At the NFL Combine on Sunday, future players displayed their speed at the 40-yard dash drill in front of general managers and scouts doing their homework on who to draft. 49ers general manager Trent Baalke watched the wide receivers in earnest as the team tries to stack the position with players who can contribute right away. The 49ers have options to solve their receiving corps issues. They can go through free agency with a big name signing like WR Mike Wallace or a mid-level veteran receiver like Reggie Wayne. The 49ers could draft the best receiver available when they select with the 30th pick or find a hidden gem in the second, third or fourth rounds. Baalke could go with any of these options, including signing a free agent and drafting a wide receiver.
All the talk of the 49ers desperately needing a wide receiver and what is the best path forward for the team, had me wondering what Michael Crabtree is thinking about all of this. So far, Crabtree has not said anything about all the talk of the 49ers needing a WR either through the media or his twitter account. I doubt Crabtree will say anything negative, even when free agency starts on March 13 and news starts to leak out about the 49ers pursuing a wide receiver.
Crabtree may have some diva qualities but he is not the second coming of Terrell Owens. If he was, we would have heard his thoughts already on the 49ers pursuit of another wide receiver in free agency and the draft. Crabtree had been given the diva label mainly thanks to his contract holdout during his rookie season. However, if the receiver does not produce in 2012 like a 10th overall draft pick should, he will be labeled a draft bust.
Crabtree had good production in 2011 with 72 receptions for 874 yards and four touchdowns. But the 49ers needed him to have No. 1 receiver stats with a 1,000 yard season and double his touchdown production. This was not all Crabtree’s fault as he did not have a receiver standing on the opposite side of the field that caused defenses to focus on two receivers. Instead opposing defenses double teamed Crabtree taking away him out of the play. Injuries to the receiving corps also did not help Crabtree and the passing offense last season.
Niner fans are still thinking of Crabtree’s dismal contribution in the NFC Championship game (one reception for 3 yards) and his multiple dropped passes against the Saints in the Division Round game. Crabtree’s lack of production in the playoffs, which haunted him, and the constant talk of the team badly needing a true No. 1 wide receiver will light a fire under him for 2012. With a full off-season of OTA’s, mini-camps, training camp and preseason games, Crabtree is poised to have a big season in 2012. Crabtree knows 2012 is a make or break season. Even though he is signed until 2014, the pitchforks will come out if he does not produce like many are expecting at the end of the season causing him be sent packing to another team.
If you are keeping score at home, it has been 26 seasons since the 49ers drafted Jerry Rice. In the drafts since then the 49ers have only hit home runs with two of the nine WR’s they drafted in the first three rounds: John Taylor and Terrell Owens.