With injuries possibly sidelining the San Francisco 49ers‘ No. 1 and No. 2 receivers, there may be two steals ahead of Week 1.
While San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan did give a positive update on lead receiver Deebo Samuel and rookie Brandon Aiyuk Friday, both receivers are not locks to be able to play on Sunday due to their respective injuries.
While their absence would hurt the 49ers considerably(and plenty of fantasy football teams,) it does create opportunities for other targets and options on San Francisco’s team.
Of course, the easy idea is that tight end George Kittle will see even more action than he does, and that’s likely to be true.
But the 49ers will also have to diversify and ask players to step up, and that could come in the form of two different San Francisco receivers.
Die-hard Niners fan with something to say? Join our community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook!
Pettis has been getting a lot of hype over training camp, as the third-year receiver has shown growth on the field and off of it with a new mature outlook and sensational catches in practice.
With Kendrick Bourne still ahead in the pecking order, it may seem like Pettis could miss out on enough targets to make him viable. However, if one or both of Aiyuk and Samuel miss Sunday, Pettis will likely slide into the No. 2 receiving role opposite of Bourne.
Pettis has immense talent, but had a bad case of the drops in 2019, eventually leading him to be a healthy scratch in the Super Bowl. But after training camp, he appears to be over it.
In a PPR league, Pettis might be a great look, because while he won’t be the guy to break five tackles and go for an explosive score, he should get plenty of opportunity to rack up the receptions in the 49ers opener against the Arizona Cardinals, who had the NFL’s worst pass defense in 2019.
Richie James Jr.
Now it’s unlikely that both Pettis and Richie James Jr. will explode in fantasy this weekend, but they each have distinct and valid cases as to why one of them might.
While Pettis brings consistency and ought to be a solid, high-floor option, James is the receiver with the boom potential.
This may come as a surprise considering James has just 15 receptions over his two years in the NFL, but the former Middle Tennessee State standout has averaged 19.7 yards per carry over those 15 receptions.
To put it simply, when James gets his hands on the ball, he typically does something with it. His explosiveness is why he locked down the returner position for the 49ers in 2019, and the 49ers could be encouraged to give him plenty of looks in Week 1 if Samuel and Aiyuk can’t go.
An interesting factor to consider as well is that James has been used on jet sweeps for the 49ers, but when Deebo is healthy, that’s the second-year receiver’s wheelhouse.
If Deebo can’t go, James might not only get more receiving looks, but might get a handoff or two as well, amplifying his chances for a surprise fantasy performance in Week 1.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.