Colin Kaepernick went through a fantasy lull after exploding for 30 points in the season opener. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback got back on track before the team's bye week, but fantasy owners should exercise caution before returning him to their starting lineups.
In the two weeks before San Francisco's bye, Kaepernick tallied 46 points, which matched his total from the previous five games combined. It was exactly the type of production those who used a mid-round pick on him were waiting on.
That said, the 49ers return from their week on the sidelines to face the resurgent Carolina Panthers. Not only are the Panthers playing their best football of the season with four straight wins, but their defense is among the best in the league, ranking second in points against and third in yards allowed.
Fantasy football relies heavily on matchups. Only elite players who are able to post huge scores regardless of the opponent are above the weekly fray, and there are very few of those.
Kaepernick isn't among those top-tier options, at least not at this point in his career. He's very much a matchup fantasy player, and the Panthers are a terrible one for opposing quarterbacks. No QB has scored more than 15 points against them this season.
The other issue working against the third-year star is the 49ers' offensive game plan. They are still very much a run-first team led by Frank Gore and, to a lesser degree, Kendall Hunter.
In their last game, a blowout victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, they ran the ball 38 times while Kaepernick attempted just 17 throws. The week before, there were 41 runs and 21 passes.
While Kaepernick can make plays with his legs and contributes to that high number of rushing attempts, that's not enough to start him in fantasy, especially against a tough defense.
Furthermore, the 49ers and Panthers are both teams with strong defenses and solid running games. It points toward a low-scoring, hard-fought game where fantasy points are tough to come by.
Looking ahead, it should be safe to slide Kaepernick back into fantasy lineups during the stretch run against lesser defenses. He's not an automatic start, but his dual-threat ability definitely gives him upside as the playoffs approach.
Just don't rely on him unless there are no other options available in Week 10. The Panthers defense has been shutting down quarterbacks all year and that trend is likely to continue.
Week 10 Prediction: 12 fantasy points