2014 Team Outlook: San Francisco 49ers
QB Colin Kaepernick, SF - Solid/Safe Pick
DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK: Kaepernick's first full season as a starter was a little disappointing. He did break the 300-point barrier, but many envisioned much more. His completion percentage dropped from 62.4- to 58.4-percent. His yards per attempt dropped from 8.3 to 7.7. His rushing touchdowns dropped from five to four despite playing more games. His interception rate also nudged up from 1.4- to 1.9-percent. In summary, Kaepernick suffered some growing pains while the league adjusted to him. It wasn't all bad, though. His 21 passing touchdowns on 416 attempts (5-percent) is a reasonable conversion rate and better than some of the bigger name quarterbacks. This team doesn't look like they're going to open up the offense significantly, despite their claims. His receivers are clearly capable of supporting a small increase to the passing game with a healthy Michael Crabtree and newly acquired Stevie Johnson on board. Given his current ADP (QB10, 82.63 ADP), he has an opportunity to outperform his draft position. He has the kind of upside that you should look for from one of the last QB1s drafted.
QB Blaine Gabbert, SF - Not Draft Worthy
San Francisco picked up Gabbert after Jacksonville ended the experiment with this former first round draft pick. It will be interesting to see what Harbaugh can do with his career. Don't expect any production in 2014.
RB Frank Gore, SF - Over the Hill (decreased production)
FAREWELL TOUR: We all know the end is coming soon. The question is when? Last year, Gore posted a career-worst 4.1 yards per carry. He also had his lowest reception total (16) since his rookie year (he only started one game). San Francisco has a lot of talent at running back ready to replace Gore. This feels like his last season as the team's leading ball-carrier. Over the last three years, surprisingly, the carries by San Francisco running backs not named Frank Gore have gone down from 145 to 130 to 125. Gore's carries have remained fairly high at 282, 259 and 276. Last year, Gore recorded 197 fantasy points in PPR. That was still a RB2 starter-quality season. At 31 years old, expectations should be low. He must face Seattle, Arizona and St. Louis each twice. All of these teams have a tough defense.
Editor's note: In our high-stakes ADP rankings, Gore is the RB28, coming off the board at pick No. 77. This isn't exactly a ringing endorsement from those fantasy players who put the big bucks on the line and have the most riding on their team's success. Gore should be a capable flex; however that might be his ceiling.
RB Carlos Hyde, SF - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
The 49ers drafted Hyde in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. This implies they believe in Hyde and his strong college career. The former Ohio State back is a powerful runner and a decent blocker. He could fulfill short-yardage situations or some goal-line work for the 49ers if he can surpass Kendall Hunter on the depth chart. Hyde has a great chance this year to find a way on the field. The opportunity won't be won until the pads go on, but that's where Hyde has shown well. If you draft Gore, make sure you also draft Hyde as a handcuff (unless the coaching staff announces someone else will be the primary backup).
RB Marcus Lattimore, SF - Gamble (high risk)
If it weren't for multiple significant injuries, Lattimore would have been the best running back of last year's draft class. Unfortunately, he suffered two devastating severe knee injuries and wasn't ready to contribute last year. 2013 was a redshirt year for Lattimore. The early word this offseason indicated that he still wasn't 100-percent. He will get his opportunities to try to make his comeback this year; however, nothing is guaranteed for the former South Carolina back after San Francisco committed another draft pick on Carlos Hyde. If Lattimore is to win a role which involves playing time, it will be when the hitting goes live and that is when he needs to prove to himself. Playing alongside Frank Gore (another back who sustained multiple injuries before his pro career really began) will hopefully prove beneficial to his work ethic and commitment to return at his best. Lattimore is a very late-round gamble until the depth chart solidifies.
Editor's note: Hyde's arrival is a big blow to the perceived confidence the 49ers must have in Lattimore. Perhaps Hyde is insurance if the Niners opt to replace Kendall Hunter or allow LaMichael James to depart after this season as well. With so many backs in the mix, it is difficult to discern what the team has in store for the future.
RB Kendall Hunter, SF - Low Potential
Hunter has played the role of handcuff to Frank Gore for a few years. He definitely has fresher legs than the former Miami Hurricanes back. Hunter's yards per carry average over the last three years have been 4.58 compared to Gore's 4.35. Normally, he would be in high demand in drafts, except there are a couple of younger backs named Hyde and Lattimore that will draw attention as well. The 49ers know what they have in Hunter and it appears unlikely they view him as their back for the future after adding RBs in each of the last three drafts.