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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
Rashad Jennings should come roaring back
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(6:39 pm ET) After being limited to just three touches in the second half of a blowout victory Week 4 at Washington, Giants running back Rashad Jennings has a chance to get back in his Fantasy owners' good graces in Week 5. He'll be facing a Falcons defense that just gave up 241 rushing yards to the Vikings, making them 28th against the run. They've also allowed nine touchdowns on the ground, four more than any other team.

Because rookie Andre Williams performed so well in relief of Jennings last week, rushing for 66 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, you may be worried the two will split carries in some form or fashion going forward. While I don't think that's much of a concern -- Williams was already getting 5-10 carries a game and not doing much with them -- I'm not sure it really matters with this matchup. The Falcons have been the magic elixir for running back tandems this season. Not only did the Vikings' Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon both have big games against them last week, the former rushing for 78 yards and three touchdowns and the latter rushing for 135 yards, but the Bengals' Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill both had big games against them in Week 2, the former rushing for 90 yards and a touchdown and the latter rushing for 74 yards and a touchdown.

Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard both rank Jennings among their top six running backs for Week 5, and I agree wholeheartedly. He remains a must-start despite the disappointment of last week.


Alfred Morris running into tough matchup
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(5:57 pm ET) For as good as Alfred Morris is, owning him in Fantasy can leave you disappointed at times, given the Redskins' sometimes-inconsistent usage of him. You might want to skip the headache in Week 5, with the Seahawks on the way Monday night.

Morris has been productive in each game so far, and currently ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing yardage through four games. Unfortunately, he faces one of the toughest tests in the league this week. The Seahawks have yet to allow an opposing running back to score even six points this season, and their lone touchdown allowed came from little-used Packers fullback John Kuhn in Week 1. Morris has yet to face Seattle in his career, and they are unlikely to give him a very warm welcome.

Morris is nearly a must-start Fantasy option on a weekly basis, but this is one time you might want to avoid relying on him. The workload should be there, but Morris ranks outside of the top-30 for running backs in both Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard's Week 5 rankings.   


Jets add LeQuan Lewis, subtract Brandon Smith
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:55 pm ET) The Jets signed cornerback LeQuan Lewis to their practice squad and released corner Brandon Smith from the squad, reports the New York Daily News.

Panthers add Tauren Poole, Horace Miller to practice squad
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:50 pm ET) The Panthers signed running back Tauren Poole and linebacker Horace Miller to their practice squad.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins an interesting long-term prospect
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(5:48 pm ET) Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins returned from a foot injury and immediately served as a key part of the offense in Week 4. Does the rookie second-rounder have sleeper Fantasy potential moving forward?

Seferian-Jenkins was targeted on seven of quarterback Mike Glennon's 42 throws in Sunday's game, a number that left him third on the team. He brought in three of those passes, a decent number considering Glennon struggled with his accuracy all game. The fact that Glennon looked his way so often might be a good sign, since it was the pair's first game together.

After a collegiate career that saw him total 1,840 yards in three seasons, Seferian-Jenkins has a chance to become a big part of this Tampa Bay offense. However, he obviously has a lot to prove before you want to rely on him. Keep an eye on Seferian-Jenkins' play in Week 5 against the Saints, and consider adding him if he and Glennon show a good rapport. 


Lions put Montell Owens on IR
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:47 pm ET) The Lions put running back Montell Owens on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, ending his season.

LaMichael James signs with Dolphins
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:42 pm ET) Former 49ers running back LaMichael James signed with the Dolphins, reports Fox Sports. San Francisco released the oft-injured back following the season opener.

Luke Willson has a lot to prove with increased role
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(5:35 pm ET) The Seahawks will turn to Luke Willson to start at tight end in the coming weeks, with Zach Miller sidelined by ankle surgery. Should Fantasy owners take notice?

Miller had logged 83.5 percent of the team's snaps through three games, so Willson should be in line for a much larger role as the starter. Of course, Miller was nearly a nonfactor in the passing game so far, having been targeted just seven times. Between he and Willson, quarterback Russell Wilson has targeted tight ends just eight times on 87 attempts, after 20.6 percent of his passes went their way a year ago.

Willson might be the better pass catcher of the Seahawks tight end tandem, but we don't have much to go on here. There are better tight end options worth targeting on waivers, at least until Willson proves himself. 


Christian Ponder preparing to start
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:28 pm ET) Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder took the first-team reps Monday and Tuesday while rookie Teddy Bridgewater watched with an ankle injury. "I'm preparing to play, but we're hoping the best for Teddy," Ponder told reporters.

"I've talked to Teddy. He's doing everything he can to prepare and be ready to play."

Ponder has started 35 games, but none with Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. He could be under center Thursday in Green Bay. "It's a very different style of offense than what we've ran the previous three years," Ponder said. "Without Adrian [Peterson], it's different. Defenses play us differently without Adrian. I'm comfortable and fit well in it."


Denard Robinson still a sleeper, but worth checking out
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(5:26 pm ET) Jaguars running back Denard Robinson has not made much of an impact since being given a larger role in the offense, but he might be someone worth taking a flier on in Fantasy anyways.

The Jaguars have relied on Toby Gerhart less and less as the season has gone on, and for good reason. He is averaging just 2.6 yards per carry through four games, with a long run of just 10 yards. And, while Robinson has not been much better (3.3 yards per carry), the team appears willing to give him a bigger role, if only for a change of pace.

Robinson might have some extra value long term in PPR leagues, even if he ultimately never overtakes Gerhart for the starting job. Robinson has been targeted seven times in 70 offensive snaps, compared to seven targets for Gerhart in 133 snaps.

Clearly, the Jaguars are not thrilled with their investment in Gerhart this offseason, so Robinson is going to get more chances to cut into his playing time if he can show a pulse. At this point, Robinson is a long way from starting, but in deeper leagues, he might have some upside.


 
 
 
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