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Michael Crabtree's Achilles' tear opens up San Francisco 49ers targets

By Tim Heaney

Michael Crabtree (Achilles'): There's a substantial chance he's done for 2013, but he might be back around Thanksgiving or early December if his rehab goes smoothly. Maybe he'll follow the quick recovery paths of Terrell Suggs and Da'Quan Bowers. If only your average fantasy league had an IR spot....

Cue the San Francisco 49ers' target scramble.

San Francisco 49ers TE Vernon Davis
Will VD be a catch once again?

On the surface, this favors Vernon Davis, who could reclaim some of his early-season statistical potency from 2012. Remember, though, that most of that came with Alex Smith at the helm. Following Kaepernick taking over in Week 11, when Davis went 6-83-1, VD's stat line was infected, and he totaled six receptions over his final six contests, with 61 yards and zero touchdowns. He spent much of last season, in fact, continuing to accept a less prominent offensive window -- more decoy than difference-maker through the air.

Still, he showed in the NFC Championship and Super Bowl (11 catches, 210 yards, 1 TD combined) that he was starting to click with Kap. Expect San Fran to display more flexible deployment of Davis now that they're short-handed.

At their current TE ADP ranks, per Mock Draft Central, I'd rather own Davis (8th) than Dennis Pitta (5th) and probably Kyle Rudolph (7th) just because of Kaepernick's presence. The discount that Average Draft Position sites have given him in May will dissipate in the coming months, though, so the payoff won't be as great in what could be a wide-open fake-football position.

Anquan Boldin, the other immediate beneficiary, still shouldn't be held as anything higher than a WR3. He's shown in the last few years that he's making more big plays, but he's mostly reliant on his hands and possession-style calls, so PPR takers should add a buck when bidding on him.

He's had trouble acting as an unquestioned real-life No. 1, though, so you're right to question his ability to handle increased coverage. Having a mobile quarterback should help the wily vet make something out of broken plays more often, at least.

Here's where it gets spotty, especially if they don't look for help outside the organization. Wideouts Mario Manningham (ACL rehab), A.J. Jenkins and rookie Quinton Patton look primed to fight for secondary looks. (Don't bother with Kyle Williams, also going through ACL rehab.) Manningham's experience doesn't forgive his inconsistency, especially with route running. Though he could sniff 2010 numbers again (60-944-9 with the New York Giants), they're likely more so an anomaly, and if he doesn't heal properly, he won't make much headway.

Consider Jenkins and Patton a step below, but these deep-league lotto tickets might not be for long. Jenkins was almost non-existent in his rookie year, so many might be skeptical of his impact, but that's the way Jim Harbaugh treats most of his youngsters. "Sit. Learn. Put it into practice when you're ready." Jenkins added muscle this offseason and might've earned a promotion because he just absorbed everything last year while showing coach he can mature.

Patton's history in Louisiana Tech's up-tempo offense under Sonny Dykes could wind up being a solid springboard to San Fran's system, at least in comfort with game speed if not schematics. Of course, with Harbaugh's slow timetable for first-year players, he might not get the chance, instead yielding to intriguing bubble candidate but raw-at-age-27 Ricardo Lockette. But with such a big piece being removed from the lineup, Harbaugh could change course, at least for a few weeks.

Crabtree's injury could also mean more looks for the running backs, but this messy distribution doesn't stand to improve any one of these carriers' chances at targets ... maybe LaMichael James'.

No. 15's absence will hurt Colin Kaepernick but not to the point where the Pistol sheriff will fall below fantasy-starter status. The low end of the ADP QB1 bracket remains the right region for him.


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