Season In Review – San Francisco 49ers

By Lee wakefield (@Wakefield90)

Time to look at this year’s bridesmaids, the San Francisco 49ers. How did Jimmy G and Kyle Shanahan turn it all round? Are they here to stay? Let’s find out…


Entering the season


Coming off a 4-12 season when your starting QB tears his ACL is tough, especially when we’re talking about a QB you traded for and signed him to a 5 year contract (although more of that later), in the hope that he could lead your team to bigger and better things.

What’s more, the NFC West is a very competitive division and a division rival had just been beaten in the Superbowl. The Rams and Sean McVay were the darlings of the NFL in the media, Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury were teaming up in the desert to but Arizona back on the map and Seattle, well, nobody in San Francisco likes Seattle and their Seahawks.

However, it was certainly looking rosier in the Bay Area…

Image result for nick bosa draft
USA Today Sports

The reward for finishing 4-12 was the #2 overall pick which turned into Nick Bosa – Not a bad consolation prize, and the rest of the draft class looked good in the Spring. Bosa was followed by wide receivers, Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd on day 2. Day 3 brought punter Mitch Wishnowsky and linebacker Dre Greenlaw from Utah and Arkansas respectively – Neither of these players moved the needle much back in April of last year but both were very solid contributors to the past season.

Drafting well made what looked like a decent draft haul into what is now a great draft haul and for those of you who haven’t been paying attention, that is what makes teams stick around at the top.

Another aspect of team building is, of course, trades and this is another method by which John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan improved the 9ers in the off season; Laken Tomlinson and Shon Coleman looked like solid acquisitions, even if they weren’t groundbreaking by any means, and even if Coleman didn’t play a snap this year after being injured in preseason. However, the point is, the 49ers braintrust was prepared to make moves in order to elevate their group and drag them from the second pick to what became second place.


During the Season


You know how I mentioned that things were looking rosier in the Bay? Well things started off more than rosy, the 49ers began the season on F I R E. Week 1, the 49ers went across the country and smoked the Bucs – The defense, led by Nick Bosa, Fred Warner and Richard Sherman, suffocated Tampa, forcing 4 turnovers and put Jameis Winston on his backside another 3 times. This was the kind of performance from the defense that we came to expect week-in, week-out from this unit and they were really the driving force behind the much improved San Francisco squad.

Week 2, for example against the Bengals, the 49ers surrendered a mere 25 yards rushing, sacked the QB 4 times and forced another turnover. Week 6 against the Rams, L.A. were held to a total of 157 yards of offense and 7 points. The Rams, the Sean McVay Rams, the team that every media analyst was salivating a few months before. These are just a few examples of how dominant of a unit the 49ers defense had become – Like I said, it was sort of to be expected. This unit was the 2nd ranked defense by total defense by the end of the year.

Image result for san francisco 49ers defence
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Another thing that we came to expect was Jimmy G just doing enough in the passing game. This offense was powered by Kyle Shanahan’s running game and play-action.

The passing game finished a middle of the road, 13th in yards per game at 237, which usually wouldn’t be enough to power anyone to 13 wins but the running game was absolutely dominant. 144 yards per game was second only to the Ravens frankly insane, 206 per game. No matter how it’s cut, if you’re putting up a shade under 30 points per game, your offense is a problem.

Of course, not everyone has a head coach who is an offensive genius, willing blockers such as Kyle Juszczyk and George Kittle and a bevvy of running backs who can all get hot in a hurry but these two guys were certainly the driving force, the heartbeat and the emotional leaders of the offense. They really did personify it. Whereas other tight ends might get uppity about not catching passes, George Kittle loved running people over, laughing as he did it and jogging to the sideline to ask Shanahan to run the ball again.


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What was the result of this?

Well, a whole bunch of blow out wins. The 49ers weren’t just winning most weeks, coming out the right side of one score games – which can sometimes be a sign of a team getting lucky – the 49ers were smoking a lot of teams, and not just being flat track bullies either. San Francisco blew out; the Bucs, the Panthers, the Rams in L.A., the Packers… And when they were asked to win a close one, they were able to get the job done, such as the regular season wins against the Saints, the Seahawks in Seattle and the Rams at home.

The only losses were in overtime at home to Seattle by 3, a 3 point loss in Baltimore and a weird loss at home to the lowly Falcons.

The offseason beckoned and it was much of the same – The Vikings and Packers fell again and truth be told, they were one-sided affairs. The 49ers steamrolled them both, Nick Bosa was on his way to Defensive Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowl nomination and so were Juszczyk, Kittle and Sherman.

(Fred Warner was robbed y’all).

Kittle, Sherman and DeForest Buckner made All-Pro too, but this team was gunning for the biggest prize of all, not personal accolades.

The Superbowl then… Sorry to 49ers fans who are reading… I tried to hold off talking about it for as long as a could.

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Jose Carlos Fjarado/Bay Area News Group

It was all going so well, wasn’t it? Until it wasn’t. The Chiefs just did what they do and put up points in bunches with their blitzkrieg-esque offense. It was a great game and even if it’s no solace to 49ers fans, the 2019 season was still a great season for this team and I have optimism that the 9ers are here to stay, too. Which leads me on to… 


Offseason Outlook


I think the offseason outlook for the 49ers is pretty good. As I alluded to a moment ago, I feel like this team is set to be good for a while, or at least the next 3 or 4 years.

I’m a massive fan of Kyle Shanahan and keeping him in the building is going to be of paramount importance – Although, why would he want to leave?

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Wilfredo Lee/AP

John Lynch has just won NFL Executive of the Year, and seems to do as he’s told by Shanahan in terms of player recruitment and he hasn’t been afraid to put the trigger on a deal. Aside from Garoppolo and the linemen I mentioned earlier, Dee Ford has been brought in, Emmanuel Sanders was acquired later in the season and provided a boost, and not only incomings, before this season, the likes of Daniel Kilgore, Vance McDonald and Trent Brown all left town.

We see far too many teams who stick rather than twist when it comes to roster building, talent acquisition and the acquisition of draft capital, and many of those teams stagnate.

San Francisco, New England and Seattle are teams that I think of that are never afraid to do a deal, whether that be in season of around the draft and that coupling of good coaching and a front office that isn’t scared to deal has meant that in the past 10 Superbowls, since Superbowl XLV in 2011, there has only been two Superbowls that hasn’t featured at least one of those 3 teams.

Food for thought – That’s an elite group of teams in terms of their philosophy and the way they do business.

In terms of the business that the 49ers need to do this offseason, well… there’s actually very little to be done. Which is a great thing! This team is fresh and young in all the right places – Young leaders on defense, such as DeForest Buckner, Fred Warner and of course, Nick Bosa are matched on the other side of the ball by George Kittle, Mike McGlinchley and Deebo Samuel. All these guys and more are young or coming into their primes on relatively cheap contracts.

Buckner is moving into his 5th year option and Kittle is in the final year of his rookie deal and will both need extending and both will get done, I’m sure.

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Brett Duke/AP

The 49ers have a decision to make with Arik Armstead, whose contact is up and there may be no room at the inn unfortunately, since the two players above and also Kyle Juszczyk need paying first and the cap situation isn’t the prettiest in the NFL.

The 49ers have $12.8m of space to play with according to Overthecap.com, which isn’t a lot when you have to find money for Buckner and will probably have to make Kittle the best paid tight end in the NFL.

Cuts will have to be made…

Sanders deal is expiring and was worth $11m, so I doubt he’s retained unless he takes a hefty pay cut – That frees up a fair chunk of capital. As will saying goodbye to the likes of Jimmie Ward, Jascon Verrett (and it maybe goodnight on his NFL career) and a bunch of other players who are further down the pecking order such as Ben Garland, Anthony Zettel and Jordan Matthews.

It is also quite handy that other free agents that they may want to keep hold of, players such as, Emmanuel Moseley, Matt Breida, Kendrick Bourne and Jeff Wilson are all exclusive rights free agents or restricted free agents, meaning the 49ers can retain them on the cheap for another year, which I am sure they will.

Ok so, a little bit of careful surgery here and there, a contract extension or two and delaying extending a couple of others means the 49ers can do into next season with a pretty similar squad to last year and just add to it via the draft, but what about next year when new contacts kick in for Kittle and Buckner and you still need to extend Moseley and Bourne?

Well, this is where we come all the way back to the top of the article and look at the contract of one, James Richard Garoppolo.

Image result for jimmy garoppolo
Jose Carlos Fjarado

The 49ers are on the hook for $25.2m for Jimmy G next year, however, due to the way Jimmy’s contract is structured, San Francisco’s dead cap hit drops from $13.7m to just $4.2m after the 2020 season and after that it’s just $2.8m in 2021 when Garoppolo’s deal could cost $25.2m.

That’s a heck of a cap saving. Especially because we’ve got to start considering where the money is going to come from to make Nick Bosa the most highly paid edge defender in football in a few years time.

We know Jimmy G isn’t the greatest QB of all time – The 49ers focused on their run game and making that the strength of the offense in 2019 and relegated Garoppolo to being a facilitator. Which is fine and he did a good job and will probably do a good job in that role again in 2020… But do you know what, you can pay a facilitator QB around $10-15m per year and get similar results.

Unless Garoppolo seriously elevates his game next season, I think it’ll be his last season in the Bay Area, because it simply isn’t a good business decision to give a facilitator QB north of 25 million dollars when you have to pay a young team who are coming into their prime.

So yes, the future for San Francisco football is bright but they just may have a new QB in 12-18 months time.

A final word on the draft before I sign off here…

The 49ers are one of the most intriguing teams in the later portion of the first round this year, in my opinion.

As Superbowl runners-up, they pick 31st in the first round, a prime trade back spot for teams to deal with another team who want to get back into the 1st round and get that 5th year option on a guy they really want.


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Now what do the 49ers do?

Due to their wheeling and dealing in the past, after the 31st pick they don’t pick again until the 5th round and the 159th overall pick – That’s quite a wait.

Do the 9ers trade back and pick up a few more swings? Or do they recognise that they are perhaps one player on defense away from becoming a complete unit?

I believe a deep safety such as LSU’s, Grant Delpit or a physical corner such as Jaylon Johnson of Utah or Trevon Diggs of Alabama could really be that icing on the cake.

In reality, they will probably wait and see how the board falls on the night and see how it matches up with their board and go from there, but it, like the draft as a whole should be absolutely fascinating.

Either way, I’d back this group to do the right thing – I was part of the 49ers Hype Train last year and I think I’ll be signing up again for 2020.

Head Coach Hotseats

By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland)

At this point in the season every head coach in the NFL is 0-0 for the 2019 season, full of optimism and jam-packed with motivational speeches, outstanding PowerPoint content and a team willing to run through a brick wall for you, unless your name is of course Jay Gruden.

Tim and I ranked our coaches in terms of sleeping in a luxury king size bed, on the sofa, on someone else’s sofa or sleeping in the car in a recent podcast, go and check it out. Here are some of our disagreements and my side of the argument…

Sean McDermott – Buffalo Bills

Coaching facts

The Bills 22nd head coach, McDermott boasts a 15-17 record in two seasons and a 0-1 playoff record. The team drafted QB Josh Allen early in 2018, but this failed to yield immediate results as the Bills slipped to 6-10 after a 2017 playoff berth. McDermott comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree, having worked his way up from secondary coach in Philly to defensive coordinator, also serving as the DC in Carolina.

Coached DBs for Eagles in 2004 when they reached and lost Super Bowl 39 to the Patriots, alongside Pat Shurmur (QB coach), Brian Dawkins and Michal Lewis both starting safeties were Pro Bowlers. Fired as defensive coordinator by Eagles Jan 15 2011. Reached second Super Bowl as defensive coordinator for the Panthers – losing to the Broncos.

In 2017 made the massive error of benching Tyrod Taylor Week 10 following a huge loss to the Saints, bringing in Nathan Peterman – yes that game where Peterman threw five first half interceptions before being benched himself. Somehow steered the Bills to 9-7 and their first playoff game in 18 years – the biggest drought in the NFL. Bills lost that game 10-3 to Jaguars.

FUN FACT: McDermott was a National prep champion wrestler in high school.

Opinion

Since 2000 The Bills have had 10 head coaches – roughly one every two years. The last one to get into their third season was Chan Gailey (2010-2012). McDermott is a defensive guru and takes great pride in developing his defensive players but this is 2019 and you need to maintain possession of the ball and keep your defense fresh. A second sub .500 season for McDermott, and not enough progress from Josh Allen will see McDermott watching his back from around Week 12. Maybe not an in-season sacking, but this is someone who could be a Black Monday casualty.

Prediction: 7-9 and the Bills ownership lose patience.


Pat Shurmur – New York Giants

Coaching facts

Shurmur has a career NFL head coaching record of 9-23, including two years with the not so good Browns, and a 5-11 record with the Giants in 2018. Another disciple from the Andy Reid coaching tree, Shurmur has spent most of his time as an offensive coordinator – most recently helping the Vikings get one game away from a Super Bowl in 2017-18. His son Kyle is a quarterback, and in 2019 he was an Undrafted free agent pickup by the Chiefs.

Was Associated Press Assistant coach of the year in 2017 when the Vikings went all the way to the NFC Championship behind Case Keenum. His uncle Fritz Shurmur was a coach in the 70s – 90s. Coached Eagles quarterbacks in 2004 helping Donovan McNabb to a Super Bowl – a loss to the Patriots – alongside Sean McDermott.

Opinion

Shurmur has won 15 of 49 contests and made a huge splash in the 2019 draft taking Duke’s Daniel Jones at pick 6. Pick 6 how ironic. 9 wins in two years in Cleveland, 1 win as interim Eagles coach and 5 wins in NY last year, Shurmur has finished bottom of his division in all three full seasons. The NY media will be scrutinising Shurmur’s every move and another basement finish, whist hardly a surprise could signal a premature end to this coach’s stint. This will be all about how Daniel Jones develops and when he starts. Eli is untouchable, apart from the day he was benched for Geno Smith, but this could be a messy final year. The Giants mess is at WR– Corey Coleman won’t play on 2019, Golden Tate is suspended four games, Sterling Shephard is injured, leaving tight end Evan Engram become a Pro Bowler, but that means little. Barclay will shine, but it’s the weak Giants defense that will again let down this offensive minded coach.

Prediction: 5-11 – Misery in the Big Apple as Shurmur is hounded out by the media in the Big Apple.


Matt LeFleur – Green Bay Packers

Coaching facts

LeFleur has spent most of his career serving Kyle Shanahan, at three different NFL team. This is his first head coaching gig. He played for the Omaha Beef in the Indoor Professional Football League in 2003 as a backup QB. In May 2019 LeFleur tore his Achilles playing basketball – an offseason injury for a coach.

Since 2003 has had 11 coaching jobs. This is his sixth coaching job in the NFL. Following on the youth movement he is 39 – 40 in November. He was Redskins QB coach in 2012 when they drafted RG3 and Cousins. In 2016 LeFleur was the Falcons quarterback coach (reporting to Kyle Shanahan) and helped Matt Ryan to become league MVP and the Falcons reached the Super Bowl, but they could not hold on to a 28-3 lead. He choked. In 2018 he was the Titans offensive coordinator but Titans finished 25th in offensive output. In addition, the Titans is a place where wide receivers go to die.

Opinion

Big pressure on LeFleur to get Aaron Rogers back to the promised land, he is an offensive guru. The Packers have plenty of talent and a bucket load of WR ready to break out and Aaron Jones has one of the best yards per carry in the NFL. The defense is where the Packers will need to step up and I’m not sure he is the man to help the Pack with that issue. Packers have brought in three new starters in FA – Preston Smith OLB from the Redskins, Zadarius Smith OLB from the Ravens and Adrian Amos S from the Bears. The Packers D is going to be the team’s downfall. LA Fleur is safe but his posterior is already warming up.

Prediction: 9-7 – winning record but no playoffs


Mike Tomlin – Pittsburgh Steelers

Coaching facts

Tomlin has a pretty decent records in Pittsburgh, 125-66-1 in the regular season, but a disappointing 8-7 in the playoffs and only one Super Bowl win, despite having arguably the most talented roster for al lot more than just one season. In the last six season he has finished first or second in his division.
Tomlin has never had a losing season in 12 years coaching the Steelers. Was Bucks DB coach when they won Super Bowl and had three defensive return touchdowns. Fined 100k for putting off Ravens Jacoby Jones on a kick return – look this up on You Tube.

Opinion

Steelers do not like making changes at head coach, and considering Tomlin got a winning season despite their star player not playing one down last year that is credit to his leadership. The NFL does not have many jobs for life but Tomlin has lasted a long time on just one Super Bowl win. With Helmet monster Brown gone this is going to be a different looking Steelers team, with T.J. Watt looking after the defence and Juju Smith-Schuster looking to go All-Pro. Tomlin and Big Ben are the next best thing to The Sith Lord Belichick and Tom Brady, and was it not for these two the Steelers would probably have had 2-3 Super Bowls in the last decade.

Prediction: 10-6 – Wild card winner but divisional playoff loser


Kliff Kingsbury – Arizona Cardinals

Coaching facts

Another NFL head coaching newbie, Kingsbury is the most fascinating of all the new coaches to join in 2019 due to his offensive style, his brand new QB and his college pedigree.

Kingsbury set a ton of passing records playing at Texas Tech. He was drafted by the Patriots in 2003 – 6th round but went on I/R. He did get a Super Bowl ring, but was waived in 2004.

Bumped around the NFL and CFL on practice squads. Threw only two passes in the NFL in 2005  – 1 of 2 for 17 yards for the Jets in a 27-0 loss. He played in NFL Europe for the Cologne Centurions.

Opinion

An offensive genius at Texas Tech – he tutored Patrick Mahomes. He has averaged 550 yards offense and 42 points a game in college in past 7 years. This explosive output did not however equate to wins as he went 35-40 in six season, winning just one bowl game – Holiday Bowl in 2013. This is pure curiosity as Kingsbury has spent lots of time in NFL locker rooms as a clipboard holder but never as a head coach. He has the number one overall pick to work with, having dispensed of 2018 first rounder Josh Rosen. He will be looking for big things from running back David Johnson, and the veteran savvy of Larry Fitzgerald. The Cards have new wide receivers in Isabella and Johnson, and Christian Kirk will be looking for a 1,000-yard season. It will be a wild ride ahead but again the defense will let down the progress of the team.

Prediction: 4-12 – Keeps job as it’s the start of the journey.


Zac Taylor – Cincinnati Bengals

Coaching facts

Another head coach cutting his teeth in the NFL in 2019. Taylor was a QB at three different colleges including the Butler Community College Grizzlies. Two winning seasons at Nebraska. Was not very mobile – ran for –MINUS 64 yards at Nebraska. Was signed by Buccaneers in 2007 as quarterback but cut and was then 4th string at the Winnipeg Blue bombers in the CFL. Taylor is married to the daughter of former Packer head-coach Mike Sherman.

Opinion

This move is relative to waiting for a lovely Christmas present and thinking it’s something you always wanted like a signed Sean Taylor shirt only to open it and its socks, but not even nice M&S socks, pound shop novelty ones you won’t want to be seen dead in after December 26th. He originally worked his way up to offensive coordinator with the Dolphins.

Taylor was the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bearcats in 2016, before becoming the Rams QB coach in 2018. He got Jared Goff to a Super Bowl and then got schooled by the Dark Sith Lord Belichick.

Prediction: 6-10 – Anonymous season anonymous coach anonymous team.


Bill O’Brien – Houston Texans

Coaching facts

O’Brien has steered the Texans to a 42-38 record in 5 years, including three division wins, but he only has one playoff win. This is a coach who always looks intense, but maybe a bit too intense for some.

Opinion

O’Brien has been coaching since 1993. Was offensive coordinator for Pats in Super Bowl 46 – a loss to the Giants. Became the replacement for Legendary Joe Paterno at Penn State and despite sanctions he became college coach of the year in 2012 – guiding Penn State to 8-4. Could have become the Jaguars coach that same year. He signed a four-year extension in 2018

Prediction: 11-5 another division win


Kyle Shanahan – San Francisco 49ers

Coaching facts

Shanahan is 10-22 in two full seasons and really needs a playoff run to keep his job. He is the son of Super Bowl winning head coach Mike Shannahan – who won two titles with John Elway and the Broncos. Coached under his dad at the Redskins 2010-13. Was fired alongside his father – debatable nepotism. He resigned from OC job with the Browns in 2015 disagreeing about Johnny Manziel starting. He served under Jon ‘Chucky’ Gruden in 2004-5

Was the offensive coordinator for the Falcons when they collapsed against the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Shanahan’s QB coach then, Zac Taylor, is now head coach at the Bengals.

Opinion

Shanahan’s head coaching tenure is in the hands of Jimmy Garropolo. Who was injured last season leaving the likes of Nick Mullens to take the helm for a team that has five Super Bowl wins. With new RB Tevin Coleman to be the feature back this is a team that many have as dark horses for a playoff push in 2019. I’m not as confident.

Prediction : I can see an 8-8 type performance.

Don’t forget to go and check out our in depth podcast from Tuesday 27th August where myself and Tim discuss all of these head coaches and their vulnerabilities ahead of the 2019 season.

See you on the Upside…

Upside….Potential….Ceiling….

All words synonymous with fantasy football players we all get excited about each off-season.

We all keep a keen eye on minicamp battles, coaches speak from interviews to try and get that extra edge about players that we want on our teams every year.

Average Draft Position, or ADP, is the average position in drafts that players are taken and the beauty of it is, everyone has an opinion on players that are too high, players that are considered steals.

One thing that we always overpay for is where players have anything which is considered close to those first 3 words at the start of this article.

Fantasy Football GMs love a player with upside or potential. Whether it has come from another player leaving and potentially giving a player a bigger role in their offence. Or a player that has been traded for or drafted in to a team where lots of targets are available or come in to a high scoring offence.

Hype starts to build and in most cases, where we hear nothing from the players or the coaches on these players and their roles, we all board the hype train.

This skyrockets player’s average draft position in mock drafts and in some cases, actualy drafts. We usually find ourselves kicking the wall when these players don’t repay the faith we show in them as Fantasy Football managers.

Here we will look at the candidates where the hype train is full or where we are potentially way over the top on for next season.

Quarterbacks:

DeShaun Watson

There will be a common theme here at the Quarterback position. Small sample size but lots of ability.

After being drafted no.12 overall in the 2017 draft, Watson lit up the NFL in his 6 career starts, despite taking a game or two to get in to the groove.

His 1st season start was a TNF game against Cincinnatti and despite not the greatest of games (although coming away with the W), Watson never looked back.

Watson went in to New England in Week 3 and were seconds away from a massive upset of the Patriots. Week 4, Watson scored a rookie record equalling 5 TDs, battering the Titans with a 50 burger, earning Watson the AFC offensive player of the week. He followed that up with a 5TD performance on MNF vs the Chiefs. Week 6, Watson rolled into Seattle and passed for over 400 yards and 4 Touchdowns.

The rookie was named the AFC player of the month and broke the record for number of touchdown by a rookie in a calendar month.

His season was ended prematurely when tearing his ACL in practice on a non contact drill and still managed to put up 1699 yards, 19 touchdowns and 8 interceptions (including 2 more rushing TDs). He finished 50th on the NFL’s top 100 (polled by their peers).

So this season, Watson is going QB1 in some leagues (yes, over Aaron Rodgers) and even if Watson rediscovers his 2017 form for all 16 games in 2018, this is wayyyy too high. Granted his last 4 starts in 2017, he ended up QB1 and QB2 twice. People are drafting him at his ceiling and it’s no sure thing that we get that Watson back. AN ACL tear could lead to less mobility from Watson and the coaching staff dialling up less plays for Watson to run the ball and scrambling may also be on the downward trend. They are more likely to lean on their run game and their star studded defence in a division that has become a lot tougher.

It is far too risky to take Watson at his current ADP but I can certainly see why people are. I would bet my bottom dollar that Watson will go a few rounds later in 2019 than where he goes next season.

Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy G finished the season as one of the hottest QBs, and it seems the lasting impression has not been forgotten. After being traded from the Patriots for a measly price, Garoppolo wasted no time in the driving seat of the 49ers and the Kyle Shanahan offence. Winning all 5 games to end the season and throwing for over 1500 yards.

However, he did only throw 7TDs and was intercepted 5 times, a lot of people are buying in to what the 49ers offence could be next season and a lot of that probably has to do with Kyle Shanahan. Jimmy G is the 9th Quarterback off the boards, ahead of Stafford, ahead of Matt Ryan, Phil Rivers and Big Ben. That to me sounds crazy for a guy that has only started a handful of games, like DeSahun Watson. I know he was a backup QB in new England for multiple years and let’s face it, one handsome as hell guy! But to be this high in drafts is only going to lead to disappointment.

Kyle Shanhan loves of finding ways to get everyone the ball and is great at getting the most out of his backfields. Jimmy G wont actually need to do too much in this offence. Their defence has improved and the NFC west has probably got a bit weaker with Seattle going backwards. They also have 3 of their first 4 games away from Levi’s stadium against some decent teams, so you may find yourself ruing that 7th round pick of Jimmy Garoppolo if things don’t quite go to plan at the start of the season for the 49ers.

Running Backs:

Jerick McKinnon

I promise I am not a 49ers hater!

Similar to the comments above regarding schedule and the Kyle Shanahan sharing the love type of offence, Jerick McKinnon is seemingly the workhorse over in the bay area this season. I just worry about him being able to handle the workload. He was never given that in Minnesota and Latavius Murray ended up taking over that backfield in the absence of the injured Dalvin Cook. McKinnon has had plenty of chances to be what he is in San Francisco and never really convinced me he is anything mroe than a 3rd Down/Passing down back, which he is actually very efficient and explosive at.

McKinnon was RB33 in standard scoring last year and only finished inside the top 12RBs 4 out of the 16 weeks (0.5pt PPR). He signed a 4 year, $30m deal to join the 49ers and he has very little in the way of competition. Carlos Hyde has gone to Cleveland, leaving only Matt Breida and Joe Williams in the depth chart. Whilst Matt Breida could have a bit of joy in this offence, I am sure not taking a 3rd round pick chance on McKinnon, especially in standard scoring). McKinnon has never topped 160 carries and barely received 200 touches in a whole season. Whilst he has the ideal place to be utilized best with Kyle Shanahan, the same applies to all the players in the offence and I cant see McKinnon justifying a pick that early in what could be a lower than expected scoring team. Let him be someone else’s problem.

Derrick Henry

From Jerick, to Derrick.

Probably a cop out with Henry here, but if people are going to continue to draft him as high as the 3rd Round, he will continue to be labelled as such.

We all know how much of a physical freak Henry is. The bruising, towering powerful former Alabama back is as physically brutal as they come, but Tennessee made the moves to acquire Dion Lewis from New England. Everyone thought Henry would have been unleashed this season after the departure of DeMarco Murray, but the move for Lewis says to me that Tennessee are not entirely convinced with what Henry can over over a season. He isn’t a pass catching back, nor is he great at picking up pass protection. If it’s one thing that kills running backs in the NFL, it’s the lack of pass protecting skills (just ask Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay staff).

Henry did reel off a few long TD runs last season in garbage time and like I’ve said, the potential is there, but people are chasing their losses after last year and you will once again get your fingers burned. 4 top 12 finishes in fantasy last year does not inspire confidence for me with a 3rd round pick. Yuk. Players going in the vicinity of Henry at the moment are Joe Mixon, Christian McCaffrey and Jay Ajayi along with the rookie Guice. 100 times out of 100 I would take all of those over Henry. Always.

 

Wide Receivers

Josh Gordon

May be a bit of a controversial one here. No-one is doubting his talent or his credentials of justifying his 3rd round investment required to acquire him in drafts currently, there are just too many potential things getting in the way for me, his off field issues being top of that list.

Josh Gordon or “Flash” has missed so much time with his off field troubles with substance abuse and hopefully, all that is now behind him. Photos going round showing what kind of shape he is in at the moment look impressive and maybe finally we can see a return of the WR that finished with over 1600 yards (!) and 9TDs in 2013. If you can guarantee me 16 games for Gordon next season and that he has returned to optimum peak conditioning, I could perhaps buy in to his 3rd round investment, but there are also other factors now affecting this too much for me to be comfortable with doing so;

Firstly,  Hue Jackson. Hue Jackson is an awful coach. The Browns have won just won 1 game in 2 seasons and have not won on a Sunday since Dec 13, 2015. Yikes.

The team are perennial low scorers every season and this season looks to be no different.

Change in Quarterback, an influx of players on offence and a QB waiting in the wings in Baker Mayfield mean that there are so many variables surrounding this team that I cannot be confident that Gordon will return any value with his current draft position (or even expected returns for a potential WR1 or 2 for that matter).

Yes, he could quite easily have a season of 10TDs and 1000 yards, but Jarvis Landry being there really could cut into his piece of the pie, helping the team sustain drives and be a go to target for Taylor. Tyrod Taylor is an average, steady Eddie type of QB and although he throws a good long ball, it’s a messy offence and it’s hard to know how well this offence will gel. Added in to that a fairly difficult schedule and the fact he has to prove that he still has it too because he didn’t exactly set the world on fire on his return last year (18 rec , 335 yards and 1 TD in 5 games), I’ll pass.

Tyreek Hill

Hill was very much utilised all over the field last year: Rushing (14 targets behind the line of scrimmage too!), passing (threw an interception) and receiving.

This year, it could all come crashing down.

New quarterback in Patrick Mahomes (some say that will help Hill’s skill set on the nine route) and a new shiny Wide Receiver in Sammy Watkins. We all know what a healthy Sammy Watkins can do and obviously didn’t flash his best but had little time to learn the playbook in LA with the Rams. Watkins could shine brighter than HIll here, and he is going at least 4 rounds later in drafts. Oh, and there’s top tier TE Travis Kelce still there too.

Whilst Hill will be in contention for the most targets and touches in the offence, he could turn out to be very boom or bust next year. End of season stats may return dividends for Hill owners once it’s all said and done, but you may find yourself not playing in the fantasy playoffs because of Hill. Look at last seasons weekly finishes in fantasy (0.5ppr):

3, 47,17 ,59, 32, 3, 58, 5, 20, 36, 1, 37,10, 10 – That’s more ups and downs that a Thorpe Park Roller coaster. You want to commit to this as potentially your WR1? Oh, you do…well good luck to you. Word of Warning: Schedule. Kansas City and Andy Reid are well known for their Regular Season form. They smashed the Patriots on opening night last year so they are not afraid to play the big teams. They travel to the Chargers, Steelers and Broncos in the first 4 weeks and Mahomes will be tested on his mental strength as well as his abilities. One thing in Tyreek’s favour is that the KC defence is a shadow of it’s former self and could lead to a lot of shootouts.

Tight Ends

Trey Burton

You cant spell trendy without the word Trey.

Trey Burton, the former backup tight end in Philadelphia to Zach Ertz, the backup QB to Nick Foles (just kidding, but did you see that throw to Foles in the Super Bowl?) now finds himself in Chicago on a pretty nice deal. After getting pretty much a WR deal (4 year, $32m), it seems the man sharing his name with a UK mens clothing retail chain is line for an interesting workload this coming season. He is the 9th TE off the board and whilst that translates to a late 7th/early 8th round pick, it’s actually not bad value. It could just be that this may be a year too early.

Chicago and Trubisky struggled last year under John Fox (who has now gone) and Matt Nagy has joined the ranks so hopefully play calling wont see Burton’s production suffering. However, there are a lot of mouths to feed in Chi-town. Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and of course, marquee signing Allen Robinson have also joined the offence during the free agency and the draft and you also have Tarik Cohen lurking there in the backfield too. Trubisky will need to step forward to sustain a couple of these in fantasy and Trey Burton may not necessarily be top of the list. He should offer you a service at Tight End, which is hit or miss at the best of times but you may be struggling if it is only him you are relying on. I expect Burton’s ADP to rise going into preseason as the hype in this Chicago team gathers pace, at which point I may look to other options at Tight End. Drafting a tight end in round 6 or 7 but not being certain of being able to lock it and load it week to week isn’t something I am a fan of.