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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
Chris Harris targeting midway point of preseason
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, who's coming back from ACL surgery, told ESPN he expects to be cleared for full participation by the midway point of the preseason. Harris said the exact timetable hinges on his upcoming visit to his surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.

"I’m doing everything, there’s really nothing I can’t do right now," Harris told the network. "I still have to go see Dr. Andrews at the end of the month and get checked up and he’ll pretty much let us know the plan from there."

Harris had 65 tackles and three interceptions last year before getting hurt in the playoffs.


Dimitri Patterson a starter by default
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Unable to land a high-end free agent cornerback, the Jets "were forced to settle for journeyman Dimitri Patterson as a consolation," notes The Star-Ledger. Patterson, who projects to start opposite Dee Milliner, is on his sixth team in 10 seasons and has played all 16 games just once in his career.

If Patterson falters, third-round pick Dexter McDougle could get a shot.


Fred Jackson in danger of losing carries
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Bills running back Fred Jackson might not approach the 207 carries he received last year. According to WGR550.com, Jackson will once again split time with C.J. Spiller but also potentially lose snaps to the team's additions at running back, Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon.

The website said Jackson, 33, who's entering the last year of his deal, will be trying to prove how much he has left.


Teammate: Bitterness won't linger from Jimmy Graham standoff
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Saints tight end Benjamin Watson told ESPN that the the team's arbitration fight with Jimmy Graham over whether he's a receiver or a tight end won't have a longterm detrimental effect. Watson is hopeful the sides will reach a multiyear contract agreement by Tuesday's deadline.

"I’m very confident that it’ll be resolved the right way and guys can move forward," Watson said. "Obviously it’s always tough when you go through litigation with somebody, and it can probably get heated. And I’m sure there are emotions on both sides. But that is the business side of the game. 

"And it’s unfortunate that it came to that and that it was so public. But I really think -- I know, I don’t think -- I know that Jimmy loves New Orleans and I know that he loves our team and the organization and he loves playing here. And we love him, everybody wants him here, coaches included. So when it comes down to contract situations, that’s just a necessary evil ... not even evil, but just a necessary progression of getting a player here."


Dallas Thomas eyes starting job
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Dolphins coach Joe Philbin named Dallas Thomas one of the team's most improved players, and he has a good chance to start at left guard, according to the team's website. A third-round pick in last year's draft, Thomas played only four offensive snaps last season.

Thomas worked with the first team during spring drills and is much further along than he was in 2013. He stayed in South Florida throughout the offseason to get better prepared.

"You’ve got to know your material, you’ve got to know what you’re doing on the field because stuff happens so fast," Thomas said. "You’ve got to be able to just react to it and not even think about what’s happening on the field."


Spencer Nealy hit with four-game ban
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The NFL suspended Vikings defensive end Spencer Nealy four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances. An undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, the 24-year-old Nealy did not play in a game last season.

Nealy apologized and took responsibility in a statement, saying he took a supplement containing a banned stimulant.


Jarrett Boykin will be 'hard to dislodge'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Jarrett Boykin improved dramatically last season and "will be hard to dislodge" from the Packers' No. 3 receiver job, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Boykin will have to hold off second-round pick Davante Adams, fifth-rounder Jared Abbrederis and seventh-rounder Jeff Janis.

Boykin, 24, caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns last season.


Trent Richardson might not get long leash
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Averaging 2.9 yards a carry, like he did last year, will get Trent Richardson benched quickly, reports ESPN.com. Richardson "will have to produce right away because it's unlikely the Colts will wait for him to get going" if running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard are healthy and productive, the website said.

Richardson likely will get the first shot at the starting job. He has a much better grasp of the playbook than he did in 2013 and the belief is he'll be able to run on instinct as opposed to overthinking, the report said.


Bruce Ellington trying to overcome stature
by Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
(7/11/2014) At 5-foot-9, Bruce Ellington is the shortest receiver on the 49ers' roster. But the fourth-round pick out of South Carolina should not be discounted, his high school coach, Jerry Brown, told the Sacramento Bee.

Brown said Ellington is relentless at finding open space and catching everything thrown his way. "Football's played on a big field and it's hard to track someone like Bruce who's got so much agility," Brown said.

Ellington believes he has lots of room for growth because he only gave up basketball last year. Also a former track competitor, Ellington clocked a 4.45 forty at the combine.

"I'm just going to work hard, give it a hundred (percent) every time I step on the field and keep on chasing the dream," he said.


Colts dump LaVon Brazill, sign Aaron Burks
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The Colts waived suspended wideout LaVon Brazill and signed receiver Aaron Burks, an undrafted free agent from Boise State. Brazill, 25, is suspended for at least a year for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Burks caught 18 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns for the Broncos last season, averaging 17.2 yards per catch.


 
 
 
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