The 49ers and Jets will be full of waiver wire targets to swipe up in 2017.
The San Francisco 49ers and New York Jets may be as barren as they come in terms of fantasy football production in 2017, but there are still a number of players to keep an eye on. Running back Carlos Hyde and wide receiver Eric Decker are penciled-in starters, while the likes of wideouts Pierre Garcon and Quincy Enunwa will battle for flex or bench spots on your rosters.
This weekly series of columns will focus on one to two teams and their fantasy-relevant players heading into next season. Player rankings are broken up into three tiers: ‘Start ‘Em’, ‘Flex or Stream ‘Em’, and ‘Pick ‘Em Up’. Portions of this series take place during free agency and prior to the NFL Draft, therefore players are subject to change. All fantasy rankings and stats are from Pro Football Reference.
Eric Decker, WR (Jets)
Aside from his injury-riddled 2016, Eric Decker has been one of the more consistent wide receivers in the league since 2012. Despite that, he is constantly underdrafted. His ADP (average draft position) in 2012 was 23, and he finished as the 8th ranked wideout. In 2012, his ADP was 22, and he finished 10th. He also finished 10th in 2015 with an ADP of 33. With the less-than-stellar quarterback play he may have, I do not expect him to finish the season as a WR1, but he could easily be a WR2 with great draft value to boot.
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Carlos Hyde, RB (49ers)
Carlos Hyde’s 2016 was the lone bright spot in the 49ers offense. He rushed for nearly 1,000 yards at 4.6 yards per carry despite missing two games to a shoulder strain and resting in Week 17. The risk with Hyde, however, are the injuries. In his three NFL seasons he has yet to play in all 16 games. In 2014 while backing up Frank Gore, Hyde suffered back and ankle injuries, missing two games. In 2015 he fractured his foot and was shut down after Week 8. If he can manage a fully healthy season, he is a surefire RB1.
Flex or Stream ‘Em
Matt Forte and Bilal Powell, RBs (Jets)
Forte and Powell are 1A and 1B in the Jets backfield, nearly splitting the snaps in 2016 (Forte - 46.7%, Powell - 50.9%). Forte and Powell were also both RB2’s last season, finishing 21st and 22nd among running backs, respectively. In 2017, however, I expect the production for both backs to slightly falter.
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Forte will be 32 years old this December, and his 3.7 yards per carry and hamstring/torn meniscus injuries do not inspire confidence in the aging runner. As for Powell, a sizeable part of his production comes as a pass catcher (58 receptions for 388 yards last season), and the quarterback trio of Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg and Josh McCown may trend those numbers negatively. Regardless, running backs are hard to come by, and they both need to be owned. They will enter 2017 as being flex-worthy players, with more upside in Powell if Forte continues his poor play.
Pierre Garcon, WR (49ers)
The 10-year veteran is the marquee pickup of the 49ers offseason so far. In a loaded Redskins offense last season, Garcon tallied 79 catches for 1,041 yards and three touchdowns. It was only the second time in his career he had 1,000 or more receiving yards. The 49ers offense is a far cry from the one Garcon played on in 2016, but he will be the defacto number one receiver and will see heavy targets from fellow free agent signee and starting quarterback Brian Hoyer. Garcon will start the 2017 season as a flex play and has WR3 potential.
I like how they keep saying I’m a #2 WR a possession WR when my #’s and play has shown otherwise. Thanks @gmfb maybe I need to dance more 😉— Pierre Garçon (@PierreGarcon) March 2, 2017
Pick ‘Em Up
Jeremy Kerley, WR (49ers)
Kerley was the leading receiver on the 49ers last season, catching 64 balls for 667 yards and three touchdowns. The slot receiver was peppered with targets (115), far surpassing his previous career high of 95 set in 2012 with the Jets. He is not an immediate fantasy option as he will be the second receiver on the team after Garcon, but Kerley can be a steady bye week fill-in throughout the 2017 season.
Quincy Enunwa, WR (Jets)
With Brandon Marshall now on the Giants, Enunwa will graduate to becoming the number two wide receiver on the Jets in 2017 behind Eric Decker. He ended the 2016 season as the team leader in yards (857) and touchdowns (4). The former sixth-round pick has plenty of upside, and should be swooped up off of the waiver wire if he starts the season strong. The lackluster quarterback play that the Jets are likely to have may be the limiting factor to Enunwa truly breaking out.
Vance McDonald, TE (49ers)
McDonald’s 2016 season was derailed after Week 12 by a fractured scapula, just days after signing a five-year, $35 million contract extension. The 2013 draft pick had finally begun to breakout. From Weeks 9-12, he was the third-ranked tight end in fantasy, catching 14 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns. We will have to wait and see whether the new brass of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan will value McDonald similarly to the previous regime. He will be a tight end to keep an eye on in 2017.
Robby Anderson, WR (Jets)
Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2016, Anderson earned his roster spot as a deep threat, catching passes of 40 or more yards four times (two for a touchdown), between Weeks 10-15. Anderson and teammate Enunwa both finished top 25 in the league in yards per catch. Anderson had 14.0 yards per catch and Enunwa had 14.8. Anderson will head into 2017 as the third option for the Jets, and could deserve a bench spot on your fantasy roster depending on his use as the season begins.
The 49ers and Jets combined for only seven wins in 2016, but that does not mean that their fantasy options should be cast aside. Other than the couple shoe-in fantasy starters, each team has players such as Bilal Powell, Jeremy Kerley, Vance McDonald and Robby Anderson that could be huge pieces to their respective offense. Waiver wire sniping will be necessary to take advantage of the talents of some of these players in 2017.
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