Everyone knows the narrative surrounding the San Francisco 49ers - they are one of if not the most complete teams in football. They just need to figure out the quarterback position. I mean, they have arguably the best player in the league at like four different positions when you look at guys like Nick Bosa, Christian McCaffrey, Trent Williams, and Kyle Juszczyk. And that’s not even getting into guys like George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Fred Warner. This team is stacked but they have one of the biggest decisions to make at the most important position this offseason.
With this series, we are taking a look at each NFL team to gauge the direction of the offense from a dynasty fantasy football perspective. Is this team gearing up for a Super Bowl run? Are they in the midst of a rebuild? Are they considering blowing it up? We’ll take all of that into account as well as the current contracts, upcoming free agents, and 2023 NFL draft class to give you our best recommendations on how to handle these weapons in your dynasty fantasy football leagues.
BUY - Attempt to acquire this player at or slightly above market value
HOLD - The player is likely more valuable than the market indicates. Hold them if you have them or try to acquire them at a discount.
SELL - The perceived value for this player is higher than the projected remaining value in your average dynasty league. Cash out now.
SELL/DROP - Depending on the depth of the league, always try to sell guys before dropping. But this player is likely not worth the bench spot he’s occupying so you might need to just drop them.
*Contract information is proved courtesy of Spotrac.com*
San Francisco 49ers 2023 Dynasty Fantasy Football Preview
San Francisco 49ers Quarterback
The 49ers have two quarterbacks under contract for 2023
Trey Lance - Age 22
Contract: Trey Lance is a first-round pick so he’s under contract through 2024 with a fifth-year option for 2025.
Outlook: When drafted, Trey Lance was seen as a raw talent with tremendous upside. He has incredible physical tools but limited experience - he didn’t even play at an FBS school. Of course, he PLAYED football but there is something to be said for development at a program like Alabama with the staff of Nick Saban vs. North Dakota State. Over the last two seasons, the worst-case scenario has essentially unfolded as he got hurt in back-to-back seasons on a team in a win-now situation. They somehow managed to go through all FOUR of the QBs on the depth chart by the time they lost the NFC championship.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD - Lance still has the same upside he once had but his perceived value has taken a dip. So it’s really not a good time to sell. And the whole Brock Purdy situation has thrown even crazier doubts onto his floor so it’s not a great time to buy either. If you have him (or can scoop him up for cheap) then hold onto him to see how this plays out because the guy will get a shot somewhere at some point, whether that’s with the 49ers or elsewhere. And his mobility creates a level of upside that few QBs can match so it’s worth holding onto.
Brock Purdy - Age 23
Contract: Brock Purdy is under contract through 2025.
Outlook: It’s hard to imagine that, on a team with a fierce Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Trey Lance debate, a third party drafted as the last overall pick could throw his hat in the ring for this job. But here we are. And he played surprisingly well.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL - I’m selling Brock Purdy for whatever I can get and I’m not looking back. Trading can be scary but, with some guys, selling is the conservative option and holding is actually the risky option. A guy like Trey Lance not only has the mobile upside but he also has the floor of being the third overall pick in the NFL draft. Even Josh Rosen got another shot after flaming out with Arizona. If Brock Purdy loses this QB competition, he’s not going to be as valuable of a trade piece for the Niners. And a world exists where he loses the job and now they just keep him as a backup (which is what he was supposed to be in the first place anyway). Purdy runs a 4.84 40-yard dash which is Mac Jones territory and guys like that simply don’t have high ceilings in the modern NFL unless they are capable of throwing 45-50 touchdowns. The fact you can turn around and trade a QB who was drafted in the 7th round of the NFL draft for anything at all in dynasty is a miracle so just cash out as a nice little reward for paying attention. If no one wants him, cool, just hang on then.
Free Agency/Draft Outlook:
Everyone in the fantasy football community is debating Lance vs. Purdy while avoiding two terrifying alternative scenarios. One is that Kyle Shanahan, who is famous for his “hot hand” approach at running back, goes with a “hot hand” approach at quarterback. The only thing worse than maybe changing QBs from game to game is starting a QB who throws a pick and then gets pulled from the game for the other guy. The other scenario is that, at the end of the day, it turns out that the team built around these guys is simply really good and neither are actually franchise-caliber quarterbacks. Part of that makes me want to just wash my hands of these guys completely in dynasty.
As for what they are going to do this off-season, the best-case scenario is that one guy wins the job and the other is traded. If that’s the case, we can likely expect them to just sign a veteran QB to be the backup and help mentor a bit. Even if they trade someone, I doubt they go back to the well in the NFL draft and throw another inexperienced quarterback into that room. They are going to want someone they can trust after all the injuries this year.
San Francisco 49ers Running Backs
The 49ers have three running backs under contract.
Christian McCaffrey - Age 26
Contract: The 49ers traded for Christian McCaffrey meaning they aren’t on the hook for any of his guaranteed money. He’s under contract through 2025 and they can cut him in any year with zero dead cap (in any of the next three years that would save them $12 million towards the cap).
Outlook: Christian McCaffrey was the RB4 in fantasy during his first six weeks of the season with Carolina. He was then traded to San Francisco where he was the RB3 over the remainder of the season. The man did not skip a beat.
Dynasty Recommendation: BUY - If you are “win now” in your dynasty league, you buy Christian McCaffrey. If you don’t think your team can compete for a couple of years, maybe you sell as he’s 26. But he’s the best in the business and now he’s running behind Trent Williams (arguably the best left tackle in the business), Kyle Juszczyk (arguably the best fullback in the business), and George Kittle (arguably the best blocking tight end in the business). So it’s wheels up for CMC for the foreseeable future
Elijah Mitchell - Age 24
Contract: Elijah Mitchell is under contract through 2024.
Outlook: Elijah Mitchell briefly beat the odds as a sixth-round pick as he won the RB competition only for the team to swoop in and add one of the best RBs in the league. Pretty tough.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD - Mitchell is likely to fall into the “handcuff plus” category now as he’ll be clearly behind CMC but they also showed they’d like to get him some reps. As we’ve seen with guys like Tony Pollard, Kareem Hunt, Khalil Herbert, etc. it’s hard to tell when they will pop so they are very difficult to start in fantasy. I’d see if a deal can be worked out with the CMC owner as they are likely to give you the best value for him. Otherwise, you just hang onto him until CMC gets banged up then either start him yourself or trade him at that point. Mitchell is fairly injury prone himself and he’ll be 27 when he hits free agency so I would try to offload him at some point when you can.
Tyrion Davis-Price - Age 24
Contract: Ty Davis-Price is under contract through 2025.
Outlook: There was a little bit of hype for Ty Davis-Price but that fell by the wayside pretty quickly as we learned his spot in the pecking order. He was not terribly efficient when he did find his way onto the field.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - You don’t need to hold him at this point as he’s both down the depth chart and signed for multiple years which kind of traps him there. You are almost rooting for the 49ers to cut him so he can get a fresh start but they really have no reason to do that. And it also rarely works out well.
Free Agency/Draft Outlook:
The 49ers are set at running back with multiple capable guys under contract for multiple years. If they add any running backs this off-season they would likely be guys that can contribute on special teams.
San Francisco 49ers Wide Receivers
The 49ers have four wide receivers under contract for 2023 with three signed to reserve/future deals.
Deebo Samuel - Age 27
Contract: Deebo Samuel is under contract through 2025.
Outlook: When AJ Brown got traded and then signed to a mega deal, the writing was on the wall for Samuel to get paid too as he was in the same draft class with the same agent as Brown. Luckily they were able to keep him and ink him into a long-term deal.
Dynasty Recommendation: BUY - The concern for Deebo was that the acquisition of Christian McCaffrey would hamper his sporadic usage in the run game. But, when he returned from injury Week 10, Deebo still got double-digit carries in each of the games he played. Despite missing multiple games and leaving a couple with injuries, he still finished with 94 targets and 42 carries which is the exact kind of usage we want to see. We want guys who are going to be a focal point of their offense and that is Deebo Samuel.
Brandon Aiyuk - Age 24
Contract: Brandon Aiyuk is under contract through 2023. They can pick up his fifth-year option for 2024 as well (the deadline to do that is May 1 of this year).
Outlook: The former first-round pick had a career year finishing with over 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns. He was the WR15 in PPR formats.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL - The good thing going for Brandon Aiyuk is that the offense is highly consolidated among the top options. The bad thing is how many high-end top options they now have between Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey, and George Kittle. We just mentioned how we want guys who are THE focal point but we at least want our guy to be one of the top two weapons on the team. Including playoffs, in the eight games we got to see with all of Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Christian McCaffrey healthy, Brandon Aiyuk did not score a touchdown. And it could be even worse if Trey Lance wins the job as the general thought process is that the more mobile quarterback typically means less production for other weapons - especially in the red area. I’m willing to cash out on Aiyuk’s WR15 season right now but only as a package for an upgrade. He’s still young enough that you don’t trade him for picks, even if you are “blowing it up”.
Danny Gray - Age 23
Contract: Danny Gray is under contract through 2025
Outlook: Gray has solid draft capital as a third-round pick but he rarely saw the field as a rookie.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL - The reality of the 49ers offense is that their usage of a fullback means that you’ll never have a full-time third WR. And we know who the top two WRs are. So no one else is going to get the snap share to even compete for the foreseeable future. He might not have much trade value but it only gets worse the longer you hold guys who aren’t playing.
Ray-Ray McCloud - Age 26
Contract: McCloud is under contract for this season.
Outlook: He’s a valuable real-life asset as he returns both punts and kicks which saves a roster spot. He doesn’t see much time on offense though.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - Unless you have huge bonuses for returns in your league, you can drop him.
FREE AGENTS: Jauan Jennings
Free Agency/Draft Outlook:
As we mentioned in the Danny Gray section, the 49ers use a fullback and blocking tight end so they really only need two full-time wide receivers. The other guys come in for random slot snaps and the rare four WR sets. Even then, three wide receivers and a return man are not enough to proceed with so they’ll at least need to add some depth this off-season, even if it’s guys who will primarily contribute on special teams.
San Francisco 49ers Tight Ends
The 49ers have two tight ends under contract and one signed to reserve/future contracts.
George Kittle - Age 29
Contract: George Kittle is signed through the 2025 season.
Outlook: George Kittle once again finished as a top-three tight end which is all you can ask for in this landscape (especially considering he missed a couple of games).
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD/SELL - George Kittle is the man - no doubt about that. He’s a fun player. It’s going to be hard for you to find even a lateral move from him let alone an upgrade. So, if you are competing to win now, you might just want to hold Kittle and ride it out. That said, I would strongly entertain offers for him if you can A. find a way to upgrade from him or B. you aren’t competing now. I don’t mean to scare you but here are some quick bullet points that have me concerned:
- George Kittle is an anomaly in that he’s had huge success despite being asked to pass block on a lot of pass plays (almost 12% for his career). He’s the only TE in over a decade to finish top five in fantasy while blocking on over 15% of his pass plays in a season (in 2019). Anomalies don’t stay that way forever.
- Kittle’s SPEED has been huge in making him an anomaly. No tight end has more 40+ yard plays over the last 5-6 years. But speed can wane with age. From 2018-2020, Kittle had 10 plays over 40 yards, including three over 60. Over the last two years, he’s had only two (one each season of 48 and 54 yards).
- In the eight games where Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, and Christian McCaffrey were all healthy, Kittle was the odd man out for targets. The two WRs each had 48, CMC had 40, and Kittle had 34.
Charlie Woerner - Age 25
Contract: Charlie Woerner is signed through 2023
Outlook: We’ve seen the backup tight ends without Kittle plenty of times. It’s not great.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - There is no one on the roster worth stashing besides Kittle.
RESERVE/FUTURE: Leroy Watson
Free Agency/Draft Outlook:
George Kittle is the guy for the foreseeable future so don’t expect them to go crazy in the off-season at the tight end position. Bringing back guys like Dwelley and Kroft will likely solve their depth issues or any combination of one guy with some pass-catching chops and one guy with some blocking ability would do it. Once Kittle gets a little farther past 30 is when they really should start looking into an heir apparent unless they really want to shift toward two tight end sets. It’s not a good allocation of resources when they have someone like Kittle.
Follow Andrew Cooper on Twitter @CoopAFiasco for more NFL and fantasy football insights and stay tuned as we hit on all 32 NFL teams in this series leading into NFL free agency!
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