Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the San Francisco 49ers

A fantasy football perspective on the team

What can the San Francisco 49ers do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Eric Gilmore, Freelance Writer

Will Frank Gore ever be an elite fantasy back again or has he been permanently relegated to RB-2 status?
Gore probably doesn’t get into the end zone often enough to be considered an elite fantasy back, but he rushed for 1,211 yards last season, cracking the 1,000-yard mark for the fifth time in the past six years. Gore carried 282 times last year, the second-most in his career, but he likely won’t have as heavy a workload this season. The 49ers have more weapons in the backfield, and they also seem intent on passing the ball more this year. They drafted A.J. Jenkins in the first round and signed free agents Randy Moss and Mario Manningham.

Is Randy Moss going to provide any fantasy value at age 35?
Despite sitting out last season, the 35-year-old Moss appeared to be in great shape during his first few offseason workouts with his new team. The real test won’t come until he puts on the pads and gets into a game. The fact that he caught only 28 passes in 2010 and played for three teams — the Pats, Vikings and Titans — is a huge red flag. In other words, fantasy buyer, beware. Moss might be worth a late-round flyer, but nothing more.

Can the Niners repeat as fantasy’s top team defense and special teams?
The 49ers are positioned well for an instant replay on both fronts. They return their entire starting defense. The only change in that group will be linebacker Aldon Smith, coming off a 14-sack season, bumping Parys Haralson to a backup role. The 49ers were next to impossible to run against last season, and there’s no reason that should change.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: Alex Smith, QB
Deep-Sleeper: Kendall Hunter, RB
Overvalued: Frank Gore, RB
Top Rookie: A.J. Jenkins, WR
Bounce-Back: Randy Moss, WR
Top IDP: Patrick Willis, LB

2012 Draft Class

1. A.J. Jenkins WR 6-0 192 Illinois
2. LaMichael James RB 5-8 194 Oregon
4. Joe Looney G 6-3 309 Wake Forest
5. Darius Fleming OLB 6-2 245 Notre Dame
6. Trenton Robinson S 5-10 195 Michigan State
6. Jason Slowey T 6-3 303 Western Oregon
7. Cam Johnson OLB 6-3 268 Virginia

Fantasy Impact: The 49ers needed to upgrade their offensive playmakers to make a run at the Super Bowl. Signing Randy Moss and Mario Manningham gives Alex Smith two veterans at receiver, while A.J. Jenkins is a promising rookie prospect. Jenkins could be buried on the depth chart this year but should be a late-round keeper prospect. LaMichael James won’t start but is a perfect change-of-pace option to Frank Gore and Brandon Jacobs. James’ fantasy value is limited in 2012, but he could be handcuffed to Gore in case of injury.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (MIA, at NE, at SEA)

The 49ers have made plenty of offensive additions, and hopefully they won’t dilute an already inconsistent fantasy offense — TE Vernon Davis (ninth) was the only top-10 offensive fantasy player. The three opponents are hard to judge now, as Miami has a new coaching staff and New England and Seattle drafted on the defensive side (14 of their combined 17 picks).

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