What Will Team Do Now?
Michael Crabtree's torn Achilles tendon injury is a stark reminder that injuries can happen to any player at any moment. OTA's, training camp, pre-season game, regular season game; heck just getting out of bed could cause an injury.
It's still yet to be determined how bad the injury is and how long Crabtree will be out, but unlike other recent success stories of players suffering this injury in spring and then coming back and being able to play during the regular season, those weren't WR's. The odds of Crabtree playing again in 2013 have to be considered slim at best.
This really hurts the San Francisco 49ers as Crabtree had finally started to live up to billing and play like an elite WR in 2012. He had an instant rapport with Colin Kaepernick and looked like he was going to join the ranks of the near elite fantasy WR's in 2013.
That all is over now.
Colin Kaepernick will have to prove he's able to build upon his 2012 season without his best weapon. And there aren't any WR's near his talent level in San Francisco. Mario Manningham is returning from a torn ACL and his status for the 2013 season is unsure. Anquan Boldin is a fine complementary WR but isn't a #1 WR at this point in his career. 2012 1st round draft pick A.J. Jenkins was a colossal disappointment as a rookie being inactive almost the entire season. The 49ers drafted Quinton Patton in the 4th round this year and while he has the makings of a fine future possession style WR, he'd be seriously miscast as a #1 WR.
Simply put, the 49ers have no one who can step in and fill Crabtree's shoes. The only players who benefit from this from a fantasy perspective are TE's Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald as the 49ers will likely feature both of these top end pass catching TE's more in the offense because of this.
There's a chance the 49ers will look to available free agents. Brandon Lloyd could make it full circle and return to the team that originally drafted him. But after failing to live up to expectation in New England last year Lloyd wouldn't be a significant upgrade. Maybe Randy Moss will return but he did little last season with Crabtree opposite him. Could the 49ers do the bizarre and bring back Terrell Owens? The mind shutters.
It's very unlikely any of those guys are signed by San Francisco, but there is likely to be a free agent signing at WR soon for the team. Currently their WR corps looks like this:
Michael Crabtree - Torn Achilles. Not likely to play in 2013
Mario Manningham - Recovering from torn ACL and PCL; unsure to avoid the PUP list to start season
Kyle Williams - Recovering from torn ACL and unsure to avoid PUP list to start 2013 season
The first 3 names you probably know. Of the remaining, Lockette is the only one I could see having any chance of surprising and becoming relevant. Lockette has spent the last 2 seasons mostly on the Seahawks and 49ers practice squad. But there's always been some talk of him having the skills to take a step up. If ever there was an opportunity for him to do so, it is now.
But in all likelihood, this may be something the 49ers offense struggles to compensate for as Crabtree was on the verge of greatness.