We all know how successful Mike Martz has been for Fantasy owners. He created the "Greatest Show on Turf" in St. Louis and then made viable options out of rubbish in Detroit. Now he's off to San Francisco, where his goal is to turn around one of the worst offenses in the NFL. The 49ers were last in eight offensive categories in 2007. But let Martz get his hands on things, and the creative offensive coordinator should make some fun happen. He might even unearth some new Fantasy options for your team.
This is, after all, the same guy who turned Shaun McDonald, Mike Furrey, and Az-Zahir Hakim into useful Fantasy starters during his career. Imagine what he can do with Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Bryant Johnson or one of the potential starting quarterbacks, Alex Smith, or Shaun Hill.
With Gore, Martz has one of the best running backs in the NFL. Gore struggled in 2007 with 1,102 rushing yards and five touchdowns and 53 catches for 436 yards and one touchdown. But as bad as that was for Gore, he still managed to finish as a Top 12 Fantasy running back in standard-scoring leagues. Under Martz, Gore should return to prominence like in 2006 when he rushed for 1,695 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 61 passes for 485 yards and a touchdown. Martz thinks Gore can do better than that, especially as a receiver. "We use him everywhere we can in the running game, of course, and in the passing game we'll use him everywhere possible -- as a deep threat, as a short threat, as a crossing threat," Martz said to the San Francisco media. "Watching him out there, he's really comfortable with himself, and we've got to be careful not to overload him and take away from what he's there for and what he does really well, which is running the football.
Gore has returned to a No. 1 pick in all Fantasy leagues, and if Gore can turn into a running back the caliber of Marshall Faulk, which is something Martz is hoping for, then Gore could emerge as the best running back in the NFL. Vernon Davis also has the talent to be the best tight end. Last year, Davis finished with 52 catches for 509 yards and four touchdowns. They were good stats for his position, but Davis wants to be an elite player, like Antonio Gates, Kellen Winslow, Jason Witten, and Tony Gonzales. Fantasy owners want the same thing, and Martz should make it happen.
Don't worry that Martz has never utilized a tight end in his offense. In fact, Ernie Conwell was the most productive tight end Martz ever had as an offensive coordinator or head coach when Conwell had 38 catches in 2001. But Martz will use Davis as a receiver and take advantage of his skills. His average draft position is about No. 83 overall, which makes him the seventh tight end drafted behind Witten, Gates, Winslow, Chris Cooley, Gonzalez, and Dallas Clark. But Davis should finish among the top five of this group with Martz. At receiver, Bryant Johnson and Isaac Bruce are worth drafting in all leagues, and maybe even Arnez Battle. Johnson has been stuck behind Anquan Boldin, and Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona, but now he has the chance to shine in San Francisco. Johnson will be drafted as a No. 4 Fantasy option, but he could finish the year as a No. 2 Fantasy wide receiver. He is being drafted at about No. 143 overall, according to his average draft position.
Bruce, who played under Martz in St. Louis, is getting older at 36, but being reunited with Martz should rejuvenate his career. He should be drafted as a No. 4 option with the chance to see his value rise to No. 3 status. His average draft position is about No. 151. Martz said having Bruce on the field is a benefit because of his knowledge of the offense.
Then there are the quarterbacks, who have a lot to prove to Fantasy owners. Smith has been a disappointment in three seasons, especially after hurting his shoulder last year. He is competing with Hill, but neither has impressed Martz thus far. When asked if he could compare either quarterback to any he has worked with in the past, all Martz did was shake his head. You're not going to draft Smith or Hill in any leagues this year, but the winner of this battle will be worth adding off the waiver wire. If Martz could turn Jon Kitna into a starting Fantasy option, he can work wonders with one of these quarterbacks as well.
The 49ers also could have J.T. O'Sullivan start at quarterback, which wouldn't be a surprise if you've followed Martz's career. He tends to be unique when it comes to offense and personnel, and sometimes those players end up being great Fantasy options. It could happen again this year.