The 2017 NFL regular season has concluded, so it’s time to briefly examine the state of each team’s skill positions for fantasy purposes with an eye towards next season. I will be reviewing each team in the reverse order of the 2017 NFL standings. The next team on the docket:
San Francisco 49ers (6-10)
The 49ers endured quite the quarterback carousel in 2017, beginning with Brian Hoyer, who started for the first month of the season before being benched for third-round rookie C.J. Beathard during San Fran’s Week 6 loss to the Redskins. Viewed as nothing more than a stopgap option, Hoyer was released at the end of October and was promptly scooped up by one of his former employers, the New England Patriots. Hoyer’s abrupt departure from the 49ers coincided with a trade engineered with New England that same month, which landed quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Outwardly, it appeared the 49ers had plans to start Beathard for the rest of what was essentially a lost season, though knee and hip injuries suffered by the rookie quarterback in Week 12 resulted in the team having to abandon that plan prematurely. Garoppolo received his first start as a 49er in Week 13 (just his third ever in his career) and never looked back. Over the 49ers’ final five contests of 2017, Garoppolo averaged 308.4 passing yards per game, all of them San Francisco wins. Though Garoppolo’s contract expired at the conclusion of the season, San Francisco is fully expected to do whatever they can to retain him as their franchise quarterback. Entering 2018, Garoppolo figures to be a popular late round selection who could provide low-end QB1 value with a full offseason to continue his development in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offensive system.
Carlos Hyde’s major accomplishment in 2017 was playing all 16 games (something he had yet to do thus far in his career) though his efficiency took a hit, as his 58.6 rushing yards per game and 3.9 yards-per-carry were his lowest since becoming a starter in 2015. Hyde’s career high 59 receptions (more than his 2014 through 2016 seasons combined) established the running back as a strong points-per-reception (PPR) option, though it’s important to note his passing game usage dried up significantly once Jimmy Garoppolo took over at quarterback, as Hyde caught just 10 passes between Weeks 13 and 17. Hyde will hit free agency this offseason having never compiled more than 1,000 rushing yards in any of his four NFL seasons, and his 2018 fantasy value hinges on where he lands this Spring, as it is not a given Hyde will remain with the 49ers. Matt Breida had a strong rookie year as the 49ers’ change-of-pace runner, averaging 4.4 YPC and concluding the season with a pair of performances with over 80 scrimmage yards. Breida’s slight build makes it unlikely he’s handed a full workload if Carlos Hyde moves on, and the return of Joe Williams (whom Kyle Shanahan so adamantly beat the drum for last offseason before floundering during training camp) from injury, figures to add some competition to the 49ers backfield.
Nothing more than a situational deep threat over a four year career in Buffalo, Marquise Goodwin emerged as a reliable target for the 49ers, particularly over the season’s final 8 games (Goodwin averaged 76.6 receiving yards per contest over that span and scored twice). Prior to Week 9, Pierre Garcon had been operating as the 49ers’ no. 1 wideout before being lost for the season due to a neck injury; Garcon was on a 16-game pace for exactly 1,000 receiving yards. Now with a legitimate franchise NFL quarterback to catch passes from, both Goodwin and Garcon can be looked at as upside WR3s heading into 2018, with Garcon being a better source for receptions, and Goodwin a better source for yards. Trent Taylor’s 43 receptions were good for third among rookie wideouts (behind Cooper Kupp and JuJu Smith-Schuster) and despite projected as no better than third on the wide receiver depth chart, Taylor will be a name to monitor during training camp.
Fifth-round rookie George Kittle inherited the role of San Francisco’s no. 1 tight end following Vance McDonald‘s trade to the Steelers last August. Kittle proved up to the challenge, as he finished only behind Evan Engram in receptions and receiving yards among rookie tight ends, despite being a regular on the 49ers’ weekly injury reports. Kittle should be in for a second-year leap next season as one of Jimmy Garoppolo’s primary targets in an ascending pass offense. Garrett Celek enjoyed a minor hot streak between Weeks 10 and 15, a span in which the veteran tight end averaged 46.3 receiving yards per game and scored three times, though his role figures to be scaled back for 2018 as he gives way to the younger Kittle.