role in the 49ers offense was clearly curtailed as Davis was targeted just 50 times in 13 games. With Davis entering the final year of his contract and in decline, we don’t see the 49ers increasing his role significantly in 2015, making him a low end TE2.