When Jimmy Garoppolo has been healthy, the 49ers have been very good, but that didn't stop them from trading up to get their QB of the future in Trey Lance. Just a year removed from a Super Bowl appearance, this can still be a formidable team, but can the Niners really rely on a QB with so little experience?
Record: 6 - 10 (21)
PPG: 23.5 (21)
YPG: 370.1 (15)
Pass YPG: 252.1 (12)
Rush YPG: 118.1 (15)
PAPG: 35.6 (16)
RAPG: 27.3 (14)
2020 Fantasy finishes
QB: Nick Mullens* QB31, Jimmy Garoppolo QB39, C.J. Beathard* QB43
RB: Jeff Wilson RB31, Jerick McKinnon* RB38, Raheem Mostert* RB47
WR: Brandon Aiyuk WR34, Kendrick Bourne* WR60
TE: George Kittle TE19
*No longer with team
Number to know: 7.97
That's the 49ers yards per attempt over the past three seasons combined, better than what all but four quarterbacks managed in 2020. Garoppolo has started 25 of the 48 games over that span; Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard started the other 23. Garoppolo is a fine quarterback, but there's a reason the 49ers went out and tried to find a long-term upgrade for him two offseasons in a row; Mullens and Beathard are, obviously, somewhere south of "fine." This offense has been incredibly efficient despite below average quarterback play overall, and that's a testament to Kyle Shanahan's brilliance as a play designer and caller as well as the acquisition of several after-the-catch aces. In 2020, their quarterbacks collectively averaged 6.6 intended air yards per attempt, a mark only Jared Goff, Drew Brees and Alex Smith were below among starters last season. The easy throws are always going to be there, and Kittle, Samuel and Aiyuk are all going to get the most out of those easy throws. The question is whether Trey Lance is ready to step in and take this offense to the next level. He has the talent to do it, and he certainly has the talent around him. He's the skeleton key that unlocks this offense's full potential, if he's up for it.
1. (3) Trey Lance, QB
2. (48) Aaron Banks, G
3. (88) Trey Sermon, RB
3. (102) Ambry Thomas, CB
5. (155) Jaylon Moore, G
5. (172) Deommodore Lenoir, CB
5. (180) Talanoa Hufanga, S
6. (194) Elijah Mitchell, RB
126 carries, 80 RB targets, 106 WR targets, 46 TE targets
Chris Towers' projections
|Jimmy Garoppolo||PA: 551, YD: 4358, TD: 29, INT: 15; RUSH -- ATT: 45, YD: 58, TD: 1|
|Raheem Mostert||CAR: 187, YD: 916, TD: 7; TAR: 33, REC: 23, YD: 206, TD: 2|
|Trey Sermon||CAR: 158, YD: 693, TD: 5.5; TAR: 22, REC: 16, YD: 129, TD: 1|
|Brandon Aiyuk||TAR: 109, REC: 69, YD: 859, TD: 6|
|Deebo Samuel||TAR: 109, REC: 76, YD: 916, TD: 6; CAR: 14, YD: 83, TD: 1|
|George Kittle||TAR: 138, REC: 98, YD: 1332, TD: 6|
Does Trey Lance really raise the ceiling here?
Garoppolo was never bad as the 49ers QB, but clearly the 49ers felt like they were leaving points on the field with him. You know Kyle Shanahan will scheme up an offense that gives his playmakers a lot of opportunities, but it might be asking a lot of Lance to step on the field and make Samuel and Aiyuk both must-start Fantasy players along with Kittle. We'll see whether Garoppolo starts the season or if they hand the keys over to the inexperienced Lance, but it does inject some risk into this offense.
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One sleeper, one breakout and one bust
For a No. 3 overall pick, Lance is a pretty unknown quantity. Obviously, the NFL loved what it saw, but that came in just 17 games, 16 of which came back in 2019 for FCS North Dakota State. Lance was very good that season, throwing for 2,786 yards on just 287 attempts with 28 touchdowns and no interceptions while adding 1,00 rushing yards on 169 carries with 14 more touchdowns. But Lance played just one game in 2020, as he opted out of the season following a delayed start due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to all of that, Lance didn't run the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, so we really, really don't have much information about Lance at this point. Is he as raw as his lack of experience would suggest? Is he even better than the numbers against lower level competition suggest? The 49ers seem pretty convinced the answers to those questions are "no" and "yes," and if he earns the starting job in camp, you can add a "resounding" before each answer. Lance has tons of talent and a skillset that would make him a Fantasy superstar if he hits the ground running. For that reason -- plus the talent and offense around him that figure to maximize whatever he brings to the table -- he's worth a late-round flier in any deep league. And you can change that to "any league" if he does win the starting job.
There's a lot of hype around Sermon, the rookie, but Mostert figures to get the first opportunity to start for the 49ers, and there's every reason to be excited about that. He's played at least 40% of the team's offensive snaps in 16 games in his career, including the playoffs, and Mostert's line looks like this:
- 218 carries, 1,201 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns, 36 targets, 28 catches, 300 yards, and three touchdowns
That would have been good for RB4 in 2020 with 268.1 PPR points, and his 16.8 points per game would have been tied for 11th. Of course, Mostert missed time on three different occasions with injuries last season, so it's fair to wonder if he can handle the workload. But Mostert is going to be a must-start RB when he's on the field. You can get him as RB30 in NFC drafts, with an ADP of 85.9.
Aiyuk is an awesome player. He was a very good prospect who produced a ton in college and tested very well, and then put together an excellent rookie season. There's a lot to like about him … except for his situation. He could absolutely emerge as an alpha receiver, but there's no reason to think he's going to be that as long as Kittle is around. In the games Kittle and Aiyuk played together, here's what their 16-game paces looked like:
- Kittle: 131 targets, 99 catches, 1,392 yards, five touchdowns
- Aiyuk: 91 targets, 59 catches, 787 yards, five touchdowns
It wasn't close, and it's not like Aiyuk wasn't playing much those games -- he played at least 76% of the snaps in all six, and at least 85% in all but one. Aiyuk can be productive even with Kittle around, but it's a little hard to justify his WR26 ADP in the sixth round based on what happened last season. Especially since Deebo Samuel missed some of those games, too. You want parts of this offense, but there are enough cheap pieces that it's not worth paying full price for Aiyuk.
So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen's huge season, and find out.