Jimmy Garoppolo, the most handsome man in football, will help you win your fantasy football leagues in 2019.
This may sound like a hot take, but based on his current cost, and the fantasy production I expect from him this season, Jimmy G will smash his ADP in both dynasty and redraft leagues.
With all the hype surrounding Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield, and Deshaun Watson, as well as the return of Andrew Luck to full health, Jimmy G feels like the forgotten man in the fantasy community. I must admit, I too was guilty of this, until a deep YouTube dive brought me across Episode 60 of ‘The Film Room’ (credit to Brett Kollman who does fantastic work).
Seeing the breakdown of Jimmy G’s film, including his lightning fast release, reminded me why the fantasy community was so quick to anoint him as the next big thing. In particular, the Week 16 game in 2017, in which he led the 49ers to a win over the vaunted “Sacksonville” defense was a thoroughly impressive performance. He finished as the QB4 that week, against the number 1 fantasy defense. Not bad Jimmy, not bad at all.
So why am I so bullish on Garoppolo this season?
Jimmy G will have plenty of weapons to help his charge towards a QB1 finish. Not only will he be throwing to one of the best tight ends s in the league in George Kittle, but the 49ers invested in their pass-catching group in the 2019 NFL draft. They drafted Deebo Samuel with the 36th overall pick, and Jalen Hurd with the 67th pick, adding to their existing corps headlined by 2018 44th overall pick Dante Pettis.
It is expected that Deebo Samuel will line up as the ‘Z’ receiver (the strong side of the formation). Despite moderate college production, the 49ers loved his athletic profile and believe he has the speed to run past cornerbacks on the outside, as well as work underneath and into the center of the field. He is also especially dangerous with the ball in his hands:
Deebo Samuel’s 21 missed tackles forced in 2018 was T-4th among WRs in this draft class. Here’s a breakdown by @PFF_Mike before the draft on how Samuel was one of the most dangerous receivers in the country after the catch. #49ershttps://t.co/540WSalmE4
— Jeff Deeney (@PFF_Jeff) May 2, 2019
Deebo is one of my highest ranked rookie WRs, and Randy Young of the Dynasty War Zone Podcast is excited about Samuel too:
— William Renken (@williamrenken83) May 2, 2019
Dante Pettis is expected to line up as the ‘X’ receiver in the offense, on the opposite side to the field of Samuel. Last year, he showed flashes of his potential but only posted 467 yards. However, he dealt with injury, inconsistent QB play, and still managed 17.3 yards per reception and five TDs. Whilst I am a little less aggressive on Pettis as a fantasy asset (purely because of volume concerns), he brings another dynamic element to this offense. He is an electric punt returner and uses that elusive skill set in his receiver play as well.
Marquise Goodwin offers a big play threat that few other receivers in the NFL can offer, and according to the 49ers beat reporter Matt Maiocco, will be used this season in a similar role as Taylor Gabriel was in Atlanta. He does have durability concerns, and so will be used in a limited and situational capacity. Whilst he might not offer much fantasy value of his own, when he is on the field he is yet another matchup option for Jimmy G and Shanahan to utilize. We all know how ridiculous his athletic ability is, but it is still fun to look at (Per Player Profiler):
After the 2019 season, we might be talking about George Kittle as the best TE in the entire NFL. What he was able to do in his sophomore season was nothing short of spectacular. Given that TE is one of the more difficult positions to develop from college to the NFL, it’s scary to imagine what he can become. He finished as the TE3 with an NFL record 1,377 yards, but only scored five touchdowns which tied for sixth for all TEs (half the number scored by Kelce). I fully expect Shanahan to utilize Kittle as a match-up nightmare all season long, benefiting from his freakish athletic gifts, as well his yards after catch ability (first in the NFL in 2018).
Kittle, Samuel, and Pettis will be his primary weapons but Jimmy G will also have potent pass-catching running backs at his disposal in Jerick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman. The latter has prior success in Shanahan’s offense and will be looking to bounce back after a pedestrian 2018 season. He will also have a couple of decent slot options in Trent Taylor and Jordan Matthews. Whilst neither will be expected to be major pieces of the offense from a production perspective, they should be able to contribute in specific situations. Matthews offers the ‘big-bodied’ slot receiver option and has been most successful in his career when lined up there, whilst Taylor and his 95th percentile agility has the ability to find space in the smallest of areas. Shanahan should be able to utilize these two skills sets in different match-ups with success, particularly with Garoppolo’s fast release.
The Shanahan Effect
Kyle Shanahan has a strong reputation for producing fantasy relevant QBs. Most recently, it was Matt Ryan who excelled in Shanahan’s system, finishing as the QB2 in 2016. Using the tools at FF Statistics, we can see that his “QB1” finished as the QB5 in 2012, and QB4 in 2009.
Whilst there are peaks on this graph, there are definite valleys. Shanahan hasn’t always worked with the most talented QBs, but in fairness, the graphic doesn’t paint the full picture. In 2018 when the 49ers didn’t have a true “QB1”, the combined fantasy output of Jimmy G, C.J. Beathard, and Nick Mullens combined to finish as the QB16. An impressive feat considering that Kendrick Bourne led the 49er WR corps in targets. Using the same cumulative process for Hoyer, Beathard, and Jimmy G, his “QB1” would have been the QB14 in 2017. Carlos Hyde led the team in receptions that year. All things considered, I would argue Shanahan has extracted the most out of the players at his disposal in his first two seasons in the Bay Area.
The Shanahan offense has a reputation for being very difficult to grow accustomed to. Matt Ryan was the perfect example of this, who went from a TD to INT ratio of 21:16 in 2015 to 38:7 in 2016. Whilst Garoppolo has been sidelined by injury, I have no doubt that he has been working hard not only in rehab but in his study of the playbook too. He has had the time to learn the verbiage and concepts, and whilst I don’t expect an MVP level season in 2019, I do expect him to play with a greater understanding of the offense. This, combined with the weapons at his disposal, should make for some very good fantasy production in 2019, and beyond.
Also working in his favor in 2019, is a seemingly friendly strength of schedule (SOS). Per Sharp Football Stats, the 49ers will have the third easiest strength of schedule based on 2018 defensive metrics. Of course, teams change from year to year, so this isn’t a deal breaker for me, but you would rather see an easier SOS than not!
This is where things get really interesting. It doesn’t seem so long ago that Jimmy G was the future of the NFL, and his ADP in both dynasty and redraft indicated the consensus opinion. I was an advocate of selling high when his ADP peaked at QB6, but QB14 (per the latest DFF ADP) is a much more palatable price tag. If his trade market is anywhere in this range, I will be buying up shares of him wherever I am able to.
The 49ers will be a team I will be watching with great interest in 2019, and if Jimmy Garoppolo is able to meet the expectations the franchise has of him, they will be a potent offense.
What do you think Jimmy G’s ceiling is? Are you buying, or are you selling? Let me know what you think on Twitter @FF_DownUnder, and thanks for taking the time to read!