What fantasy football owners can expect from the 49ers backfield

What fantasy football owners can expect from the 49ers backfield

Fantasy football player analysis tips and advice

What fantasy football owners can expect from the 49ers backfield

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It’s no secret one of my favorite players in 2020 fantasy football drafts is San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert. There’s plenty to like, which will be covered momentarily, even if it is not without risk.

Casual gamers may not even know his name, whereas anyone paying attention during the playoffs last season should be familiar with just how explosive Mostert can be when given an opportunity. And what an opportunity he has entering the 2020 season!

Raheem Mostert fantasy football pros

  • Elite offensive line play
  • Explosive style of running (averaged at least 5.0 yards per carry in each of his four NFL seasons with a touch)
  • Run-heavy offensive system that was second to only the Baltimore Ravens in 2019 rushing attempts
  • No more RB Matt Breida to steal carries during the season
  • Rewarded with a reworked contract in the offseason to keep him happy
  • Limited wear on his tires, despite being 28 years old
  • Proven to have a nose for the end zone

Raheem Mostert fantasy football cons

  • Will share some serious volume with running back Tevin Coleman
  • Untested as a primary running back over the course of a full season
  • Major questions at wide receiver in San Francisco could result in a frequently stacked box
  • General increase in overall expectations for both Mostert and the defending conference champions
  • Limited role as a receiver out of the backfield

Targets and touches

Fantasy footballers have a universal concern for running backs, and it all centers on how much will he touch the football. In 2019, splitting the backfield three ways at times, the 49ers ran a total of 397 times by Mostert, Coleman and Breida.

Player Run Att Run Att/G % Tot Att
Matt Breida
123
9.5 (13)
31.0%
Tevin Coleman
137
9.8 (14)
34.5%
Raheem Mostert
137
8.6 (16)
34.5%
Total
397
24.8
79.7%

With Breida now a Miami Dolphin, simply splitting his carries evenly from last year would have resulted in 199 totes for each Mostert and Coleman. Obviously, it’s not that easy, but it illustrates the continuation of head coach/play-caller Kyle Shanahan’s long-standing penchant to share the reps. When that happens, it is incumbent upon the backs to be extremely explosive (like Mostert) to stand out for fantasy purposes.

The game numbers are a little deceiving. Mostert was active for 16 games but didn’t touch the ball in any meaningful way until Week 13. Breida lost a few games due to injury and was active but hamstrung in several others as he tried to play hurt. Coleman missed a few games to close out the year and was cast aside after Week 9, for all intents and purposes.

A game-by-game look is more representative of what was going on. This table is Mostert’s first 12 games of 2019:

Week
Opp
Rushing
Receiving
Off snaps
PPR Pts
Att
Yds
Y/A
TD
Tgt
Rec
Yds
Y/R
TD
Num
Pct
1
TB
9
40
4.4
0
1
1
0
0
0
20
30%
5.0
2
CIN
13
83
6.4
0
4
3
68
22.67
1
32
46%
24.1
3
PIT
12
79
6.6
0
1
0
0
0
24
30%
7.9
5
CLE
7
34
4.9
0
0
0
0
0
24
32%
3.4
6
LAR
4
13
3.3
0
0
0
0
0
7
9%
1.3
7
WAS
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0%
0.0
8
CAR
9
60
6.7
1
0
0
0
0
14
21%
12.0
9
ARI
1
-2
-2.0
0
0
0
0
0
2
3%
-0.2
10
SEA
6
28
4.7
0
1
1
7
7
0
18
22%
4.5
11
ARI
6
13
2.2
0
3
2
14
7
0
35
48%
4.7
12
GB
6
45
7.5
1
3
1
22
22
0
14
29%
13.7
Total
73
393
5.4
2
13
8
111
13.9
1
190
6.3
Average
6.6
35.7
5.4
0.2
1.2
0.7
10.1
13.9
0.1
17.3
100.3

As one can tell, he was efficient with limited action, something we witness in 2018, too. From Week 13 through the Super Bowl, when Mostert essentially had become the primary back, his numbers were nothing short of impressive, even if one monster game helped inflate the figures.

For kicks, the data set also was extrapolated to 16 games to see what kind of pace he was on for a full season.

Week
Opp
Rushing
Receiving
Off snaps
PPR Pts
Att
Yds
Y/A
TD
Tgt
Rec
Yds
Y/R
TD
Num
Pct
13
BAL
19
146
7.7
1
2
2
8
4
0
42
74%
23.4
14
NOR
10
69
6.9
1
2
2
40
20
1
38
59%
24.9
15
ATL
14
54
3.9
1
2
1
5
5
0
34
53%
12.9
16
LAR
11
53
4.8
1
1
0
0
0
31
54%
11.3
17
SEA
10
57
5.7
2
2
1
16
16
0
27
54%
20.3
DR
MIN
12
58
4.8
0
0
0
0
0
23
34%
5.8
CC
GB
29
220
7.6
4
2
2
6
3
0
45
82%
48.6
SB
KC
12
58
4.8
1
1
1
2
2
0
36
62%
13
Total
117
715
6.1
11
12
9
77
8.6
1
276
160.2
Average
14.6
89.4
1.4
1.50
1.125
9.625
0.1
34.5
20.0
16-game extrapolation
234
1,430
6.1
22
24
18
154
8.6
2
552
320.4

There’s no real way of knowing if he could have sustained such a frenetic pace for 16 contests, yet it is not without merit to consider how high of a ceiling we’re looking at in best-case scenario. The extrapolated 320 PPR points would have been No. 2 in the NFL for running backs … the stuff fantasy dreams are made of.

Don’t take that as a suggestion Mostert will finish RB2 in 2020. Those numbers would require him to be insanely efficient, avoid an injury, maintain a consistent grasp on the primary carries regardless of the matchup, and actually do it … live up to it.

The more realistic, grounded view should be what kind of carry split does he share with Coleman in 2020. First, a look at his 2019 per-game action from when he was the lead back:

Week
Opp
Rushing
Receiving
Off snaps
PPR Pts
Att
Yds
Y/A
TD
Tgt
Rec
Yds
Y/R
TD
Num
Pct
1
TB
6
23
3.8
0
3
2
33
16.5
0
18
27%
7.6
2
CLE
16
97
6.1
1
0
0
0
0
25
33%
15.7
3
LAR
18
45
2.5
1
3
2
16
8
0
43
56%
14.1
4
WAS
20
62
3.1
0
2
2
-1
-0.5
0
42
66%
8.1
5
CAR
11
105
9.6
3
2
2
13
6.5
1
31
47%
37.8
6
ARI
12
23
1.9
0
4
2
13
6.5
0
37
53%
5.6
7
SEA
9
40
4.4
0
4
4
32
8
0
41
49%
11.2
8
ARI
12
14
1.2
0
4
3
48
16
0
37
51%
9.2
9
GB
11
39
3.6
1
4
2
10
5
0
29
60%
12.9
Total
115
448
3.9
6
26
19
164
8.6
1
303
122.2
Average
12.8
49.8
0.7
2.9
2.1
18.2
0.1
33.7
14.3
16-game extrapolation
204
796
3.9
11
46.2
33.7
291.6
8.6
2
539
229.2

For comparison, his best work was extrapolated to 16 outings, and the 229.2 points would have generated fantasy RB13 — not terrible, by any stretch. In 2020, after seeing how much better Mostert was last year, it’s easy to get caught up in the “what could be” from him. But Coleman is a Shanahan favorite and will see his, so long as he’s healthy.

That extrapolated line is fairly close for attempts and yardage should they split almost 50-50, but the 11 scores may be well out of reach if Mostert remains the lead back. Where Coleman has a definitive edge is as a receiver out of the backfield, and he’s poised to threaten 50 catches if this receiving corps doesn’t offer up something with a pulse.

If both backs remain healthy and productive, 60/40 in Mostert’s favor is about as wide a gap as one should expect.

Fantasy football takeaway

Quite possibly the most important factor working against both Coleman and Mostert is the loss of wide receiver Deebo Samuel (foot) for what appears to be at least a couple of weeks to open the year. Then there’s the question of how long it will take him to get into game shape.

Regardless of when Samuel returns, the passing game is left to be carried by tight end George Kittle. The rest of the receiving corps is led by first-round rookie Brandon Aiyuk, and this isn’t the season to be excited about rookie receivers, no matter what round in which they were drafted. Kendrick Bourne has flashed a time or two, yet there’s a reason he’s more or less a nobody in fantasy. Dante Pettis has been a major letdown, and Jalen Hurd might as well be a rookie all over again. Slot receivers Richie James (NFI) and Trent Taylor aren’t exactly world-beaters. All of that said, it’s quite possible defenses will have eight in the box way more than anyone wants to see from the pro-Mostert/Coleman perspective.

Look at it like this: If you’re an aggressive drafter with an optimistic view of Mostert, he’s a late fourth-rounder with RB2 value. Say you drafted in the top four spots and went RB … that brings you back around to the late fourth with probably two wideouts already rostered. Mostert is a fine addition at that stage. He is one of a few backz who could return Round 1 production at a discount this year.

More conservative drafters may opt to build two running backs in their first three picks, which means Mostert either has to fall to you in Round 5/6, or three running backs will be in your first four selections — not a terrible approach this year.

Coleman is a sound investment to handcuff to Mostert, because whichever back ultimately sees the majority of the touches ends up being a weekly starter. He’s also a quality gamble in case all of this Mostert hype falls flat or an injury derails his season. Coleman’s ceiling is low-tier RB2, and he’s a matchup-driven flex play when Mostert is rolling.

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