Kid Dynamite-Deviant Art
In each year since Jim Harbaugh became head coach of the Niners, he has dealt with significant player losses due to injury. In his first year, the team lost wide receiver Josh Morgan to a broken leg. The following year, the team lost wide receivers Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams to harsh injuries as well. Now facing his upcoming third season in San Francisco, Harbaugh has to deal with possibly his most significant loss yet with Michael Crabtree’s torn Achilles. Last year, Crabtree was the top receiver on the team with 1,105 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns in the regular season; those statistics represent his best numbers yet in his professional career. Fans were looking forward to see Crabtree push the boundary even further in the 2013 season. Now, however, we may not see Crabtree on the field until possibly December, if at all this year, forcing Harbaugh to evaluate the talent currently on the roster and determine whether any additional players may be required to bolster the wide receiver lineup.
Here is a look at Harbaugh’s options at replacing Crabtree this upcoming season. Currently on the roster, the Niners have Anquan Boldin, AJ Jenkins, Ricardo Lockette, Mario Manningham, Quinton Patton, and Kyle Williams. Both Manningham and Williams are coming back from serious injuries themselves, and Patton is an unproven rookie, which leaves the focus on Boldin, Jenkins, and Lockette to step up in Crabtree’s absence. Questions linger about Jenkins, the second year player out of Illinois who was the Niners number one pick last year but failed to contribute much to the team last season. Off-season buzz on Jenkins, however, indicates he has gained some muscle and spent several weeks working out with QB Colin Kaepernick.
Ricardo Lockette, the second year player out of Fort Valley State, could also potentially come up big for the Niners this season. At 6’2”, he is the tallest receiver on the team, and as a former collegiate track star, Lockette has serious speed. Lockette could also benefit from the fact that he has been roommates with Kaepernick since he joined the team last year and may be a frequent target for the QB.
The heaviest pressure to perform likely weighs on Anquan Boldin, the recently acquired wide receiver from the Baltimore Ravens. Boldin has the most experience of all of the active wide receivers on the Niners’ current roster. Coming off a Super Bowl-winning season with the Ravens, expectations are high for Boldin, who has demonstrated his dedication to his new team by choosing to remain in SF for OTAs instead of making a trip to the White House to celebrate the Ravens’ Super Bowl win. There are some concerns about Boldin’s drop in speed and his age but those should be countered by the experience and leadership he brings to the position which could positively impact the younger players like Jenkins, Lockette, and Quinton Patton.
Another intriguing player to watch is rookie tight end Vance McDonald whose size, at 6’4” and 267 pounds, and versatility could help him be very successful in the NFL. He has the potential to be a jack of all trades for the Niners’ offense like Delanie Walker used to be. Boldin, Jenkins, Lockette, and McDonald are just a few examples of the potential depth of the Niners roster, but potential is nothing if those players do not perform. Somebody has to step up now that Crabtree is out of commission for a while; who will it be?