Yesterday, we took a look a look at David Baas as the team's starting center and the response seemed to be positive, and I consider that a calculated, mature response, as fans. We may be overrating him slightly, but there's nothing wrong with feeling good about a player after a strong, surprising rally when the majority of us thought he was done. The best part of the whole scenario is simply getting younger at a position, but now we'll shift gears in a completely different direction.
Michael Crabtree wasn't necessarily a surprise pick for the 49ers when they drafted him, in that we'd identified him as a player of interest with the needs at the receiver position, but it was surprising that he fell to the tenth pick. In hindsight, maybe it's not that surprising, seeing as the receiver who was drafted earlier was taken by the Oakland Raiders, who at that point had reached almost adorable levels of crazy.
Either way, Crabtree came to San Francisco, and after a lengthy holdout, he looked merely decent in his rookie year. I think he showed some good flashes, particularly right off the line of scrimmage, I think he has excellent acceleration and good moves, he can tangle up a corner or two. But he was just too raw, no offseason or preseason equated to an inability to run anything other than the most basic of routes.
So here comes 2010, year two, and Crabtree missed the entirety of the preseason. When the regular season came, he just looked awful ... absolutely abysmal. I credit the week one loss to him, and he didn't do much to improve until later in the season. Passes bounced right off his hands and into those of corners, linebackers and safeties. His routes were lazy, his timing was off, and there was only flashes of the talent that made him the tenth overall pick.
They're important though - the flashes. There's an awful lot of raw talent there, and now we have to look forward to 2011 and Jim Harbaugh's West Coast Offense. We've said it before, but I'll say it again: this is not an offense totally dissimilar to whatever it was that Mike Singletary honestly intended for the 49ers in 2010. It's not your Joe Montana-to-Jerry Rice connection of former 49ers prestige, this is very much a power running attack, but one that builds its passing philosophy in a much different way than say, Raye or Singletary intended.
It will be an offense built on timing and precision, and a receiver with all the physical talents of Crabtree can exceed in it, that's why I feel good about him going forward. It's true that Crabtree is the number one receiver, but number one does not mean that he's played one way - I suspect he will very much be used as a slot receiver, which is an amazing position for him. Crabtree is the kind of player you want to throw a bubble screen to, and the kind of player you want to run about ten slant routes a game.
I think, unquestionably, that this is Crabtree's best chance to succeed, we cannot ignore the talent that made him such a steal with the tenth pick of the draft. I don't think people are going to suggest that he's not a fit for this offense going forward, but the biggest question mark is something only he can address. Is he putting in the work right now, as you read this? Is he going to take the time he needs to and progress? Will he play in the preseason and hone his abilities? Can he get over that invisible hump?
That's where confidence comes into the equation. A '10' implies a huge year, breakout, one of the better receivers in the league. A '7' shows that he is a clear number one in this offense and that he will flourish under Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman. I think the rest is pretty easily definable. So we're clear, I'm somewhere around eight or nine on Crabtree going forward, and you can look back and find a slew of negative posts and comments about Crabtree from me, leading up to even before we drafted him.