Yesterday the San Francisco 49ers lost star receiver Michael Crabtree for at least six months to a completely torn Achilles tendon that happened on the first day of Organized Team Activities (OTAs). Crabtree was Colin Kaepernick‘s favorite target and a third down converting machine for the 49ers last year. His production will not be easily replaced, but the 49ers have many options at their disposal to try to match his production until week 12 when Crabtree potentially returns. Remember, Crabtree was a huge part of the offense, but he wasn’t one of the nine 49ers that made the Pro Bowl last year.
Here’s a look at who could potentially replace Michael Crabtree:
– A.J. Jenkins/Quinton Patton/Ricardo Lockette – The 49ers have a lot of young receivers trying to make an impact this year. Jenkins, the 49ers’ first-round pick last year, spent eight weeks in Atlanta training with Kaepernick and Lockette and is up to almost 200 pounds. His biggest problem last year was he wasn’t physically strong enough to go over the middle and compete at the NFL level. Lockette bypassed chances to be on an NFL roster elsewhere to be with the 49ers. He has great speed and a lot of potential so spending time with Kaepernick this offseason gives him a leg-up on making the roster. Patton was a fourth-round pick of the Niners this year, and it is unknown how well he will transition to the NFL game.
– Randy Moss – After Mario Manningham went down with a knee injury last year, Moss was the defacto second receiver behind Crabtree and made a lot of impact plays. He obviously doesn’t have the same speed he once had, but defenses still have to account for his deep threat and it would open up the offense, especially with Anquan Boldin as the new number one receiver who’s not exactly a sprinter. Jim Harbaugh has said the 49ers aren’t interested, but it is early in the offseason.
– Brandon Lloyd – Lloyd is a former 49er draft pick that burned a lot of bridges in his time with the team, but emotions have cooled and he was reportedly offered a contract two years ago when he visited. Lloyd could come in immediately and be the second best receiver on the team.
– Mario Manningham – Manningham was the best receiver on the 49ers roster the first half of last year until Kaepernick took over and Crabtree exploded onto the scene. Manningham tore his ACL and will hopefully be back for training camp. He is quick and decisive, and if healthy he can be an impactful player while Crab is out.
– Vernon Davis – Davis was hot and cold last year. He started off the season on a tear and then cooled off when Kaepernick took over. But the 49ers don’t make a historic comeback against the Atlanta Falcons without Davis’ production in that game. He is one of the best TEs in the league and should be Kaepernick’s top target while Crabtree is out.
The 49ers can’t expect to replace the best receiver on the team, but they can try and duplicate his production with multiple players. With Kaepernick getting better and better this offseason it is not out of the question to think this team can survive without him.