Another Crack At It
WR A.Boldin, K P.Dawson,
CB N.Asoumgha, S C.Dahl,
QB C.McCoy, DL G.Dorsey
QB A.Smith, S D.Goldson,
TE D.Walker, K D.Akers,
WR R.Moss, WR T.Ginn
The entire course of an already successful San Francisco 49ers team, changed in Week 10 of the 2012 season when starting quarterback Alex Smith suffered a concussion in the second quarter against the St. Louis Rams.
Backup QB Colin Kaepernick took over the reins of the team and with his mobile skills and option style offence, transformed the 49ers from a pocket passing unit to a faster paced attack.
The 49ers captured their second straight NFC West title and ultimately advanced Super Bowl XXIX, where they lost to the Baltimore Ravens.
Kaepernick enters the 2013 season as the starter after Smith, a former first overall pick, was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The 25-year-old pivot will benefit this season from taking the first team snaps in training camp as well as playing in an offence that has been designed for him in the off-season.
In Harbaugh’s first two years at the helm, the 49ers have improved season to season, first falling in and then capturing the NFC Championship. There is only one forward step left to be taken by this squad; however with many teams, including vastly improved ones in their own division, they will have to be mindful of the many steps that can be taken backwards.
In an effort to continue the improvement curve of their offence, the 49ers nabbed wide receiver Anquan Boldin from the Super Bowl champion Ravens, in the hopes of pairing him with incumbent wideouts Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham as well as tight end Vernon Davis.
Unfortunately the injury bug bit Crabtree as he suffered a torn Achilles tendon during one of the teams preseason activities and after having surgery, is expected to be lost for most if not all of the 2013 campaign.
Manningham is also currently sidelined, still recovering from a knee injury that he suffered in December of last season.
Therefore, not only will more of the pass catching responsibilities than expected fall to Boldin, but other players on the roster such as second year receiver A.J. Jenkins, who failed to catch a pass in his rookie season, will have to step up into bigger roles.
Boldin produced 65 catches for 921 yards and four touchdowns for the Champion Ravens last season, so his credentials as the number one man in the offence are well documented.
The wild card in offensive co-ordinator Greg Roman’s passing scheme is Davis, who has already posted one 13 touchdown season and has been a steady provider throughout his career.
With the pieces that are missing from the pass catching core, Davis could find himself lining up in the slot as well as out wide to spread the offence and create both passing and running lanes for Kaepernick.
Behind one of the best offensive lines in the league, you’ll find running back Frank Gore, who in the last two seasons has proven himself to be one the most consistent ball carriers in the league.
In the last two seasons, Gore has put up almost identical 1,211 and 1,214 yard totals as well as eight touchdowns in both years.
He has also only fumbled the ball four times in his last 540 carries, making him one of the most responsible at that position in the NFL.
At 30-years-old, Gore is reaching the age where running backs start to discover their production slowing down, but in a read option system that comes equipped with the protection and options that the 49ers have, Gore could find himself in open space a place where he does his best work. (-TSN.ca)
Standing out on a defensive unit with the hard hitters and playmakers that are contained on the 49ers’ roster would take a special talent and season.
Such are the skills of defensive lineman Justin Smith who following the 2012 campaign, was named as both a second team all-pro defensive end and a second team all-pro defensive tackle.
He was, however, not alone, as teammates Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, all linebackers, were named first team all-pro.
NFC WEST PROJECTIONS
Division Winner, 1st round bye
5th in NFC, wildcard berth
Improved, but tough division
Done in by difficult schedule
While LB Ahmad Brooks joined Justin Smith on the all-pro second team.
Departed safety Dashon Goldson was also named to the first team but losing him was a major blow to the secondary, the one part of the 49ers defensive structure that was called into question last season.
In order to improve their pass coverage, the 49ers signed CB Nnamdi Asoumugha who had a down season with the Eagles, but at times has been considered the best in the league at the position.
The 49ers also scooped 78 tackles worth of safety Craig Dahl from division rival St. Louis Rams to also bolster the secondary.
Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver are all holdovers at the corner position and will be mixed and matched to try to shut down opposing passing games.
Very clearly the strength of the 49ers defence will be both in their ability to stop the run and rush the passer, as well as the familiarity they will gain from being a team that runs the read option when they have to lock up against teams that use that offence, such as the Seahawks.
Willis is the anchor of the defence and alongside Smith and Bowman; look for this unit to be a menace to the NFL once again in 2013. (-TSN.ca)
Special Teams: K P. Dawson, P A. Lee, KR L. James, PR K. Williams
Special Teams: K P. Dawson, P A. Lee, KR L. James, PR K. Williams
Fantasy - By The Numbers
Seven regular season starts and a spectacular playoff run lifted QB Colin Kaepernick from the backup role to ranking among the fantasy elite, with upside that could make him worthy of a first-round pick on draft day. Of course, there is the risk that Kaepernick isn't what he appeared to be in that small sample, but that potential is so tempting.
Get ready for the fantasy season with the latest from TSN.ca.
Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | DEF
Fantasy Schedules: AFC | NFC
2013 Auction Values: Cheat Sheet
Fantasy Depth Charts: AFC | NFC
Expectations for Kaepernick have to be tempered, somewhat because of the Achilles injury suffered by WR Michael Crabtree, especially since Crabtree finally appeared to be living up to his potential once Kaepernick won the starting job. Anquan Boldin and Mario Manningham may be adequate in Crabtree's absence, but TE Vernon Davis might be the one to provide value, coming off a season in which he had just 548 yards, his fewest since 2008.
RB Frank Gore has rushed for more than 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns in back-to-back seasons and has gone for more than 1,400 yards from scrimmage four times in his career, so he's a steady fantasy producer.
Veteran DE Justin Smith is always productive, but it's the Niners' linebacking corps that is loaded with fantasy starters, from the inside linebacking duo of NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis to pass-rushing outside linebacker Aldon Smith, they're all very productive. SS Donte Whitner is also deserving of consideration in deeper leagues. (-Scott Cullen)