With the news that San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree completely tore his Achilles tendon during OTAs, most of the fantasy football community’s focus has been on figuring out who will step up in the absence of Colin Kaepernick‘s number one target, as well as determining which 49ers will be positively or negatively impacted, fantasy wise, by Crabtree’s injury.
I thought it would be worthwhile to discuss what the ramifications of Crabtree’s injury would be on Kaepernick’s fantasy stock in 2-QB fantasy leagues. The short answer is that there shouldn’t be any.
In 1-QB fantasy leagues there might be concerns that Kaepernick’s value will take a hit, without having his go-to receiver to throw to, for all, or the majority, of the 2013 NFL regular season, making it easy to drop Kaepernick down a peg in 1-QB leagues, because of how deep the quarterback position is in 2013.
For example, if you had Kaepernick ranked fifth overall, over the likes of Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, or Russell Wilson, you would easily be able to bump any one, or all, of those quarterbacks, above Kaepernick, and not feel overly concerned about it.
When you’re looking at starting two quarterbacks though, you have to look at things a little bit differently, and the value of a quarterback in such a format dramatically shifts. Any advantage you can find, you have to pounce on, and with Kaepernick, his value truly comes from his rushing prowess.
I know that extrapolation isn’t the soundest form of fantasy football analysis, but in Kaepernick’s case, I thought it would give us a glimpse into how much of his fantasy football production comes from rushing stats versus passing stats.
Here’s Kaepernick’s stat line from the his seven regular season starts (Weeks 11-17):
- Completions: 120
- Attempts: 192
- Completion %: 63.34
- Passing Yards: 1,608
- Passing Touchdowns: 10
- Interceptions: 3
- Quarterback Rating: 100.41
- Rushing Attempts: 42
- Rushing Yards: 238
- Rushing Touchdowns: 3
- Fumbles Lost: 1*
When tacking on the three games Kaepernick started in the playoffs, his numbers would look like this:
- Completions: 169
- Attempts: 272
- Completion %: 62.28
- Passing Yards: 2,406
- Passing Touchdowns: 14
- Interceptions: 5
- Quarterback Rating: 100.65
- Rushing Attempts: 67
- Rushing Yards: 502
- Rushing Touchdowns: 6
- Fumbles Lost: 1*
Using standard fantasy scoring settings, Kaepernick’s 2012 fantasy points from his regular season starts would have been 138.12 points, with 40.8 of those points coming from his rushing totals. Those 40.8 fantasy points accounted for almost 30% of Kaepernick’s 2012 regular season starting fantasy points.
When using the same standard fantasy scoring rules, and Kaepernick’s playoff starts are added, Kaepernick would have scored 226.44 fantasy points, and 85.2 of those fantasy points were from his rushing stats. I must point out that Kaepernick’s monster playoff game against the Packers, where he ran for 181 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns, accounted for the majority of those fantasy rushing points, but overall, nearly 38% of his rushing stats made up the bulk of his combined starting regular season and playoff fantasy points.
Here’s where the fun playing with extrapolation and numbers comes into play…
If we were to extrapolate Kaepernick’s stats from his ten games as the 49ers’ starting quarterback (regular season and playoffs) over a 16-game season, he would have scored 369.9 fantasy points. The pass/rush fantasy points split for those 369.9 fantasy points would look like this: 226.78 fantasy points from passing stats/143.12 fantasy points from rushing stats. That’s a 61.31%/38.69% pass/rush split, in terms of where Kaepernick’s fantasy points came from.
As you can see, almost 40% of Kaepernick’s extrapolated fantasy points scored came from his rushing stats. That’s a lot of fantasy points for a quarterback to score from rushing, and a big reason why we can’t worry too much about the Crabtree injury when it comes to Kaepernick’s 2013 fantasy value. When looking at the split numbers, Kaepernick’s 226.78 passing fantasy points would have been good for QB17 in 2012, and his 143.12 rushing fantasy points would have seen him finish the season as RB22.
We can’t dismiss the Crabtree injury entirely though. It’s a big loss for the 49ers’ offense and Kaepernick does lose his number one passing target, as 68.5% of Kaepernick’s completions were caught by Crabtree last season, not to mention that Kaepernick targeted Crabtree 90 times last season.
But the Niners are a run first team, and it’s Kaepernick’s legs that will be what makes him go. It also doesn’t hurt that the 49ers’ offensive philosophy is run-dominated. According to Pro Football Focus, 62.5% of the team’s offense was run based last season. That’s a large pass/rush differential, but can you blame the 49ers for being that way? With a rushing quarterback in Kaepernick, a stable of running backs that includes Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, and, now, Marcus Lattimore, one of the best pass blocking tight ends and fullbacks in Vernon Davis and Bruce Miller, respectively, not too mention PFF’s highest graded offensive line, and number one rushing offensive line, the 49ers’ ground game is what makes their offense move. You already saw how much of Kaepernick’s fantasy points came from his rushing totals, and how that would look over a 16-game season. When you factor in the 49ers’ propensity to run the ball, it’s a winning fantasy football situation for Kaepernick, and his 2-QB fantasy owners.
Even with Crabtree’s injury, Kaepernick still has weapons to throw to. Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin, former first round pick A.J. Jenkins, and other less heralded wide receivers such as Quinton Patton, Ricardo Lockett, and Mario Manningham, are also still a part of the 49ers’ pass catching depth chart. The 49ers also drafted a tight end, Vance McDonald, in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. It might be hard to figure out where those 90 Crabtree targets are going to go, but there are options in San Francisco.
What it all boils down to though, is that Kaepernick’s rushing ability will make him a fantasy football QB1. When you can roll a RB2 and a QB2 into one package, which is what you get with Kaepernick, you’re going to get a fantasy football QB1; in 2-QB or 1-QB leagues. Kaepernick’s playoff and regular season extrapolated 369.9 fantasy points would have seen him finish the 2012 fantasy season as the highest scoring fantasy quarterback in standard scoring leagues last season.
While you might see Kaepernick’s fantasy football ranking, and even his ADP, take a dip, you shouldn’t let that influence your decision to draft him. In 2-QB fantasy football leagues you should continue to value Kaepernick as a QB1, even if you see his ADP fall. It might not, but if it does, continue to rank Kaepernick high, and draft him. You just might end up drafting him a little later than you would have before the Crabtree injury, and getting any extra value you can, will be a bonus for your 2-QB fantasy football squad.
*The lost fumble was split in half between Kaepernick’s passing and rushing totals*
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