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*Rankings are based on a 12-team, standard scoring format.
SAN FRANCISCO 49'ERS
2012 RECORD: 11-4-1
2013 BYE WEEK: 9
TOP DRAFT PICKS: (1) Eric Reid- S- LSU
(2) Tank Carradine- DE- Florida State
(2) Vance McDonald- TE- Rice
QUARTERBACK: Unlike recent years in San Francisco, there is no quarterback controversy going into the season. Colin Kaepernick is the undisputed signal caller in San Francisco thanks to a breakout 2nd half last season that finished 3 points short of a Super Bowl victory. Kaepernick is a dual threat QB, but is not quite the yardage machine you would expect. He didn't have 300 yards combined rushing and passing in any game last season. His arm is fantastic, but there are still questions about his decision making. You do have to assume he will continue to progress, and his raw abilities are definitely intriguing. I like Kaepernick as a QB1, and rank him somewhere between 7-10 at the position. If I do end up with him, I am drafting a backup earlier than I would with one of the upper tier QB1s.
RUNNING BACK: Frank Gore quietly racked up one of the best seasons of his career, basically a statistical repeat of his 2011 campaign. He has never been a big touchdown guy, hitting double digits only once in his career. He found the end zone 8 times last season, which is close to the high end of what you can expect from him. He has had 2 consecutive healthy seasons, which is also promising. He is a mid-level RB2. Last year's injury to Kendall Hunter means that LaMichael James will start out the season as the #2 RB for Jim Harbaugh, and they will look to use him much more than last season. He has the physical tools to be a Darren Sproles type player, and since Frank Gore is no longer useful as a pass catcher, expect to see him catch the ball quite a bit out of the backfield. I don't think this is a handcuff situation, but keep an eye on James' role early in the season and see if he is worth a pickup. Also keep an eye on the health of Hunter and Marcus Lattimore, as both will likely see bigger workloads as Frank Gore ages.
WIDE RECEIVER: Injuries are the story of the day at this position for the 49'ers. Michael Crabtree, who finally had his breakout season with 1,105 yards and 9 touchdowns last year, will start the season on the PUP as he recovers from Achilles tendon surgery. Mario Manningham was not much of a factor last season, and he is recovering from an ACL tear. Same goes for Kyle Williams, though he is closer to return than the other two. The 49'ers brought in Anquan Boldin in the offseason, and he will be asked to immediately step in as the top WR. Boldin had a strong 2012 in Baltimore with 65 catches, 921 yards and 4 touchdowns. The 49'ers will ask more of him, but the situation is not ideal. I think he is a low end WR3 at best, though I could see his numbers improving if Crabtree can come back at some point this season. 2012 1st round draft pick AJ Jenkins is likely in line as the #2 WR, but he has looked lost in the preseason and didn't catch a single pass last season. They drafted him as a long term project, but may not have a choice but to force him into action. Don't bother with him on draft day. The other guys who may see time while the top receivers heal up are 4th round rookie Quinton Patton, Austin Collie and Kassim Osgood, though none of them are likely to be fantasy factors.
TIGHT END: While the wide receivers are banged up, the argument can be made that Vernon Davis is the most reliable option that Kaepernick has. Davis' numbers weren't mind-blowing last year, especially in the second half of the season as he all but disappeared from the offense when Kaepernick took over for Alex Smith. With the injury report leaving Harbaugh with few other options, I expect Davis to be back as a key component of the attack. Davis is a TE1 in every format, and you can make an argument for him over everyone but Jimmy Graham. Vance McDonald, the 2nd round pick out of Rice, will be the backup. He has made a nice impression so far in camp, and should Davis go down with an injury, he could be a useful replacement.
KICKER: David Akers went from one of the league's best kickers in 2011 to one of the worst in 2012. He won't be around this season, as the 49'ers brought in long time Browns kicker Phil Dawson. He was 29-31 last year, including 7-7 from beyond 50. He is as reliable as they come, and definitely a kicker who should be rostered.
DEFENSE-SPECIAL TEAMS: The San Francisco defense was dominating last season, finishing in the top 5 in total defense, points allowed, pass defense and run defense. The 49'ers didn't get after the quarterback nearly as much as they did in 2011, and the result was less sacks, less interceptions and less defensive touchdowns. I think those numbers come back up, and the defense once again finishes as an elite fantasy option. I am not a proponent of drafting defenses early on, but if you do jump on a defense early, San Francisco is a top 5 option.