That gasp you heard after the news broke about Michael Crabtree's reported Achilles tear wasn't just from his keeper owners; it also came from those buying into the hype over Colin Kaepernick. With his No. 1 receiver out for a significant period of time, it's going to be even tougher for Kaepernick to perform up to his lofty draft status.
While this will be painful for the 49ers, Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin, A.J. Jenkins and rookie fourth-rounder Quinton Patton all are a bit more intriguing now. Heck, a San Francisco reunion with free agent Brandon Lloyd is entirely possible now.
Crabtree's loss is one of the most significant offseason injury developments in years, even if it doesn't end his season. Remember, Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles last May, which nearly knocked him out for the season; but he had surgery by May 8 and played half the season. Crabtree stands a chance for a late-season return if his Achilles wasn't completely torn as well. (He reportedly had surgery Wednesday, exactly two weeks later than Suggs.)
We break down how this news impacts the 49ers top fantasy options for next season:
With Crabtree now out of the picture for at least the first half of the season, Davis is going to spend all of OTAs and training camp working as seam-breaker and secondary-stretcher. This can make Davis a top-five fantasy tight end again, something he hasn't been since 2009-2010. Davis finished eighth at his position each of the past two seasons in non-PPR formats. A full offseason, camp and regular season of Kaepernick can make Davis a candidate to return to lofty levels of 80 catches, 1,000 yards and 10 TDs. Someone has to reel in those Kaepernick scores.
With this said, we projected Boldin to decline from his Ravens days in San Francisco. Now, we have to consider he might be the 60-900-5 receiver he has been the past three seasons. That makes him a No. 3 receiver in fantasy, a starter in PPR formats at least. He also stands to get more end zone throws with Kaepernick than he got with Flacco, so consider him a candidate for more than five TDs.
Jenkins already had his red-shirt year, so consider him the more likely starter initially, but Patton was real productive in the pass-happy Louisiana Tech offense last year: 104 catches, 1,392 yards and 13 TDs. By midseason, assuming Crabtree doesn't beat the optimistic timetable for a return, Patton could prove to be a viable fantasy starter.
See why you shouldn't get too hot and bothered about Kaepernick this season? He cannot make the scraps around him much more intriguing like Brady does. And Brady has been picked after Kaepernick in some of the recent analyst mock drafts, wrongfully so even before Crabtree went down.
We had projected Kaepernick for 3,650 yards and 22 passing touchdowns. However, with a past-his-prime Boldin as his leading receiver and Davis being one of the most erratic tight ends in the game, those stats are no longer a sure thing.
Hunter and James were already late-round fantasy picks, but owners definitely shouldn't let them go undrafted now. The 49ers just cannot project to have as wide open of an offense as they had in the postseason now.