The San Francisco 49ers enter the 2023 season in an interesting situation from a Fantasy Football standpoint because there is so much uncertainty at quarterback. Will Brock Purdy be healthy enough to start the 2023 season? Will the 49ers roll with Purdy over Trey Lance, a quarterback they used multiple first-round picks to acquire? Will Sam Darnold sneak his way onto the field? The answer to that question will have a massive impact on a slew of skill position players who are among the most talented in the NFL from Christian McCaffrey to George Kittle to Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. I like the way Chris Towers always terms the 49ers situation as a math equation that is hard to solve from the standpoint of how can there be enough volume to go around. Which quarterback ends up starting and playing will also impact which skill position players will perform the best. We're excited to see this equation actually play out.

Below the CBS Sports Fantasy staff will take a look into the 49ers' entire team outlook, including a burning question for Fantasy Football managers that needs to be answered, key player projections, a review of their draft class, strength of schedule, and individual player outlooks for notable 49ers players who may end up on your Fantasy rosters.

49ers 2023 team outlook

By Chris Towers

The 49ers might have stumbled into their long sought-after QB of the future when seventh-round rookie Brock Purdy was forced into action late last season and thrived. However, because things are rarely straightforward with this team, Purdy's status for Week 1 is up in the air due to elbow surgery. 

Burning question: Can Purdy repeat?

Purdy went 8-0 in games where he played the majority of the snaps, throwing multiple touchdowns in seven of them. He's surrounded by elite playmakers at every position on offense, and this offense becomes a lot easier to figure out if he's healthy -- he just has to distribute the ball to the superstars! If Trey Lance is pressed into action, his running ability gives him serious upside as a Fantasy option, but it also makes it harder to buy into George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, and Deebo Samuel. 

49ers player projections

QBBrock PurdyPA: 531, YD: 3877, TD: 25, INT: 12; RUSH -- ATT: 24, YD: 61, TD: 1
RBChristian McCaffreyCAR: 218, YD: 1004, TD: 12; TAR: 106, REC: 85, YD: 722, TD: 3
RBElijah MitchellCAR: 160, YD: 720, TD: 5; TAR: 11, REC: 9, YD: 68, TD: 0
WRDeebo SamuelTAR: 117, REC: 76, YD: 873, TD: 5; RUSH -- CAR: 58, YD: 320, TD: 3
WRBrandon AiyukTAR: 112, REC: 76, YD: 951, TD: 6
WRJauan JenningsTAR: 64, REC: 40, YD: 456, TD: 3
TEGeorge KittleTAR: 106, REC: 76, YD: 908, TD: 5

2023 NFL Draft class

3. (87) Ji'Ayir Brown, SAF
3. (99) Jake Moody, K
3. (101) Cameron Latu, TE
5. (155) Darrell Luter Jr., CB
5. (173) Robert Beal, OLB
6. (216) Dee Winters, LB
7. (247) Brayden Willis, TE
7. (253) Ronnie Bell, WR
7. (255) Jalen Graham, SAF

Strength of Schedule rankings by Dave Richard

  • QB PSoS: 7th easiest
  • RB PSoS: 9th easiest
  • WR PSoS: 7th easiest
  • TE PSoS: 9th easiest
1Sep 10, 2023@Pittsburgh1:00 pmFOXAcrisure Stadium
2Sep 17, 2023@L.A. Rams4:05 pmFOXSoFi Stadium
3Sep 21, 2023vsN.Y. Giants8:15 pmAMZNLevi's Stadium
4Oct 1, 2023vsArizona4:25 pmFOXLevi's Stadium
5Oct 8, 2023vsDallas8:20 pmNBCLevi's Stadium
6Oct 15, 2023@Cleveland1:00 pmFOXCleveland Browns Stadium
7Oct 23, 2023@Minnesota8:15 pmESPNU.S. Bank Stadium
8Oct 29, 2023vsCincinnati4:25 pm
Levi's Stadium
10Nov 12, 2023@Jacksonville1:00 pmFOXTIAA Bank Field
11Nov 19, 2023vsTampa Bay4:05 pmFOXLevi's Stadium
12Nov 23, 2023@Seattle8:20 pmNBCLumen Field
13Dec 3, 2023@Philadelphia4:25 pmFOXLincoln Financial Field
14Dec 10, 2023vsSeattle4:05 pmFOXLevi's Stadium
15Dec 17, 2023@Arizona4:05 pm
State Farm Stadium
16Dec 25, 2023vsBaltimore8:15 pmABCLevi's Stadium
17Dec 31, 2023@Washington1:00 pmFOXFedEx Field
18Jan 7, 2024vsL.A. RamsTBALevi's Stadium

49ers 2023 player outlooks

By Heath Cummings unless otherwise noted

QB Brock Purdy

Purdy is recovering from an elbow injury and as of the time of publication, his Week 1 status is uncertain. We view Purdy as a low-end No. 2 QB who should only be rostered in redraft if you are allowed to start more than one quarterback. Then again, he has surprised us before. The former Mr. Irrelevant threw multiple touchdown passes in each of his last six regular season games as a rookie. He also topped 234 yards just once in those games. There is some risk that Trey Lance wins the job or that Purdy is unable to get healthy in time for Week 1, so make sure you draft another solid starter if Purdy is your No. 2 in Superflex. If he locks up the job and starts hot, his Dynasty value will skyrocket.

QB Trey Lance

Lance has started five football games and thrown 132 passes over the past three years, including his final year at North Dakota State. As he enters Year 3 in the NFL, he is still not guaranteed to start a game with the 49ers calling Brock Purdy their starter when he is healthy. If Purdy starts Week 1, Lance should only be rostered in Dynasty leagues and deep redraft leagues where you can start more than one quarterback. If Purdy starts 17 games, we may not even be rostering Lance in Dynasty a year from now. On the flip side, if Lance gets a chance to start this year, we think there is a very good chance his running ability and Kyle Shanahan's system will make him a viable Fantasy starter.

QB Sam Darnold

Darnold appears to have an outside chance to compete to start for the 49ers as the franchise remains uncertain on when Brock Purdy will be healthy and whether Trey Lance can lead an offense that has every other piece in place. Although Darnold struggled to find any kind of Fantasy consistency in 2022 in the games he started for the Panthers, anyone who steps into that Kyle Shanahan offense seems to find success both in real life and Fantasy. It's easy to find production with a dominant offensive line, Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. If Darnold starts games, he has back-end QB1 upside in this offense.

RB Christian McCaffrey

McCaffrey should be one of the top running backs drafted in all formats and has an argument to be a top-three pick in one-QB leagues. McCaffrey made 10 starts for the 49ers in the 2022 season and averaged 20.1 touches, 114 yards from scrimmage, and 23.2 Fantasy points per game. He was the No. 1 running back in Fantasy by more than three Fantasy points per game. When he is at his best, there is no running back better, in real life or Fantasy. The concerns about McCaffrey are that he missed a combined 23 games from 2020-21 and that there are too many mouths to feed in San Francisco when everyone is healthy. Those concerns are not enough to knock McCaffrey out of the first round in any format.

RB Elijah Mitchell

We start looking for Mitchell in Fantasy drafts once we get to Round 10. His upside is enormous if Christian McCaffrey goes down with an injury, but Mitchell himself has missed enough time to be a concern. He was unable to log one game with a 50% snap share last year, but in his rookie season, he totaled 1,326 yards from scrimmage in 14 games including the playoffs. Mitchell played six games with McCaffrey last year, including the playoffs, and averaged just over 11 touches per week. He scored double-digit Fantasy points in two of those games. View him as a desperation flex for as long as McCaffrey is healthy and do your best to hold on to him once the bye weeks start. 

WR Deebo Samuel

There is a wide range of opinions on Samuel this year, which makes sense because he is one of the most unique players in Fantasy. We all view him as a No. 2 wide receiver who should be drafted somewhere between Round 3 and Round 5. Samuel's production fell from 21.3 FPPG in 2021 (WR3) to 13.0 FPPG in 2022 (WR30). He posted by far his worst yards per route run of his career at 1.69 and scored only two receiving touchdowns despite 94 targets. In nine games with Christian McCaffrey, he averaged 6.9 targets and 3.4 rush attempts per game compared to 7.6 targets and 3.7 rush attempts per game in his breakout season. In other words, if the efficiency bounces back, the volume is still there.

WR Brandon Aiyuk

Aiyuk is best valued as a No. 3 receiver you should draft in Round 7 or Round 8. There are too many mouths to feed in San Francisco, but the injury history for George Kittle, Christian McCaffrey, and Deebo Samuel suggests that may not be the case for long. Aiyuk posted career highs last year in both target share (22.6%) and yards per route run (1.91) and should remain a very efficient wide receiver as long as Brock Purdy is healthy for Week 1. We would downgrade Aiyuk a little more if Trey Lance wins the job because we would expect a more run-heavy offense with less pass volume.

WR Jauan Jennings

Jennings is a good football player who is unlikely to make a Fantasy impact due to the glut of talent in San Francisco. Leave him on the waiver wire in all but the deepest of leagues; he may need multiple injuries to be Fantasy relevant.

TE George Kittle

We are drafting Kittle as a mid-range starting tight end in the Round 6 or 7 range of most Fantasy drafts. Seven of Kittle's career-high 11 touchdowns came in the final four weeks of the regular season that Brock Purdy started. But there were also reasons to be concerned about Kittle's numbers with Purdy. He caught more than four passes just once in six games with Purdy and only topped 30 yards twice. Regardless of those concerns, we would be much more worried if Trey Lance was starting because of what that would do to the team's total pass volume. As long as you don't draft Kittle expecting him to match his peak performance from 2018 or 2019, you should be happy with the results.

K Jake Moody

We're ranking Moody as a No. 2 kicker, but if he has a good camp and start to the season, he could absolutely move into the top 12. He made all 148 extra points he attempted at Michigan and an acceptable 86.7% of his field goals his last two years in college. San Francisco offers a good offense but also a below average kicking environment. If Week 1 goes well, there is a good chance we are suggesting Moody as a streaming option as early as Week 2 at Los Angeles, but we will be less interested in starting him outdoors.

49ers DST

The 49ers defense was a top-five unit last year, leading the NFL in both interceptions and points allowed. In the offseason the Niners added Javon Hargrave and Isaiah Oliver in free agency and used draft picks in Rounds 3 and 5 to bolster to secondary depth after losing Jimmie Ward to the Texans. We like the 49ers as one of the top three defenses this year, worth a pick in one of the final three rounds of your Fantasy draft. If Drake Jackson takes a step forward in Year 2 and one of the 49ers' young corners hits, they could have the best defense in football.