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Was Michael Crabtree worth a first round pick?

Paul Gutierrez poses an interesting question. Let's try to answer it.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Now that a market has started to develop for Michael Crabtree, it's looking more and more likely that the WR will move on and join another team. Recent reports indicate that Crabtree could be receiving about $3.5-4 million a year from the Miami Dolphins, and Crabtree recently visited Miami.

It's never been much of a shocker that the 49ers would let Crabtree go. He absolutely slowed down after all of his leg injuries. I don't think it's fruitful to speculate about "attitudes" and "locker-room presence" myself, but it is absolutely true that Crabtree has had a negative reputation in this respect since the draft. Fair or not (heck, true or not) that might still be a factor too, though likely not a decisive a factor as his on the field production.

In light of all this, Paul Gutierrez has an interesting article: "Should [the] 49ers have bypassed Michael Crabtree in 2009 draft?" The article stems from the fact that Mel Kiper Jr. has recently "re-drafted" the 2009 draft, changing all of the first 12 picks except for the first pick (Matthew Stafford). Instead of Crabtree at number 10, Kiper has the 49ers taking Max Unger, whom the Seattle Seahawks just traded to the New Orleans Saints.

The most interesting part of the article for me is the question: should the 49ers have bypassed Crabtree? It's clear that Crabtree isn't the best player to come out of that draft; not by a long shot. If you are talking pure talent level, then yeah, the 49ers would pick somebody else. But, what if we understand that question as asking if the 49ers got a sufficient amount of value out of Crabtree that would justify picking him in the first round. Was he worth a first round pick?

This is a tough question to answer, to be honest. Crabtree never became an undisputed "number one" receiver, except by default (i.e. when the team had nobody as close to him in terms of talent level) or for a brief amount of time when he and Colin Kaepernick clicked. And, frankly, that might be Crabtree's biggest contribution to this team: he made the transition from Alex Smith to Kaepernick much easier because of how well he and Kaepernick played together.

And this raises another tough point: Crabtree never produced at a high level until Smith was no longer the team's QB. This, well, this shouldn't be much of a surprise. Smith is a competent QB, and I really like the guy, but his game is not to light up the stat sheet. I'm sure he would say this himself. As a consequence, Crabtree never had a chance to put up monster numbers until Kaepernick came around (and there's no reason to pretend that Kaepernick is some sort of stat producing monster - he's better than Smith, but he has some fundamental issues too), and by that time injuries sort of derailed his ability to contribute.

He's still young, so he may do well on another team, but I don't think that team is the 49ers.

So, what do you guys think: was Crabtree worth is first round pick?