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Offseason Extra: The Crabtree effect

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Michael Crabtree suffered a torn Achilles on Tuesday during an offseason workout, and he already underwent surgery Wednesday. He's expected to be out a minimum of six months, and that's a terrible loss for the 49ers and Fantasy owners.

In the four drafts I've done following the NFL Draft at the end of April, Crabtree was being selected on average at the end of Round 3. He finished 2012 on a tear thanks to the addition of quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the starting lineup, and he was looking like a No. 1 Fantasy receiver coming into this season.

In the seven starts Kaepernick made in 2012 in the regular season, Crabtree had 41 catches for 595 yards and five touchdowns. If you project that over 16 games, Crabtree would have finished with 94 catches for 1,360 yards and 11 touchdowns. That equates to 202 Fantasy points, which would have made Crabtree the No. 3 Fantasy receiver last year in standard leagues behind Calvin Johnson (214) and Brandon Marshall (210).

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Now, all that potential is gone. Crabtree could still return this season, with the timetable getting him back on the field sometime in November. And keep in mind Baltimore's Terrell Suggs and Tampa Bay's Da'Quan Bowers came back last year from Achilles injuries suffered around the same time.

But they play defensive line, which isn't comparable to the starting and stopping a receiver has to do while running routes. This is basically a lost season for Crabtree, who is only worth drafting in deep Fantasy leagues with a late-round pick.

His absence will have a huge impact on the rest of the 49ers, especially Kaepernick. We had Kaepernick as a Top 7 quarterback prior to Crabtree's injury, but now he's barely a Top 10 option. He should still be considered a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback, but he will miss his No. 1 receiver.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that in the 10 starts Kaepernick made last season, including the playoffs, he targeted Crabtree 94 times. The next most-targeted option was a tie for Vernon Davis and Randy Moss with 39.

The 49ers could look at a free agent to replace Crabtree, with Brandon Lloyd the most attractive option based on experience. Moss could also be brought back, or the 49ers could explore a trade. Otherwise they will just bump everyone up on the depth chart.

Anquan Boldin, who was acquired in a trade from Baltimore, is the likely No. 1 option, although you should use that term loosely. He's 32 now and is not the dynamic playmaker he once was in Arizona, despite his big playoff performance with the Ravens last year (he had 22 catches for 380 yards and four touchdowns).

Boldin clearly gets a boost in Fantasy value if he is the top receiver, but he's just a No. 3 option at best worth a mid-round pick. He told me in April at his charity event that he was looking forward to playing with Kaepernick, but he obviously was expecting Crabtree on the field with him.

"I embrace change," Boldin said. "For me, I think it's a great opportunity. I feel like the job that I was brought to Baltimore to do, I accomplished that. I feel good in that aspect. It's on to another challenge in life."

Davis might benefit the most with Crabtree out. When Kaepernick took over for Alex Smith, Davis struggled. He had one game with double digits in Fantasy points with Kaepernick under center in the regular season, but they looked great together in the playoffs. In his final two postseason games Davis had 11 catches for 210 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons and Ravens.

Davis was always a No. 1 Fantasy tight end, but he's now at the top of Tier 2 behind Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez. Plan on drafting Davis as early as Round 6 or 7 in the majority of leagues.

As for the other San Francisco receivers, there are question marks. Mario Manningham is coming back from a torn ACL and PCL in his left knee from Week 16. He might not be ready for training camp. Second-year receiver A.J. Jenkins went his entire rookie season without a catch. And fourth-round rookie Quinton Patton is considered a raw talent. Maybe even Ricardo Lockette gets a look following this injury.

Jenkins has the best chance to improve of this group, and he should be considered a late-round flier in all formats. If the 49ers don't add another receiver, Jenkins could start opposite Boldin and make some plays.

Also, we know the 49ers are a run-heavy offense to begin with, and this should only increase the workload for Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James. Gore remains a solid No. 2 Fantasy running back, and he might also see a few more receptions this season to help replace Crabtree in the passing game.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
RB Steven Jackson, cut by Falcons, isn't planning to retire
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) Though he's without a team at the moment, running back Steven Jackson has no plans to retire. 

The Falcons officially released Jackson Thursday night, with immediate questions emerging about his future. On his own website, though, Jackson posted a statement saying he isn't hanging up the cleats just yet.  

"A lot has been written lately about my future," Jackson wrote. "There are questions about my age, and what I have left in the tank. Of that, I will simply say this. For the first nine years of my career, I was used like a battering ram, punishing opposing defense over four quarters of a game. Maybe you stopped me the first five times I got the ball, but by the 15th or 20th time I got it, late in a game -- let's just say you were really feeling me at that point.

"Make no mistake: I can still punish a defense. I still have a warrior's heart. There are 1,000-yard seasons left in these legs. I know what I am still capable of, and I have every intention of proving it."

Jackson also admitted his two seasons with the Falcons were a disappointment as the organization did not reach the postseason in either season. He combined for only 1,250 yards in 2013 and 2014 after posting eight consecutive seasons with over 1,000 yards when he was with the Rams. 


Raiders expected to release safety Tyvon Branch
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Raiders will be parting ways with safety Tyvon Branch, according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora

Branch only played in three games during the 2014 season due to a foot injury that placed him on injured reserve. That followed his 2013 season in which Branch was only able to participate in two games. 

However, Branch could be a commodity in what is otherwise considered a weak safety market. 

Branch signed a four-year, $26..6 million contract with the Raiders in 2012, with $17.6 million guaranteed.


Browns working to re-sign CB Buster Skrine
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Browns are hopeful they can re-sign cornerback Buster Skrine but are probably going to have to try to do so after he hits the free agent market, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer

Skrine had a single-season best four interceptions in 2014 and will be someone that could command a hefty price tag on the open market. The Plain Dealer reports that Skrine is expecting anywhere from $5.5 million to $7 million per season. 

The Browns should be in a good position to match an offer for Skrine. Depending on what the 2015 cap number per team is, the Browns are likely to have well over $30 million to spend in free agency. 


Colts, Matt Hasselbeck agree to one-year contract
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) It looks like Matt Hasselbeck's NFL career will extend at least one more year. 

The Colts reached a one-year deal with backup quarterback Hasselbeck, the team announced on Thursday. 

Hasselbeck, 39, will enter his 17th year in the NFL. After starting out as Brett Favre's backup in Green Bay for his first two seasons in 1999 and 2000, he joined the Seahawks via a trade and quickly established himself as a starting-caliber quarterback. 

In 16 NFL seasons, Hasselbeck has totaled 34,948 yards, 203 touchdowns and 148 interceptions. He'll be the top candidate to back up Andrew Luck next season. 


Report: Vikings, Adrian Peterson can communicate with each other
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) Now that Adrian Peterson has been moved back to the Commissioner's Exempt list, the Vikings can reach out and communicate with him, according to a report from Pro Football Talk

Peterson had been suspended by the NFL until April 15 and upheld by an arbitrator. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge David Doty overturned the arbitrator's decision, sending the case back down to go through the CBA. The NFL has removed the suspension, for now, while moving Peterson back to the Commissioner's Exempt list. 

The NFL announced in a statement that it is appealing Doty's ruling

Since the Vikings want Peterson to remain with them, they can now reach out and hold talks directly. While suspended by the NFL, the Vikings were unable to communicate with him. This is an interesting development because the Vikings have publicly stated they want him to stay in Minnesota. 

However, at least one report as indicated Peterson wants to leave and continue his NFL career elsewhere


Falcons release running back Steven Jackson
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Falcons released running back Steven Jackson on Thursday, the team announced.

Jackson was owed $3.75 million in 2015, but with running back Devonta Freeman on the roster, it appears Jackson is expendable. In 2014, Jackson rushed for 707 yards and six touchdowns on 190 carries.

By cutting Jackson, the Falcons saved $3.7 million against the salary cap, reports the NFL Network.


Redskins sign Ricky Jean Francois to three-year contract
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Redskins signed defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois to a three-year deal Thursday, reports the NFL Network.

The deal is believed to be worth $9 million with $4 million guaranteed. With incentives, the deal can reach $11.25 million.

Jean Francois was cut by the Colts on Monday. In 2014, Jean Francois totaled 28 tackles and three sacks.


Report: Browns believe they still have a shot at Josh McCown
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Browns remain confident that they can snag quarterback Josh McCown from the free agent ranks, according to a report from ESPN.com

McCown visited the Browns this week and has also received interest from the the Jets, Bills and Bears. The Browns are in the market for a starting-caliber quarterback with Brian Hoyer possibly leaving in free agency and with Johnny Manziel's status up in the air with the off-field issues hes working through. 

McCown threw 13 touchdowns to just one interception with the Bears in 2013, doing this while filling in for an injured Jay Cutler. His performance earned him a contract with the Buccaneers, though injuries and poor play resulted in a season that saw him throw 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. 

McCown was released by the Buccaneers earlier this offseason. 


Report: Cardinals sign cornerback Damond Smith
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Cardinals signed cornerback Damond Smith on Thursday, reports The Baltimore Sun.

Smith did not play during the 2014 season after being cut by the Chiefs. He has never played in an NFL game.


Chargers officially cut OL Jeromey Clary from roster
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) Chargers offensive lineman Jeromey Clary announced his retirement in January. However, the Chargers finally removed him from the offseason roster with a failed physical designation, according to the NFL transaction wire. 

Clary did not play during the 2014 season due to two hip surgeries. 

Clary spent all nine of his NFL years with San Diego. 


 
 
 
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