Last season was not the year San Francisco’s fans had in mind coming into the season. Fresh off a monster new contract, Jimmy Garoppolo appeared in just three games before tearing his ACL, and the team ended up going 4-12. You could argue this was to San Fran’s benefit for 2019. They got to develop a lot of young players, and picked high in the draft despite having a roster that was originally expected to make the playoffs. Kyle Shanahan has produced some fantasy value in the past, and it will be exciting to see what he can come up with for 2019.

Team Preview

Key Departures:

Alfred Morris, RB

Key Acquisitions:

Tevin Coleman, RB; Kwon Alexander, LB; Jason Verrett, CB; Nick Bosa, DL; Deebo Samuel, WR; Jalen Hurd, WR

2019 Fantasy MVP

George Kittle, TE

Taking the chalk here for the Niners is the easy play, but it is also the right one. Kittle had a breakout year in 2018, setting the single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end at 1,377. Only Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz scored more fantasy points at the position than Kittle did in 2018.

But is it possible he does…better? While the gaudy receiving total is sure to come down, Kittle left a lot on the table last season in terms of TDs. He found the end zone just five times. Part of that is on the quality of the 49er offense sans-Garoppolo, but some of it was bad luck as well. Kittle was tackled inside the five-yard-line six different times in 2018.

Now that Garoppolo is back, it is logical to expect better overall offensive production. Here is how they have performed with an without him the past two seasons:

Niners with Garoppolo (9 games): 25.56 points per game, 2.31 points per drive
Niners without Garoppolo (23 games): 19.26 points per game, 1.65 points per drive

Since San Francisco still lacks an alpha-dog WR, this passing game should run through Kittle, who is lined up for another spectacular season.

2019 Fantasy LVP

Dante Pettis, WR

While the return of Garoppolo should bring excitement to the Bay Area, the expectations are likely too high for Pettis in his second year. He was excellent down the stretch in 2018, but that didn’t stop the 49ers from taking two different WRs on Day 2 of the NFL Draft. There is also some evidence that Garoppolo spread the ball around. Here were his pass targets prior to getting injured last season:

George Kittle – 21
Pierre Garcon – 14
Trent Taylor – 12
Kyle Juszczyk – 10
Matt Breida – 9
Dante Pettis – 7
Marquise Goodwin – 5
Kendrick Bourne – 4
Garrett Celek – 3
Alfred Morris – 2
Raheem Mostert – 1

Outside of Kittle, there really wasn’t a dominant passing target in the offense, and the RBs were involved early and often. Especially with two more names in the fold taken with high draft capital, there is reason to have doubts about Pettis seeing the volume required for a breakout season.

2019 Breakout Player

Tevin Coleman, RB

A Year 5 breakout probably doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence from fantasy players, but I think a lot of folks would be surprised to hear that Coleman hasn’t really done that yet. A productive speed-demon out of Indiana, Coleman just had his first 800 yard rushing season in 2018. His first four years were spent in timeshares with Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith, making it difficult to put up eye-popping numbers.

As things currently stand, that may not change. Both Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida are still in San Francisco. However, McKinnon is coming off of an ACL tear that cost him all of 2018, and Breida was a walking injury himself. Granted, he played through most of his bumps and bruises, but they were significant, and eventually forced Breida to miss time. The point here is that Coleman could eventually be the only back left standing in this backfield, and Shanahan is not opposed to riding just one back anyway. When Shanny was the offensive coordinator for the Falcons in 2015, Coleman played sparingly behind Devonta Freeman, who had over 1,600 total yards.

The other thing Coleman has going for him is his pass-catching ability. There are very few RBs who are better in the passing game than Coleman, and it shows up in the numbers. Over the past three seasons, only Spencer Ware and Kareem Hunt have eclipsed Coleman’s 8.1 yards per target (minimum 50 targets), and only Ware has averaged more yards per reception (11.1). Both McKinnon and Breida are well under seven yards per target. Expect Coleman to pick up the majority of RB receiving work for San Fran, which could end up being quite lucrative to his bottom line.

Final Thoughts:

Despite deficiencies at the QB position, the 49ers managed to finish 2018 14th in yards per play (5.8). They have averaged 6.01 yards per play in eight games started by Garoppolo between 2017 and 2018, which would have finished seventh. This team absolutely looks set to take off in 2019.

The Niners open up the 2019 season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who gave up the fourth-most yards per play, and the second-most points in 2018. Since then, their defense has lost Gerald McCoy, Kwon Alexander and Vinny Curry. Though Tampa spent a ton of draft capital on that side of the football, they are likely to be abysmal on defense in 2019, especially at the start of the year since their rookies will likely start slow. This is one of my favorite early look-ahead DFS spots for Week 1 on DraftKings.

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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is amicsta) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.