2021 Dynasty/Fantasy Game Analysis Week 1: 49'ers 41, Lions 33 (By Ross Jacobs)
*We’re moving fast day-to-day, in-season trying to push these reports out as fast as possible. Please forgive any typos in the process. We’re writing 30,000+ reactionary words a week on football in-season, there will be little hiccups. 99% of the time, you know what was meant when you come across the typo. Cut us some slack.
This game went just about as expected for the most part. The 49'ers jumped out to an early lead because the Lions defense can't stop anything. Detroit looked like they might try to hang around for a little bit, but a pick 6 from Goff sealed the deal. SF went on cruise control from there and it was 31-10 in short order. With 5 minutes left in the game the score was 41-17 and Detroit managed to close the gap with a drive against a prevent defense to make it 41-25. They then recovered the ensuing onside kick and drove the field again to make it a 41-33 final score. The game wasn't that close. Detroit is easily a bottom 3 team and SF is obviously much better, but I'm getting off that bandwagon for reasons I'll talk about later.
Fantasy Player Notes
Great call on Deebo Samuel (9-189-1/12) here by RC. He is the clear #1 receiver for this team. Before we all run off and lose our minds though, I want to note that a large chunk of his yards and his TD came on a busted play where Jeff Okudah had perfect coverage but the pass from Garoppolo was wobbly and underthrown and Okudah couldn't find the ball while Samuel adjusted to it. The safety thought that would be the end of the play and slowed down, but Samuel came back, made the catch, and then beat the flat-footed safety in a footrace to the endzone. It was a strange play not likely to be repeated. Take that out and Deebo has a nice 8-110-0 day, good but nobody goes crazy for him.
I like Deebo as a talent, but I don't love this offense enough to go all-in on him especially with his injury history. For me he's a WR1.5 while healthy. RC might push him a bit higher.
On the other side of the 49'ers WR coin we have the ghost formerly known as Brandon Aiyuk who put up a big fat 0 across the board. No catches, no targets. He might as well have not been on the field.
So what happened? Why was this guy billed as the 1A or 1B along with Deebo? Apparently he's in Kyle's doghouse for the moment. He allegedly tailed off later in camp while Trent Sherfield (2-23-1/3) was still working his butt off. There also seems to be some immaturity issues. My best guess is he wasn't giving great effort in camp and thought he had a starting spot locked up but then threw a fit when he was told differently. I wouldn't worry about it too much in the long run, but there's no telling how long this might go on. Maybe a week, maybe four or eight. It's going to get hard to wait if he's burning a hole in your bench. The best advice I can give would be to hold for now if possible and hope for something to change or else try to flip him as part of another deal to someone that thinks they are buying low from you. Either way this isn't a great passing offense and there won't be much volume even if he does get his starting spot back. At best he's useful every 3 or 4 weeks. Not a great spot to be in.
As mentioned above, Trent Sherfield is the quasi #2 WR for the moment, but I expect that to not last forever. Even if it did though there's just no volume behind Deebo and Kittle. Look elsewhere for your waiver pickups.
--The next item to cover is the 49'ers RB situation. There's been quite a few changes there so let's dive in.
Raheem Mostert (2-20-0) started the game as expected but was pulled after only 2 carries for some kind of knee injury. Not a shocking development considering Mostert's history, but significant nonetheless. Word has since come out that he has cartilage damage to his knee and is on IR. He will be gone at least 8 weeks.
Once Mostert went down everyone would have expected rookie Trey Sermon to get the nod, but Sermon was a healthy scratch. Wait, what? You heard me, he didn't dress. Why? Same reason Aiyuk didn't get any work. He's in the doghouse so to speak. Kyle explained after the game that Sermon hasn't done enough to earn a spot as one of the top 3 backs and was beaten out by fellow rookie Elijah Mitchell and JaMycal Hasty. Again, I would expect this to be a short-term thing.
Kyle is trying to send a message. “Your roster spot is not guaranteed just because we spent a high pick on you.” We will see Sermon at some point, but at this rate it may be a while. If he's on your bench you can safely drop him for the moment and reassess later.
Since Sermon is buried on the depth chart and Mostert got hurt that left Elijah Mitchell (19-104-1) to carry the load. People are going crazy for him on waivers this week, in some cases spending as much as 80+% of their FAAB dollars on him. Don't. If you can get him free go ahead. He might be usable for a couple of weeks. Maybe you could flip him to someone else that will pay up for him. But I wouldn't pick him up thinking you're getting a RB1 for the rest of the season. There are just too many traps here and maybe he navigates them all to finish as a shock RB1 like James Robinson last year, but I'm not betting on it.
I like Mitchell the talent just fine, he's ok. Solid build, decent speed, good balance. He's pretty good as so many RB's are. But I don't see special on tape. I see a decent back that had wide open holes to run through against maybe the worst defense in the entire league. Mostert went on IR and will be gone for at least 8 weeks, but he could be back at some point to muddy this situation. In addition, Sermon will be a factor at some point, and to my eyes JaMycal Hasty (1-3-1, 1-15-0/1) is a better, more explosive runner than Mitchell as well. You can't just mark Mitchell down for all the carries now. Mostert is out which means Sermon will be active as the 3rd RB and I can guarantee that Hasty will see some carries at minimum. If Mitchell has any issues whatsoever it could easily be Hasty or Sermon that comes in, gets hot, and suddenly you have a split backfield. It's just too tentative a situation. Shanahan has shown for years now that this backfield is never set. Sure, a guy can get hot and have a great day one week, but you never know that you're going to get that again. My advice? Use Mitchell for what you can or better yet flip him to someone for a more solid player. There are too many possible issues here to count on Mitchell with certainty.
RC Note: I agree...this RB situation is volatile, and I bet Sermon is active this week and further adds to the chaos.
I've talked a lot about SF so far, but what about the Lions? What about them indeed...
This team is putrid. This offense is putrid. You don't want much of anything involved with Detroit. But I do have a few notes that matter.
Jared Goff (38-57 for 338 yards, 3 TD/1 INT) had a nice game on paper. In reality though he wasn't very good. I don't want to put this all off on Goff because clearly his surroundings aren't great, but this is definitely the worst I've seen him look. He had a nice completion percentage, but it was literally all dump off passes. Even on the short throws he just looked off. His accuracy wasn't great and he kept throwing behind his receivers. I was not encouraged by this showing and I think it's only going to get worse. However, this team sucks and will constantly be in catch up mode so he is going to rack some decent passing stats at times against prevent defenses like he did here. Hard to count on that though.
Following in that vein, the two RB's are ok to have and will hold some value in fantasy. Jamaal Williams (9-54-1, 8-56-9) is the “starter” but this is a 50-50 split between he and D'Andre Swift (11-39-0, 8-65-1/11). Jamaal is the straight ahead power runner and looked better than Swift here due to some excellent blocking. He gets the ball and goes. Swift still looks hesitant and isn't great between the tackles. Get him on the edge or out in space and he's pretty good though. There's some value to both guys in ppr because of their touch counts, but note they aren't catching 8 passes a game. That was a gameflow thing here. Think closer to 3-4 each in a typical game. They give you a solid floor but both are reliant on TD's to have any real affect on your games. If one or the other goes down with an injury though it could get interesting.
TJ Hockenson (8-97-1/10) is the only real fantasy option worth having here. He's not my favorite TE ever but he'll do since he's the only guy that is going to get consistent targets here. Eventually though teams are going to realize this and it shouldn't be hard to take him out. He's just not that good. Of course it's possible nobody is going to be scared by him so they just allow him short catches all day while the defense covers deep to prevent any big plays. We'll have to see how that develops. I don't have any Hockenson stock though and I can't imagine much of the FFM world does either so it might not matter much.
What can I say about the Detroit receivers? Not much. Tyrell Williams (2-14-0/3) is the defacto #1 guy, but he's a shell of his former self and got knocked out of the game here. I don't think he's a factor moving forward.
Replacing Williams was a combination of newly acquired Trinity Benson (3-19-0/6) and Quintez Cephus (3-12-1/7). Both guys rotated in and whoever was on the field was Goff's target on most plays. Benson looks like the better player to me and I think Goff knows it because he was consistently looking Benson's way at the snap. Cephus is no slouch though. Either way I wouldn't chase either one. They look to be splitting time on the outside and Goff was struggling to connect with them.
Kalif Raymond (3-50-0/4) is the starter on the opposite side. He looks quite fast as usual but this passing attack (if you can call it that) isn't good enough to get him consistent looks. He could really be useful in a better offense as a 3rd or 4th option.
Rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown (2-23-0/4) was the last option for Goff here. He's the starter in the slot and I expect that he'll start to build up targets and catches as the season goes on because he's going to be the short, safe outlet pass for Goff to dump it off. Right now though he's struggling to get any separation because he's just not a great athlete. He'll figure it out at some point but again there's not much upside with this offense. Brown is more a 2022-23 play.
--Jimmy vs Trey
You thought you were going to get an entire article without hearing me talk about Lance, didn't you? Wrong.
It's just a matter of time until Lance is the starter for SF. Jimmy Garoppolo (17-25 for 314 yards, 1 TD/0 INT) is just managing the game at this point. He's got no arm to threaten defenses downfield and even his short passes are wobbly and off-target. Deebo might have caught all 12 of his passes if Jimmy could throw it in front of him. This was the juiciest defense Jimmy will play all year and he still only managed 1 TD while the team scored 41 total points and his 314 yards included the busted play to Deebo for 79. Take that away and Jimmy went 16-24 for 235 yards and 0 TD's. Not good.
Trey Lance (1-1 for 5 yards, 1 TD/0 INT, 3-2-0) is coming in occasionally on certain down/distance combinations to take a few snaps and many of those are coming inside the 20 yard line which is further taking away from Garoppolo's scoring opportunities. His rushing line looks pretty bad, but he got hit almost as soon as he started to run all three times because the defense knows that's why he's coming in right now. I still want to see how fast he looks when he gets a little open space. At some point this year Lance is going to take over and I still think he has some viability in 4-pt passing TD leagues because of his legs. It isn't going to be pretty at times, but Lance provides the offense more options to move the ball.
Possibly the biggest immediate impact from this game will be the loss of Jason Verrett (5 tackles) for the year with yet another ACL tear. Sadly he's probably out of football after this latest setback. Verrett was the only thing standing between the 49'ers and one of the worst pass defenses in the league, and now as RC and Xavier warned, he is hurt and this secondary is weak. Emmanuel Mosley is the top guy on paper, but he's hurt and likely to struggle trying to cover #1 receivers. Josh Norman was just signed and is going to have to play soon whether he's ready or not. He hasn't been very good for a few years now and nobody else seemed to want him so don't expect a miracle here. The only other corners of note are a couple of rookies I'll talk about next. SF almost has to bring in someone else just to have more bodies. I will be targeting this secondary like mad for the rest of the season.
Rookie Ambry Thomas (2 tackles) doesn't look good at all. Talk about tentative. He doesn't want any part of trying to tackle people. Fellow rookie Deommodore Lenoir (3 tackles) looks a little better and got graded nicely by Next Gen Stats, but it's hard to say this was a great debut when you're playing the Lions. Every pass I saw go his direction was a piss poor throw by Goff. Didn't have anything to do with Lenoir. I don't see a savior here.
49'ers LB Azeez Al-Shaair (7 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 pd) had a great fantasy stat line, and that got RC and I to looking into his background. Who is this guy and can you count on him for fantasy?
He played college ball at Florida Atlantic from 2015-18 and signed as an UDFA with SF in 2019. As a sophomore he put up 112 tackles, 11 TFL's, 2 sacks, and 1 INT in 12 games and followed that up with 146 tackles, 10 TFL's, and 2.5 sacks in 13 games as a junior. He tore his ACL 6 games into his senior season which is why he went undrafted. Those tackle numbers are pretty sweet but note that half of them were assisted (56 of 112 his sophomore year and 75 of 146 his junior year).
That is exactly the kind of player I'm seeing now. He gets to the ball, is always near it and thus racks up good numbers, but he is not an impact player. Half his numbers here came on the final drive with Detroit just dumping every pass over the middle to their RB's and Al-Shaair was there to clean it up. His best play of the day was sniffing out a screen pass and getting around his blocker to drop the receiver near the line of scrimmage. He's not an athletic marvel or a Kuechly-esque tackling machine, but he manages to get near the ball a lot even if it's helping someone else that arrived first. He's not bad but I don't see anything special about him either. It works for fantasy though. He's going to be best against run heavy teams.