SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- On a day when the San Francisco 49ers posted a whopping 572 yards of total offense and 41 points, fantasy owners invested in the team probably walked away disappointed.
That's because tight end George Kittle finished with only three catches for 54 yards and scored none of the team's five touchdowns (he did, however, dominate as a run blocker). Heading into last week's 41-17 destruction of the Cincinnati Bengals, Kittle was essentially the only Niner who looked like a sure bet to start in fantasy.
Now, the math has seemingly changed. After the Niners' offensive outburst in Cincinnati, it's fair to wonder what to make of the rest of the team's skill-position players moving forward. In the real games, it's a great "problem" for San Francisco and coach Kyle Shanahan.
For those trying to figure out whether the likes of running backs Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. -- or receivers Deebo Samuel and Marquise Goodwin -- are worth a deeper look, consider this a fantasy-focused road map on where to go from here when it comes to the 49ers' skill positions.
The ankle injury to Tevin Coleman seemed to offer some temporary clarity for those expecting weekly Coleman/Breida debates. It did not. Instead, Mostert stepped in and essentially split duties with Breida, with Wilson -- who served as the de facto goal line back by scoring touchdowns from inside the 5 Sunday -- providing a curveball.
Through two games, Breida leads the Niners with 28 touches, but Mostert is right behind him at 26. Wilson has only appeared in one game but got 10 opportunities against Cincinnati.
It's unrealistic to expect the Niners to have as much offensive success as they had in Cincinnati every week. That success allowed Breida, Mostert and Wilson to get plenty of chances. It's still safe to believe that Breida will get the first chance, but Mostert is going to be involved, especially after his 151 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in Week 2.
Even before Coleman's injury, the Niners wanted to make sure Mostert was involved. That should continue, at least until Coleman returns and likely after he does. For what it's worth, the 49ers are hopeful that Coleman will return after the Week 4 bye.
As for Wilson, he offers a more physical presence. Though he might not be labeled as such, he seems to be a good fit in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Which means he could steal more touchdowns, at least until Coleman returns.
"I wouldn't say he's our designated red-zone back, but that was how we planned going into the game and he did a good job with it," Shanahan said. "We tried to do that when we got down there.”
All of that makes for a delicate balance when it comes to deploying any of these backs in fantasy. Moving forward, Breida is worth starting, particularly in matchups against teams that struggle against the run, but it's not outrageous to plug in Mostert, either. Remember, he's had two more touchdowns wiped away by penalty. With Wilson, it's best to wait and see if his work at the goal line becomes consistent because without the scoring opportunities, he will lack the touches and upside of Breida and Mostert.
Unlike running back, where the choices are hard because any of them can offer fantasy production, wide receiver has been far more difficult to figure out in the first two weeks.
Alas, Sunday in Cincinnati offered evidence that at least one San Francisco wideout could be emerging. That would be Samuel, a rookie who has played more snaps, made more catches and been targeted the most out of the Niners' receivers in the first two weeks.
Samuel produced against the Bengals, catching five passes for 87 yards, including a touchdown. The Niners seemed to have figured out the best ways to use him, which means getting him the ball in space and allowing him to use his physicality to run after the catch.
And most important, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is developing more confidence and trust in Samuel by the week.
"It's like having a running back at receiver once he gets the ball in his hands but he can run routes at the same time," Garoppolo said. "It’s very unique and I love having him and he’s so raw and still has a long way to go. That's the exciting part."
As Garoppolo points out, there's still work to be done for Samuel, but he's definitely worth having on your roster and it's reasonable to expect his contributions to increase as the season goes on.
Aside from Samuel, it's hard to recommend playing any other Niners receiver. Goodwin would be next in line and is just behind Samuel in terms of snaps. Dante Pettis played far more in Week 2 than the opener but didn't contribute as a pass catcher.
Complicating matters further, the Niners are hoping to get Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd back after the bye, if not this week. Assuming he picks up where he left off before the foot injury, Taylor is the guy to have. He and Garoppolo have always been on the same page and Taylor looked poised to lead the team in receptions before his injury.
Suffice to say, it's hard to recommend starting any Niners receivers on a weekly basis just yet, though Samuel and the pending return of Taylor could eventually change that.