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San Francisco 49ers
Stadium: Candlestick Park
Schedule Strength: 6th
Postseason Weather issues: at New England (Week 15), at Seattle (Week 16)
Offensive Line Ranking: 20th
Head Coach – Jim Harbaugh
A former quarterback for the Michigan Wolverines, Harbaugh played 14 seasons under center in the NFL, garnering moderate success. Coaching runs in the Harbaugh family as Jim’s father Jack spent 45 years coaching in the college ranks, while brother John is the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. Jim’s coaching adventures first grew roots as an assistant at Western Kentucky University rolling over to a head coaching job at the University of San Diego. Success earned Harbaugh a job at Stanford University and eventually becoming the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers in 2011. Although a former quarterback, Harbaugh proved last season that he believes in a very conservative game plan in limiting the passing attempts of Alex Smith, while preferring to run the ball with great consistency. This concept also plays to the strength of 49ers, who possess a staunch defense. However, during the 2012 offseason, the 49ers signed wide receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham along with drafting A.J. Jenkins in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft. This indicates a strong push towards a more pass-oriented offensive system. Call it a hunch, but after playing the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants in the 2011 postseason, the 49ers’ coaching staff realized they need a stronger passing game to compete with the best-of-the-best. Considering the stifling defense of the 49ers, along with Harbaugh’s history, we should continue to expect a very balanced offense in 2012, leaning a bit more towards the passing game in upcoming season.
Offensive Coordinator – Greg Roman
A member of Harbaugh staff while at Stanford, Roman has spent time coaching in the NFL. However, this is Roman’s first opportunity as an offensive coordinator, so we should expect this offense to rotate around the beliefs of their head coach as discussed above.
QB – Alex Smith
After being the first overall pick of the 2005 NFL draft, Smith spent his first six seasons in the NFL struggling, shuffling through offensive head coaches, continually learning a new offensive system, while playing on 49ers teams lacking a true No. 1 wide receiver. Smith is somewhat of a conundrum entering 2012. His current head coach is a former quarterback in the NFL, which typically favors the position, yet Harbaugh prefers a balanced offense. However, with Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis already on the team, along with the addition of Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, and A.J. Jenkins, the 49ers look to be tailoring their offensive system towards a more pass-oriented team. We must further consider this will be the first time in Smith’s career he will enter training camp as the undisputed starting quarterback (although a small Peyton Manning controversy still lingers). Being the starter will provide the reps necessary to build a rapport with all of his weapons. Let’s not forget that Smith does possess the required talent, intelligence and poise to play the position. His major downfall is the game plan and play calling. We should treat Smith as a high QB2 with upside, equaling a player rating of 7.7.
The San Francisco backfield is shaping up to be one of the league’s ugliest running back by committee situations, as no running back can be recommended. If you want to take a flier on an injury-prone Frank Gore, be my guest. However I’m not even going to waste our time breaking down each player and just give each of these guys a player rating of 4.5.
WR1 – Randy Moss
There’s no doubt about it, Moss can become a coach’s headache if he is not getting the football, even if his team is winning. However, still amongst the league’s most talented downfield threats, with no injury history, Moss is a workout warrior in the offseason and could prove to be a valuable asset as the 49ers’ No. 1 wide receiver. The question becomes whether or not the 49ers intend to throw the ball with enough consistency to consider Moss an every week fantasy starter. We must further consider there are plenty of mouths to feed in the 49ers' passing game, including Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and possibly even A.J. Jenkins. Simply based on Moss’s talents alone, he is definitely worthy of taking a flyer in the later rounds as the 49ers No. 1 wide receiver with a player rating of 7.9.
WR2 – Michael Crabtree
A first round draft pick out of Texas Tech in 2009, Crabtree has failed to live up to his billing as the 49ers’ No. 1 wide receiver. Much of the reason is the same issue holding back quarterback Alex Smith - defensive-minded/run-first head coaches. Crabtree is now shaping up to be the third, and possibly even the fourth, option on a defensive team with a balanced offensive system. All factors considered, Crabtree is nothing more than a late-round flier with a player rating of 6.9.
WR3 – Mario Manningham
A bit of a lumbering wide receiver who often lacks concentration, Manningham is only a slightly above-average talent. Much of his success in New York came due to the accuracy of former quarterback Eli Manning, playing in the run-and-shoot offense, along with the attention drawn by Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. Now finding himself as the No. 3 wide receiver on a middle-of-the-road 49ers passing game, Manningham is no longer a fantasy option with a player rating of 6.0.
TE – Vernon Davis
At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds and running a 4.45 40-yard dash, Davis is the poster child for the prototypical NFL tight end. He is a physical beast, playing over the middle as both a chain mover and a game breaker. Davis is also a triple threat as a red zone option that never stays in to block on passing plays. The only issue holding Davis down is a lack of targets with all the other options in the passing game. Still considered amongst the Top 8 tight ends with every-week starter status, equaling a player rating of 8.5, he might even be bordering on sleeper status depending on his average draft position.
D/ST – San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are one of the most impressive young defenses led by Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman. Along the defensive front is Justin Smith and in the back end is the impressive play of Carlos Rogers. There is no reason to believe San Francisco will not uphold its performance from last season as they should finish inside the Top 5 once again, warranting a player rating of 9.6.
K – David Akers
Talk about another surprise from 2011 as Akers finished the season No. 1 in fantasy scoring. When scouting kickers, we are looking for those who play either alongside a prolific offense, or opposite a stellar defense combined with a mediocre offense. Akers is the latter of the two and warrants being drafted as a mid K1 with a player rating of 8.5.
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