The 49ers season ended in disappointing fashion in Sunday's NFC Championship Game loss to the Eagles. The score was 31-7, and it felt like the 49ers had no chance once Brock Purdy hurt his elbow early in the game. He tried to return in the second half, but clearly, he wasn't the same quarterback who helped navigate San Francisco's playoff run.
And now the waiting game begins to determine how long Purdy will be out. ESPN reported Sunday that Purdy sprained his ulnar collateral ligament, and he will undergo an MRI. The hope is that the UCL is not ruptured and would require only a six-week recovery.
"My arm felt like it stretched out," Purdy said after the game. "I felt really just like a lot of shocks all over from my elbow down to my wrist, front and back. Just pain really, all over."
Hopefully, Purdy is fine and ready for training camp. The expectation is he will compete with Trey Lance for the starting job, but Purdy should be San Francisco's quarterback in Week 1 if healthy.
Purdy took over for Jimmy Garoppolo (foot) in Week 13 against Miami, and he won seven games in a row, including two playoff outings, before the loss to the Eagles. It was a great story, and it's too bad he got hurt to see what a healthy San Francisco offense could have done against Philadelphia.
As a Fantasy option, Purdy scored at least 20 points in four of five starts in the regular season. He won't be a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback to open the year, but he could easily be a high-end backup with the chance to start most weeks. If he's the starter then he's a great late-round pick in one-quarterback leagues and a solid Fantasy option in Superflex and two-quarterback leagues.
Lance could also be a high-end No. 2 Fantasy quarterback if he wins the job. Remember, prior to injuring his ankle in Week 2 against Seattle, he was viewed as a breakout candidate coming into the 2022 season. His rushing upside gives him the chance to be a dynamic Fantasy option, especially behind the 49ers offensive line and with standout weapons like Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.
Should Lance open the season as the starter in San Francisco -- whether due to Purdy's injury or because he won the job in training camp -- Fantasy managers should also target him with a late-round pick in one-quarterback leagues. And he could emerge as a weekly starter, with the same breakout potential as we thought prior to this past season.
Despite the loss to the Eagles, McCaffrey had a standout game with 15 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown and four catches for 22 yards on four targets. He ended up playing 20 games this season for the Panthers and 49ers, including the playoffs, and hopefully his injury woes are behind him.
McCaffrey will enter next season as the No. 1 running back and potential No. 1 overall pick in most Fantasy leagues. He finished the regular season with over 1,800 total yards, 85 catches on 108 targets and 13 total touchdowns. In 11 regular-season games with the 49ers, he scored at least 16 PPR points eight times, with five games of at least 25 PPR points. It was fun to watch McCaffrey be McCaffrey again.
Kittle had a solid 2022 as well, averaging more than 14 PPR points for the fifth season in a row. But he also played 15 games, his most since 2018, and he scored a season-high 11 touchdowns. In his final four games in the regular season with Purdy, Kittle had seven touchdowns, and he might be better off if Purdy starts instead of Lance. Kittle is a top-five tight end to target as early as Round 5.
Samuel had a rough season in 2022 when compared to his breakout 2021 campaign. In 2021, Samuel averaged 21.2 PPR points per game, and he was a standout runner and receiver with over 1,700 total yards and 14 total touchdowns. He also caught 77 passes on 121 targets.
In 2022, Samuel was limited to 13 games due to injury, and he only had 864 total yards and five touchdowns. He caught 56 passes on 94 targets, but he did average 15.4 PPR points per game, which was the second-best season of his four-year career. The quarterback in 2023 will matter for Samuel, but he's still a No. 2 Fantasy receiver to target in Round 3 or 4 in the majority of leagues.
Aiyuk had an up-and-down campaign in 2022. For the season, he averaged 13.8 PPR points per game, and he finished with 78 catches for 1,015 yards and eight touchdowns on 114 targets. But he excelled when Samuel and Kittle were banged up, and he also stood out in losses for San Francisco, which only happened four times in the regular season. Like Kittle and Samuel, the quarterback situation for the 49ers will matter for Aiyuk, but he should be considered a solid No. 3 Fantasy receiver worth drafting as early as Round 6 in most leagues.
All eyes will be on training camp in San Francisco, assuming Purdy is healthy, to see who wins the quarterback competition. But whether it's Purdy or Lance, the Fantasy options for the 49ers should be popular -- and hopefully successful -- in 2023.
Now, for one last time let's see who else had their stock rise and fall following the championship round of the NFL playoffs when it comes to their Fantasy value for 2023. And we'll also have the final rankings for those of you competing in any playoff challenge.
1. Is Travis Kelce worth the No. 1 overall pick?
We've already talked a lot about this topic, especially since our podcast host Adam Aizer drafted Kelce No. 1 overall in our first PPR mock draft for 2023. But Kelce had another standout playoff outing in the AFC Championship Game against the Bengals with seven catches for 78 yards and a touchdown on eight targets. Kelce just continues to be a dominant force in the playoffs and has now scored 15 touchdowns in his past 14 postseason games. And he had another standout season where he was clearly the No. 1 Fantasy tight end at 18.1 PPR points per game. If you want the best Fantasy tight end and a huge advantage at the position, then it's easy to justify drafting him No. 1 overall. But he's also going to be 34 during the season, and at some point, Father Time will come calling. I'm not drafting Kelce at No. 1 overall in PPR, but I will draft him at No. 5 behind Justin Jefferson, Christian McCaffrey, Cooper Kupp and Ja'Marr Chase. I won't fault anyone for drafting Kelce first, but it's not something I'm comfortable doing as of now.
2. Isiah Pacheco looks like the guy for the Chiefs
In the most important game for Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game against Cincinnati, Pacheco played his highest percentage of snaps at 59 percent. He also had a season-high in targets (six), catches (five) and receiving yards (59), as well as 10 carries for 26 yards. Now, part of Pacheco's role in the passing game might have been due to JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee), Mecole Hardman (pelvis) and Kadarius Toney (ankle) all banged up, but clearly, the Chiefs felt more comfortable with Pacheco than Jerick McKinnon, who only had four carries for 1 yard and two catches for 17 yards on four targets. We'll see what happens in Super Bowl LVII against the Eagles, but Pacheco could be putting himself in position to be a low-end No. 2 running back in all leagues. He'll likely compete with Clyde Edwards-Helaire for the starting job, but we should expect Pacheco to have an edge there. He could be a potential breakout candidate in 2023, especially if he has a big role in the passing game for the Chiefs.
3. Miles Sanders puts on a show heading into free agency
I'm not sure if the Fantasy outlook for Sanders changed much after the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco, although scoring twice against the 49ers run defense isn't easy. Still, he only had 11 carries for 42 yards and one catch for 3 yards on one target and again shared work with Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott. We'll see what Sanders does against the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII, but another solid performance should help him heading into free agency. Usually, I don't like to see running backs change teams, especially when they have a great offensive line. But it might help Sanders and his Fantasy value next season. With the Eagles, he should remain in a committee, and his role in the passing game will be minimal. That could be the case on a different team, but Sanders caught 50 passes as a rookie in 2019 and could thrive with more receptions. His offseason will be interesting to monitor, and Sanders will likely remain a No. 2 running back in most leagues no matter where he plays, worth drafting as early as Round 5.
1. Joe Mixon has a shaky final game
Mixon had a miserable AFC Championship Game against the Chiefs with eight carries for 19 yards and three catches for 15 yards on three targets. Including the playoffs, Mixon has now scored 10 PPR points or less in four of his past eight games. He also has just two touchdowns over that span. It will be interesting to see what Cincinnati does with its backfield this offseason since Samaje Perine is a free agent. Will he return? Or will the Bengals bring in someone else to compete with Mixon in a bigger role than what Perine had? For now, plan to draft Mixon toward the end of Round 2 in most leagues. The positives for Mixon: he averaged 17.1 PPR points per game for the season, although he went over 17 PPR points just twice, including a 54-point outing in Week 9. But he also had career highs in targets (75), catches (60) and receiving yards (441) in only 14 games. Now, he went from 16 total touchdowns in 2021 to just nine in 2022, and his yards per carry dropped to 3.9. But given how productive Cincinnati's offense can be, it would not be surprising to see his touchdown total rise again in 2023. And he'll only be 27 next season, which should give him one more year of standout production.
2. Is A.J. Brown worth a second-round pick?
Brown said prior to the NFC Championship Game that he wanted the ball more after he only had three catches for 22 yards on six targets in the divisional round against the Giants. Well, Brown led the team with eight targets against the 49ers, but he finished with just four catches for 28 yards. I'm not going to panic about Brown, and it does seem like Jalen Hurts is still not 100 percent because of his left shoulder injury. It's also an excellent 49ers defense. But Brown has now been outscored by DeVonta Smith over the past 11 games, including the playoffs, at 179 PPR points compared to 160 for Brown. Smith also had 96 targets over that span compared to 90 for Brown. I would still draft Brown toward the end of Round 2 in the majority of leagues. But I'm also excited to draft Smith in Round 3, especially since he's heading into his third season in the NFL in 2023.
3. JuJu Smith-Schuster falling apart at wrong time
Smith-Schuster injured his knee in the AFC Championship Game against the Bengals, and he finished with just one catch for 7 yards on one target. I hope he's healthy for Super Bowl LVII and can put on a show against the Eagles since he's headed into free agency this offseason. Ideally, Smith-Schuster can return as a standout Fantasy receiver again, and he's only 26. But it will be hard to call him a Fantasy starter in 2023, even if he plays in an ideal situation. He had an amazing setup with the Chiefs in 2022 with Tyreek Hill gone, and Smith-Schuster had some great moments, scoring 16-plus PPR points in five games. But he also had 12 games with nine PPR points or less, including the playoffs, and he's been at five PPR points or less in five games in a row. We'll see what happens against the Eagles and then free agency for Smith-Schuster, and hopefully he's healthy. But he needs to have a big game in the Super Bowl to remind Fantasy managers that he can still be productive in 2023 and beyond.
1. Patrick Mahomes
2. Jalen Hurts
Despite his injured ankle and receiving corps falling apart in the AFC Championship Game, Mahomes was awesome against the Bengals with 29-of-43 passing for 326 yards and two touchdowns. He won't have an easy matchup against the Eagles, but he's the best quarterback left standing -- and the best quarterback in the NFL.
Hurts didn't have to do much against the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, but he looked off again at 15-of-25 passing for 121 yards, along with 11 carries for 39 yards and a touchdown. He will hopefully be close to 100 percent with his injured left shoulder, but he's not playing like the MVP candidate he showed during the regular season in Fantasy and reality.
1. Miles Sanders
2. Isiah Pacheco
3. Kenneth Gainwell
4. Boston Scott
5. Jerick McKinnon
6. Ronald Jones
You could make an argument that Pacheco is better than Sanders if Pacheco gets a similar workload against the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII like he did against the Bengals in the AFC Championship Game, especially with his work in the passing game. For now, I'll give Sanders the edge, and he seems like the better bet to find the end zone.
Gainwell is one to watch in Super Bowl LVII if Sanders leaves the Eagles as a free agent. Gainwell has done well in two postseason games with 26 carries for 160 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 35 yards on five targets. He could be a popular sleeper if Sanders is gone from Philadelphia in 2023.
I'm not sure what's happened with McKinnon in the playoffs, but he's been minimalized as a receiver. Prior to the playoffs, McKinnon caught a touchdown in six games in a row. In two playoff games, McKinnon has two catches for 17 yards and four targets. We'll see if that changes in the Super Bowl, but he will be tough to trust now.
1. A.J. Brown
2. DeVonta Smith
3. Marquez Valdes-Scantling
4. Skyy Moore
5. Kadarius Toney
6. JuJu Smith-Schuster
7. Mecole Hardman
8. Quez Watkins
Brown and Smith, in either order, are the top two receivers in Super Bowl LVII. Despite the production between the two over the past 11 games, I'll still give Brown the edge in the biggest game of the season.
It's hard to rank the Chiefs receivers without knowing the health of Toney, Smith-Schuster and Hardman. If everyone is healthy, I'll rank them Toney, Smith-Schuster, Valdes-Scantling, Hardman and Moore, even though Valdes-Scantling was a star against the Bengals with six catches for 116 yards and a touchdown on eight targets. Just keep in mind that was the most targets and catches he had since Week 5 and just his fourth time all season over 60 receiving yards. It was also his fourth touchdown of the season, although he also scored in the divisional round against Jacksonville with one catch for 6 yards on two targets.
1. Travis Kelce
2. Dallas Goedert
Kelce is just an absolute monster in the postseason, and this stat is worth repeating. In his past 14 playoff games, Kelce has 15 touchdowns. The Eagles haven't allowed a tight end to catch a touchdown since Week 9 and just held Kittle to three catches for 32 yards on four targets, although take the 49ers quarterback situation into account. But Kelce is arguably the best tight end of all time, and he is clearly the top tight end in Super Bowl LVII.
Goedert had five catches against the 49ers on six targets in the NFC Championship Game, but he only had 23 receiving yards. He's a solid Fantasy option against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, and he should be a good DFS option when we look at the slate next week.
1. Harrison Butker
2. Jake Elliott