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2010 Fantasy outlooks: San Francisco 49ers

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The 49ers went 8-8 last season, but they enter 2010 with the chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. There's plenty of reason for optimism in San Francisco.

For starters, the 49ers finally have a starting quarterback they can count on. Alex Smith, who was a bust when San Francisco drafted him No. 1 overall in 2005, finally looked like a quality passer when he was given a second chance last year.

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Smith is surrounded by plenty of talent on offense with Frank Gore, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree, and the 49ers enhanced their offensive line by drafting rookie Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati. On defense, the 49ers are led by Patrick Willis, who is among the best linebackers in the NFL.

There also is change in Arizona, which has been San Francisco's biggest rival in the NFC West, with Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin now gone. The 49ers also swept the Cardinals in two games last year.

For Fantasy owners, Gore remains a No. 1 option and is worth a first-round pick in all leagues. He should have another dominant year.

Along with Smith, Davis finally lived up to his potential last year when he tied the NFL record for touchdowns by a tight end with 13. He is a No. 1 Fantasy tight end this year and could repeat his performance as the best player at his position.

We also like Crabtree to improve in his sophomore season, and Josh Morgan is also someone Fantasy owners should keep an eye on. The 49ers DST could also be considered a starting unit, as 2010 has the makings for a big year in San Francisco.

Sleeper ... Alex Smith, QB

Smith is back as the starting quarterback in San Francisco, and this time he plans to keep the job. The former No. 1 overall pick in 2005 lost the starting position due to shoulder injuries and inconsistent play, but he was given a second chance in 2009 when Shaun Hill struggled. Smith never looked back as did well developing a rapport with Davis, Crabtree and Gore.

Smith showed his potential during a three-game stretch last season against Green Bay, Jacksonville and Seattle with 769 passing yards, seven touchdowns and one interception, which put him on the Fantasy radar again. He finished the season completing a career-high 60.5 percent of his passes for 2,350 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He is a No. 2 Fantasy option coming into the season, which happens to be a potential contract year, but he can be a spot starter in standard leagues with the chance to increase his value if he picks up where last season ended. We never thought Smith would be Fantasy relevant again, but here he is with the chance to keep getting better.

Fantasy value chart
Player Draft Day value
Quarterbacks
Alex Smith
Running Backs
Frank Gore
Glen Coffee
Anthony Dixon
Wide Receivers
Michael Crabtree
Josh Morgan
Ted Ginn Jr.
Tight Ends
Vernon Davis
Kicker/DST
Joe Nedney
49ers DST

Breakout ... Michael Crabtree, WR

Crabtree was better than expected as a rookie last year when he finished with 48 catches for 625 yards and two touchdowns. He only played in 11 games after missing the first five games due to a holdout. This year, Crabtree will be on the field from Week 1, and he has the potential to be a No. 2 Fantasy wide receiver. He would have finished with 69 catches for 909 yards and three touchdowns last year if you projected his stats over a full season, but we think he's much better than that. He's had a full offseason of work and reports out of San Francisco are that he has a better understanding of the offense and looks polished. We think he's in line to take the next step in his career, and he could be a solid Fantasy wide receiver in 2010.

Late-round flier ... Josh Morgan, WR

Morgan is expected to start for the 49ers this year opposite Crabtree. He's entering his third year in the NFL, which is typically when wide receivers have a breakout season, so plenty of eyes are on him. Morgan had a decent year in 2009. He finished with 52 catches for 527 yards and three touchdowns, which were better stats than Crabtree, although he played in five more games. Morgan will get plenty of single coverage with defenses focusing on Davis and Crabtree, and that could allow Morgan to make some plays. We're not expecting Morgan to develop into a starting Fantasy option, but he could be a bye-week or injury replacement this year. And if he has a breakout campaign in his third year you'll be happy you drafted him with a late-round pick.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@SEA NO @KC @ATL PHI OAK @CAR vDEN bye STL TB @ARI @GB SEA @SD @STL ARI

The 49ers have nine road games this year when you factor in the Week 8 trip to London against Denver. But they benefit like the rest of their division by playing the AFC West, which means two games against Kansas City and Oakland. They also get to face a depleted Arizona defense twice along with four games against the Seahawks and Rams, so look for the San Francisco offense to shine this season.

Training camp topics

2009 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Frank Gore 281
Glen Coffee 94
Vernon Davis 78
Josh Morgan 57
Michael Crabtree 48

Fantasy owners who draft Gore with a first-round pick will want to know who the No. 2 running back will be this season. Rookie Anthony Dixon plans to challenge Coffee for the role, but we expect Coffee to hold onto the job.

We'll also find out what role, if any, Ted Ginn Jr. will have on offense. He's not worth drafting in the majority of Fantasy leagues this year, but his deep speed could help Smith get a couple of extra touchdown passes.

This is the first time in several years the 49ers don't have to worry about their quarterback situation. Smith is entrenched as the starter, and hopefully he can play like he did in 2009 and lead San Francisco back to the playoffs.

Injury update

Brandon Jones (ankle; questionable for the start of training camp) ... Patrick Willis (knee; probable for the start of training camp)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Jamey at @jameyeisenberg . Do you have a question or a comment for our Fantasy staff? Drop us a line at dmfantasyfootball@cbs.com .

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Player News
Chris Harris targeting midway point of preseason
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, who's coming back from ACL surgery, told ESPN he expects to be cleared for full participation by the midway point of the preseason. Harris said the exact timetable hinges on his upcoming visit to his surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.

"I’m doing everything, there’s really nothing I can’t do right now," Harris told the network. "I still have to go see Dr. Andrews at the end of the month and get checked up and he’ll pretty much let us know the plan from there."

Harris had 65 tackles and three interceptions last year before getting hurt in the playoffs.


Dimitri Patterson a starter by default
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Unable to land a high-end free agent cornerback, the Jets "were forced to settle for journeyman Dimitri Patterson as a consolation," notes The Star-Ledger. Patterson, who projects to start opposite Dee Milliner, is on his sixth team in 10 seasons and has played all 16 games just once in his career.

If Patterson falters, third-round pick Dexter McDougle could get a shot.


Fred Jackson in danger of losing carries
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Bills running back Fred Jackson might not approach the 207 carries he received last year. According to WGR550.com, Jackson will once again split time with C.J. Spiller but also potentially lose snaps to the team's additions at running back, Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon.

The website said Jackson, 33, who's entering the last year of his deal, will be trying to prove how much he has left.


Teammate: Bitterness won't linger from Jimmy Graham standoff
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Saints tight end Benjamin Watson told ESPN that the the team's arbitration fight with Jimmy Graham over whether he's a receiver or a tight end won't have a longterm detrimental effect. Watson is hopeful the sides will reach a multiyear contract agreement by Tuesday's deadline.

"I’m very confident that it’ll be resolved the right way and guys can move forward," Watson said. "Obviously it’s always tough when you go through litigation with somebody, and it can probably get heated. And I’m sure there are emotions on both sides. But that is the business side of the game. 

"And it’s unfortunate that it came to that and that it was so public. But I really think -- I know, I don’t think -- I know that Jimmy loves New Orleans and I know that he loves our team and the organization and he loves playing here. And we love him, everybody wants him here, coaches included. So when it comes down to contract situations, that’s just a necessary evil ... not even evil, but just a necessary progression of getting a player here."


Dallas Thomas eyes starting job
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Dolphins coach Joe Philbin named Dallas Thomas one of the team's most improved players, and he has a good chance to start at left guard, according to the team's website. A third-round pick in last year's draft, Thomas played only four offensive snaps last season.

Thomas worked with the first team during spring drills and is much further along than he was in 2013. He stayed in South Florida throughout the offseason to get better prepared.

"You’ve got to know your material, you’ve got to know what you’re doing on the field because stuff happens so fast," Thomas said. "You’ve got to be able to just react to it and not even think about what’s happening on the field."


Spencer Nealy hit with four-game ban
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The NFL suspended Vikings defensive end Spencer Nealy four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances. An undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, the 24-year-old Nealy did not play in a game last season.

Nealy apologized and took responsibility in a statement, saying he took a supplement containing a banned stimulant.


Jarrett Boykin will be 'hard to dislodge'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Jarrett Boykin improved dramatically last season and "will be hard to dislodge" from the Packers' No. 3 receiver job, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Boykin will have to hold off second-round pick Davante Adams, fifth-rounder Jared Abbrederis and seventh-rounder Jeff Janis.

Boykin, 24, caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns last season.


Trent Richardson might not get long leash
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Averaging 2.9 yards a carry, like he did last year, will get Trent Richardson benched quickly, reports ESPN.com. Richardson "will have to produce right away because it's unlikely the Colts will wait for him to get going" if running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard are healthy and productive, the website said.

Richardson likely will get the first shot at the starting job. He has a much better grasp of the playbook than he did in 2013 and the belief is he'll be able to run on instinct as opposed to overthinking, the report said.


Bruce Ellington trying to overcome stature
by Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
(7/11/2014) At 5-foot-9, Bruce Ellington is the shortest receiver on the 49ers' roster. But the fourth-round pick out of South Carolina should not be discounted, his high school coach, Jerry Brown, told the Sacramento Bee.

Brown said Ellington is relentless at finding open space and catching everything thrown his way. "Football's played on a big field and it's hard to track someone like Bruce who's got so much agility," Brown said.

Ellington believes he has lots of room for growth because he only gave up basketball last year. Also a former track competitor, Ellington clocked a 4.45 forty at the combine.

"I'm just going to work hard, give it a hundred (percent) every time I step on the field and keep on chasing the dream," he said.


Colts dump LaVon Brazill, sign Aaron Burks
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The Colts waived suspended wideout LaVon Brazill and signed receiver Aaron Burks, an undrafted free agent from Boise State. Brazill, 25, is suspended for at least a year for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Burks caught 18 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns for the Broncos last season, averaging 17.2 yards per catch.


 
 
 
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