Crabtree Signs, Looks Impressive Thus Far

Aleck Ryner

Nearly six months after drafting Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree, the 49ers were finally able to sign the star receiver to a six-year deal with $17 million guaranteed. In the end, Crabtree did not get the same deal as Oakland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey, but Crabtree decided it was time to get on the field.

At Texas Tech, Crabtree was the first ever receiver to win two Bilitnikoff awards, given to the best receiver in college football. Making the feat even more impressive was the fact that he played much of his sophomore season with an injured foot that required off-season surgery.
Heading into the draft, questions began to arise about Crabtree’s height, as well as his speed and a foot injury, which kept him out of the NFL Combine for incoming rookies to showcase their talent. To make matters worse for Crabtree, many NFL scouts also perceived him as another diva wide receiver like Terrell Owens or Brandon Marshall. So Crabtree slipped to the 10th spot where Mike Singletary and the Niners grabbed the potential star.

After his first week of practice, nearly everyone was impressed with the rookie’s ability, as well as his work ethic.

“He plays much bigger than he is, when you see him, you think he’s a little on the short side, but when he’s out there running, getting his hands on the ball, he’s a big target,” said 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill to a San Francisco Chronicle reporter.

Coach Singletary was also very impressed with Crabtree’s ability. Just a few weeks after signing, Crabtree was thrust into the starting lineup.

He has his work cut out for him. After starting the season strong, the 49ers stumbled into their bye week, losing 45-10 to the Atlanta Falcons. Even with the addition of Crabtree and Pro-Bowl running back Frank Gore back from injury, the Niners played an uninspiring first half of football against the Texans.  In the second half, former first overall pick Alex Smith relieved Shaun Hill and was almost able to pull off a miracle, throwing three touchdowns to tight end Vernon Davis. However, the Niners couldn’t complete the comeback and lost 21-24.

Crabtree preformed well, especially in the second half, with five receptions for 56 yards. He also displayed extremely strong hands and already looks like the Niners number one option at wide receiver.

If the 49ers are in the playoff race in the last  few weeks  of  the season though, the team will rely on him to make big plays opposite second year player Josh Morgan, or future Hall of Fame wide receiver Isaac Bruce.

Many consider Crabtree a cross between Steve Smith and Owens. Crabtree doesn’t possess the quickness of Smith or the size of Owens, but he is a physical receiver and still possesses surprising elusiveness in the open field.

With these skill sets, Crabtree likely won’t have any trouble becoming the most productive wide receiver taken in the first 10 picks of the draft this year. After one game he already has more receptions than Heyward-Bey and only 10 fewer yards.

The biggest factor in Crabtree’s development   right  now looks to be the Niners quarterback situation. Crabtree looked to be a bit uncomfortable with Hill under center, but when Smith stepped in the two were in sync. If Smith does well, Crabtree and the 49ers will also do well; if not, the Niners will be watching the playoffs again from home.