Every year we give our premium content members a team-by-team, player-by-player look at the NFL season that was. The coverage will be in-depth, but because the Dynasty Capsule series begins immediately after the regular season, we won’t use it to discuss free agency or the draft. Come see us in early May once Mr. Irrelevant is off the board for another 32-article series giving you the same detailed discussion you’ll see below.
Buckle up dynasty fans, because you’re about to be reminded why our motto is, “There is no off-season.”
The San Francisco 49ers are a mess. Since making three straight NFC title game appearances from 2011 to 2013, including a trip to the Super Bowl in 2012, the Niners have gone 15-33 over the past three seasons.
Since Head Coach Jim Harbaugh left town, San Francisco has bottomed out with a 7-25 mark over the last seasons, firing their head coach after each dismal campaign. Harbaugh averaged 11 wins per season over four years, so, yeah, the Niners’ brass probably messed up there.
Anywho, because it’s dynasty and because we have the disease, we can still find interesting things about the San Francisco roster. Let’s take a look back at who did what for the 49ers in 2016.
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Kaepernick was a pretty good fantasy asset in 2016, even if the 49ers were a nightmare. He averaged 16.7 fantasy points per game, which ranked 16th among quarterbacks. He got the starting gig in Week 6, and he posted at least 17 fantasy points in in seven of his 11 starts. Kaepernick proved to be a useful plug-and-play option in one-quarterback leagues, and he was really valuable in two-quarterback formats.
Despite the solid fantasy showing, he didn’t do much from a real football perspective to secure a job for 2017, although, as we’ll get to, he wasn’t working with the best weapons. There have been some reports saying Kyle Shanahan, who is expected to get the head job in San Francisco, is open to keeping Kaepernick. Whether that’s as a starter or backup remains to be seen, but some mock drafts have the Niners taking a quarterback early. If he starts, Kaepernick will always have some appeal because of his rushing ability, but he’s probably not worth owning outside of two-quarterback leagues.
Gabbert opened the year as the starter, but he was a mess. He ended the year with five touchdowns and six picks in five starts, posting a measly 4.7 adjusted yards per attempt. He did rack up at least 19 fantasy points in two of his five starts, but at this point, Gabbert’s days as a starting quarterback are probably done, barring injury to the quarterbacks ahead of him wherever he is next season. He’s an unrestricted free agent this off-season.
Considering the situation and the fact he was facing a negative game script for a majority of his games, the 2016 season was a good one for Hyde. He ended the year with 988 rushing yards and six scores on 217 attempts (4.6 YPC). He added 27 catches for 163 yards and three scores as a pass-game option, and all of those numbers were career-best clips.
Going by points per game, Hyde ended the year as the 10th-best running back. Going by cumulative fantasy points, he was RB15. In terms of negatives, he only played 13 games, which gives him just 34 career games through three seasons. Per January ADP data, he’s coming off the board as RB15, and Hyde is entering the final year of his rookie deal.
Draughn was second on the Niners in rushing attempts, but he was only able to turn his 74 carries into 196 yards, picking up a measly 2.6 yards per carry. On the bright side, he scored four rushing touchdowns, and as a receiver, he hauled in 29 passes for 263 yards and two scores. Entering his age-30 season next fall, Draughn doesn’t have much value. He is an unrestricted free agent, but his best chance to see the field in 2017 is probably in San Francisco.
Seeing action in 10 games, Harris ended the campaign with 38 rushing attempts for 138 yards. He did haul in eight of nine targets for 115 yards and a score. Like several players we’ll touch on, he’s due to be an unrestricted free agent.
A fourth-round pick in 2015, Davis had some believers coming out of South Carolina. He hasn’t done much to keep anyone interested. He saw 19 carries last season and turned them into 50 yards (2.6 YPC). Somehow, that was more efficient than his rookie year, and for his career, he’s gaining 2.0 yards per run on 54 carries. If Draughn leaves, there is a chance Davis enters 2017 as the backup to an injury-prone Hyde, but that’s probably the only scenario in which he has any value.
Someone had to catch passes for the Niners, and Kerley was the man for the job. Signed to a one-year deal before the season, Kerley ended up serving as the 49ers’ top wideout. He led the team in targets (115), catches (64) and yards (667). He finished with three scores and averaged 10.4 yards per reception. Due to be an unrestricted free agent, a deal with San Francisco makes a lot of sense for both parties, but until the offense improves, a possession wideout like Kerley is going to have a difficult time making much fantasy noise.
Prior to the year, it looked like Smith would be the de facto target hog in San Francisco, but it didn’t happen. In 12 games, he ended up with just 20 catches on 49 targets, totaling 267 yards and three scores. Nearly 20 percent of his season-long yardage total came on one 53-yard play. Smith is signed through 2019.
Ellington had a little hype to him this summer, but he suffered a torn hamstring before the season and missed the entire year, handing Kerley slot duties. Ellington was a fourth-round pick in 2014, and he is a very good athlete. At this point, though, his combine numbers are all we have to cling to, because he’s made 19 career catches through three seasons (26 games). He’s not a bad stash, though, if you have a roster spot to burn.
Smelter probably shouldn’t get his own blurb, but there may be some truthers out there still. A talented wideout who was taken in the fourth round in 2015 out of Georgia Tech, Smelter was a thing for a bit in the dynasty community. His career has been derailed by injuries, with his first game action coming in 2016. He didn’t do much, though, even on a depth chart as putrid as this one, making one catch for 23 yards in two games. He’s probably fighting for a roster spot this summer.
Rod Streater, Aaron Burbidge and Chris Harper
Buried on the depth chart for a bad offense, Harper, Burbridge and Streater put up predictably bad numbers. Streater caught 18 of 27 targets for 191 yards and two touchdowns. Harper ended the campaign with 13 catches on 21 looks for 133 yards. Burbridge posted a 7-87 line last season, and he is signed through 2019. Streater is an unrestricted free agent while Harper is an exclusive rights free agent. Both are longshots to be fantasy relevant anytime soon.
Outside of Hyde, McDonald is probably the only other player on this offense with meaningful fantasy value. A second-round pick in 2013 out of Rice, McDonald looked to be in for a career-best season before a shoulder injury landed him on injured reserve, limiting him to 11 games. He ended the 2016 year with 24 catches on 45 targets, going for 391 yards and four touchdowns — the latter two of which are career highs. His 16.3 yards per reception is a pretty nice number, ranking sixth among tight ends who played at least eight games in 2016. Locked up by the Niners until as late as 2021, there is some intrigue here. Currently the TE25, per January ADP, McDonald is worth a roster spot in most leagues.
Celek saw an increased role when McDonald went down, posting 29 grabs (on 50 targets) for 350 yards and three scores. He’s signed through 2019, but he’s unlikely to have much fantasy value — if any — in the coming years. Bell is a former college quarterback trying to find a niche in the NFL. He made just four receptions for 85 yards this past season.