The fifth-year receiver is not afraid to speak his mind. A few days ago, Michael Crabtree declared that he was the “future of the NFL” in front of reporters. After a breakout season in 2012, the San Francisco 49ers wideout has a right to feel that way.
Since entering the league in 2009, Crabtree has gotten better statistically each season. But he really took off when Colin Kaepernick lined up as the team’s permanent starter.
When Alex Smith was under center for nine games, Crabtree had 42 receptions for 494 yards and four touchdowns. In 10 games (including the playoffs) with Kaepernick, Crabtree tallied 63 receptions for 898 yards and four scores.
Because of Kaepernick’s strong arm and ability to fit the ball into tight windows, the 25-year-old wideout also experienced a jump in his yards per catch (11.7 to 14.25). The passing game became much more explosive, which took advantage of Crabtree’s open field strengths.
He was also the first 49ers receiver to surpass 1,000 yards since Terrell Owens in 2003. If the Kaepernick-Crabtree tandem remains in place, more franchise records will be challenged.
This offseason, the 49ers added Anquan Boldin to the mix, but he shouldn’t threaten Crabtree’s individual production. In fact, his presence will only help keep defenders from solely focusing on San Francisco’s top wideout.
Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams are coming off serious injuries, so there are doubts if they will even contribute in 2013. But if one or both can play, that will just make the passing attack even more potent.
The 49ers field a rising offense littered with young talent, and Crabtree will be a prominent star in their aerial attack.
After failing to live up to immediate expectations, the former first-round pick is building momentum in becoming one of the game’s top targets.
Crabtree clearly believes in his own ability by declaring himself “the future.” But for he and the 49ers, the future is now.