After showing signs of slowing down over the previous two seasons, Anquan Boldin’s first season with the San Francisco 49ers started strongly (13 receptions for 208 yards and a touchdown in Week 1) and he finished with 85 catches for 1,179 yards and seven touchdowns. It’s easy to assume his production fell when Michael Crabtree returned from an Achilles’ injury, but Boldin had 33 receptions for 455 yards and two touchdowns in the five regular season games both guys played in.
The 49ers have had one of the more run-oriented offenses in the league, but the offseason addition of wide receiver Steve Johnson may signify a change in that approach. I don’t expect a complete turn to a pass-heavy offense, but a defense that has been depleted by injuries, departures and suspensions may force a more aggressive approach and more passing from quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
With Crabtree fully healthy Boldin’s target volume (129 in 2013) will surely go down, but his overall skill set and rapport with Kaepernick will keep him a prominent part of the passing game. Tight end Vernon Davis is obviously high in the pecking order and is among the top fantasy options at the position, but I don’t see Johnson as a significant threat to Boldin’s role.
It’s worth noting that Boldin has played all 16 games just four times in 11 NFL seasons, but the risk attached to that is mitigated by the fact he’s not an every-week fantasy starter at this stage of his career. But he is a viable WR3 that can be deployed as a bye week fill-in or spot starter, particularly when he has a favorable matchup on the slate.
It seems Boldin is being overlooked by fantasy owners, with an average draft position in the middle of the 10th round as the 45th wide receiver off the board (via Fantasy Football Calculator.com). I don’t expect him to reach last year’s numbers across the board, including 16 games played, but Boldin is someone fantasy owners won’t regret having on a roster and I’m buying him at his current price in drafts and auctions.