Fantasy impact: 49ers' tight end situation

Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers after checking out ESPN's 300 highest-rated fantasy players for the 2011 season:

Vernon Davis ranks second among 49ers players and only fifth among NFL tight ends despite 20 touchdown receptions over the past two seasons, more than any NFL player at the position over that span.

It's possible Braylon Edwards' addition will give the 49ers another threat in the red zone. He caught six passes, three for touchdowns, on plays originating inside opponents' 20-yard line last season. Davis had 11 receptions, six for touchdowns, on plays from that area of the field last season. Corresponding numbers for Michael Crabtree last season: four receptions, three touchdowns.

Alex Smith ranks 28th among quarterbacks, between Chad Henne and Cam Newton. That seems low for Smith, but durability is a concern and it's not clear how quickly coach Jim Harbaugh might consider a change at the position. Would he want to get a few starts for rookie Colin Kaepernick at some point this season if Smith were just playing at a so-so level?

Unranked fantasy sleeper: Backup tight end Delanie Walker caught 29 passes last season, a career high. Harbaugh likes to feature tight ends. Davis will cast the longest shadow among this position group, making it tough for Walker or any other tight end to put up strong numbers. There's at least a chance Walker sees his production spike some this season.


2011 ESPN Fantasy Ranks: San Francisco 49ers