While fantasy football owners may not be thinking too hard about ensuring the 49ers defense/special teams is a must-have grab, there’s still a bargain to be had.
If you’ve played fantasy football long enough, you’re fully aware your defense/special teams selections any given year won’t win you a fantasy championship, but a poor selection can certainly cost you a shot at winning your league.
And every now and then, getting a top-notch D/ST group can actually propel you over some tougher matchups against other league contenders.
OK, so it’s rare to field advice about D/ST groups, and you’re probably not going to be thinking about which NFL teams’ defense and special teams you want to add until you’ve rounded out the bulk of your player roster.
But, since we’re a San Francisco 49ers site and all, it’s probably wise to take some stock value on where the Niners defense sits entering 2022 and what kind of plans you’ll want to have in terms of fantasy football draft day.
Feeling bullish about 49ers D/ST in fantasy football? Good
In 2021, under first-year defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, San Francisco’s defense got off to a slow start, paralleling the team’s 3-5 opening to the regular season. Midway through the year, though, the 49ers turned a proverbial page on that side of the ball, allowing opponents to score 25 points or more just twice from Week 10 through the rest of the year and into the postseason.
Perhaps more impressive was the Niners still managed to record 48 sacks, tied for fifth most in the league, despite not having a double-digit sack-getter other than Pro Bowl EDGE Nick Bosa.
On top of that, Ryans’ defense gave up 100-plus yards only once from Week 10 through the NFC Championship game.
True, fantasy football owners of San Francisco’s defense were hurt by the lack of interceptions (only nine) and a shoddy special teams group that didn’t offer much in terms of non-kicking scoring value.
But, in the wake of adding former Seattle Seahawks special teams coordinator Brian Schneider and former Pittsburgh Steelers return specialist Ray-Ray McCloud this offseason, one should figure improvements are due on that phase of the game, too.
All told, ESPN gave the 49ers’ D/ST group 120 standard fantasy points last season but projects this same unit to have less in 2022 with 114.48.
Time to bite? Away for sure.
An undervalued 49ers D/ST is a smart play in fantasy football
The volatile nature of D/ST units in fantasy, namely due to player turnover on a year-to-year basis, can make it challenging to assess whether or not a previous season’s success will translate over to the next season.
Ryans, entering year two of his coordinating career, figures to have grown, though, and the Niners have retained the bulk of their blue-chip talent like Bosa and linebacker Fred Warner while also infusing some additional faces like veteran cornerback Charvarius Ward to beef up the secondary.
And that defensive backfield has been one of San Francisco’s better units during training camp so far.
While San Francisco might not be ranked as a top-three defense, putting it into a top-five category is certainly reasonable.
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According to Fantasy Football Calculator, the 49ers’ D/ST group has an average draft position (ADP) of 12.08, three picks behind the Indianapolis Colts’ ADP of 12.05 and over two rounds behind both the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams’ D/ ST units (10.04).
Yes, looking at sleeper defenses like that of the Green Bay Packers (14.08 ADP) or the Baltimore Ravens (14.11 ADP) might be a bigger gamble with more value and an equal payoff, the Niners have that right mix of not being a D/ ST fantasy football owners will chase but will nevertheless deliver on value.
Perhaps even exceed it.
So, fantasy owners, plan accordingly.