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Where you should draft 49ers skill players in fantasy football leagues

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Where you should draft 49ers skill players in fantasy football leagues

It’s time, folks.

Fantasy football season finally is here, bringing with it millions of Americans who root for their individual team of players often more vigorously than the NFL team to which they've sworn allegiances.

With the average fantasy football player spending $556 on league fees and online entries, it has become big business for the almost 60 million Americans who take part each season.

However, even with the opportunity to draft players from any team across the league, many still bring team loyalties into a fantasy football draft and often will reach for players who don the same colors they do on Sundays.

Every draft has that Patriots fan who takes Tom Brady in the second round, or the Windy City native who decides Tarik Cohen is worthy of a pick before Todd Gurley.

We’ll examine where you really should be looking to draft your favorite 49ers in upcoming drafts, without looking like a complete buffoon among your friends/league-mates.

Jimmy Garoppolo

ADP: 143, No. 21 QB (Yahoo)

The hype has been there all summer. After Jimmy G missed the majority of last season with an ACL tear, 49ers fans are clamoring to see what he can put together in what everyone hopes is his first full season in San Francisco. The 27-year-old was impressive in 2017 in the final six games after a midseason trade from New England, throwing for 1,560 yards with seven touchdowns and a 67.4 percent completion percentage.

Garoppolo is the 18th-ranked QB, according to Yahoo, with guys such as Jameis Winston, Kyler Murray, and Lamar Jackson slotted ahead of him. But the dual-threat ability is much higher for those three than for Garoppolo, who likely will be cautious when tucking and running because of last year's injury coming on a scramble.

Besides Patrick Mahomes, few QBs warrant a reach into the top few rounds, considering how much depth there is in today’s offense-driven NFL. If Garoppolo is your best QB, then you have problems. But as far as backups go, there probably won’t be many QB2s with better numbers by the end of 2019.

With a top-30 NFL player in tight end George Kittle and the addition of running back Tevin Coleman in free agency, Garoppolo will have a lot of weapons to work with, and could provide significant value down the stretch if taken late, especially if your top quarterback option goes down with an injury. 

George Kittle

ADP: 32, No. 2 TE (Yahoo)

Talk about a breakout season. A guy who made 48 catches during his ENTIRE college career at Iowa tallied 88 last season for 1,377 yards and five touchdowns, catapulting him to the upper echelon of NFL tight ends. That also was with a combination of C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens throwing Kittle passes, and both quarterbacks likely will not be NFL starters in 2019.

Some are taking Kittle as the top overall tight end, and with Rob Gronkowski’s surprising retirement in March, the 49ers star is right there at the top, along with the Eagles’ Zach Ertz and the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce. However, take a step back before you decide to use one of your first two draft picks on the 25-year-old.

After a breakout season like that, opposing defenses will be game-planning all week to stop No. 85, as he is without question Garoppolo’s top receiving option. It remains to be seen if Kittle can put up the same kind of numbers while being the primary focus of every team’s defensive scheme.

If you can grab Kittle in the third round, that’s a great pick. But we should see sustained year-after-year success from Kittle before we can begin anointing him the NFL’s top tight end and justify a first- or second-round pick on him.

Tevin Coleman

ADP: 58, No. 27 RB (Yahoo)

One of the more underrated signings in free agency, Coleman comes to San Francisco after three seasons with over 100 touches in Atlanta as the change-of-pace back for Devonta Freeman. The signing reunites Coleman with Kyle Shanahan, who served as the Falcons’ offensive coordinator from 2015 to 2016, Coleman’s first two seasons in the NFL.

Coleman provides a lot of value in the passing game, as he has at least 30 catches out of the backfield in each of the past three seasons despite having just 20 starts over that period.

There is ZERO reason to take this guy in the first four rounds, but he could provide significant value between Rounds 6 and 7, and he might even be worth a fifth-rounder if your league is a PPR-format.

Dante Pettis

ADP: 82, No. 33 WR (Yahoo)

After an efficient rookie season, Pettis is projected by many to have a breakout Year 2 under Shanahan. The wideout has impressed his coaches and his QB during training camp, showing off a chiseled figure and increased explosiveness, leading starting cornerback Richard Sherman to deem No. 18 “incredibly talented.”

With much of the opposing team’s energy going into stopping Kittle -- who led the NFL in yards after catch in 2018 -- Pettis should receive a lot of favorable matchups on the outside despite being the team’s No. 1 receiver.

Don’t go near this guy in any of the first five rounds, but a sixth- or seventh-round pick should net significant value for fantasy owners and 49ers fans alike.

Matt Breida

ADP: 120, No. 46 RB (Yahoo)

Breida was somewhat of a Cinderella story in 2018. While many didn’t even take a flier on him in the draft, Breida ended up as a double-digit scorer in five of the first six weeks of the season, and finished with more than 800 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

With running back the deepest fantasy position in 2019, Breida ends up outside the top-35 despite being one of the fastest in the sport.

In a 49ers backfield with a lot of mouths to feed, Breida still should be the No. 2 option, and could be an intriguing flex play if available in the 11th round or later. But don’t be the guy who tries to justify an eighth-round pick on a guy who will have a lot of competition for touches.

Jerick McKinnon

ADP: 146, No. 53 RB (Yahoo)

This is a tricky one to evaluate. McKinnon was a fantasy darling with the Vikings, emerging as a great fill-in play with more than 500 yards in three of his previous four full seasons. However, McKinnon also is working his way back from a torn ACL that cost him the entire 2018 campaign, and he recently was taken out of the 49ers' practice rotation after soreness returned in his surgically repaired knee.

McKinnon was given a platelet-rich plasma injection, but the 49ers are unsure if he'll be 100 percent by the time Week 1 rolls around. In a position that takes as many hits as running backs do, it’s hard to count on a guy who might miss multiple games to start the year and already is part of a backfield committee with two extremely talented players.

If you’ve already taken your kicker and defense before the last pick, and you’re a big-time believer in McKinnon's potential, then go for it. But he’s much more likely to provide value as a pickup later in the season if one of your backs is hurt or doesn’t live up to expectations on your bench.

Marquise Goodwin

ADP: 197, No. 69 WR (Yahoo)

Goodwin provided many fantasy owners  with a big swing and a miss last season. After being among the top 36 receivers taken in most drafts, Goodwin had just 23 catches on 43 targets and found the end zone just four times. Some of that was due in part to having a backup QB on the field for most of the season, but that didn’t stop Kittle and Pettis from having productive seasons.

Goodwin still has the cheetah-like speed that won him the $1 million “40 Yards of Gold” title in June for running the fastest 40-yard dash among 15 fellow NFL players. With Trent Taylor expected to miss the first week or two of the season after an injury in the 49ers’ preseason opener, Goodwin might be in line for a healthy number of targets over the first few weeks. And with much of the offensive attention going to Kittle and then Pettis, there could be some long touchdowns in Goodwin’s future.

If Goodwin is there near the end of the draft, and your minimum positional requirements all are filled out, No. 11 might be worth a flier.

Deebo Samuel

ADP: 170, No. 60 WR (Yahoo)

On a team full of speedsters, Samuel found a way to distinguish himself during his first career preseason game, as he was tied for the fastest speed reached by a ball carrier in Week 1 of the preseason. The rookie hit 21.1 mph, and showed some strength as he sought contact on the same run against the Cowboys.

Samuel is buried by Goodwin and Pettis on the 49ers' depth chart, so targets might be few and far between. But his playmaking ability could net some big-time scoring plays in fantasy, especially if the 49ers can get the South Carolina product the ball in space.

Despite Samuel's average draft position being higher, I don’t foresee him providing much more value than Goodwin early, so be wary of using an early selection on the newbie.

More fantasy football draft kit content

Richard Sherman vividly explains why 49ers don't shadow wide receivers

Richard Sherman vividly explains why 49ers don't shadow wide receivers

SANTA CLARA -- Though Richard Sherman is a graduate of Stanford University, one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning on planet earth, his Thursday afternoon analysis of defensive strategy came straight outta Compton.

The subject was man-to-man coverage and Sherman’s avowed comfort at left cornerback.

The insinuation was that an opposing team could, theoretically, neutralize Sherman, surely the 49ers' best cornerback and perhaps tops in the NFL, by sending its best receiver to the opposite side of the field.

That the Green Bay Packers, for example, might frequently deploy No. 1 receiver Davante Adams to the right side of the San Francisco defense when the teams meet Sunday to decide the NFL representative in Super Bowl LIV.

It would not be illogical, in this instance, to have Sherman “shadow” Adams. Many defensive coordinators have made that request of their top cover corner.

Sherman proceeded to eviscerate that plan by using what folks in his hometown refer to as common sense.

“We have the No. 1 pass defense in this league,” the Compton native said while standing at the podium in the interview auditorium, “and we haven’t done it.”

The statistics absolutely support Sherman’s claim and his dismissiveness toward making a change that might convey a measure of desperation by the 49ers.

With Sherman almost exclusively on the left side, San Francisco in the regular season was the NFL’s top pass defense, allowing an average of 169.2 yards per game – the lowest average allowed by any team since 2009, when the Jets limited passers to an average of 153.7.

Moreover, the 49ers led the league in net yards per attempt at 4.8 and tied with the Patriots for fewest first downs allowed via pass, averaging 9.4 per game.

These numbers are among the factors that have made defensive coordinator Robert Saleh a candidate to become a head coach. They undoubtedly influence Sherman’s belief in Saleh, and as long as the numbers confirm no change is needed there will be request to follow Adams on Sunday or any other receiver on any other team.

“I love it how people are like, ‘Oh, my gawd, these guys need to do this,’ ” Sherman said in his usual audacious tone. “Well, I’m going to let you know something: You go to your job and tell your boss what you’re going to do and what you’re not going to do and see how long you last.

“Saleh calls the defense. If Saleh comes up to me and says, ‘Hey, you follow this guy everywhere he goes,' then that’s what I’m going to do. If he doesn’t, guess what? I’m going to do what he told me to do. That’s how coaching and player relationships work.

“And it just so happens, we have the No. 1 pass defense in the league,” he reiterated before sprinkling bits of sarcasm with his truth. “Whoa! Oh, my gawd! It’s crazy. Crazy that you’re not following anybody but, somehow, you’ve got the No. 1 pass defense in the league. It’s almost like our strategy works. It’s almost like you’re in idiot for doing it any other way. It’s almost like you’re dumb if you do it another way. It’s almost like people who have been saying, ‘Oh, do it this way’ for so long, but they don’t have the No. 1 defense.”

For Sherman, and for Saleh, it’s about doing what has worked. What succeeds. What wins. Is there a risk to staying true to their tendencies? Perhaps. If Adams avoids Sherman and torches Emmanuel Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon – and the latter has been vulnerable – and Green Bay prevails, there will be second-guessing. Because there always is.

Don’t expect it from Sherman, who posed a rhetorical scenario that essentially has a great left tackle shadowing a great pass rusher, no matter where he goes. This does not happen, nor can it ever be expected.

Until it does, Sherman has one criterion for any strategy involving his placement.

[RELATED: 49ers focused on Rodgers' patented move]

“Does it help us win the game? Is it going to help the defense? Is it going to help us limit their explosive (plays)? Then I’ll do it,” he said. “If it’s not. If it doesn’t make a difference, if it’s ... then that’s what I’m going to do.”

It’s not that he never has shadowed a receiver. He has done it against Atlanta’s Julio Jones, against Cincinnati’s A.J. Green. But as a rule, no.

So when the topic was floated this time, Sherman was armed and ready, and filled the room with facts.

How 49ers plan to stop Aaron Rodgers' potent 'wrist flick from hell'

How 49ers plan to stop Aaron Rodgers' potent 'wrist flick from hell'

SANTA CLARA -- Type “Aaron Rodgers” and “Hail Mary” into a search engine and the suggested terms drop down in an impressive list. Google offers to combine what you’ve typed with: “vs. Giants,” “vs. Cardinals,” and “vs. Lions.”

There probably are a few more in the Internet’s memory bank. The Green Bay Packers quarterback has a knack for doing the improbable. The 49ers will be cognizant of that Sunday in the NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium.

When pressed for a memory watching Rodgers over the years, 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner brought up that Lions game from 2015. Rodgers zigged and zagged around prospective tacklers as time expired and effortlessly sent a mile high -- and equally far -- Hail Mary to complete an improbable comeback.

The 49ers have a term for that.

"It’s just funny, because we used to call it ‘the wrist flick from hell,’” Buckner said Thursday. “He would start avoiding rushers and everything and then you see that wrist flick and you think, ‘Oh, Lord.’ You know what I mean? You see him do that and you know someone’s going to come down with it. He’s just a special player.”

Last year’s defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina coined the term while the 49ers were watching film. It’s both accurate and apt, considering Rodgers can do things most signal-callers can’t.

The 49ers defensive line is aware of that and has to respect the possibility when rushing such a talented, athletic quarterback. Rodgers isn’t necessarily quick like Kyler Murray or as willing to break the pocket as Russell Wilson, but he can move and create space and avoid negative plays just the same.

That aspect of his game, Buckner said, must be respected a feared a little bit.

“He can extend plays. He’s good getting outside the pocket and knowing where the rush is at if he stays in the pocket,” Buckner said. “He can get out of the way and make guys miss. He can break free and make you pay the way Russell Wilson does. We just need to take it one play at a time and go with the same mindset the last time we played him and the same mindset we had last week. Our guys took it personal and told themselves that they weren’t going to be blocked.”

[RELATED: What Packers' Davante Adams learned from watching 49ers' Jerry Rice]

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins isn’t Rodgers-like, but he can play. An excellent 49ers defensive line featuring Buckner, Dee Ford, Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead relentlessly hounded Cousins to the tune of six sacks and 23 total pressures in last Saturday's NFC Divisional Playoff.

The 49ers sacked Rodgers seven times and had 25 pressures in a Week 12 matchup with the Packers, and will have to be equally effective and create some scoreboard separation to avoid falling victim to the “wrist flick from hell.”

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (6 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Friday)

Also tune in at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 6:30 p.m.