2009 was an odd year for Michael Crabtree. After a disappointing, injury induced end to his last year at Texas Tech, Crabtree decided that the NFL is where his skills needed to be. Hailed as the best WR prospect since Calvin Johnson, Crabtree inexplicably dropped to the 10th pick, three picks after Darrius Heyward-Bay, a speedster that only Al Davis could love. Still 10th pick in the NFL draft isn’t so bad, particularly when you’re starting contract is around $20 million dollars.
While most college grads would do backflips, Crabtree and his posse of “counselors” decided that it wasn’t enough. Deion Sanders, one of his “counselors”, went on to say, “Why would you settle for $20 million when you feel like you can get $40 million?” To make a long story short, Crabtree eventually got a contract that puts him right around the $30 million mark, but didn’t exactly gain him many fans in the process.
After a week 7 start, Crabtree went on to compile some decent numbers, but was obviously a bit behind the curve after a missed training camp. There were no magical 100 yard games, and there weren’t many TD’s to fill the stat sheets. He never looked lost on the field, but didn’t quite show off his skillet the way he did in college. The 49ers weren’t exactly built around a solid passing game, but smash mouth coach Mike Singletary did temporarily put in a spread offense to make the game a bit easier for Crabtree, as well as Alex Smith, the ex #1 pick out of Utah who was starting to look like a career backup. Still, The passing offense seemed to start and end with Vernon Davis, the 6’3 250 lb. behemoth of a pass happy TE.
Things are a bit different for the 49ers this year. QB Alex Smith seemed to have gotten a vote of confidence after the 49ers passed up on Jimmy Clausen in the draft and Donovan McNabb in the McNabb sweepstakes. They even dumped off Shaun Hill, Alex Smith’s QB competitor in 2009. The 49ers also drafted two offensive linemen in the first round of the draft to give Smith a bit more time to throw the ball.
There is also a ton of pressure on Crabtree this year to be the man. After the retirement of Isaac Bruce and the departure of Arnez Battle, Crabtree is left with Josh Morgan and the lead fingered Ted Ginn Jr. to line up on the other side of the field. He’ll not only be the primary possession WR, but will also be looked at to be the primary deep threat too. This sounds like a perfect recipe for a killer season, but don’t get too excited.
Mike Singletary, the most old school coach of them all, wants to run at you and hit you in the mouth. His offense begins and ends with the running game, which consists of generous amounts of Frank Gore, along with an ample dose of Glenn Coffee and Anthony Dixon. When things get hairy, Singletary will look to Vernon Davis, and not Michael Crabtree to get the ball to. The red zone will be primarily a running zone, and again, the next option will be the sure handed Vernon Davis.
Still, with an improved offensive line, Alex Smith will certainly get a good amount of looks each game. The need to dump the ball off to Vernon Davis every play will be decreased due to Alex Smith’s increased time in the pocket. I’d say that in this offense, Michael Crabtree is probably offensive option 2.5 after the running game and Vernon Davis. He’ll get his looks, but don’t expect 1,500 yards and 15 TD’s. Alex Smith isn’t exactly Peyton Manning, and the running game is still king, expect 2010 to be somewhere around 1,200 yards and 5-7 TD’s for the 30 million dollar man. Crabtree certainly has the skills to do more, but it’s hard to expect more when he hasn’t had a single 100 yard NFL game to his name.