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.
|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%|
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
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
|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|
|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.