You might as well call it the NFC Mess. Aside from St. Louis, this division is riddled with questions.
Sam Bradford set the rookie completion record and truly delivered as the first overall pick. Bradford still has a ways to go before he can be considered a QB1, but he certainly has the makings of one. He only had six multiple touchdown games and just one 300-yard effort. Amazingly he did it without many weapons. The Rams added  tight end Lance Kendricks and receivers Austin Pettis and Gregory Salas in the NFL Draft.
Matt Hasselbeck would probably be the second best quarterback in the league, if he returns to Seattle. That has become a major question mark. Charlie Whitehurst didn’t quite cut it. We’ll have to wait and see who wins the starting gig next year we can say if their quarterback has fantasy value next year.
Alex Smith is expected to be back with the 49ers, but Colin Kaepernick is expected to be the future. Smith can be a decent spot starter if he wins the job, but he may not respond well to looking over his shoulder. Seems like a situation to avoid.
Then you have Arizona, who is in dire need of an upgrade at the position. They are rumored to be the front runners in the Kevin Kolb sweepstakes. If he does land in the desert, he would instantly become the second best quarterback in the division. Other than St. Louis, this really is a wait-and-see division.

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The fantasy playoffs continued as the Chargers destroyed the 49ers last night.
Having players go in the Thursday night games gives you a little bit of an advantage. If your players do well, you can perhaps be a little more cautious with your team. If your players failed to put up good numbers, perhaps you will want to take a bigger risk, hoping to make up some ground. You also get a feel for your matchup depending on how your opponents players did. Let’s take a look at how fantasy owners will be feeling about their players.
Quarterbacks:  Philip Rivers (273 yards, three touchdowns) didn’t have Antonio Gates or Malcom Floyd in his arsenal, but it did not matter. He just reunited with an old flame in Vincent Jackson to put on a clinic. If you used Alex Smith (165 yards, INT), you’re in some serious trouble.
Running Backs: There were four possible running back choices in this one. Mike Tolbert (46 yards, TD) was the top ranked of the quartet and he delivered the best score. Brian Westbrook (30 total yards, TD) did well enough for those of you who took a chance on him. Ryan Mathews (56 yards) was OK, while Anthony Dixon (35 total yards) was a letdown.
Wide Receivers:  Vincent Jackson (112 yards, 3 TDs) was a beast. I bumped him into the top 15 when news broke of Floyd and Gates inactive status. I just wish I bumped him higher. Josh Morgan (106 yards) once again was the top wide receiver threat. He has becoming one of those unheralded players that make fantasy football playoffs legends. Michael Crabtree (17 yards) was a dud. Legedu Naanee was a major letdown.
Tight Ends: Vernon Davis (4 yards) was nearly invisible. Tough break for his fantasy owners. You’ll have to make up those points. Randy McMichael (55 yards) did an admirable job filling in for Gates.
Kickers:  Nate Kaeding kicked two field goals (25, 39) and had four PATs. Solid start. Jeff Reed was held to one lonely PAT.
Defenses:  San Diego was a beast holding the Niners to seven points. They racked up six sacks and forced on turnover (INT). The Niners got blitzed allowing 34 points. They had just one sack and did not force a turnover.

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Written by Eric Stashin of www.rotoprofessor.com



Michael Crabtree sits atop many people’s 2010 breakout candidate lists, and with good reason.  Despite not yet playing in a preseason game due to a neck strain (though he has returned to practice) and playing in just 11 games in his rookie campaign due to a holdout, there is no doubting his talent.


Last season he had 48 receptions for 625 yards and 2 TD, only twice having as few as three receptions (and never having more then six).  He was consistent, and that came despite questionable quarterback play and no preseason to get a rapport with his teammates.


While he has missed time during camp this year, he already has worked with Alex Smith.  The two know each other and now just need to get their timing back on track.  It doesn’t take four preseason games to do that.


The team has also improved the talent on the offensive side of the ball.  Added are Ted Ginn, Jr. and Brian Westbrook, not to mention Vernon Davis’ 2009 breakout.  Throw in a healthy Frank Gore, and the 49ers actually produce matchup issues for opposing defenses.


We’ve discussed Smith as a potential sleeper in the past (click here to view), and the former first overall pick is finally showing signs of living up to his draft position.  In three preseason games he has gone 21-37, completing nearly 57% of his passes.  All he needs to do is distribute the ball around the field and put his teammates in position to make plays.


At 6′1″, 214 lbs., Crabtree is a big target with the potential to make big plays.  No receiver had more then 22 catches of 20+ yards last season.  Despite his limited playing time and receptions, he had 10, the same number as Anquan Boldin.  Just imagine what he has the potential to do now that he is fully immersed in the offense?


The sky is truly the limit, and as a WR2, he is a great get.  He currently has an ADP of 43.3 according to Mock Draft Central, the fourteenth receiver coming off the board.  While that’s slightly higher then I have him (16th on the most recent rankings, which you can view by clicking here), he is still a terrific pick.  By year’s end, he has the opportunity to emerge as a WR1 in all formats.


What are your thoughts on Crabtree?  Do you think he’ll live up to the hype?  Or do you expect him to be a fantasy bust?


Make sure to check out Rotoprofessor’s 2010 rankings:


Image courtesy of Icon SMI


A typical fantasy football league consists of 12 teams nine starters (QB, two RBs, three WRs, TE, K, D) and anywhere from five to seven bench players. If you go with the latter bench allotment, you’re looking at 16 roster spots or 192 draft picks. By that definition, any sleeper should have an average draft position about 180 or lower.


San Francisco 49ers QB Alex Smith sports an ADP of 185, which means on average he’s the fifth pick of the 16th round. He has the 24th highest ADP of any QB behind the likes of Josh Freeman, Matt Cassel, and Kyle Orton.


I know he has been a disappointment, especially given his first overall selection in the 2005 NFL Draft, but I think we’re being kind of harsh on the young man, though personally I  have him as the 15th ranked fantasy QB. He showed enough last year to justify that ranking in my mind.


Smith completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 2350 yards, 18 TDs vs. 12 INTs, and a 81.5 passer rating. Those numbers don’t exactly bring Niner fans back to the days of Joe Montana or Steve Young, but they should lead fantasy owners to draft him before the likes of Josh Freeman, especially when you consider the weapons Smith has to work with.


Michael Crabtree was able to learn on the job last year, and is primed to have an even bigger impact in 2010. Josh Morgan is an adequate #2 receiver. Vernon Davis had nearly 1000 yards and 13 TDs. Frank Gore is very capable of catching the ball out of the backfield. Few teams can offer that assortment of weapons and yet he’s being drafted about sixty picks after Matthew Stafford.


Smith had at least 28 pass attempts in the Niners’ final seven games, which shows they aren’t afraid to open the offense up. Over that span he averaged 220.3 yards, 1.7 TDs, and 0.86 INTs. He didn’t do much with his feet last year, but he did average 10.6 rushing yards per game his first three seasons.


Is he a guy that I would target as a #1 fantasy QB? Of course not. I’d gladly take him as a QB2 though.


Prediction: 3600 yards, 22 TDs, 12 INTs, 120 rushing yards, 2 TDs


Where do you have Alex Smith ranked?


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For the first time in a long time the 49ers enter the year with quality fantasy options at RB, WR, and TE. They also have a good chance to win the division.


Fantasy Playoffs Schedule:  Very Favorable
The Niners open the fantasy playoffs against Seattle at home. They play the Chargers in San Diego Week 15 and finish up against the Rams on the road. Frank Gore owners have to be licking their chops.


Five Star Fantasy Options
Frank Gore – Aside from the cushy fantasy playoffs schedule, the Niners invested two first round picks in RT Anthony Davis and LG Mike Iupati. Gore is a talented RB that can get it done on the ground and through the air. As long as he stays healthy, the sky is the limit.


Vernon Davis – I am a little skeptical that he can perform near the level he did last year, but any time a TE catches 78 passes for 965 yards and 13 TDs, you have to take note. He’s a freakish athlete that has finally figured things out. If he stays healthy, another big year should be in order.


Four Star Fantasy Options
Michael Crabtree – In 11 games Crabtree caught 48 passes for 625 yards and 2 TDs. He was remarkable consistent catching between 3-6 passes every game. With a full training camp and preseason, Crabtree has plenty of room to grow.


Niners Defense/Special Teams – I love the Niners D for the fantasy playoffs. Also along the way they face Seattle (Weeks 1, 14), Kansas City (3), Oakland (5), St. Louis (10, 16), and Tampa (11). Ted Ginn, Jr.’s arrival should bolster their return game.


Three Star Fantasy Options
Alex Smith – His leash probably isn’t as long as other starters, but as long as he produces he should keep his grip on the starting job. With increased confidence and a variety of talent on offense, Smith makes for a solid QB2.


Josh Morgan – Morgan has the potential to join the long line of third-year WRs to breakout. He has the size and speed to do it, but he’s fourth in pecking order after Gore, Davis, and Crabtree.


Two Star Fantasy Options
Ted Ginn, Jr. – Maybe a change of scenery is all Ginn, Jr. needs. I’m not holding my breath that he’ll improve his hands since by switching coasts, but the potential is there for him to be a solid slot receiver.


One Star Fantasy Options
Glen Coffee/Anthony Dixon – Neither of these players are fantasy worthy unless Frank Gore goes down. Of the two I like Coffee’s chances better.


Click here for additional 2010 NFL Team Previews.

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