2014 Team Outlook: San Francisco 49ers
WR Anquan Boldin, SF - Quality Backup
Boldin finished as the 15th-highest scoring wide receiver in 2013. Not bad for a guy considered entering the twilight of his career and third team in five seasons. What does Crabtree's return mean to Boldin? Surprisingly, in the five games Crabtree played, Boldin averaged 6.6 receptions for 91 yards and 0.4 touchdowns per contest. This compares to 4.73 receptions, 66 yards and 0.45 touchdowns in 11 games without Crabtree. Perhaps defenses put too much emphasis on covering Crabtree and left Boldin open, but either way, his production was so significant that he shouldn't be discounted off-hand this year. Furthermore, his 139.11 ADP (WR57) should tell you Boldin is extremely undervalued. Boldin typically played the No. 2 WR throughout his career, so even with some regression, an improved Colin Kaepernick could bridge the gap statistically.
Editor's note: The 49ers may strike more of an offensive balance thanks to the return of Crabtree, the advanced age of Frank Gore and addition of Stevie Johnson. More passes means more opportunities for Boldin to produce. His ADP is an absolute steal.
WR Michael Crabtree, SF - Solid/Safe Pick
Crabtree developed into a nice weapon for San Francisco, although it took a few years. He battled foot problems, which took him off course to throughout his career. From 2010 to 2012, his reception total gradually increased from 55 to 72 to 85. In 2013, he missed most of the year with injury. This season could serve to be a comeback year for him. He'll have both Anquan Boldin and Stevie Johnson as teammates and they form the best 49ers' receiving corps in years. Kaepernick trusts Crabtree and even wanted to make sure there was money available to extend Crabtree's contract before he signed his own extension. Targets may be tough to come by on this team due to the 49ers' commitment to smash-mouth football. He should meet his career highs with 70 to 80 receptions. We rank him as a mid-end WR2, which is a very bullish projection.
Editor's note: Now in his sixth season, this is last call for Crabtree. Many fantasy owners have already written him off due to his sky-high stat projections; however, if Boldin can produce like a WR2 for fantasy owners (which he did last year), so can Crabtree at his 44.33 ADP.
WR Stevie Johnson, SF - Low Potential
Johnson comes to San Francisco from Buffalo, where he averaged 129 targets over his last four years. Johnson will turn 28 this year and could thrive from not having to be his team's No. 1 receiver. He will have to wait for his targets with more passes likely destined for Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin. Johnson will also have to hold off talented second-year player Quinton Patton, the dynamic but aging Brandon Lloyd and rookie Bruce Ellington. For a player who has been a solid receiver for three straight years, he finds himself in a battle to be relevant. It is a long shot for him to contribute enough to be a fantasy starter without an injury to provide him more snaps.
WR Brandon Lloyd, SF - Not Draft Worthy
Lloyd has come back to where it all started in an attempt to reinvigorate his up-and-down career. He always was able to make the difficult catch, although delivering consistent performances was the problem. Lloyd was out of the NFL last year, so he is a long shot to both make the roster and contribute significantly.
WR Bruce Ellington, SF - Dynasty Only
Ellington is the cousin of Andre Ellington. The NFL Network's Mike Mayock called him a bigger version of Jacksonville's Ace Sanders. Ellington ran a 4.45 40-yard dash and recorded a 39.5 inch vertical jump. With those raw skills, he has long-term potential. Draft and hold him in dynasty formats.
WR Quinton Patton, SF - Dynasty Only
Patton didn't see much action his rookie season. He was a fourth-round draft pick in 2013. There are multiple players competing for the No. 3 duties in San Francisco. He is not worth a draft pick at this point. Stash him on your dynasty roster if need be and hope for the best.