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Offseason Primers: San Francisco 49ers

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The 49ers fell three points short in Super Bowl XLVII last year in a 34-31 loss against the Ravens. And now San Francisco will try to become the first Super Bowl loser to make it back to the big game the following year since Buffalo did it four years in a row from 1991-94.

The 49ers will have plenty of weapons to make another Super Bowl run. Colin Kaepernick, who took over for Alex Smith midway through the season last year, will start from Week 1, and he has the potential to be a Fantasy stud. Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis -- all starting Fantasy options -- return to lead the offense, and the 49ers replaced Randy Moss with Anquan Boldin, which is an upgrade.

2012 Touches Leaders
781 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Frank Gore 286 (258 car., 28 rec.) 36.6%
Michael Crabtree 86 (1 car., 85 rec.) 11.0%
Kendall Hunter 81 (72 car., 9 rec.) 10.3%
Mario Manningham 45 (3 car., 42 rec.) 5.7%
Vernon Davis 41 rec. 5.2%
All Others 242 30.9%

The defense is again stacked even with the loss of safety Dashon Goldson as a free agent to Tampa Bay, and the inconsistent David Akers was replaced by Phil Dawson. The 49ers also have 14 picks in the upcoming NFL Draft, so there's a lot to like about this team.

Fantasy owners will look at Kaepernick, Gore and Crabtree as must-start options, and Davis should rebound to be a No. 1 Fantasy tight end. Boldin is a key reserve, but he'll be an upgrade over Moss based on his all-around receiving skills. The 49ers also could get a boost if Mario Manningham (knee) returns at 100 percent or A.J. Jenkins steps up in his second year. And we may even get some production from backup running backs LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter, depending on how much the 49ers want to rest Gore during the season.

Michael Crabtree -- Worth the price

2012 Target Leaders
436 pass attempts
Michael Crabtree 127 29.1%
Vernon Davis 61 13.9%
Mario Manningham 57 13.0%
Randy Moss 50 11.4%
Delanie Walker 39 8.9%
All Others 102 23.3%

Kaepernick being named the starting quarterback for the 49ers helped Crabtree become a star last year, and we expect him to play well again this season. In the seven starts Kaepernick made in 2012, Crabtree had 41 catches for 595 yards and five touchdowns. If you project that over 16 games, Crabtree would have finished with 94 catches for 1,360 yards and 11 touchdowns. That equates to 202 Fantasy points, which would have made Crabtree the No. 3 Fantasy receiver last year in standard leagues behind Calvin Johnson (214) and Brandon Marshall (210). Crabtree also had double digits in targets in four of the seven starts with Kaepernick. Crabtree enters this season as a low-end No. 1 Fantasy receiver. He's worth drafting as early as Round 4 in the majority of leagues, and we look forward to his rapport continuing to grow with Kaepernick as the two spend more time together.

Vernon Davis -- Bounce-back candidate

Will the real Vernon Davis please stand up? Davis was a huge disappointment in 2012 based on his regular-season stats, but he was a star in the playoffs. Davis finished the regular season with 41 catches for 548 yards and five touchdowns. It was easily his worst stats since 2008, the year before his breakout campaign. Davis struggled to develop a rapport with Kaepernick -- until the postseason, when Davis took off. In his final two postseason games he had 11 catches for 210 yards and one touchdown against the Falcons and Ravens. We hope he can build off that performance coming into this season, and Davis is too talented to overlook as anything but a No. 1 Fantasy tight end. He has a lot to prove based on last year's down stats, but he's definitely capable of being a standout option. And maybe with Delanie Walker now gone, Davis could get more attention as those 39 targets Walker had last year have to go somewhere. Plan on drafting Davis with a pick in Round 7 or 8.

Colin Kaepernick -- Breakout

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Colin Kaepernick 57-63 overall
Frank Gore 23-30 overall
LaMichael James 115-122 overall
Kendall Hunter 128-134 overall
Michael Crabtree 37-44 overall
Anquan Boldin 127-133 overall
Mario Manningham Undrafted
Vernon Davis 90-99 overall

Kaepernick gets the chance to start for the 49ers from Week 1 this year, and there's a lot of optimism for his Fantasy value this season based on his play in 2012 when he took over for Smith. He had five games with at least 18 Fantasy points in seven starts in the regular season, and he carried the 49ers to the Super Bowl with two standout playoff games. If you project Kaepernick's regular-season stats over a full 16-game season he would have finished with 4,146 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and seven interceptions and 948 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns and seven fumbles. That equates to 435 Fantasy points, which would have made him the No. 1 Fantasy quarterback in standard leagues, ahead of Drew Brees (423 points). Kaepernick is a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback and a breakout candidate, and we like him with a pick beginning in Round 6 in the majority of leagues. Since he's unproven, you'll still want to pair him with a quality backup option later (think anyone from Eli Manning to Jay Cutler), but Kaepernick has the look of a standout Fantasy quarterback heading into this season.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Panthers CB Josh Norman sustains possible concussion
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(9/3/2015) The Panthers declined to play most of their starters in the Thursday preseason finale against the Steelers. But one who did play suffered a head injury.

That was cornerback Josh Norman, who has begun concussion protocol, per ESPN.com. It remains to be seen if he can recover in time for the regular season opener.

Norman started the last nine games in 2014 and finished the year with two interceptions and 36 tackles.


Colts backup RB job complicated by injuries to Herron, Ballard
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(9/3/2015) Injuries to Colts running backs Dan Herron (shoulder) and Vick Ballard (hamstring) marred the team's preseason finale Thursday night against Cincinnati.

Ballard actually re-injured the hamstring that had kept him sidelined last week against St. Louis. He was hoping to remain healthy against the Bengals in an attempt to land the backup job to featured back Frank Gore.

The injuries to the two backs complicates that competition.


Falcons LB Brooks Reed undergoes surgery on groin
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(9/3/2015) Dan Quinn has announced that Falcons linebacker and prized free agent acquisition Brooks Reed has undergone surgery to repair a nagging groin injury. He could miss up to six weeks, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Reed sat out most of the offseason with the issue, but did play sparingly in two exhibition games.

He contributed to 41 tackles and added 3 1/2 sacks for Houston in 2014.


Buccaneers sign CB Tim Jennings
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(9/3/2015) The Buccaneers have signed cornerback Tim Jennings, who played for Lovie Smith in Chicago, per NFL.com.

Jennings was released Sunday by the Bears despite having been a Pro Bowl defensive back as recently as 2013. He has been a full-time starter in the NFL since 2008, but had no interceptions a season ago and four in 2013 after peaking at 11 the year before.


WR Terrelle Pryor set to debut with Browns on Thursday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(9/3/2015) Browns quarterback-turned-wideout Terrelle Pryor will make his debut with the team Thursday night in the final preseason game against Chicago, the Cleveland Plain Dealer has reported.

Pryor will not start, however. He is still not recovered fully from a strained hamstring.


Dolphins WR DeVante Parker ready to roll Thursday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(9/3/2015) Dolphins standout rookie wide receiver DeVante Parker is set to start Thursday in the preseason finale against Tampa Bay, per the Palm Beach Post.

The first-round pick has been out since June with a foot injury. He returned to practice this week.


Eagles LB Kiko Alonso active for Thursday game against Jets
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(9/3/2015) Eagles linebacker Kiko Alonso is active for the Thursday night preseason finale against the Jets, per NJ.com. It remains to be seen if he sees any action.

Alonso has been sidelined for the first three exhibition games with a concussion, then tendinitis in his surgically repaired left knee.


Report: DE Jason Pierre-Paul planning on joining Giants soon
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(9/3/2015) Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul plans to return to the team next week and to be ready to play by early in the regular season, a source has told ESPN.

An accident with fireworks caused Pierre-Paul to suffer a hand injury in which he lost at least an index finger. Both he and the team have been rather secretive about the extent of his injury, but Tom Coughlin has stated that he's been in communication with Pierre-Paul, who was eager to join the team.

Pierre-Paul has been inconsistent in his pass-rushing production since starting in the NFL, but he recorded 12 1/2 sacks in 2014, the second-highest total of his career. He also contributed to 77 tackles.


NFL suspends Broncos safety T.J. Ward for one game
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9/3/2015) Broncos safety T.J. Ward has been suspended for one game for violating the league's personal conduct policy, the NFL announced Thursday. Ward's suspension is the result of misdemeanor charges from May 2014 that were later dropped, per the Broncos' official website.

Ward will miss the Broncos' season opener (Sept. 13) against the Ravens and be eligible for reinstatement Sept. 14.

Ward is in his second year with Denver. In 2014, he earned his second Pro Bowl selection after he totaled 74 tackles (60 solo), two sacks and two interceptions.


US District Court Judge nullifies Tom Brady's four-game suspension
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9/3/2015) US District Court Judge Richard Berman has nullified the NFL's four-game suspension of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Berman said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell went too far in affirming punishment of Brady for the quarterback's alleged role in the Deflategate incident. 

"Because there was no notice of a four-game suspension in the circumstances presented here, Commissioner Goodell may be said to have 'dispense[d] his own brand of industrial justice,'" Berman wrote in a 40-game ruling.

Berman's ruling means Brady is cleared to play Week 1 (Sept. 10) against the Steelers.


 
 
 
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