SF 49ers fantasy football: Jimmy Garoppolo a smart start vs. Cardinals

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

SF 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo might not be a top fantasy football option. But his Week 1 projection against the Cardinals warrants a start.

Chances are, unless you’re an SF 49ers fantasy fanatic and eyeballed quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo regardless of other upper-echelon signal-callers during your drafts over the past few weeks, you probably ended up going with someone else to helm your fantasy dreams for at least the first four weeks of the season until bye weeks begin in Week 5.

And that’s OK. After all, Jimmy G didn’t even crack the top-20 quarterbacks in Fantasy Football Calculator’s list of 12-team PPR leagues. On top of that, he’s rostered in only 38 percent of ESPN leagues heading into Week 1, meaning there’s a good chance he’s on your free-agent scrap heap.

But with the Niners hosting the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1, deeper leagues and those owners wishing to take a bit of a gamble on his potential upside right out of the gate, Garoppolo is surely worth a start if you don’t have other surefire options under center.

Yes, head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense is a run-first system. Also, yes, San Francisco has some serious questions at wide receiver heading into its season opener. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel, a second-half fantasy stud in 2019, is questionable after suffering a broken foot during the offseason. Rookie wideout Brandon Aiyuk, expected to play a big role in the SF 49ers offense this year, is also questionable with a hamstring injury.

That said, the context of Jimmy G’s first start of 2020 bodes well for those willing to take a fantasy football gamble on him.

Here’s why he’s worth your consideration as a starter in Week 1.

SF 49ers going up against a weak Cardinals defense

Last year, no team gave up more yardage than Arizona (6,432). And 4,510 of those yards came through the air, which was the second most in the league in 2019. True, the Cardinals made some defensive additions, notably selecting Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons in Round 1 of the 2020 NFL Draft.

But expecting a rookie to come in right away and handle coverage duties on an All-Pro tight end like George Kittle is a tall order, particularly in the context of an abbreviated offseason with zero minicamps, OTAs and preseason.

Despite San Francisco’s concerns at wide receiver, Kittle could end up bailing Garoppolo out with a massive game on Sunday.

Especially considering the Cardinals allowed more yards (1,148) and touchdowns (16) to tight ends than any other team in the league last season.

On top of that, Arizona’s defense was pretty paltry at stopping third-down conversions last year, giving up first downs 46.7 percent of the time, which was third worst in the NFL. In contrast, Garoppolo went 65-of-130 on third-down conversions for a first down — best among qualifying quarterbacks in 2019.

So, if you’re looking for Garoppolo to come up big, expect his two X-factors to be Kittle and third-down plays: two areas where fantasy football owners should feel pretty comfortable here.

Jimmy Garoppolo carried the SF 49ers in both wins vs. Cardinals in 2019

The Niners ended up being pretty banged up during this NFC West series last year, which saw the 49ers edge out the Cardinals 28-25 and 36-26 in Weeks 9 and 11, respectively.

While Garoppolo had both Samuel and now-New Orleans Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders at his disposal in both games, Kittle was banged up in both contests. And San Francisco’s potent rushing attack wasn’t quite as prolific during that stretch, due to some key injuries elsewhere on offense.

Still, Garoppolo’s two-game splits were awfully impressive:

  • Week 9: 28-of-37 for 317 yards, four touchdowns, zero interceptions, 136.9 passer rating, 28.8 ESPN fantasy points
  • Week 11: 34-of-45 for 424 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions, 115.4 passer rating, 29.66 ESPN fantasy points

If you’re getting close to 30 points from your starting quarterback, you’re doing something right. Looking at last year’s splits, it’s pretty safe to say Jimmy G shouldn’t have too many issues moving the ball through the air.

Granted, Garoppolo and the 49ers pass game might be something fans want to see mature a few weeks before relying solely on anyone else but studs like Kittle and running back Raheem Mostert.

Next. Fantasy football: 49ers' 4 best options entering 2020. dark

But if you find yourself willing to take the gamble or are split between Garoppolo and another quarterback in a terrible matchup, going with San Francisco’s signal-caller in this particular matchup might be worth your while.