The San Francisco 49ers head on the road to face their biggest challenge of the season in the Detroit Lions. The 49ers are 4-1 and coming off a dominant victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in which they received strong fantasy level performances from a few different folks. Alex Smith did not have a monster game but was effective thanks to three touchdown passes, Frank Gore had a big day and the defense had a huge day thanks to a pick-six by Carlos Rogers.
They now face a Lions team that is 5-0 and playing solid football. They are flawed enough for the 49ers to emerge victorious, but they are going to need to get some solid performances across the board. The 49ers have lost Joshua Morgan for the season, so somebody will need to step up on offense to fill his void in the passing game.
We've made a slight change to the breakdown. The 49ers have certain players that are must-starts every week and really require no explanation (Vernon Davis, Frank Gore). The 49ers defense has entered that level due to an aggressive nature that leads to turnovers and sacks. Then there are situational starts for guys who are not every week starters, but are worth consideration in certain situations. And of course, then we have the sits.
Frank Gore, RB
numberFire.com Projections: 12.01 FP - 76.43 rushing yards, 0.50 touchdowns, 1.87 receptions, 12.39 receiving yards
numberFire.com Projections: 7.97 FP - 18.89 pts allowed, 2.56 sacks, 1.70 turnovers, 0.16 touchdowns
Delanie Walker, TE
numberFire.com Projections: 4.98 FP - 3.07 receptions, 34.61 receiving yards, 0.25 touchdowns
Analysis: The loss of Morgan opens up a bit of a void in the 49ers passing game. I fully expect Delanie Walker to take up a chunk of that void. Walker played wide receiver in college before converting to tight end. He is often in Vernon Davis' shadow, but Walker has a crazy amount of athleticism that makes him a dynamic weapon. When Braylon Edwards gets back after the bye Walker might take a back seat, but for one week he could be a fantastic fantasy option.
Alex Smith, QB
numberFire.com Projections: 11.20 FP - 198.44 yards, 0.88 TDs, 0.86 INTs
Analysis: In the course of a few short weeks, Alex Smith has moved from fan pariah to viable fantasy option. That's almost crazy talk. Smith is not an every week must-start at this point (barring some kind of QB disaster in your roster), but he is now a very viable bye week fill-in. That is a big step up for a guy who likely wasn't drafted once in a non-dynasty fantasy league over the last six years.
Analysis: Michael Crabtree has not been spectacular this year, but he is becoming a decent flex play here and there. The loss of Joshua Morgan means even more snaps for Crabtree, which likely means more targets from Alex Smith. Crabtree is not a must-start every week, but this is a good week to get him in your lineup.
The 49ers have a handful of guys that are great for the football team, but not so much for fantasy purposes. Kendall Hunter remains a good handcuff, but I've downgraded him from situational start to sit for now. I actually think he could end up with a great game if utilized on Sunday, but I really don't know what to expect in terms of playing time now that Gore appears to be back on track.
The 49ers also have Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams moving up on the depth chart to replace Morgan. One or both might emerge as a viable fantasy weapon, but until we know for sure, they are not worth adding at this point.
Our weekly 49ers sit/start suggestions are based on a combination of our knowledge as fans and the weekly projections of numberFire.com. Head over to numberFire.com to get a full breakdown of their weekly projections.