The 49ers may very well be the favorite in the NFC West this season. The Cardinals are going through a major offensive transition after losing Kurt Warner. The Seahawks are in full rebuilding mode under new Coach Pete Carroll. The Rams are, well, the Rams. In a division full of question marks, San Francisco may just be the safest bet.
After years of mediocrity and borderline shame, this once proud franchise fought its way to an 8-8 record last year. Led by the resurgent Alex Smith, the bruising Frank Gore and the blossoming Vernon Davis, the offense finally clicked. Every dynasty owner wants to accurately gauge player values, and this 49ers team is finally a good place to mine for fantasy gold again.
Players in their Prime
Frank Gore RB
No matter how you slice it, this offense runs through Gore. He enjoyed his fourth straight 1,000 yard season as he posted 1,120 rushing yards and ten touchdowns in 2009. You can pretty much come to expect some dominant performances and some missed games each season with him. He’s played in all 16 games just once in his career to this point. However, he’s right in the middle of his prime years and dynasty owners can expect two or three more great seasons.
Vernon Davis TE
Any questions? Davis annually teased fantasy owners with his freakish size, speed and athleticism combined with a lack of production. However, he finally put it all together in 2009 with 78 receptions, 965 yards, and a ridiculous 13 touchdown catches. For years, his owners have been clamoring for Davis to give them a reason to argue his status as the No. 1 TE in dynasty leagues. Now it’s tough to make an argument against it.
Alex Smith QB
The #1 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft was in danger of living in Aaron Rodgers’ shadow for all eternity until the proverbial light inexplicably went on last year. After starting the season on the bench, Smith was re-inserted into the lineup to replace the somewhat ineffective Shaun Hill in week seven. What followed was an impressive season that featured totals of 2,350 passing yards, 18 touchdown passes, a completion percentage of 60.5 and just 12 interceptions. The jury is still out on Smith, but at least he’s back on trial.
Michael Crabtree WR
His holdout was frustrating for dynasty owners, but he rewarded their patience with 625 yards and two touchdowns in just 11 games. While those totals may not be eye popping, consider he posted those as a rookie with no training camp experience. Crabtree’s natural ability translated well to the professional level and owners should expect his first of many 1,000 yard seasons in 2010.
Anthony Dixon RB
Dixon is an intriguing prospect out of Mississippi State. He needs to learn to make one cut and live with it, but he has tremendous power. Couple this with Glen Coffee looking less than impressive, and the future may just be bright for Dixon. He’s a worthy roster stash in dynasty leagues.
Josh Morgan WR
His long-term value will always be limited with Crabtree in the fold, but he’s progressed well over the past couple of years. In fact, he finished 2009 with 28 catches in his final six games. The addition of Ted Ginn Jr. shouldn’t change his status as the starter opposite Crabtree. In fact, it helps him focus on simply being a wide receiver as his return duties will now be absorbed by Ginn. He’s a good late round pick in new dynasty league drafts.
Players with Falling Values
Glen Coffee RB
If the 49ers were enamored with Coffee, they wouldn’t have taken Dixon late in the draft. Coffee was impressive in minicamp and preseason action, but his 2.7 yards per carry average on 83 carries in the regular season left a lot to be desired. If Dixon can learn how to block, he’ll give Coffee a run for the No. 2 RB job in San Francisco.
Brandon Jones WR
To say he’s been a disappointment since signing a five-year, $16.5 million contract in 2009 would be an understatement. I sure hope he cashed some checks because he’s not making this roster. He shouldn’t make yours, either.
Ted Ginn Jr. WR
It’s apparent this former top-10 pick is simply a dynamic special teams player and nothing more. Dynasty league owners need to stop hoping he’ll develop into a serviceable wide receiver. It’s simply not going to happen.
Jason Hill WR
Hill has been very inconsistent so far in his professional career. His 9 catches, 90 yards and two scores from last year are certainly nothing to write home about. He has been a standout at camp, though. His price tag is also significantly less than Brandon Jones. Combine those factors and you should have the 49ers No. 3 wide receiver.
David Carr QB
There must be something about former No. 1 draft picks being the 49ers backup quarterback as David Carr takes the seat left by Alex Smith last year. Carr’s talent has never been in question. Can he finally get his confidence back after the beating he took in Houston? Time will tell, but the leash on Alex Smith won’t be incredibly long and Mike Singletary has already shown he’ll play the best player, regardless of it being the most popular of decisions. Carr is the clear backup and there’s nothing close to a quarterback controversy here, but he’s worth monitoring.
The 49ers have some intriguing dynasty league prospects. If Alex Smith can continue to develop, the sky’s the limit for players like Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. The glory days in San Francisco are long gone, but this young core may just climb their way back into the playoffs. Dynasty league owners no longer need to pass over the 49ers when looking for young talent.