Michael Crabtree is gone until late November at the very least, so who is going to pick up the slack? 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh will find his guy among those three mentioned in the title.
"We'll put [A.J.] Jenkins, [Quinton] Patton, Ricardo Lockette at the same position and let them compete and emerge," Harbaugh said in a Friday radio interview. "The good news is somebody will emerge because they have to."
Myself and host Ben Standig talked about the Niners' offense in this sans-Crabtree period during Wednesday's podcast. We didn't mention Lockette, who is more of an athlete than a football player right now. Jenkins is coming off a rookie season in which he barely played, and Patton reportedly looked very raw during rookie camp. I don't think any of these three are going to make an especially large fantasy impact this year, but I'll pick Patton if I have to tie my wagon to one of those players.
Mario Manningham is rehabbing from an ACL and a PCL tear. He may be ready to play by September, but he will need time to work off the rust, and I just don't trust him. I don't think Crabtree's injury changes Anquan Boldin 's value much. At his age, Boldin is what he is: a solid possession receiver who is going to struggle to get away from top corners.
I think tight end Vernon Davis benefits the most. He becomes, unquestionably, San Francisco's best playmaker among their established receivers. After disappearing late in the regular season, he and Colin Kaepernick finally started to click during the postseason.
I also said that I wouldn't downgrade Kaepernick's fantasy value much without Crabtree. Yes, it's a blow, but look at how great Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III were last season. Wilson's best wideout was Sidney Rice. Griffin had to make do with his top wideout, Pierre Garcon, hobbled for most of the season. I think Kaepernick can be similarly successful without a household name at WR. He will get his fantasy points, like Wilson and RGIII, with his legs, creating and making plays. Kaepernick is still a clear QB1 for me. However, I may have to re-examine some of my rankings. Specifically, I shouldn't have been so quick to rank him above Tony Romo. Good thing it's only May.