LaMichael James taking his talents to fantasy football relevance

      December 10, 2012 @ 17:35:42 PDT


Brandon Jacobs' team-imposed suspension cements the opportunity for the San Francisco 49ers to promote LaMichael James and, to a lesser extent, Anthony Dixon down the stretch.

San Francisco 49ers RB Frank Gore
More rest for Gore?

The Niners' continuing efforts to conserve Frank Gore haven't stopped the vet from being a consistent RB2 in point-per-reception formats this season. Of course, San Fran loves diving into the depths of its backfield, and the recent spark Colin Kaepernick has provided under center opens up plenty more lanes for them.

The rookie James and the forgotten but resurfaced Dixon should ably fill the complementary void left by the fallen Kendall Hunter (knee). James is the true changeup option; the Oregon alum closely resembles the shifty Hunter. James' nine utilizations Sunday in his NFL debut produced 30 yards on eight carries (meh) and a 15-yard grab. His explosiveness was on display, though, in his 5.0 yards-per-touch effort.

Kaepernick's read-option capabilities play to James' strengths. The tailback looked like he was back in Eugene or at the combine wowing the 40-yard-dash timers. With the erratic play of the non-Michael Crabtree receivers, James could command plenty of vacant midrange targets. Sounds like Jim Harbaugh thinks the rook has earned a role; patience seems to be paying off, and earning Harbaugh's trust is huge.

James assumes Hunter's occasional flex value, especially in PPRs. He should see plenty of reps versus the New England Patriots in Week 15 and the Seattle Seahawks in Week 16.

Both defenses have proven tough against the position in general. Heading into Monday night, however, New England allowed 5.33 receptions per game (a top-10 average) to RBs in their last three games. Seattle yielded 3.33 but suffered against quick backs Matt Forte and Reggie Bush. That type shows favorable odds for James to at least chip in, along with a Week 17 matchup against the flightless Arizona Cardinals.

Dixon also has decent athleticism for his 6-foot-1, 233-pound size. The 25-year-old will inherit the stuff destined for Jacobs before his chest-thumping and uninspiring on-field display. That's mostly short-yardage spells of the starter.

Unfortunately, San Francisco's suddenly close postseason seeding battle means that Gore might not sit enough to allow Dixon a frequent workload sans an injury, so the chance for a random touchdown isn't enough to consider him in most setups.

As the likelier situation-independent understudy, on the other hand, James could save struggling deep-league backfields - perhaps those who've lost Fred Jackson (knee) - as long as San Fran relies on their inked, scrambling slinger.

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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