With pick 14.9 in the Rotoviz Staff Dynasty league, I selected Mario Manningham. The beneficiaries of Micheal Crabtree’s injury have been assumed to be Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and A.J. Jenkins; most likley, Manningham has been forgotten because he is returning from an ACL injury suffered in December of last year. Given the 49er’s current situation, I think it’s very likely that Manningham is the most overlooked wide receiver on SF’s roster.
If Manningham avoids the PUP list, as he recently asserted, than he will be in line to help replace the 215 targets lost with Crabtree’s injury, and the departure of Randy Moss and Delanie Walker. Additionally, Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick threw the exact same amount of regular season passes (218 attempts), despite Kaepernick starting two less games. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that extrapolated over a full season, the Niners will increase on their 436 pass attempts. Given that such a large part of a productive offense is unclaimed, all options deserve exploration.
I’m in the camp with the Douche that Vernon Davis will likely be the biggest winner of the Crabtree injury. The 49er’s drafted Vance McDonald, who is a physical freak and a willing and able blocker. Delanie Walker was simply a bad blocker and therefore, VD had to be asked to play in line more. Davis is the most talented pass catching option on the roster. However, there is no way that Davis usurps all of Crabtree’s left over targets and the additional passes from an opened-up offense.
Most fantasy analysis has suggested that Anquan Boldin will step in and have some real fantasy value in Crabtree’s absence. I definitely think the most likely scenario is that Boldin does lead the 49er’s wide receivers in snaps and targets; He runs good routes, he’s a good blocker (20 rating in pass blocking per PFF), and has only 16 drops over the last 3 seasons. Those things make Boldin desirable from a real football perspective and will keep in the coaches good graces and on the field. That being said, his upside is rather limited. Boldin is 33 years old and the last time he was at least a fantasy WR2 was in 2009. Boldin has only scored double digit touchdowns once in his career, while Manningham had 9 in a season as a bit player for the Giants. Manningham also has a season of over 10 yards per target; Boldin has basically been a 7.5 his entire career.
Anquan Boldin Career Yards/TargetIn 2012, Manningham posted a 74% catch rate and Boldin, a 60% rate. At this point in their careers, Boldin is an aging possession receiver learning a new offense and Manningham is the younger and more talented player, albeit recovering from a massive injury. Assuming health for Manningham (which is, I understand, is risky), I see Manningham having the higher fantasy ceiling, but a lower floor. The Rotoviz Similarity Scores app on Boldin paints an ugly picture:
The numbers certainly can’t be regarded as gospel, as they can’t account for the change in situation, however they paint a pessimistic picture of Boldin’s upside. The averages of the Season N+1 comparables averaged 85 fantasy points, or exactly what Brandon Stokely did in 2012. Not a player that I want to invest in.
The real competition for fantasy upside in San Francisco will be A.J Jenkins. Given his high draft pedigree, it seems reasonable to assume that the coaches want Jenkins to succeed. But the fact that the 49er’s were signing guys like Chad Hall off the street to come and start in playoffs games gives me pause. As the Douche wrote, yet again, the coaches will probably just have to see what Jenkins is: they need the bodies. However, Manningham is already established in that offense, having the third-most targets behind Crabtree and Davis in 2012, in only 12 games. That isn’t to say that Manningham had a great season as a 49er; in fact, he was a lot closer to a disappointment. He did get on the field, though, and that’s something that Jenkins can’t say. Given the situation, it’s interesting to compare
Take a look at Jenkins and Manningham’s college heat maps:
Manningham converted red zone targets into touchdowns much more efficiently in college, while Jenkins didn’t do anything significantly better than Manningham. Until we start hearing Josh Gordon-Esque blurbs out of 49er’s camp (the “He could be a top 3 wide receiver in the league” kind, not the “Dude, he was so high he tried to eat Weeden’s pads” kind), it just seems more likely that Manningham returns to being the wide receiver who had 66% of his snaps occur on passes and was 3rd on the team in wide receiver snaps (behind Randy Moss, who filled in when Manningham was injured). Again, it’s probably not a great indicator that Manningham was being outsnapped by Moss even before the injury, but he was on the field.
I’m not saying that a recovering Manningham is better player than first round draft pick A.J Jenkins; but this is what we do know. Despite the Kaepernick/Smith switch, Harbaugh and the 49er’s run a conservative system where vets like Randy Moss get playing time and the young guys sit. It’s entirely possible that they believe that Jenkins is ready and they unleash him on the world and I look stupid for advocating Manningham as an undervalued guy; but given relative cost, I’d rather take a shot on the guy I’ve seen be valuable in fantasy and still has a plausible upside.
However, this 49er’s situation has begun to reek a bit of Shanahan backfields of old, where the smartest bet is just to select the cheapest option. Per FF Calculators ADP, Boldin has an ADP of 7.06. That is literally the most insane thing I have ever seen in an ADP database. Jenkins is being selected, on average, at 14.04 and Manningham is two slots behind. I understand wanting to bet on Jenkins for the upside, but given what we have actually seen Manningham do on the football field (WR17 in 2010), he seems a more realistic option to fulfill that role in the 49er’s offense. Going with the Rotoviz theory of acquiring something for nothing, Manningham is a deep, deep, deep selection in your redraft league that easily provides WR2 or Flex value while everyone is sweating out their kicker. In a dynasty context, Manningham is a great WR5 type of player, a guy who can be a stopgap, bye week option if you have an RB or TE heavy roster.