<
>

49ers WR Bruce Ellington could be fantasy sleeper in 2016

The San Francisco 49ers' receivers group finished 28th in 2015 with 2,071 yards, and Anquan Boldin, their most accomplished wideout, departed for the Detroit Lions in the offseason. On the bright side, Niners receivers combined to finish ninth in the NFL in yards par catch at 13.63, which would seem to indicate that more completions would equal more yards. The question is where those catches will come from in 2016.

Torrey Smith

ESPN Fantasy Projection: 53 receptions, 919 yards, 4 TDs

Over or under: These numbers all seem about right, but we'll go with the under on receptions and yards and the over on touchdowns. Smith is the clear-cut No. 1 receiving option on this team. That can cut both ways when it comes to fantasy value because it means he'll get plenty of targets (a good thing) but also receive plenty of attention from opposing defenses (a bad thing). Smith still boasts top-end speed, and in coach Chip Kelly's offense that should mean he's good for his share of big plays off play action.

Quinton Patton

ESPN Fantasy Projection: 31 receptions, 354 yards, 2 TDs

Over or under: This one is difficult to call because there's not a lot of certainty that Patton will nail down this spot. For now, we'll go with the under on receptions, the over on yards and a push on touchdowns. Patton hasn't necessarily stood out in training camp so far, but these numbers fall pretty much in line with what he did last year when he averaged 13.1 yards per catch. If he stays in that range, even if he doesn't hit the over on receptions, he'll exceed the yardage total. And if he does hold on to the second starting receiver spot, he could be the beneficiary of plenty of one-on-one matchups.

Bruce Ellington

ESPN Fantasy Projection: 60 receptions, 632 yards, 3 TDs

Over or under: Let's take the under on receptions and the over on yards and touchdowns. Clearly the ESPN fantasy projections have visions of Kelly slot receivers past dancing in their heads when it comes to Ellington. That's fair enough, as the slot wideout in this offense has produced big numbers in the past. But it also doesn't account for the fact that this would be an enormous leap forward for Ellington. It also assumes that he's going to be healthy for a full season, which is no sure thing. However, Kelly has praised Ellington's understanding of playing in the slot, and Ellington has had some good moments in camp. On a small sample size last year, Ellington averaged 11.8 yards per catch. He could catch 55 passes, and if he can maintain that average, he'd still go over the yardage projection.

Who else could see time: The Niners' depth chart at wide receiver could change a lot between now and the start of the season, so it's hard to know who else will even hold down roster spots, let alone add potential value for fantasy. Veteran Jerome Simpson is the most accomplished of the remaining wideouts and has had a solid camp. DeAndre Smelter, Aaron Burbridge, DeAndrew White, DiAndre Campbell and Bryce Treggs are among the others competing for roster spots but won't have any fantasy value until they prove themselves.