With the San Francisco 49ers missing their starters at quarterback, tight end, wide receiver and running back, the NFL world got a close look at the inner workings of the San Francisco depth chart during Thursday's 34-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
With Jimmy Garoppolo sidelined for at least six weeks with an ankle issue, it was going to be a test for quarterback Nick Mullens against the NFC North-leading Packers. But with an injury-plagued 49ers roster, he was forced to dig deep.
Richie James was out in Week 8 with an ankle injury and was questionable to make his fourth appearance of the season Thursday, but the third-year player suited up to produce 184 yards and a touchdown while catching nine of 13 targets. The wideouts in front of him—Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne—were moved to the COVID-19 reserve list Wednesday.
Heading into Thursday, James had only seen touches on special teams in 2020 with three kick returns and two punt returns through three appearances, but his stat line makes it seem as though he could be a regular wideout for San Francisco.
That said, his fantasy outlook is entirely dependent on the players in front of him, and that remains a fluid situation.
While Samuel had been battling a hamstring injury even before moving to the COVID-19 list, Aiyuk and Bourne are largely healthy and have been some of the most productive receivers for the team. Since he tested positive, league protocols dictate that Bourne can return to the team 10 days after his positive test, with two negative tests after five days if he is asymptomatic or 10 days after symptoms appeared and 72 hours after they have ended if he is symptomatic.
James is worth a pickup if he is available for a team that has depth, and he has start potential in Week 10 as a low-end WR2 against a New Orleans Saints team that has allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to wide receivers, per Football Reference.
Elsewhere, the 49ers looked to Jerick McKinnon and JaMycal Hasty in the absence of Tevin Coleman at running back, with the pair splitting touches.
Following Coleman's injury in Week 8, McKinnon posted negative yardage and one touchdown on three carries while adding 40 yards on four receptions. Hasty recorded 29 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
Against the Packers, McKinnon had his most productive game since Week 4, posting 52 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and 16 yards on three receptions. Hasty added three yards on four rushing attempts in addition to posting 10 yards on two catches.
Looking ahead, head coach Kyle Shanahan said that Coleman will miss a "little bit of time," while Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. remain on injured reserve.
Against a New Orleans defense that has allowed a seventh-best 548 yards to running backs thus far, either McKinnon or Hasty is a risky start at running back. Managers should look at other matchups in Week 10, though James could factor as a flex option.
The 49ers will face the Saints in New Orleans on Nov. 15.