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San Francisco 49ers need to find Michael Crabtree's partner in crime

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We discuss the emergence of San Francisco 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree and the importance of finding a WR to complement him this coming offseason.


San Francisco’s passing game has had a considerable turnaround over the past two seasons. The 49ers have continued to get better in that aspect, collectively and individually. In his fourth year in the league, WR Michael Crabtree exploded in what was a breakthrough season.

2009: 48 receptions, 625 yards and 2 touchdowns

2010: 55 receptions, 741 yards and 6 touchdowns

2011: 72 receptions, 874 yards and 4 touchdowns

2012: 85 receptions, 1,105 and 9 touchdowns

Crabtree, 25, hit career-highs across the board this season. He ranked 14th in the NFL in receiving yards in 2012, which was better than NFC Pro Bowler Victor Cruz. In the season finale against the Cardinals, No. 15 racked up 172 receiving yards, which was a personal best and most by a 49ers WR since Terrell Owens (2002).

His 543 yards after the catch ranked him 4th among all NFL wide receivers, illustrating his ability as a possession receiver that is dangerous with the ball in his hands.

It was pretty clear that his game also received a boost from quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and the explosiveness that he brings behind center.

In seven starts, Kaepernick targeted Crabtree 66 times, which was 40 more looks than any other 49ers pass-catcher. The Niners receiver also scored 5 of his 9 touchdowns in that time. Michael Crabtree’s emergence is fantastic, however, he needs a proper complement.

The tallest wide receiver the 49ers have is Randy Moss (6’4"), who will likely not be returning after this season. In 2013, the Niners will not have a single receiver signed that is over 6’1". Crabtree is 6’1", and none of his position mates have even an inch on him.

Kyle Williams (5’10"), Mario Manningham (6’0") and A.J. Jenkins (6’0") all lack the size element at wide receiver – it’s an aspect the Niners simply don’t have on offense.

The 49ers could use another threat at WR that strays from the type they already have on the roster. They need a lengthy pass-catcher that can stretch the field and be a jump ball receiver.

There are a number of prospects coming out of this year’s draft that San Francisco wouldn’t have to spend a first-rounder on. They can draft a young, developmental guy that would simply complement the rest of the receiving corps with measurables they don’t have.

Justin Hunter (Tennessee), Da’Rick Rogers (Tennessee Tech), Quinton Patton (Louisiana Tech) and Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt) are just a few names that could be linked to San Francisco come April.

This 49ers team has shown they are about effective tandems; Justin Smith & Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman & Patrick Willis, Dashon Goldson & Donte Whitner, Joe Staley & Mike Iupati or Frank Gore & Kendall Hunter. The Niners have a lot of guys that work well in unison because they are talented and complement one another.

And ultimately, they make each other better. The 49ers need to find the guy that complements Michael Crabtree. The 49ers aren't far from having the total package on offense.

Follow @DeSimone80