In our “32 in 32” series, we are highlighting three of the most notable fantasy football players for each team, covering all 32 teams in 32 days!
Christian McCaffrey (RB – San Francisco 49ers):
After two consecutive seasons of fluke injuries, many were labeling Christian McCaffrey as “injury prone”, despite missing just one game prior to those injuries between his NFL and collegiate careers. He dismissed those narratives by playing all 17 games in 2022.
And we know what a healthy Christian McCaffrey is: elite.
McCaffrey went on to finish as the RB2 in fantasy behind only Austin Ekeler, going for over 1,800 total yards and 14 TDs, split between time with the Carolina Panthers and the San Francisco 49ers.
He had the overall production and, per usual, was one of the safest week-to-week fantasy RBs, posting 8+ points in every game and 13+ points in all but two games (one of which was his first game with San Francisco, where he got just 29% of the snaps).
After a game to acclimate in San Francisco, where he still posted 8.2 points on 10 touches, McCaffrey was the runaway top RB in fantasy, finishing with 23 PPG the remainder of the season and posting over 30 points more than the next RB (Ekeler).
The only potential concern for CMC heading into 2023 is the uncertainty within the 49ers’ QB situation. If Purdy or Darnold is the starter, he should be elite once again, but if Trey Lance starts, it introduces some uncertainty given Lance’s extensive rushing role (especially around the redzone).
Regardless, McCaffrey is an elite-RB1 option and should easily be a top-2 pick in fantasy this season. Currently, as my 1.01 in all formats, I’m anticipating another monster season from the perennial fantasy superstar.
Brandon Aiyuk (WR – San Francisco 49ers):
Aiyuk was one of the players with the biggest breakouts in 2022, jumping from 56-826-5 in 2021 (WR35) to 78 catches for 1,015 yards and 8 TDs as the WR15 in 2022.
He was the ideal WR2/FLEX option almost the entire season, going for double-digit production in 13 games and the 10th-most consistent production (0.486 CR) among top-40 WRs.
There’s a lot of uncertainty at QB in San Francisco with little clarity on who the starter will be (Purdy, Darnold, Lance), which will dictate most of Aiyuk’s fantasy prospects in 2022. If Purdy or Darnold is the starter, Aiyuk is likely to be fine, but if Lance is the starter, it introduces a potential volume issue (not just for Aiyuk, but other weapons too) given his extreme rushing utilization.
At the moment, it appears that Purdy will be the Week 1 starter, and with that in mind, I am very favorable of Aiyuk’s prospects in 2023, especially as a mid-WR3 option in the 6th round with very realistic WR2 (or even top-15) upside that we saw on display last year.
George Kittle (TE – San Francisco 49ers):
Even despite (yet again) missing time to injury, Kittle returned to his productive self, going for 60 catches, 765 yards, and a career-high 11 TDs in 2022, finishing as the TE3 behind only Kelce and Hockenson.
It was a rather uncharacteristic season from Kittle in terms of production, who typically saw a majority of his production through volume, but saw an absurd 32.9% (3rd-worst) of his production via TDs in 2022.
That is a major concern going forward, especially with an offense loaded with weapons (McCaffrey, Samuel, Aiyuk), introducing week-to-week instability that we previously had not seen in Kittle before.
I really like him if Lance is the starter, seeing as Lance heavily targeted the TE position throughout college (especially in the redzone), but even without Lance, I don’t mind Kittle at his price as the TE4 off the board in the 5th/6th round range, though he does lean into a ‘boom-or-bust’ type profile.