Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
This is a piece about how the Achilles injury to San Francisco star wide receiver Michael Crabtree will effect the production of the entire 49ers offense and every fantasy player in it.
It's not a particularly new idea, or a rare one. It's just the most recent, which gives us a chance to show you the intertwined relationship between players on a roster.
San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed on Thursday that Crabtree suffered a complete tear of his right Achilles in Tuesday's OTA. According to a CSN Bay area report, he hopes to return by Week 12. For fantasy owners, that means he'll miss the entire regular season and is "hopeful" to return in time for the fantasy playoffs.
It's a disaster for Crabtree's keeper league owners as he was just starting to emerge as a No. 1 fantasy wideout last season (85 receptions, 1,105 yards, 9 TDs).
In early mock drafts for the 2013-14 season, Crabtree was being selected in the fifth round (fantasyfootballcalculator.com ADP 43.9), but he'll obviously drop to "late-round flier" status.
But what of the rest of the 49ers offense?
As a starter, quarterback Colin Kaepernick aimed 35.4 percent of his regular season passes at Crabtree. Crabtree caught 20 balls for 285 yards and three scores in three playoff games which was 35.7 percent of Kaepernick's playoff passing yards, 40.8 percent of his completions and 75 percent of his touchdown passes.
Kaepernick will now have to make do with newly-acquired veteran Anquan Boldin, untested second-year wideout A.J. Jenkins, injured Mario Manningham and tight end Vernon Davis.
Even with a full preseason to prepare, it's hard to develop a rapport as good as the one between Kaepernick and Crabtree, so the quarterback's passing efficiency is likely to fall. Kaepernick was being drafted in the sixth round, but that might fall a bit before we get to the season opener.
Boldin and Davis will most likely be the beneficiaries of more targets and yards.
Boldin is not the deep threat that Crabtree is - he's a possession receiver. He caught 65 balls last season in Baltimore, for 921 yards and four scores. A solid contribution. The bad news, however, is that the 49ers threw the ball much less often, in fact, 124 times less than the Ravens did last season.
Davis was not a Kaepernick high-value target. In the same time that Crabtree was targeted 68 times, Davis saw the ball just 20 times. That 2.85 targets- per- game average will have to drastically increase this season if the 49ers are going to move the ball through the air.
Jenkins is a complete unknown at this time. He was a high draft choice last year (No. 30 overall), but came into his first camp out of shape and not ready to contribute. The jury is out on whether he will be a factor in 2013-14.
Of course, the other option for the 49ers is to become even more of a running team than they already are. They were one of only six team which had more rushing attempts than passing attempts (492-436). If that's the case, Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter both figure to see a few additional carries and more fantasy value. But that won't cover the loss of value that a running quarterback like Kaepernick takes from them.
All of the above is the thought process that must go into an injury like this. An injury which directly and indirectly changes the value for seven different fantasy players.
So the next time you see an injury, even to a starting offensive lineman, instead of thinking it has no bearing on any fantasy players, you will know to think about his relationship to the performance of his quarterback (time to throw), running back (opening holes) and receivers (time to run a pattern).
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