I’m a San Francisco 49ers fan, so this one will be a bit of a catharsis for me. No, Nick Mullens isn’t as good as Jimmy Garoppolo. Yes, we are sure the difference is worth the money. No, I’m not sure if Jimmy Garoppolo will be back. Yes, it stinks the San Francisco 49ers lost Robert Saleh. The Niners collapsed this year, on the back of a ton of injuries. They also did silly things like “played Jimmy Garoppolo on a compromised ankle” and “gave Tevin Coleman touches.” With a bunch of names (Trent Williams, Richard Sherman, and Jason Verrett, among others) set to test free agency, the San Francisco 49ers are a team in flux. What should you remember about the 2020 iteration of the San Francisco 49ers for 2021 fantasy football leagues?
What to Remember from the 2020 San Francisco 49ers Season
- Injuries, injuries, injuries. If you know one thing about the 2020 49ers, you know that they lost a ton of time to injuries. They lost a historic number of games, according to NBC Bay Area and mangameslost.com:https://twitter.com/ManGamesLostNFL/status/1347259900343296005
The 49ers are in a historically bad class of their own here. According to Football Outsiders, the prior record-holder for player games missed was 171.6. The San Francisco 49ers lost more than double that this season. Not only are their games lost the worst by a wide margin, a Dak Prescott injury kept them from lapping everyone but the Dallas Cowboys in quality of players lost. It was an absolute nightmare, but don’t expect it to get better anytime soon. The 2019 49ers had the most man-games lost due to injury of all the playoff teams.
- Last year, the RB1 for the 49ers on any given week had the workload of 2019 Philip Lindsay. The Niners spread this out among three running backs last year. This year, they spread their RB1 touches out among five running backs. That’s the bad news. The good news? Kyle Shanahan loosened the reins a bit on the running back he graced with all the touches this year. If you took the leader in RB touches each week for the 49ers, that guy ended up with 297 touches. If you roll that up into one running back, it would have edged out Ezekiel Elliott for the fifth-most running back touches in the league. It’s still a group effort, but one guy takes more of a center stage. It’s less Slipknot and more Hootie and the Blowfish… but we just don’t know who will be Hootie that week.
- Last year, Raheem Mostert was the guy who came out of nowhere for the 49ers to become a hot commodity in fantasy football drafts. This year, injuries kept him from rewarding those who leaned into him. Just like in 2018, when injuries limited him to 9 games. And just like 2017, when injuries limited Mostert to just 11 games. Mostert ended the year pacing out for 83.6 yards per game while scoring six touchdowns. Unfortunately, a massive amount of that game in week one, when rookie Isaiah Simmons put himself in a blender, and Mostert took a Jimmy Garoppolo dump-off pass 76 yards to the house. That one play accounted for 14% of his entire fantasy football production for the season, and 49% of his receiving yards. It was a big play, and you can’t take it away, but it had an outsized influence on his season-long numbers.
- In 2018, George Kittle emerged as one of the best young tight ends in the NFL. He missed half of 2020 with various maladies. Through his first three years, he averaged 15 games per season, so there’s little fear about him being injury-prone. He only played over 50% of snaps in five games this season thanks to those maladies. In those games, he averaged 7 catches and 87 yards on 9 targets. He’s still George Kittle, and it doesn’t matter who is under center for him, he’s produced for the 49ers. There’s little doubt that he belongs as a top-three tight end pick (and top-two round selection) in all formats in 2021 fantasy football drafts.
- The 49ers have a wide receiver problem. Well, more specifically, a target distribution problem. In 2019, it was a Deebo Samuel-George Kittle split problem. In 2020, it was a George Kittle-Brandon Aiyuk Without George Kittle, Aiyuk averaged 10.5 targets per game, which he hauled in for 63. Receptions for 75.5 yards. With George Kittle? 5.7 targets, 3.7 catches, and 49.2 yards per game. Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk (presumably the first-string passing game) played together in just three games in 2020. In those games (weeks 5 through 7), Aiyuk averaged 3.7 receptions for 57 yards (on 5.3 targets per game). The 49ers’ target volume is a serious issue for 2021 if all of Deebo, Kittle, and Aiyuk are still there and functional.