San Francisco 49ers Opportunity Analysis

The Opportunity Analysis – San Francisco 49ers

The Opportunity Analysis | San Francisco 49ers 2020

If you haven’t read the article on the opportunity analysis, click here and do so before reading the team breakdowns.

San Francisco 49ers

        • Available Targets: 98
        • Potential Drop-Backs: +87
        • Total New Opportunities: 185
        • Opportunities Analysis Rank: 6


The 49ers come in at number six in the opportunity analysis with 98 available targets, and the third highest projected increase in drop-backs in 2020 with 87. Last season the 49ers had just 526 drop-backs, and as previously discussed, 76% of teams who are under 550 in a season see a significant increase the following year with the average increase of 76. The 526 was also low for Kyle Shanahan as his last four seasons as a play-caller saw his teams drop-back to pass 597, 670, 593 and 666 times.

Another key development is the injury to Deebo Samuel who now looks like he will open the year on the PUP list. This loss opens up additional opportunities in the passing game that aren’t reflected in the analysis. Because of this injury, the 49ers will be down their top two wide receivers as Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders accounted for 28% of the team’s targets/receptions and 32% of the yards last season.

Even though these losses will impact the 49ers from an overall production stand point, it does provide plenty of opportunities to find value in the 49ers passing game.

Primary Beneficiary – George Kittle

Already known as a top two tight end in fantasy, the latest injury to Deebo Samuel vaults George Kittle to the number one tight end spot. In 2019 Kittle outperformed Travis Kelce in yards per route run, yards per target, target share, and WOPR (weighted opportunity of target share and air yards). Also, Kittle was third in the NFL in fantasy points per team drop-back among all pass catchers, only trailing Michael Thomas and Stefon Diggs.

Even after outpacing Kelce in all these metrics, Kittle still trailed him by .1 points per game while receiving one less target per game on the season. However, with the 49ers expected to make a jump in pass attempts and with a bunch of available targets especially early on in the season, Kittle is ready to take over the number one spot.

If we take the new projected volume and apply it to his fantasy production from last year, Kittle’s points per game jumps from 12.9 to 15.2. On average over the last 5 seasons, 15.2 points per game would put Kittle well inside the top 10 in wide receiver production, and just under five points per game more than the TE6 in fantasy.

Currently going at pick 22, Kittle gives fantasy players an elite edge at the tight end position which justifies his late second round ADP in 2020.

Secondary Beneficiary – TBD

The door is now wide open for a second player to emerge behind George Kittle early on in 2020. That part is obvious, so the difficult part is figuring out which player will emerge. The rest of the roster is mostly unproven players including Brandon Aiyuk, Jalen Hurd, Dante Pettis, Trent Taylor, and Kendrick Bourne. Bourne is clearly the player with the most chemistry with QB Jimmy Garoppolo and is the early favorite to take over for Deebo Samuel.

Bourne has seen steady improvement in his first three seasons as he has improved his yards per route run and yards per target each season in the NFL. Aiyuk clearly has the most draft capital on the team, but the hit rate on rookies is low. Add in the limited off-season, and Aiyuk wouldn’t be my first choice as a late round flyer.

An alternative view point is that the running backs get more looks. In Week 13 once Raheem Mostert took over as the main ball carrier, he was fifth on the team in routes but only ninth on the team in target percentage. If for example, veteran Travis Benjamin earns a bigger role as a deep threat, it would open up some more targets underneath raising the target totals for both Mostert and Tevin Coleman. It will be important for us to monitor the depth chart and camp reports as someone will return early season flex value from the passing game in 2020.