It seemed as if the stars had finally aligned for San Francisco 49ers WR Michael Crabtree.
After three seasons in the NFL, the highly touted wideout had failed to make a significant impact in the league. He never managed to gain more than 874 yards in any season and was held to one catch for three yards in the 2011 NFC Championship game. Things started to change in 2012, as Crabtree began to develop a better rapport with then quarterback Alex Smith, but it wasn’t until Colin Kaepernick took over that he really started to see a spike in his production.
In their last five regular season games together that season, Crabtree hauled in 35 of Kaepernick’s passes for 538 yards and four touchdowns. He continued to be in sync with Kaepernick in the playoffs and caught another 20 balls for 285 yards and three touchdowns. If you take that production over a 16-game season, Crabtree would have 110 receptions for 1646 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Big things were expected from the tandem again in 2013, but Crabtree’s season was put on hold when he injured his Achilles in May. The receiver would return in Week 13, but he was never able to fully duplicate the impact he had at end of 2012.
In addition to a full season with Kaepernick, there are multiple reasons to think that Crabtree will break out in 2014. The first is having more weapons around him, which will open up additional opportunities. Crabtree has never had a receiver as good as Anquan Boldin play opposite him for a full 16 games, and tight end Vernon Davis will command attention as well.
Crabtree is also playing in the last year of his rookie contract and will be a free agent after the season. This will give him added motivation to put up big numbers, as there is little chance the 49ers will extend him before he hits the market. With Kaepernick’s contract extension looming, it’s unlikely the 49ers will have enough money to give both players long-term deals.
Both Crabtree and the 49ers will be all in on the 2014 season. In addition to Crabtree wanting to prove his worth for a new contract, San Francisco is still trying to capture a Super Bowl while their championship window is open. That combination will add up to a monster year for Crabtree.