San_Francisco_49ers03San Francisco 49’ers (8-8)

Written by: Josh Johnson (@Josh_DFWPulse)

Coaching Changes:

49ers_Tomsula_Football_-01df0

Tomsula may = Fall Guy?

Head Coach: Jim Tomsula (New) 

Tomsula has certainly paid his dues to get this position. He was a defensive line/assistant coach for four different NFL Europe teams before being name HC of the Rhein Fire in 2006. He guided the Fire to a 6-4 record that year. He has served as the defensive line coach for 49ers since 2007 and was interim HC, in 2010, after Mike Singletary was fired. He brings a lot of familiarity to the organization, although this year there has been a lot of player turnover. He seems like an odd choice when there was more experienced candidates available this offseason. He might be the perfect fall guy should the season go south and to make matters worse he has Eric Mangini waiting in the wings. Tomsula’s defensive line has been impressive at times, but typically positional coaches are often promoted to coordinators before they are even considered for a head coaching position.

Offensive Coordinator: Geep Chryst (New)

The Princeton educated Chryst has also spent time with Bears, Cardinals, Chargers and Panthers. He played linebacker at Princeton and he has mostly worked with Tight Ends & Quarterbacks during his 14 years as an NFL coach. Chryst largest responsibility (to date) was his tour as the Charger’s offensive coordinator from 1999 and 2000. Coincidentally, Jim Harbaugh was his QB in ’99 and the Chargers went 8-8. The following season the highly touted Ryan Leaf was brought in and the Chargers promptly went 1-15. The major contrast between those Chargers teams and this Niner team is the ground game. In the 1999 and 2000, Chryst’s offense gained just over 2,300 rushing yards combined in those two years. In sharp contrast, the 2014 Niners gained over 2,100 yards rushing in a down year. With that said, Colin Kaepernick is a little more agile than Leaf and Carlos Hyde projects to be a better player than Natrone Means. Chryst will have to play off Kaep’s abilities and hopefully the receiving corps can keep the defense honest. Chryst did use some pass catchers out of the backfield in San Diego, so the newly signed Reggie Bush should see some work.

Defensive Coordinator: Eric Mangini (New)

During his five seasons as a HC Mangini guided the Jets and Browns to 33 wins and 48 losses. During his one year stint as the defensive coordinator for New England (in 2005), the Pats went 10-6. They beat the Jags in the wild card round that year, but then lost in the divisional round to Denver. His 3-4 defense was pretty decent against the run that season and he does have nine total seasons with Bill Belichick on his resume. He was also very instrumental in the “Spygate” scandal being taken seriously by league officials. Mangini joined the Niners as an offensive consultant in 2013 and was named the tight end coach for the 2014 season. The Niner defense seems to be in disarray and has seen some major turnover this offseason. Players like  DE Justin Smith, LB Patrick Willis, and LB Chris Borland are gone and their replacements will need a lot of extra coaching. Factor in the fact that Mangini is also relatively new to the team and then you understand the task at hand. He should use a lot bodies in heavy rotation and he will need players like LB Navorro Bowman (coming off a major knee injury) and young SS Jimmie Ward to step it up.

 

Key Free Agent Departures:

RB Frank Gore

2014 Stats: 230 carries, 962 YDS, 4.3 YPC, 4 TDs, 16 Targets, 9 REC, 106 YDS, 1 TD

Age:  31 years old / Signed a 3 year 12 million dollar contract with the Colts

Gore was an anchor and stable contributor to the Niner’s offense for over a decade. You just do not see that in the NFL anymore, especially from RBs. His longevity is not the norm and the Hall of Fame should call as soon as he is eligible. Replacing his epic past and recent consistent production will not be easy. Carlos Hyde will have the opportunity that all young players dream of this year. He spent the last year backing up and learning from Gore so he is absolutely a potential break out player this year.

 

Key Free Agent Gains:

RB Reggie Bush

2014 Stats: 76 carries, 297 YDS 3.9 YPC, 2 TDs, 56 Targets, 40 REC, 253 YDS, 0 TDS

Age:  30 years old / Signed a 1 year contract in March.

Bush is the perfect complimentary back to any offensive scheme. Yes we know he is a grandpa in RB years, but he can still get the edge and he is an accomplished receiver out of the backfield. He will basically be what Roy Helu was to Alfred Morris over the last couple of seasons. Bush’s frailness is well known and the Niners will be careful to limit his touches. He is a PPR only back, much like Chris Ivory is a standard league only back. Expect 30 to 40 receptions with a handful of TDs and maybe 200 rushing yards as an absolute ceiling.

WR Torrey Smith

2014 Stats: 92 Targets, 49 RECs, 53% catch rate, 767 YDS, 15.7 YPC, 11 TDs

Age:  26 years old / Signed a 5 year 40 million dollar contract in March.

ravens

To ask if Smith is fast is like asking if Red Vines are better than Twizzlers (if you prefer the latter you are wrong, but oh well more for us). His 4.36 40-time is not the fastest ever, but it is within a blink of elite. The unusual thing about Smith is that he can play ball in addition to running a fast 40. Most of the burner caliber players are return specialist or change of pace/factor backs. Smith is an above average WR 2 and his speed is what brings it all together. He is more of a deep threat than a possession guy, but with Boldin already in place Smith should be moderately successful, if Kaepernick improves his play from 2014. I do not think he will be a WR #1 or even a stable number 2 in San Fran’s offense, but you could do worse than his upside as your number 3 WR.

 

Key Free Agents:

WR Michael Crabtree

2014 Stats: 108 Targets, 68 RECs, 63% catch rate, 698 YDS, 10.3 YPC, 4 TDs

Age:  27 years old

When Colin Kaepernick emerged as a productive player it was because he was feeding the ball to Michael Crabtree. We all thought that meant Crabtree would become a top 10 WR for many years, but unfortunately his achilles tendon interfered with our plans and he has once again fallen deep into sleeper mode. He is a traditional WR who can move the sticks and spread defenses for his team mate’s benefit. He is not a dominant player and injury history flashes liability. His future Dynasty value will be determined by his landing spot. As of March 18th, he is reportedly receiving some interest from the Dolphins, but he has yet to receive an offer.

 

Review/Preview of Fantasy relevant players:

QB Colin Kaepernick colin-306x231

2014 Stats: 274 completions, 60.5% CMP Rate, 3,175 PYDS, 17 PTD, 10 INT, 578 RYDS, 1 RTD

Age/Contract status:  27 years old, signed through the 2020 season

Colin Kaepernick is an enigma. He is muscular and handsome and he can throw 90 mph. He is not an actor or a major league pitcher, he is a NFL QB. Some might argue however that he is a college QB trapped on a NFL roster, making too much money. NFL traditionalist have been very vocal about his mobile style of play and they have stated that it does not help a player have a long and successful career. Those voices got louder as the Niners missed the playoffs in 2014, for the first time in the Kaepernick era. Now maybe his ears are more tuned in to the critics, as he has taken Kurt Warner as a coach/mentor this off season. Hopefully Warner can help teach Kaepernick some patience in the pocket and improve his read progressions. Warner displayed a calmness and alert presence in the pocket which helped all of his passing targets the time to break off into a secondary routes if needed. One thing you can say about Kaepernick is that he is certainly committed to his craft and he works hard at becoming a better player. If Kaep can find a balance with all of the facets of his game he could be a top 5 QB option for many weeks in 2015.

RB Carlos Hyde Carlos-Hyde-San-Francisco-49ers

2014 Stats: 83 carries, 333 YDS, 4.0 YPC, 4 TDs, 16 Targets, 12 REC, 68 YDS, 0 TD

Age/Contract status: 23 years old, signed through the 2017 season

Hyde is almost a clone of the great Frank Gore. We were not at all surprised when the Niners drafted him and conversely not taken aback when they let Gore leave via free agency. Hyde is a bruiser who can push the pile on his own. Dynasty nerds and Fantasy writers are foaming at the mouth and pontificating about Hyde’s ceiling, touting that this could be a year for the ages. They  may be right in some respects as Hyde projects to be the feature back in an offense that has relied on a workhorse RB for the last decade. While his touches were limited as a rookie, we believe he has just enough experience to take a significant step in his development this season. He should be a candidate to finish as a top 10 RB given that his rookie head coach might choose to rely on a run first game plan. Should the new coaching regime choose to get Hyde involved in the short passing game, his PPR value will sky rocket. The addition of Reggie Bush will mean that Hyde is going to be on sidelines for some third down situations. The jury is still out if the Niner’s have concerns over Hyde’s receiving ability or if they just wanted to lighten his work load and use a 2 back system. Either way Hyde will be the primary ball carrier, goal line back and should be a lock for 25-30 receptions this year. His Dynasty start up ADP here at DFW is fairly high right now(3.5) but I would expect that number to increase if he shines in OTAs and camp.

WR Anquan Boldin

2014 Stats: 130 Targets, 83 RECs, 63.8% catch rate, 1.062 YDS, 12.8 YPC, 5 TDs

Age/Contract status:  34 years old, signed through the 2018 season

At Boldin’s age we expect a drop off in production, and we would not be surprised if one minor injury led to an excess of other breakdowns as well this season. Boldin has been a dependable/big target for a dozen seasons. He is one the most physical WRs the game has ever known and he is fearless in his pursuits across the middle, even after enduring years of punishment. Will he be a 1,000 yard WR again? Probably not. Can he find the end zone seven times? That is certainly more likely. Our biggest knock on Boldin is his lack of weekly consistency (which you can vouch for if you have ever owned him). His lows are microscopic, but his highs are pretty darn fun to watch and have won plenty of Fantasy owners a weekly victory single handedly. The addition of former Raven teammate Torrey Smith should help Boldin stay in single coverage on crossing routes and inside the the red zone so there is hope that he has 1-2 more years of fantasy relevance remaining.

WR Bruce Ellington

2014 Stats: 12 Targets, 6 RECs, 50% catch rate, 62 YDS, 10.3 YPC, 2 TDs

Age/Contract status:  23 years old, signed through the 2017 season

Ellington entered the league in 2014 and he was billed as a speed/slot WR after posting a 4.45 40-yard dash at the combine. His rookie production was minuscule, but his three TDs suggest that his play making ability may be there. Ellington’s was never a big time producing WR at South Carolina. His best season yielded only 49 receptions with a 15.8 yards per catch average and he scored 8 TDs. Ellington may never catch 90 balls in an NFL season, but he does have some minor value as a slot WR on a team that may have to pass a lot in the 4th quarter this year. His dynasty value is very low right now, so if you own him, hold onto him and lower your expectations to a WR 3 ceiling or better yet a serviceable bye week filler.

TE Vernon Davis

vernon-davis-crying2014 Stats: 50 Targets, 26 RECs, 52% catch rate, 245 YDS, 9.4 YPC, 2 TDs

Age/Contract status:  31 years old, signed through the 2015 season

Vernon Davis, his very name seems to carry value yet, his inconsistent years far out weigh his two good seasons. At 31, the former first rounder (6th overall in 2006) is no longer a sexy sleeper. Despite having two 13 TD seasons (2009,2013) he has never had a 1,000 yard receiving season. In fact he has only two seasons with 900+ yards in his nine years in the NFL. He has also never had more than 78 receptions in one season, and he has had 56 or fewer in every other season save one (67 recs in 2011). Sure he is an athletic freak who has looked dominant at times, but he has not looked like the same player in recent years. Unless his career sees an amazing rebound under the new coaching staff, Davis’ fantasy value will remain no higher that a low end TE #2.