The San Francisco 49ers have been struggling to right their ship for a good while now, and 2010 looks like they year they could make that happen in a solid way. They ended 2009 in 2nd place behind the Arizona Cardinals, but the birds lost a few feathers in the off-season and the 49ers panned some new gold. If QB Alex Smith can continue his connection with Vernon Davis and build chemistry with young receiving stud Michael Crabtree, taking the NFC West is readily within sight. This means good things for fantasy in the city by the bay.
Division: NFC West – Projected Finish: 1st Place
Strength of Schedule - #28 = 5th best. The entire NFC West gets a welcome schedule in 2010, meaning the already weak division has a chance to shine.
From a fantasy perspective there's a lot to like in San Francisco this season, and it all starts with Alex Smith. Smith was a decently effective fantasy performer after taking over the QB job for Shaun Hill last season. He averaged 2 TDs per game. In 2010 it's his season to really make some noise. I currently have him ranked at #17.
The 49ers have one of the league's best RB's in Frank Gore, and a Tier One, Top 5 fantasy tailback. He is one of the few true feature backs, and improvements in the offensive front can only help. His only concern is injury, so if you take Gore, you're looking at his two back -ups, veteran Brian Westbrook or rookie Anthony Dixon. Glen Coffee retired this off-season, and the team signed Westbrook to help shore up the backfield, but Dixon has more upside and is more likely to get the bulk of the carries if Gore is out.
After a lengthy hold-out last season, the team's stud receiver of the future finally signed and joined the team, but he's not the only receiving threat in San Francisco.
- Michael Crabtree - Once the rookie showed up he had 48 receptions for 625 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games. This season he could dominate. He will be ranked somewhere around #20 at WR.
- Josh Morgan - Morgan is the forgotten man, who still has great promise and skill. With team's keying on Crabtree, Davis and Gore, Josh should be the benefactor of many deep balls. His receptions jumped after Smith and Crabtree took the field last year. He will likely be a sleeper this year as he gets overlooked.
Ted Ginn, Jr. is still in the mix as well.
Vernon Davis finally exploded last season after toying with fantasy owners for several seasons. Almost 1000 yards and 13 TDs. A full year with Alex Smith and more weapons on the field should keep Davis a solid fantasy pick. I have him ranked at #4.
Veteran Joe Nedney was largely unimpressive last season missing four attempts on only 21 FG kicks. He's heading into his 15th season, and sophomore Shane Andrus is in the wings. At the moment I'd skip the 49ers kicking situation.
When you think of fantasy defenses, San Francisco is probably off most people's radar, but surprisingly they ranked 4th overall at seasons end. They tied for 3rd in sacks, 1st in fumble recoveries, and were one of eight teams to limit opposing teams to under 100 yards rushing per game. So while other fantasy GM's are overpaying for the Saints, Ravens, Packers, Eagles and Vikings, you'll know where to find the gold for cheap.
IDP names to know? Of course the list starts with the top overall fantasy IDP Linebacker - Patrick Willis. Defensive Lineman - Justin Smith. Defensive Back - Dashon Goldson, and perhaps rookie Taylor Mays.
2010 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE
Wk Date Game Stadium Time (ET) 1 Sep 12 SF @ SEA Qwest Field 4:15 PM 2 Sep 20 NO @ SF Candlestick Park 8:30 PM 3 Sep 26 SF @ KC Arrowhead Stadium 1:00 PM 4 Oct 03 SF @ ATL Georgia Dome 1:00 PM 5 Oct 10 PHI @ SF Candlestick Park 8:20 PM 6 Oct 17 OAK @ SF Candlestick Park 4:05 PM 7 Oct 24 SF @ CAR Bank of America Stadium 1:00 PM 8 Oct 31 DEN @ SF Wembley Stadium 1:00 PM 9 Bye 10 Nov 14 STL @ SF Candlestick Park 4:15 PM 11 Nov 21 TB @ SF Candlestick Park 4:05 PM 12 Nov 29 SF @ ARI University of Phoenix Stadium 8:30 PM 13 Dec 05 SF @ GB Lambeau Field 1:00 PM 14 Dec 12 SEA @ SF Candlestick Park 4:05 PM 15 Dec 16 SF @ SD Qualcomm Stadium 8:20 PM 16 Dec 26 SF @ STL Edward Jones Dome 1:00 PM 17 Jan 02 ARI @ SF Candlestick Park 4:15 PM
The team helped fortify the offensive line this off-season with two 1st round picks, in tackle Anthony Davis and guard Mike Iupati. This will help keep Mike Singletary's offense on the field. Singletary coaches work ethic and discipline which has rubbed off on the team
Singletary is also extremely focused on defense, hence the team's solid rankings in 2009 on that side of the ball. His players will only continue to blossom in 2010 under his firm tutelage. The team primarily uses a 3-4 defensive scheme, but on occasion will switch to a one gap 4-3.