In 2012, Michael Crabtree was a sneaky fantasy play. He began the season with Alex Smith as his starting QB but around halfway through the season Smith suffered a concussion and Colin Kaepernick was thrown into the lineup. Since then, Smith has moved on to Kansas City and Kaepernick has continued to start for San Francisco. When Kaep took over as QB, it was quite clear that he wanted to throw Crabtree’s way and that th two had chemistry. He finished the season with 1,105 yards receiving and 9 TDs, finishing as a top 20 fantasy WR.
Moving into 2013, there was so much promise for Crabtree to be a borderline WR1 and fulfill the promise that so many people saw when Crabtree was a stud WR in college at Texas Tech. Then came the torn Achilles tendon that sidelined him until week 13. When he finally made it back into the lineup he showed flashes of brilliance, especially in weeks 15 and 16, where he posted double-digit fantasy points. He didn’t look the same but that was to be expected with some possible rust from the long layoff.
Looking forward to 2014, Crabtree has the opportunity to bounce back to his 2012 form. One thing to remember is that Crabtree is in a contract year. Usually players that are in contract years tend to give that little extra effort with hopes of impressing possible employers. Next, let’s remember that Kaepernick loves Crabtree and will benefit from having his #1 WR back. I have also heard that the 49’ers are in the market for a downfield threat to help Crabtree and Vernon Davis.
Also, let’s look at the supporting cast for San Francisco. To go along with Crabtree, San Francisco has one of the best tight ends in the game in Vernon Davis. Davis plays all over the field and helps in keeping defenses from just centering on Crabtree. Anquan Boldin was a fantastic addition last offseason to the tune of 1,179 yards receiving and 7 TDs. Unfortunately, as of now, Boldin is set to be a free agent. If San Fran re-signs him, it will only help Crabtree’s value by keeping defenses from double teaming him. If they let him walk, it may hurt Crabtree’s value a bit. Now we move on to the most important position in the NFL, Quarterback. In 2012, Colin Kaepernick showed a lot of promise and chemistry with Crabtree in the lineup. In 2013, Kaepernick struggled most of the season without his top target. It was interesting to see how the dynamic of the entire offense changed with Crabtree out of the lineup. Kaepernick has shown that he can get Crabtree the ball and that he wants to get Crabtree the ball. There should be no concern that passes will not be thrown in Crabtree’s direction.
One thing that we have to remember with Crabtree is that we have a small sample size to analyze. We can pretty much throw 2013 out of the equation due to the fact that he was injured a majority of the season and rust was sure to set in from the long layoff. There is just no way of telling if he was the same player. So all we have to go by is the half of the 2012 season that Crabtree played with Kaepernick as his starting QB. Those numbers that he put up tell me that we have more to expect from Crabtree in the future.
The next point to look at would have to be the division Crabtree plays in. The NFC West is one of the toughest divisions in the NFL with three teams that posted 10+ wins last season (Seattle, SF, Arizona). The cornerbacks in this division are also top of the line. Seattle sports one of the best corners in the league in Richard Sherman. Arizona also has one of the best in the business in Patrick Peterson. That is four games that Crabtree will be playing against top-notch competition. From this aspect, this has to be looked upon in a negative regard.
With a healthy offseason and some minor additions made by the 49’ers in the draft and Free Agency, there is no reason not to expect Crabtree to post numbers close to that of 2012, which put Crabtree as a top 20 WR. I would not be surprised to see Crabtree increase slightly upon those totals and post a career year all across the stat sheet.
2014 Projection: 88 receptions, 1,220 yards receiving, 8 Touchdowns
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