Rookie Watch: Don't count on Crabtree for breakout rookie year
The 49ers took Michael Crabtree with the No. 10 pick in this year's draft
Owners are considering Crabtree a fringe No. 3 WR according to his ARDP
Hobbled by a Jones fracture in his left foot, Crabtree's stock fell in the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft. San Francisco snagged him with the 10th pick, confident in his ability as a do-it-all wideout. The Texas Tech product possesses better than average size (6-foot-2, 214 pounds) and a nose for the end zone (41 touchdowns in 26 games). The 49ers hope his NFL career more closely resembles that of Jerry Rice or Terrell Owens than J.J. Stokes or Rashaun Woods.
Dissecting the depth chart: The 49ers like what they see in Josh Morgan, but beyond that the receiving corps is in flux. Six-year veteran Arnaz Battle is clinging to his NFL career, and 36-year-old Isaac Bruce is playing on borrowed time. Crabtree will be an instant contributor to the offense, and someone capable of helping in the short- and long-range passing attack. Fantasy owners should expect for him to assume the role as San Francisco's primary receiver at some point during the year. Still, it's a role of minimal value -- San Francisco ranked in the bottom half of the league last year in passing attempts (509).
Just the stats: Last season, Big 12 defenses did what they could to clamp down on Crabtree, but with little luck. The sophomore had multiple-touchdown games against Kansas State, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Kansas and Oklahoma State; against Texas, he caught 10 passes for 127 yards and the game-winning score. In 2007, Crabtree led the nation in catches (134), yards (1,962) and receiving touchdowns (22). He caught three touchdowns in five of the first six games that season. No receiver in the history of college football has had a season as productive as Crabtree's debut.
2008 rookie comparison: None.
The receivers Crabtree would physically match up with (Limas Sweed and James Hardy) had little impact in their first season, while standouts such as Eddie Royal and DeSean Jackson have different styles and builds, and reception totals unrealistic to project for Crabtree. Instead, a better rookie comparison may be Calvin Johnson, who caught 48 passes for 756 yards and four scores in his debut season with Detroit in 2007. Like Johnson, it may take Crabtree a year or two to grow his numbers as he waits for San Francisco to grow a team around him.
Interesting fact that won't help you: As a quarterback at Dallas' Carter High School, Crabtree averaged 8.7 yards per attempt, but completed just 45 percent of his passes.
What he's worth: Fantasy owners seem to be more fascinated with Crabtree than any other rookie receiver, most likely due to the numbers he posted in college. His Average RapidDraft Position (ARDP) through June has been 108th overall (37th among receivers). This suggests fantasy owners consider him a fringe No. 3 receiver, despite the 49ers' lack of stability at the quarterback position or along the offensive line. Considering all of the factors involved, it might be more appropriate to label Crabtree a fringe No. 4 receiver, valuable only as a spot starter.
Mike Beacom is the publisher for World Fantasy Games, which includes RapidDraft.com, SportsBuff.com and ProFantasySports.com.