One completed pass for 17 yards; that’s all the San Francisco 49ers had Colin Kaepernick handle in the first preseason game of 2014. The 49ers were more interested in testing out their newest crop of rookies along with depth players trying to make the roster. One player that definitely stood out in Thursday’s dull preseason matchup against the Baltimore Ravens was 2nd round pick Carlos Hyde. With 31 year old veteran Frank Gore getting the day off after a slew of RB injuries, Hyde saw an extended role and didn’t disappoint. The former Ohio State star and first-team All-Big Ten selection racked up 39 yards on his five touches, averaging a solid 7.8 yards per carry. Despite a very small sample of Hyde in this offense, it was easy to envision the 6’0″, 230lbs Carlos Hyde and Frank Gore having their way with opponents in 2014. The duo should wreak havoc on defenses in an aggressive smash mouth attack this season. The benefit of such a rushing attack, led by a stout offensive line, is that the passing game should completely open up.
|Colin Kaepernick 2013 Regular Season Stats|
|Colin Kaepernick 2013 Playoff Stats|
Last season, Colin Kaepernick ranked 9th among all fantasy quarterbacks using ESPN’s fantasy scoring format. Kaepernick had more season total fantasy points than Matt Ryan, Nick Foles, Tony Romo, or Tom Brady. The biggest factor that kept Kaepernick in the top ten was the added element of tucking the ball and running. Kaepernick had 521 rushing yards on the ground and punched in 4 rushing scores. Ignoring his ability to pick up yardage on the ground, Kaepernick ranked 20th in the NFL for passing yards, with a respectful 3,197 yards, 21 TD’s, and 8 interceptions. Kaepernick’s best game of last season came in the opening weekend. He had a 412 yard passing game with 3 touchdowns through the air. The young 49er’s QB played his best football while remaining in the pocket, something that caught his opponent off guard. The Packers defensive strategy failed, as the team focused more on Kaepernick’s ability to run with the ball and less on him beating them through the air. Kaepernick ranked 2nd in week one for Fantasy quarterback production, only behind Peyton Manning and his 7 touchdown blowout against the Ravens. This season the 49ers would like to see more of Kaepernick’s arm strength and less of their franchise QB running for his life. Obviously, the return of a healthy Michael Crabtree will do wonders for the passing game that ranked 30th in the NFL last season. The 49er’s feel they added some great depth through the draft, and they’re confident they can return deep into the playoffs this season. The passing game has been the focus of the off-season at 49er’s camp, and to make sure the team does see an immediate improvement they decided to take a chance on Stevie Johnson. The former Buffalo Bills wide-out had a streak of 1,000+ yard seasons through 2009 to 2012. Johnson has been plagued with nagging injuries throughout his career, but can make plays and is willing to make tough catches over the middle of the field.
Colin Kaepernick is somewhat undervalued this season if you factor in where fantasy owners are drafting him. Kaepernick is getting back his number one wide receiver at 100%, and has a full depth of players who can make plays in the receiving department. Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin are veterans who can not only make the tough catches, but are smooth route runners and playmakers in the redzone. Add in the ability of Stevie Johnson and team has a very underrated crew of pass catchers. I believe if Crabtree can return to his 1,000+ yard, 9TD form from 2012, the whole team can take a deep breath overall on long down and distance plays. The strength of the running game will open up play-action pass opportunities and keep the 49ers balanced and hard to stop when in rhythm.