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Fantasy Implications of Jimmy Garoppolo’s Injury

By: Andy Cooper

Jimmy Garoppolo’s season-ending knee injury affects more than simply fantasy players who own the San Francisco 49ers’ franchise quarterback. STATS uses X-Info advanced analytics to examine the value of Matt Breida, George Kittle and the rest of the Niners’ offense with C.J. Beathard now running the show heading into Sunday’s matchup with an underrated Los Angeles Chargers defense.

C.J. Beathard fired his first pass of the 2018 season to the right side of the end zone and into the waiting arms of tight end George Kittle, who secured a touchdown that brought the 49ers within an extra point of cutting Kansas City’s lead to seven with less than six minutes remaining.

Of course, an offensive pass interference penalty negated the score, the Niners settled for a field goal and Beathard never threw another pass in a 38-27 loss. But for Kittle’s fantasy owners who watched Jimmy Garoppolo being carted off the field moments earlier with a season-ending ACL tear, that hookup provided hope that the former Iowa Hawkeyes teammates will flourish with Beathard now the unquestioned starter in Garoppolo’s absence.

It didn’t do much for fantasy owners of San Francisco’s other position players, though. Especially when diving deeper into the numbers.

Fantasy football expert Corey Schwartz used STATS’ proprietary projection model and factored in X-Info data from the STATS Advanced Analytics Group to break down the fantasy ramifications of Garoppolo’s injury, and the results show how players like Kittle, running backs Matt Breida and Alfred Morris, receiver Marquise Goodwin and the rest of the Niners’ offense project this week against the Los Angeles Chargers and beyond.

Quite simply, any small decrease in production from Garoppolo to Beathard has the potential to hurt every skill player within the Niners’ offense across the board. For instance, Garropolo’s 8.5 yards per pass attempt over the last two seasons leads the NFL. Adding in some regression when considering he’s only made eight starts in that span, Garropolo still projects out in the top 12 of most efficient quarterbacks on yards per attempt.

On the flip side, Beathard’s 6.4 YPA last season was far below average, and he doesn’t grade out much better even when factoring potential second-year improvement. If Beathard throws 35-40 times at nearly a full yard per attempt fewer than Garoppolo, that’s a projected 31 passing yards coming off the board that would be doled out in fantasy currency to the Niners’ skill players.

For instance, Goodwin is responsible for roughly 20 percent of San Francisco’s receiving production, meaning he’ll lose about 0.7 standard fantasy points due to lost yardage alone. Also, the Niners project to score fewer points now that Garoppolo is sidelined. They averaged 27 points in Garoppolo’s eight starts dating back to last season, but STATS projects them to lose 5-6 points with Beathard under center, which means 0.58 fewer passing TDs.

That in turn limits Goodwin’s projected touchdown production, as he’s projected for 0.13 fewer TDs, which translates to about 0.8 fewer fantasy points. That’s about 1.5 points standard fantasy points lost for Goodwin from QB efficiency alone.

STATS metrics showing the tendencies of each quarterback break it down even further:

The above chart notes that Garoppolo’s favorite throws are to intermediate routes, or X routes. His 48.2 percent mark is the fourth-highest percentage of intermediate throws among qualified quarterbacks over the last two seasons. Let’s compare that to the route-running tendencies of the Niners’ skill players, then break them down by quarterback:

Breida, Kyle Juszczyk and Kittle all run over half their routes in Beathard’s throwing zones, giving them a solid fantasy floor. However, outside receivers like Pettis and Goodwin run over 70 percent over their routes either intermediate or deep where Beathard doesn’t like to throw, taking away fantasy value.

These route-running/passing tendencies help us project differences in fantasy production with Beathard at QB rather than Garoppolo. Kittle, for example, should see his already team-leading target share go up with Beathard and balances out his fantasy value despite the projected loss of TD production. He’s not TD-dependent because of volume, and STATS still projects him as a TE1.

Fantasy owners of Breida should worry about a lower ceiling, though. The Niners aren’t expected to put up as many points – STATS projects Beathard as the 28th-ranked QB this week – meaning Breida’s scoring upside decreases. Breida still has value because of Beathard’s tendency to throw short, but STATS has him at the No. 26 RB this week compared to the FantasyPros consensus of No. 21.

Goodwin has the biggest drop, as noted earlier with a projected average of 1.5 standard fantasy points lost due to QB efficiency. With his target share decreasing, he’s projected to lose about two full fantasy points. STATS had Goodwin as the No. 27 WR with Garoppolo, but now has him at No. 54 this week with the advice that he remain on your fantasy bench.

The same goes for Morris. There’s little chance to balance his fantasy production since he’s not involved in the Niners’ passing game, and with the team expected to have fewer sustained drives and scoring opportunities, that means fewer rushing attempts. That’s pretty bad news for a back already averaging fewer than four yards per carry.

Drop everything and pick up the Chargers’ defense

STATS projects L.A. as the No. 3 defense this week facing Beathard, who is prone to sacks and turnovers. Sure, the Chargers’ unit doesn’t look great on paper fantasy-wise. But two of L.A.’s three games have come against the NFL’s top two offensive teams in Kansas City and the Rams according to STATS X-Info metrics.

But when the Chargers faced the Bills, they put up double-digit fantasy points. That type of fantasy production should be on the horizon. Corey Liuget, last season’s eighth-most efficient DT pass rusher according to STATS X-Info metrics, is serving the last of a four-game suspension this week and is set to return for an upcoming favorable schedule. After the Niners, the Chargers face Oakland, Cleveland, Tennessee, Seattle and Oakland again with a bye included in that stretch.

As another incentive to buy into the Chargers’ D going forward, keep in mind it has been missing Joey Bosa, who was last year’s ninth-most efficient edge pass rusher according to STATS X-Info metrics. He’s out until November, but he’ll be able to contribute to the Chargers’ production in potential fantasy playoff matchups.