The 49ers might have stumbled into their long sought-after QB of the future when seventh-round rookie Brock Purdy was forced into action late last season and thrived. However, because things are rarely straightforward with this team, Purdy underwent offseason surgery to repair his elbow, and though he has been cleared for the start of training camp, there are still at least some questions as to how he'll fare coming off the injury.
Record: 13-4 (4)
PPG: 26.5 (6)
YPG: 365.6 (5)
Pass YPG: 226.8 (13)
Rush YPG: 138.8 (8)
PAPG: 30.1 (26)
RAPG: 29.6 (9)
2022 Fantasy finishes
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Number to know: 6.36
That's how many yards after the catch the 49ers have averaged since Kyle Shanahan took over as coach in 2017, the highest mark in the NFL in that time. If you're wondering why Jimmy Garoppolo has the highest career yards per attempt of any quarterback who played since the 1950s at 8.3, that's a good place to start.
Shanahan is one of the best offensive designers in the league, and this has been a perfect marriage of coach and talent, with McCaffrey, Samuel, Kittle and Aiyuk comprising the best after-the-catch playmaking group in the league. That combination makes the degree of difficulty at QB significantly lower. The question we're hoping to find an answer to this season is how much of Purdy's success last year was a continuation of what Garoppolo did, or if he was actually elevating an already elite group of weapons. Purdy's 77% on-target throw rate was a bit higher than Garoppolo's 74.5% mark, though the fact that his average intended air yards was 6.6 to Garoppolo's 6.9 mark could explain that.
My guess? Purdy isn't much of an improvement on Garoppolo, though that likely doesn't matter much for the pass-catchers, at least. That being said, the 49ers seem pretty confident that Purdy is an upgrade, as they've consistently maintained that he is the starter here when healthy, ahead of former No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance, which brings us to another number to know ...
(Another) Number to know: Six
That's how many games the 49ers played with Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle healthy and Purdy healthy, which isn't very much to go on. The 49ers have an awful lot of mouths to feed in this offense, and because of injuries, McCaffrey's midseason trade and Purdy's late emergence, we don't have much evidence of what this offense is likely to look like. Here's what those six games showed:
That's not a great sign for Kittle and Aiyuk, at least. Kittle made up for it by scoring seven touches on 33 catches from Purdy, which is almost certainly not sustainable, while Aiyuk played well in Samuel's absence but was the No. 3 option when Samuel was healthy.
The 49ers have a math problem. I mean, it's not a problem for the 49ers, who have more elite playmakers than any defense can keep up with. But from a Fantasy perspective, they have four skill players being drafted inside of the top 70 in NFC ADP right now, and it's just going to be hard for all of them to live up to expectations ...
Unless Purdy really is a huge upgrade. If he's just a game manager, this offense should be excellent, but probably a bit disappointing for Fantasy, for at least one and possibly multiple of their high-end options. But if Purdy can elevate the offense even beyond what Garoppolo did, there's a chance for profit all over the place, including with Purdy, who barely gets drafted in most leagues. It's not the most high-probability bet, but if you believe in what you saw from Purdy last season, it's justifiable.
3. (87) Ji'Ayir Brown, SAF
3. (99) Jake Moody, K
3. (101) Cameron Latu, TE
5. (155) Darrell Luter Jr., CB
5. (173) Robert Beal, OLB
6. (216) Dee Winters, LB
7. (247) Brayden Willis, TE
7. (253) Ronnie Bell, WR
7. (255) Jalen Graham, SAF
104 RB carries, 16 RB targets, 0 WR targets, 10 TE targets
Rankings and Projections
Chris Towers' projections
|QB||Brock Purdy||PA: 531, YD: 3877, TD: 25, INT: 12; RUSH -- ATT: 24, YD: 61, TD: 1|
|RB||Christian McCaffrey||CAR: 218, YD: 1004, TD: 12; TAR: 106, REC: 85, YD: 722, TD: 3|
|RB||Elijah Mitchell||CAR: 160, YD: 720, TD: 5; TAR: 11, REC: 9, YD: 68, TD: 0|
|WR||Deebo Samuel||TAR: 117, REC: 76, YD: 873, TD: 5; RUSH -- CAR: 58, YD: 320, TD: 3|
|WR||Brandon Aiyuk||TAR: 112, REC: 76, YD: 951, TD: 6|
|WR||Jauan Jennings||TAR: 64, REC: 40, YD: 456, TD: 3|
|TE||George Kittle||TAR: 106, REC: 76, YD: 908, TD: 5|
Will Brock Purdy be ready for a repeat?
Purdy went 8-0 in games where he played the majority of the snaps, throwing multiple touchdowns in seven of them. He's surrounded by elite playmakers at every position on offense, and this offense becomes a lot easier to figure out if he's healthy -- he just has to distribute the ball to the superstars! If Trey Lance is pressed into action, his running ability gives him serious upside as a Fantasy option, but it also makes it harder to buy into George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, and Deebo Samuel.
One sleeper, one breakout and one bust
I wasn't as impressed with Purdy's play as the 49ers seem to be -- he mostly seemed to make the plays that were there, and there were plenty of situations where he made some pretty poor throws but got bailed out by bad defense. He'll be the starter, but any kind of setback in training camp could open the competition back up, and Lance still has tons of upside if that comes to pass. He's shown us very little in the NFL, mostly because he hasn't had many opportunities, but in theory, Lance should benefit from the incredible playmaking all around. However, what still makes him such an intriguing late-round target in deeper leagues (especially 2QB leagues) is the incredible athleticism, and how that could manifest in elite rushing production. Does he have Justin Fields'-type upside? It's hard to project that on anyone, but he's rushed for 235 yards on 54 carries in less than four full games, so it's not out of the question. You can probably skip Lance in most leagues, but don't forget about him.
Aiyuk almost certainly needs an injury to either Samuel or Kittle to actually have a chance to break out, but there's significant potential here, still. Aiyuk has played 11 games without Samuel in his career, and he's averaged 15.2 PPR points per game in those games. Aiyuk has the ability to make plays down the field, but while he's not quite on Samuel's level after the catch, he's plenty good in that regard in his own right. I like receivers who can win in many different ways, and that's Aiyuk. The opportunity might not be there for a full breakout right now, but if it comes, he's ready.
In all likelihood, I think Kittle is probably going to be fine as your starting tight end. He's got weekly upside few at the position can match, and that alone makes him worth having in your lineup every week. But there are going to be plenty of lean times, too, because this is an offense that very much has the luxury of not needing to lean on him. In the eight games Kittle played with Purdy, he had fewer than 40 yards six times, but made up for that with seven touchdowns in those eight games. That kind of touchdown pace is almost certainly unsustainable -- remember when the knock on Kittle was that he couldn't score touchdowns? -- and the rest of the production was relatively pedestrian otherwise. If you're expecting Kittle to be a significant, week-in, week-out difference maker, you might be disappointed.