Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers finished the 2017 on a tear. Having posted a record of 1 and 10 to begin the season, Kyle Shanahan turned to his mid-season acquisition to ride out the year. He did not disappoint. Garoppolo would start weeks 13 through 17, posting impressive fantasy totals in five consecutive wins. Niners fans were given reason to be excited.
This offseason Garoppolo converted his 5-win stretch into a long-term contract. He is the face of the franchise for the foreseeable future. The Niners are likely in good hands for the long-term, the short-term is another story. Garoppolo’s play in 2017 was certainly impressive but it is perhaps wise to get a little perspective on his small sample size before paying his current ADP of 105.5 and QB9 ranking.
As QB9, Garoppolo finds himself being chosen ahead of the likes of Matt Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, and Philip Rivers. Now, it can easily be argued that Jimmy is worthy of being chosen ahead of those elder statesmen in dynasty, where age is certainly a factor, it is a much harder case to suggest he should be drafted ahead of any of them for the 2018 season.
A look at last season’s streak suggests the 49ers may not carry their year-end momentum into the new season and at some point, Jimmy may lose some of his offseason hyperbolic shine. For that reason, selling him into the current ADP could net you valuable assets and positions with greater scarcity. There is a strong case to sell the premium and wait for a dip to by. Here’s why.
A strong finish
Upon closer inspection, Garoppolo’s 2017 sample size is not as impressive as we might remember it.
Jimmy’s five game tear began against the Chicago Bears. A team that came into that contest with a 4-game losing streak and seemed to have, albeit slightly prematurely, turned the page on the John Fox era.
The second win came against a Houston Texans team missing their own small-sample-size quarterback and riding a 1-5 record over their previous 6-game stretch into the matchup.
Some credit can be given to the 49ers for beating the would-be playoff bound Titans. The Titans fell ass backwards into the post-season and then somehow beat Kansas City, so this is a valuable win. Though re-examining the Titans’ season, the squad really only managed to beat one credible team in the regular season (Jacksonville), the other wins all now appear to have been hanging-curve balls, with the benefit of hindsight.
Then there is what was is inarguably an impressive win. Jimmy G and company managed to beat the Jags, scoring an impressive number of points in doing so. Mind you Jimmy managed only 240 yards in that matchup while his counterpart provided a buffet of turnovers to provide the Niners every chance to win. This was an impressive and important team win, but not Jimmy’s alone.
Week 17 pitted Jimmy versus the Rams backups. The Rams were on auto pilot and the 49ers finished strong with a lineup of starters.
So, the 2017 legend of Jimmy run was a real thing, but it is likely being overplayed a little. Given that the 49ers open the 2018 season against the very strong Vikings D team and follow up with games against KC, Green Bay, the Rams twice and Broncos, this could be two steps back season before Jimmy and company take any more steps forward.
If you own Jimmy in dynasty, it would be worth at least seeing what the market has to offer. Perhaps someone is will to pay a considerable premium for a player getting inflated credit at a position deep with talent. With Roethlisberger, Ryan, Rivers and Stafford all being valued below Jimmy, you may be able to net one of those older QBs along with a young receiver or running back. It is certainly worth exploring as his value may suddenly take a hit should he not perform at his 2017 level.
In best ball, the aforementioned old guys can all put up equal or greater numbers, so you should let the competition draft him and attach positions of scarcity.
This is likely a year to sit Jimmy out, and should he disappoint, look to acquire him post-hype.
Speaking of hype
Jerick McKinnon is an excellent player. He’s a tremendous athlete with shocking good strength for his size and a receiving skill set among the top in the NFL. Kyle Shanahan’s record with running backs, along with his father, are the stuff of legend. It has been a rule of thumb now for two generations: draft Shanahan running backs. It has been a winning proposition. Not to be a broken record, but his offseason hype inflation could also provide another opportunity to sell high.
McKinnon was provided an opportunity to be the top running back in Minnesota but was unable to assume Dalvin Cook’s role, post injury. He played a role as a runner and a receiver but was never able to shoulder the full load. The Shanahan effect, new contract and offseason hysteria have taken McKinnon to new heights. Currently drafted 21.3 ADP and RB14, there is again value to be squeezed here. Keep in mind that McKinnon’s ADP is skewed somewhat by early season action on PlayDraft (our ADP reference) that saw him going in the double-digit rounds prior to the Niners acquiring him. His is now drafted anywhere from the early 2nd to late 3rd round. This is hype you should price.
Last year the 49ers were led by now departed Carlos Hyde. Hyde managed 900+ yards rushing and 350 receiving, along with 8 TDs. These are the numbers drafters must be assuming McKinnon can duplicate or better. But is the Hyde role his?
Looking at last year’s numbers one must consider Matt Breida. Breida managed an under-the radar 465 rushing yards and 180 yards receiving, on roughly half of the touches of Hyde. It seems a safe bet that Breida’s modest success did not go unnoticed by the coaching staff, and that he should factor into the 2018 gameplan. As offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, Shanahan incorporated two talents into his backfield, with considerable success. Both Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman were able to provide numbers on the ground and through the air, acting at times as interchangeable pieces. Could it be that the Niners intend on employing a more equally divided running attack? It may be that Kyle Shanahan, smart and adaptable coach that he is, intends to employ a similar split backfield in San Fran, one in which Breida takes far more touches than reflected in either his current ADP or McKinnon’s.
With this in mind, it might be wise to field offers for Jerick McKinnon in the hopes and being overpaid, or at least receiving a more clear-cut number 1 RB. While it’s not a certainty the backfield will be shared, there are some hints that McKinnon may not inherit the full workload. For that reason it is important to at least see how your fellow dynasty owners value him. At the same time, it could be worthwhile exploring Breida as a possible cheap asset to acquire, given his 2017 season was overshadowed by Hyde and he has now been swallowed by the McKinnon hype Tsunami, he can be had in the very late rounds in best ball and dynasty.
The Shanahan offense has typically employed a go to X receiver. The Atlanta version of which was Julio Jones. No such talent can be found on the current 49ers roster. It can be assumed that Shanahan is again capable of adapting and may be willing to employ a Patriot-esque receiving corps strategy. It’s also worth considering that this offense continues to be a rebuild in progress and all of the pieces aren’t present. Said X receiver could very well be drafted from next year’s rich wideout crop. For that reason, it would be wise to avoid overpaying for a player like Marquise Goodwin and look instead to some of the less exciting targets.
For best ball purposes, rather than pay up for slightly expensive Goodwin, draft capital is better spent on Pierre Garcon (500 yards in 8 games last year) and Matt Waldman’s top receiver prospect Dante Pettis. Both should provide production above expectation (based on ADP) while Goodwin threatens to disappoint.
As far as dynasty goes, I’d again avoid Goodwin and opt for Pierre Garcon who will only be 32 going into the season and Dante Pettis, who when looking at the current roster, seems to be the player most likely to be around for the long-term.
The 49ers hype extends to tight end George Kittle, who’s 2017 contributions suggested a promising future in San Francisco. Like Pettis, Kittle could become a mainstay in the Shanahan system, and like RB and the X receiver, tight end is a position that has done well. With Garcon having missed the Jimmy intro and Pettis not yet on the squad for the 5-game streak, Kittle has the early lead for familiarity with the new QB. He will compete for targets with Garrett Celek but could very well reach relevancy as he approaches 700 yards plus this season. He is also likely to be one of the better red zone options for this team, that while they may not win more than eight games, can certainly score a few more touchdowns than they managed in the first half of 2017.
In short, there is no panic to sell Garoppolo or McKinnon, but given their inflated offseason values it is worth exploring what a trade might net you. It’s always fun to gauge your league and get a sense of how others value your guys. Don’t fall in love with the hype when it is possible you can generate a great return. In best ball, Jimmy is an avoid at ADP and McKinnon is worth rostering when he falls beyond the 2nd round.
Goodwin is best rostered on someone else’s team. He’s too expensive for what could be disappointing production as the returning Garcon eats his targets. Pierre Garcon should be consistently productive, though perhaps boring. Pettis is likely to flash here and there this season but should be aggressively bought for dynasty purposes.
At running back, Breida is a nice late best ball pick and could also surprise by stealing touches from McKinnon in dynasty. Given his cheap valuation it is a low-cost risk worth taking.
George Kittle can be drafted in best ball without worry and is worth a look in dynasty as well.
All in al the 49ers look to be headed in the right direction. The rebuild moved along faster than anticipated, but there is much work left to be done. Their only shortcoming is that they became one of the leagues offseason darlings and the market has run away with several player valuations. That appears to be an opportunity to sell the expensive Niners and grab the cheap ones.