As the mercury rises and we inch closer to the open of training camps, our resident fantasy football sickos, Brad Evans and Liz Loza, will profile their favorite booms/busts of every NFL team. Today’s topic: The Tom Bradys by the Bay.
FACT or FICTION. After a late-season breakout post-trade from New England, Jimmy Garoppolo finishes No. 7 or better among fantasy passers this season?
Brad – FICTION. For one fleeting moment, every Y chromosome would yearn to be Jimmy G. He’s wealthy, dashing and on the precipice of turning around one of the NFL’s most iconic franchises. Let the haters admonish him for cuddling adult film stars. Deep down we’re all envious of the man in some form or fashion; many self-proclaimed fantasy aficionados included.
Though enamored with the quarterback’s skill set (I’ve trumpeted him since his record-setting days at Eastern Illinois), the hype has reached profitless proportions. At his QB10 ADP (112.1 overall) it’s unlikely he’ll meet expectation. Why? Yes, his stable of weapons is more than suitable. Multiple franchises would kill to roster Marquise Goodwin, Pierre Garcon, Jerick McKinnon and George Kittle. His 8.8 yards per attempt, QB9 finish over the season’s final five weeks and 67.4 overall completion percentage also sway opinion. However, several secondary measurements lend pause. His No. 18 or worse ranking in red-zone and deep-ball completion percentages along with a 38 percent success rate on all throws (h/t Sharp Football Stats) are most alarming.
Again, discounting Garoppolo’s abilities long-term is a futile exercise. He’s good, but I’m not convinced he’ll outperform the likes of Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford or even Philip Rivers this season. He’s my QB12.
Liz – FACT. Leaving the Cape for the Bay just after Halloween, Garoppolo joined the then 0-8 49ers. After studying Kyle Shanahan’s notoriously complex offense for less than a month, the EIU grad engineered five straight wins to close out the season.
He took on blitzes with aplomb, completing 52.2 percent of pressured attempts (#1) while also managing 21 red-zone scoring drives. Averaging an astounding 8.76 YPA down the stretch, Jimmy G posted QB1 (top-twelve) fantasy numbers in three of his five starts.
Detractors will point to Garoppolo’s lack of red zone weapons and reluctance to throw down field. While those are valid concerns, his accuracy and willingness to fit the ball into tight windows (via a receiver target separation rate of 1.13) suggest an ability to elevate the surrounding receiving corps. That fact that he ripped off 11 money throws in 5 starts (compared to Tom Brady’s 13 in sixteen starts) additionally illustrates a level of skill worth the perceived risk. He’s my QB7 heading into September.
Among San Francisco’s array of reasonably priced receivers, who will you stockpile most this draft season: Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin or George Kittle?
Liz – GEORGE KITTLE. Rather than bank on a 31-year-old possession receiver with durability concerns or an undersized speedster who lacks red zone appeal… give me the hyper-athletic TE with top-ten potential. Named the starter by Kyle Shanahan heading into the regular season, the rookie immediately flashed, converting five of six balls in Week 1.
As injuries thinned out the receiving corps, Kittle’s role grew… along with his productivity and efficiency. Hauling in 9 red zone receptions (#6) and rumbling for 260 yards after the catch (#7), the Iowa product emerged as a threat in the passing game. Demonstrating natural hands, he impressed with a catch rate of 68.3 percent (#10) while also averaging 8.2 yards per target (#7).
Over the last two games of the season – with Jimmy G steering the ship – Kittle was a top-seven fantasy option. With stability under center and a year of experience under his belt, Andy Beheren’s favorite tight end is a strong 2018 breakout candidate.
Brad – PIERRE GARCON. It wasn’t exactly a coup de fourdre between Garoppolo and Garcon last season. With the receiver sidelined by injury, Jimmy G immediately locked eyes with Goodwin and Kittle, building a strong rapport. But when on the field Garcon was the Niners’ most efficient target. His 49 percent success rate bested Goodwin and Kittle by a sizable margin. A dirty worker underneath (7.5 yards per target in ’17), he’s a dependable option in the short-to-intermediate field. Given Garoppolo’s lackluster execution downfield last season, the crafty veteran could become a weapon of choice on high-percentage throws likely attracting 20-23 percent of the target share. Touchdowns will be a rarity, but Garcon is a useful WR3 in .5 PPR formats. Going around the same time as Goodwin in average drafts (79.7 ADP), he’s capable of finishing in range of 75-900-5.
Is prized offseason acquisition Jerick McKinnon OVERVALUED, UNDERVALUED or PROPERLY VALUED at his 24.6 ADP (RB15) in .5 PPR drafts?
Brad – PROPERLY VALUED. McKinnon is a heartthrob, a player who would adorn fantasy football’s version of Tiger Beat. Whether it’s the opportunity, offensive environment, his riveting workout videos or a combination of all three fueling the love, millions are head over heels for the former Viking. It’s why he’s consistently gone in Round 2 of .5 PPR exercises. His otherworldly SPARQ profile and No. 8 tackles avoided per attempt output last season only boost his dreamy prospects.
However, there are a few reasons to be reluctant. For starters, it’s doubtful McKinnon will command 70-plus percent of the opportunity share. Exhibited at previous stops (e.g. Atlanta), Kyle Shanahan is rather fond of shared backfields. Matt Brieda or Joe Williams will carve out a substantial role, possibly wresting away 10-12 touches per game. Additionally, the rusher wasn’t exactly efficient last season. With the Vikes, he tallied a pedestrian 2.6 YAC/att, finished RB25 in total yards created and totaled a 43 percent success rate on rushing and receiving plays combined. If he’s to measure up to his exorbitant price tag, McKinnon can’t be overworked. Feeding him the rock 15-17 times per game is the best approach. Anything more and risk factors increase.
Quick, slithery and decisive in his cuts, McKinnon fits Shanny’s one-cut-and-go scheme beautifully. If deployed properly, he should finish in range of 1250-1300 total yards, 65-70 receptions and 6-8 TDs, making him a worthy target at the Round 2-3 turn in catch friendly formats.
Liz – UNDERVALUED. A dual threat who managed 4.9 yards per touch and evaded an average of three tackles per game in 2017, McKinnon is a fantastic fit for Kyle Shanahan’s scheme. Consistently efficient in the passing game (75% catch rate in 2017 and 81% catch rate in 2016), the former Viking figures to assume the Devonta Freeman role in Shanahan’s offense. After all, the 49ers aren’t paying him $7.5MM per year to be a back-up. Reportedly the team’s “most active” receiver during OTAs, it’s entirely possible that the former Viking catches 60-plus balls in 2018. He’s the Yahoo Fantasy consensus RB11 in .5PPR scoring heading into the fall.