4 GOLDEN San Francisco 49ers to Watch in 2020

The San Francisco 49ers came oh, so close to winning the Super Bowl in 2019 and while they were defense first, their offense provided plenty of star power on the way.

Whether you’re a fantasy owner or if you bet on productivity, betting the over with the Niners provided excellent rewards for your risks in 2019. And this young team is coming into their own here in 2020.

Young, surprising, and something no fantasy owner saw coming last season. Now the world knows about what the Niners can do and they’re the team everyone in the NFL realm is watching.

But who are the biggest make or break producers in the City by the Bay?

1- Stud: George Kittle, TE

2019 statistics:

  • 85 receptions
  • 1,053 yards
  • 12.4 yards per reception
  • 5 touchdowns

Kittle’s numbers dropped some in 2019 but they didn’t fall off the cliff. The 4th-year tight end isn’t exactly Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce, but he produces well enough that if there’s a safe bet for the over in the tight end realm, it’s Kittle.

Over the past 2 seasons, Kittle has amassed 173 receptions and 2,413 yards receiving along with 10 touchdowns. That’s better than some WR1 receivers on many NFL rosters and it shows how far the tight end position has come in recent memory.

Going into his 4th season, Kittle is both the TE1 on his team and the go-to receiver. He’s practically the WR1 in that regard, meaning he’ll continue to receive target after target. What’s even more assuring about Kittle is that he’s produced well with QB1 Jimmy Garoppolo in 2019 and QB2 C. J. Beathard in 2018.

It doesn’t matter who lines up under center, Kittle produces. Therefore, if you look to make safe wagers, Kittle’s a golden opportunity. Sure, he’s a surefire pick for the over so betting on him won’t make you rich, but you’ll gain a profit barring serious injury.

If you play fantasy football, Kittle’s one of just a few tight ends to pick in the early rounds, perhaps as early as the 1st round in larger leagues, or Points Per Reception (PPR) leagues. Look for Kittle to build on his successful 2018 and 2019 campaigns.

He may be the best tight end in football and he’s the best tight end in the NFC. At least in 2020.

Here are Kittle’s projected statistics per ESPN.com:

  • 83 receptions
  • 1,015 yards
  • 12.2 yards per reception
  • 7 touchdowns

2- Sleeper: Raheem Mostert, RB

2019 statistics:

  • 137 carries
  • 772 yards
  • 5.6 yards per carry
  • 8 touchdowns
  • 14 receptions
  • 180 yards
  • 2 touchdowns

What a feel-good story. Before landing in San Fran, 6 NFL teams cut Mostert. From his rookie season in 2015 until 2018, he had 41 career carries. Finally, in 2019 at 27 years old when most running backs are going downhill, he broke out.

He was part of a talented committee that contained Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman and now in 2019, at 28, he has an opportunity to be the featured back in San Francisco. This guy is the new Fred Jackson, who also didn’t break out until he was a little older.

And it goes to show what happens when you don’t throw in the towel and give up, as so many NFL players like to do over their first few seasons if they don’t ‘make it.’

That alone makes Mostert a unique player. You can coach skill sets. You can coach technique. But you can’t coach heart and that alone makes Mostert worth a look when so many fantasy football owners and productivity gamblers will look the other way.

But you shouldn’t. Mostert’s in a prime position considering the fact the Niners didn’t do much to address the running back position. Next on the depth chart is Tevin Coleman, who’s seen moderate production over his NFL career.

The third back in the lineup is Jerick McKinnon, who missed 2 full seasons because of injury.

Mostert has shone in every opportunity given to him, with a career average of 6.0 yards per carry. Sure, he’s only carried the ball 178 times in his career, but even when he finally landed a regular role with an NFL team, he still averaged 5.6 yards.

Mostert is still part of a timeshare with Coleman but produced far better than his counterpart.

His size is spotty, at just 205lbs, meaning he may never be a featured back. But in 2020, his production should rise higher than what NFL betting sites and ESPN.com are projecting.

If you’re a fantasy owner, Mostert may be a healthy reach as he probably won’t even go in many leagues until the middle rounds. You could handcuff him with Coleman, but Coleman’s average season in 2019 tells me Mostert will take over the role even if San Fran sticks to a committee.

I wouldn’t reach into the early rounds for Mostert, but somewhere along the 4th or 5th round would be a great landing spot for him even if he’s projected to fall further. He’s one of the ultimate fantasy football sleepers in 2020.

Here are his projected statistics:

  • 186 carries
  • 868 yards
  • 4.7 yards per carry
  • 8 touchdowns
  • 22 receptions
  • 188 yards
  • 1 touchdown

3- Stumbler: Tevin Coleman, RB

2019 statistics:

  • 137 carries
  • 544 yards
  • 4.0 yards per carry
  • 6 touchdowns
  • 21 receptions
  • 180 yards
  • 1 touchdown

It seems like Tevin Coleman just can never quite get it together and it’s the same story almost every season. Big projections, only to fall short. While Coleman’s serviceable and he’s a great RB2 addition to any team, his productivity is a cut below.

Not fringe. And definitely worthy at the NFL level. But a cut below of where he’s expected to be.

The good news for Coleman is that he should get a better look in 2020 with Matt Breida playing elsewhere, but Raheem Mostert appears to have the upper hand.

Even as recently as 2018, every NFL fantasy owner, expert, oddsmaker, and even Nostradamus would’ve given Coleman the edge, as no one had a high opinion of Mostert, as mentioned above was with 6 teams before landing in San Francisco.

Fast forward to 2020 and now Coleman’s the one to stay away from while Mostert’s the one to put your money on. Unless you’re betting over or under from a productivity standpoint and you plan on NFL betting the under with Coleman, then there’s a point.

But other than that, Coleman’s not worth putting your money on and if you’re a fantasy owner, he might be worth a handcuff to Mostert.

Given Mostert’s relative obscurity heading into 2020 you could probably get away with waiting until the mid-rounds if you play in a smaller or average-sized fantasy league, with the smaller leagues being 8 or fewer teams and the average leagues 10 to 12 teams.

But, if you’re playing with fantasy owners who know fantasy back to front, you’ll want to grab Mostert early and handcuff Coleman in a middle round. Coleman makes a serviceable RB3 in larger leagues and an RB4 or bench player in average-sized to smaller leagues.

Here are his projected statistics:

  • 116 carries
  • 480 yards
  • 4.1 yards per carry
  • 4 touchdowns
  • 22 receptions
  • 210 yards
  • 1 touchdown

4- Rookie: Brandon Aiyuk, WR

2019 statistics (college):

  • 65 receptions
  • 1,192 yards
  • 18.3 yards per reception
  • 8 touchdowns

The good news is that Aiyuk is San Fran’s top receiver or at least he will be when he supplants Deebo Samuel. The bad news is that the top receiver is more of a ceremonial title in San Fran given that the team features a run-heavy offense and the best tight end in football, or at least the NFC.

This might limit Aiyuk but he faces such little competition for the WR1 spot outside Samuel that he may see a few more passes than usual sail his way.

He’s in a prime position to succeed in this offense and if he has a good camp, he’ll become even a greater asset.

If you bet on his productivity, he’s a fantastic candidate for the over as ESPN is giving him some low rankings. If oddsmakers follow or at least resemble ESPN’s rankings, bet the over.

For fantasy, he should be at the top of your list for a late-round rookie or breakout candidate pick, especially if you play in a keeper league.

Of all the breakout and rookie candidates covered so far, Aiyuk is one of the best.

Conclusion

The 49ers are another team that has more talent and players to watch than an article like this covers.

Jimmy Garoppolo will only get better and Deebo Samuel may hold off Aiyuk for the WR1 spot. Even Jerick McKinnon, who’s missed 2 seasons with an injury, can contribute to the running back committee.

The 49ers defense is also one of the best in football which allows the candidates listed here and those not mentioned even more of a chance to produce big statistics in 2020. Many teams who boast fantasy studs on offense start with a great defense giving them a chance to produce.

And while the 49ers don’t have many ‘wow’ players outside Kittle, they should be ones to wager your money on given Mostert’s coming out party in 2019, Garoppolo’s emergence, and Aiyuk’s huge opportunity.

What do you think of my picks? Did I leave anyone out? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Rex Hoffman