As far as debuts go, wide receiver Jeremy Kerley’s seven-catch, 61-yard performance in the 49ers’ 28-0 thumping of the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night was a modest success.
Shrewd and savvy fantasy owners, however, were sure to note his team-high 11 targets and obvious connection with San Francisco quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who leaned on Kerley as if the veteran wideout had been a teammate for years, not someone in just his second week with the team.
Opportunity knocked for Kerley, acquired in an Aug. 29 with the Lions, when expected starting receiver Bruce Ellington suffered a season-ending hamstring injury late in the preseason, leaving the 49ers with a largely unproven receiving corps beyond Torrey Smith.
But judging from Monday night’s effort, the 5-foot-9 Kerley could play a pivotal role for San Francisco going forward.
No, the 49ers’ offense will not remind anyone of Drew Brees’ Saints or Big Ben Roethlisberger’s Steelers, nor will they face the Rams every week. But they will have to throw the ball, and Kerley could be the biggest beneficiary. Somebody has to catch the ball in San Francisco, right? And if the team struggles to complete the deep ball, like it did on Monday night, there’s no question who Gabbert’s favorite intermediate target is one game in.
Kerley, who spent his first five seasons with the Jets, has enjoyed a degree of success in the NFL. The 27-year-old caught a career-best 56 passes for 827 yards, also a career high, and two touchdowns in 2012.
Kerley’s already almost halfway to last season’s season total of 16 receptions and could be a fantasy godsend for owners thin at the wings, and especially in points per reception (PPR) leagues.
Fantasy success hinges on the perfect storm of health, luck and opportunity, and adding Kerley could help soften the blow for owners still mourning the loss of Keenan Allen or those worried about Sammy Watkins.
Compiled by Stu Rosenberg