Many of you drafted Colin Kaepernick in your fantasy league this year thinking that you were getting a quarterback that was on the verge of fantasy explosion. I also gave in to the awe of Kaepernick by trading for him right after his outstanding week 1 performance against the Green Bay Packers. I saw him throw for over 400 yards and score 30 fantasy points without hardly ever leaving the pocket to run. I thought to myself: “Wow. This guy is the whole package.”
Kaepernick is 6’4″, 230 lbs. with a cannon of an arm, straight-line speed that a resembles a gazelle gliding across the African grasslands, a confidence that won over the hearts of the entire state of California, and a body that was studly enough to make ESPN’s Body Issue in 2013.
He is the leader of a team with a fantastic offensive line, a stout defense, a great head coach, and a decent amount of playmakers. Ron Jaworski, aka “Jaws”, an NFL analyst and former NFL quarterback, said that he believes Kaepernick could ultimately become one of the greatest of all time. Yes, all time.
Even after all this hype, Kaepernick is sitting here after 5 weeks of play with an average of only 12.8 fantasy points per game. Take out his week 1 performance, and he has averaged an embarrassing 8.4 fantasy points per game.
So all of us Kaepernick fantasy owners are sitting here wondering what is going wrong.
Because I am an owner of Kaepernick in my most important league, I have tuned in to all of his games thus far and watched him closely. Here are the main issues that I have discovered:
#1: Lack of offensive playmakers
Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis, and … hmm… . Until Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham return from their injuries, Kaepernick only has two legitimate weapons. Anquan Boldin has some of the best hands in the league, but he is 33 years old and lacks the speed to outrun any defensive back. He has burnt weak defenses, but has had major troubles getting open against strong cornerbacks (i.e. – Johnathan Joseph of the Texans and Richard Sherman of the Seahawks). Vernon Davis is a beast, but often comes down with minor injuries that keep him at less than 100%. It makes it quite easy for defenses to take away only two threats in the passing game. Kaepernick simply needs more weapons. Crabtree is expected to return around week 11, and Manningham is due back around week 8 or 9. This should be a huge boost in Kaepernick’s value, and will give both Boldin and Davis more room to run.
#2: The strong run game
The 49ers currently rank 6th in the NFL in rushing yards at 140.2 yards per game. Frank Gore seems to have stopped the hand of time, and has put together an outstanding season thus far. Kendall Hunter, Anthony Dixon, and LaMichael James have also been in the mix. They might have the deepest RB core in the league. Their offensive line, led by the big Joe Staley, have gotten a ton of push. I don’t see the 49ers needing to go away from the run game much with the success they have found, and the fact that they will be ahead in a lot of games this year – thus the desire to run out the clock. Obviously, if their run game continues to be successful, they have less of a need to pass.
#3: The disappearance of the spread option
Throughout the end of last year and through their playoff run, the 49ers often ran a very successful spread option attack. This gave Kaepernick the option to either hand the ball off to Frank Gore, or keep the ball and run it himself. Kaepernick might have the fastest straight-line speed of any quarterback in the league. However, it appears that Jim Harbaugh has decided to abandon it this year, much to the dismay of all Kaepernick fantasy owners. This could be because defenses have figured out how to stop the spread option, or simply because Harbaugh wants to keep his young stud safe and sound in the pocket, away from the bone-crushing linebackers and strong safeties downfield. You can’t blame Harbaugh, especially after seeing so many QBs injured from running the ball (RG3, Michael Vick, EJ Manuel, Brian Hoyer). Either way, it is hurting Kaepernick’s fantasy value tremendously.
#4: Playing with a big lead
The 49ers are a great team. Sure, they got crushed in Seattle (but who doesn’t?) and by the Colts, but they have seemed to find themselves again and have put together two dominating performances in a row. Unfortunately, their recipe for success is through suffocating defense and a successful run game. Once they have a safe lead, they have the ability to abandon the passing game altogether. This is because they have been able to run the ball with success, and they have no issue punting the ball away because their defense can be trusted and will help them maintain their lead. I’m afraid that Kaepernick will rarely have a high-scoring fantasy game when the 49ers play bad teams, simply because they won’t have a need to pass.
Should I Trade Him? Should I Trade for Him?
First of all, if you are in a 12 or more team league, don’t drop Kaepernick. Keep him in your lineups. He may be very valuable towards the end of the season and into the fantasy playoffs. If your league is 8 teams or less, you may consider dropping him. There are definitely eight quarterbacks that have more value than him at this point. If your league is 10 teams – it’s a tough call.
If you’re willing to trade Kaepernick, look for a team with a struggling QB, such as a team with Cam Newton, Tom Brady, or Matt Ryan (lost Julio Jones). They are potential buyers. You may not get much in return for Kaepernick, but you could add nice depth at the RB or WR positions.
If you don’t have Kaepernick on your team, but may need a backup, now is the time to buy him at a very low cost. Kaepernick owners are extremely frustrated right now and are looking for other options at QB. You could get him for a very low price, and his value is sure to get better towards the end of the year once Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham return.
Overall, if you’re a Kaepernick owner, you shouldn’t have him as your every-week starter. You need a second solid QB. He isn’t going to put up big numbers against bad teams like you would normally expect from other quarterbacks. His biggest games will most likely come from opponents with high-scoring offenses and subpar defenses (i.e. – Packers, Saints, Cowboys, Broncos, Falcons). His value will increase dramatically with the return of Michael Crabtree, who is a monster, and Mario Manningham. They should both be back around week 11, so this will give you great momentum going into the fantasy playoffs. However, you will need a backup QB until week 11 to make sure than you actually make it into the playoffs!
Good Luck, and go get yourself some Mighty Wings. (In my opinion, the best sauce to complement your wings is Spicy Buffalo.)
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