5 Roster, Fantasy Implications of Colin Kaepernick as 49ers' Starting QB
With the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith injured, backup Colin Kaepernick has taken over as the starter and has had massive implications not only on his team, but in the world of fantasy football as well.
Kaepernick, a quarterback the 49ers traded up for in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft, has more than proved to be a quality backup with Smith injured.
Pegged as a developmental prospect out of Nevada, Kaepernick hasn't exactly had a lot of starting time under center. Despite this, he's managed games very well in Smith's absence and appears to be improving each week.
With that being said, Kaepernick isn't as productive of a passer as Smith, despite his outstanding dual-threat ability when it comes to running the ball. Several players on his team are going to be drastically impacted on the field and in the world of fantasy football as a result.
Let's take a look at five players that are impacted with Kaepernick under center.
Vernon Davis is one of the NFL's best tight ends, and his role in the 49ers' offense has always been a primary one. As the safety valve for Alex Smith, Davis has excelled on all areas of the field.
So far in 2012, Davis has compiled 29 catches for 404 yards and four touchdowns. The issue for Davis is that Smith has failed to find him on vertical routes, something Davis is exceptional at doing on a regular basis.
That same issue may continue with Kaepernick at quarterback. The emphasis will still be on the running game, which is both good and bad. Davis should see some big opportunities off play-action, but less balls could be thrown his way.
Even with Kaepernick under center, Davis is a legitimate starting tight end in any situation. He's an elite player and can climb the ladder or adjust to bad passes.
It's doubtful Davis' fantasy production will fluctuate much, which means he'll be inconsistent each week. Removing him despite his value as a safety blanket for a second-year quarterback would be a mistake.
Frank Gore is due to see even more carries now that Kaepernick has taken over with Smith out. He's an elite running back and the coaching staff will use him to take a lot of pressure off the second-year quarterback.
Entering Monday Night Football against the Chicago Bears Gore, had carried the ball 140 times for 753 yards and five touchdowns, giving him a great 5.4 yards per carry average.
Gore's numbers will only increase now that the offense is forced to rely on him more until Smith returns.
Gore was already a no-brainer as a fantasy football running back, but he's even more crucial now with Kaepernick calling the shots.
While he still won't produce as much as say, the Minnesota Vikings Adrian Peterson, he's still one of the better options to have. He's a workhorse back that will be extremely productive and could even benefit from Kaepernick's ability to run the football.
Like Frank Gore in the previous slide, Kendall Hunter is going to see an increase in carries with Kaepernick as the starter. While he remains the backup to Gore, his production should increase.
Hunter has only managed 316 yards and two touchdowns on the season, but has an outstanding 5.0 yards per carry average.
While Hunter has already benefited simply from backing up Gore, he's going to benefit even more now that the offense will likely going through the running game in a big way.
Hunter wasn't exactly the best fantasy option outside of extremely deep leagues, but that changes along with the swap at quarterback.
In fact, Hunter has already flourished with Kaepernick under center as he scored his second touchdown of the year on Monday Night Football against the Chicago Bears.
Hunter now becomes a solid flex option at best as the offense in San Francisco shifts to an even more run-oriented approach.
Michael Crabtree has blossomed into the No. 1 receiver the 49ers front office wanted him to be, but his production could drop with a young quarterback like Kaepernick still developing his passing game.
Crabtree has caught 44 passes for 510 yards and four scores, which aren't horrible numbers for the extremely balanced San Francisco attack.
He's still the No. 1 receiver for the 49ers, but he'll have a hard time getting the ball from Kaepernick compared to how frequently he saw it with Alex Smith throwing the passes.
Crabtree didn't have the most amazing fantasy value this season because of the balanced attack led by Smith, and his value certainly doesn't increase with Kaepernick at quarterback.
It's best to stay away from Crabtree in fantasy unless Kaepernick manages to explode into a better quarterback production-wise. Even then, Crabtree is likely the second option behind tight end Vernon Davis in Kaepernick's progressions.
The 49ers managed to rejuvenate the career of the 35-year-old Randy Moss by simply using him as a deep threat to take the top off of opposing defenses in a variety of different scenarios.
Moss had only caught 15 passes entering Week 12, which went for a total of 254 yards and two touchdowns. He's averaging 17 yards per catch as the main deep threat for the 49ers.
With Kaepernick at quarterback, Moss' slim production will decrease even more. He's not even close to being the first read on most plays, which means Kaepernick will rarely be looking his way.
Moss wasn't a good fantasy option to begin with thanks to Alex Smith typically failing to go deep. With Kaerpernick as his quarterback, Moss isn't an option in any leagues.
Unless Moss has a breakout game with Kaepernick, he should remain a free agent in all fantasy leagues.