I had the opportunity to watch the San Francisco/Miami Super Bowl in San Francisco with several friends when I was stationed at Travis Air Force Base. We got to see the team ride back up through town on horseback. Man was that fun. Ever since the hay days of Montana, Young, and Rice there have not been many times to celebrate for the beloved 49ers. That all changed last year as new Head Coach Jim Harbaugh led the rejuvenated team very close to the Super Bowl. Through the off-season, San Francisco has added several pieces to the team and looks poised at a return to greatness. We will look at the fantasy options for the 49ers for the 2012 season.
Lets face it, Alex Smith has never really lived up to his #1 overall draft status out of Utah as an NFL quarterback -- remember he was drafted ahead of Aaron Rodgers. His best year as a pro did happen last year as he threw for 3,150 yards and 17 touchdowns. And to be honest, he did that with some shoddy wide receiver play. It is promising that he has shown improvement. Then out of nowhere he blew it up in the playoffs by going 36 for 68 with 495 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2 playoff games. Did his light finally come on?? This year coach Harbaugh has stated that Smith has distanced himself from the other quarterbacks and his improved footwork and pocket fundamentals have improved his velocity and he has more zip on the ball. It also sounds like he has more confidence and, as we know, that can be a good thing for a quarterback. Let us also not forget that the 49ers added several pieces for Smith to use. The 49ers really struggled running the ball in the red zone and the new tools available for Smith suggests that the 49ers could indeed pass much more often in the red zone. If all goes well with these new pieces, Alex Smith could indeed improve on his numbers from last year.
FRANK GORE, KENDALL HUNTER, BRANDON JACOBS, LAMICHAEL JAMES
The San Francisco 49ers were the most balanced team last year in regards to run plays compared to pass plays. Obviously the main ball carrier was Frank Gore and he had a typical Frank Gore type year with 1,241 yards and 8 touchdowns. His numbers may have been better had he not struggled so badly in the second half of the year. Gore averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry in 7 of 8 games during the second half of last year. He was less then stellar in the red zone with 51 rushes and only 7 touchdowns. Kendall Hunter proved to be ok as a backup, but nothing really mad him stand out. Enter Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James . Brandon Jacobs could be the short yardage and goal line vulture back for the 49ers. At 6'4 and 264 lbs he should be the force in the red zone to punch the ball in this offense which sorely needed it last year. LaMichael James was the 2nd round draft pick out of Oregon that blazed by all of his college opponents with his quickness. He could very well be a 3rd down back and receiving option out of the backfield. Gore will lead the team in carries, but his numbers will be down as the team uses all of its weapons. Keep an eye on the other three to see what develops, but only consider them as late round fliers for now.
MICHAEL CRABTREE, RANDY MOSS, MARIO MANNINGHAM, A.J. JENKINS
Experiments can go right, and they can go wrong. They went wrong last year with the 49ers as they signed Braylon Edwards to a free agent contract, only to see him have a horrendous season. Once again it is time for an experiment. Randy Moss has come out of retirement and signed with the 49ers. There is no question that when he wants to play he can dominate a game. He has had several great seasons with the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots. He has also disappointed many teams: Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, and the Minnesota Vikings. His "I play when I want to play" attitude is his own biggest enemy. If he can put it all back together, he could be a real steal and great red zone target for Smith. The future Hall-of-Famer has impressed everyone in San Francisco so far and Harbaugh has said that he is the #1 wide receiver. Michael Crabtree was the leading receiver for the 49ers last year with 73 catches for 880 yards and 4 touchdowns. His numbers have improved every year and should do so again as I believe he cracks the 1,000-yard mark for the first time this year. Last years Super Bowl hero with the New York Giants Mario Manningham cashed in and signed with San Francisco also and gives the 49ers a very nice 1-2-3 punch. A.J. Jenkins was the 1st round pick out of Illinois and is said to be a project. He will likely learn a lot his first year, but not be on the field very much.
It was a bit of a down year for Vernon Davis with only 67 catches for 792 yards and 6 touchdowns. We have all begun to expect more from him. With his speed and pass catching ability, we all expect much higher numbers. Then Boom!! In the playoffs Vernon went nuts with 10 catches for 292 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2 playoff games. Now that there are more weapons around him and a more confident passer he could be in for another year like his 2009 season with 78-965-13 numbers.