Welcome to our 2013 49ers Team Preview. To get a better understanding of what each NFL team might be up to this season we are asking local team bloggers to answer a few questions for us. We talked to Sean McMahon from 49ers Life.com to get the inside scoop. Follow him at @49erDefenseWins and check out his site.
Will the passing attack suffer with Michael Crabtree hurt in 2013?
Colin Kaepernick and Michael Crabtree were becoming the envy of every NFL quarterback/wide receiver tandem. “Crabs” was the first wide receiver since Terrell Owens in 2003 to go over 1,000 yards for the Red and Gold Nation, with well over half of his 1,105 yards coming in the 7 games started by Kap. There was an enviable bond formed between the two, and it had 49ers fans buzzing over the possibility of the next Steve to Jerry combination for the Bay Bombers. How will the 49ers address the loss of Crabtree?
I have a different stance on this than most NFL pundits. Kap and Crabtree developed their trust in a very short time frame, so who’s to say that with more time in the off season, that another tandem cannot be formed? Taking it a step further, the 49ers game planning is the best in the NFL, and with more weapons in the passing game than ever before (even with Crabs out), they will find a way to use the laundry list of talented, yet relatively unknown players.
Wide receiver Anquan Boldin is a gamer, possessing the ability to soundly replace Crabtree in 2013. They are similar talents, using their knowledge of defenses and physicality to get open versus simply running past defenses. Boldin will net somewhere near 80 catches for the 49ers in 2013, prompting us to wonder how the 49ers will include Crabtree when he returns. Who are the unknowns slated to fill the chasm in his stead?
There is a lethal combination forming in the fog filled city of San Francisco. The 49ers are speaking candidly about opening up their offense in 2013, adding tight end Vernon Davis to the depleted wide receiver core; a scary thought for defensive backs in the NFC. Vernon will be extremely tough to handle on the outside, and SHOULD be the one that will increase his level of play with Crabs out. This parts the way for the ultra talented 2nd round selection, Rice University tight end Vance McDonald. I’ve ranked McDonald as high as a top 25 tight end in recent projections, as watching him live has made me a firm believer in his skill set. He will be a game changer in 2013, easily replacing the departure of tight end Delanie Walker. He has excellent hands, snagging balls instead of letting them come to him; something that is a must when you have the arm strength of Colin Kaepernick at quarterback. Watch out for McDonald in 2013, as 45-50 catches is a real possibility.
This is the juncture where the tough questions start to form. McDonald is an unknown, but NFL savants know his potential. Outside of Vernon, Boldin, and McDonald, who can the 49ers look to this season for receptions?
I’m big on another rookie, wide receiver Quinton Patton, but there has been talk of Patton picking up the playbook slower than anticipated. I like the potential of Patton, but his raw nature will keep him a year away from NFL success. Arizona State standout Kyle Williams is my “next man up” for the 49ers, as he is the 49ers best deep threat in 2013, and with Kaepernick being the most successful downfield passer in the NFL last season, expect a heavy dosage of Kaepernick to Williams. Others will argue for A.J. Jenkins, but it seems the NFL is simply too much for the ex first rounder. Mario Manningham is still in the fold, and will provide comfort for Kap when he returns from injury, hopefully no later than week 3.
Will Colin Kaepernick match his exceptional second half and playoff numbers in 2013?
For all the drama that the 49ers signal caller has garnered this season, one can begin to forgive if you strictly analyze his play. Kaepernick is a “grinder,” exemplifying leadership by working harder than anyone on his team. This will be the first time that we can tie the 49ers success to Kap, as a half seasons work is simply too small to analyze. Kap enjoys the spotlight, and will have no problem absorbing the expectations. Recently, I extrapolated Kap’s playoff numbers over a full season, and the results will shock you even the biggest CK7 supporters:
• 1,408 Rushing Yards
• 4,272 Passing Yards
• 37 Touchdowns
• 16 Interceptions
Those are undoubtedly MVP stats, and I fully expect Kaepernick to involve himself in those conversations. Kap will rise to the occasion in 2013, mixing in heart breaking 60 yard runs with cannon like passes. The 49ers will fill the void created by Crabtree by running more, and with Kap in tow, there is no reason to think that this team can’t become the 3rd team in NFL history to rush for over 3,000 yards; gaudy projections, but the 49ers have 5 (!!!) players that can tote the rock. Expect Kap’s 2013 numbers to rival his second half and playoff numbers, and for him to be the reason that the 49ers become an NFL dynasty. The big play will be on full display in San Francisco this upcoming season.
Will Frank Gore falter now that he is an old man of 30 years?
Frankie’s season is prognosticated quite easily…the 49ers will look to keep Gore fresh for a playoff run in 2013. I expect Frank to still demand 200+ touches, and to surpass the 1,000 yard mark for the 7th time in his excellent career. This will be a season of transition though, as the 49ers front office has hinted at their backfield becoming a 3 headed monster, even a hydra if you add Kap, rookie running back Marcus Lattimore, and fullback Bruce Miller to the equation.
Gore will have his lightest workload to date, as the last two seasons produced at least 255+ carries. Expect those numbers to slide, but only slightly, to the 225 touch range. Gore is not happy about people writing him off now that he is 30, and for one that has met Gore, he is as determined as they come. Frank wants that ring worse than ever, and his singular focus in 2013 is none other than winning Super Bowl XLVIII.
The 49ers are rife with options, ready to overcome anything in their tracks. Frank has a past filled with injuries, but this is the 1st season since he was drafted in 2005 that the 49ers will not skip a beat if Gore goes down. Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James are more than capable as backups, and if rookie running back Marcus Lattimore (the 49ers future at running back) can get healthy by seasons end, the 49ers rushing attack will be flat-out SCARY.
What 49er might surprise us all and become a fantasy star this season?
With so many eager hands in San Francisco this season, there are more than a few candidates for ascension in 2013. The entire world, male/female, dog/cat, is immersed in the $800 M entity that is fantasy football. Aside from Gore and Vernon Davis, the 49ers of the recent past were left off of fantasy radars; that is no longer the case in 2013.
ADP (average draft position) is an excellent indicator of what fantasy pundits believe a player’s output will be for the upcoming season, and there is one player on the 49ers that takes the sleeper label and runs with it into the end zone, and his name is Kendall Hunter. Hunter is slated to be the #2 in the 49ers powerful rushing attack, with real potential to produce RB#2 fantasy numbers late in the season as the 49ers rest Gore. I’m never one to condone injuries, but if Gore goes down unexpectedly in 2013, Hunter will become instant gold. The #3 running back on the 49ers depth chart, LaMichael James, carries an ADP of #151, with Hunter sliding all the way down to #237; an appalling number for someone in such a ripe situation.
Keep serious tabs on Hunter and tight end Vance McDonald for the rest of the off season, as both have the ability to produce in large quantities this season. They are going undrafted in leagues that don’t carry a dynasty or keeper label, so why not use your last pick on one of them and see what transpires?
Is 2013 the season the 49ers win their sixth Super Bowl?
Jim Harbaugh and General Manager Trent Baalke have assembled the best coaching staff in the NFL, recently extending the contract of soon to be head coach and current offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, for 2 more years. The 49ers understand that they are only a few minor tweaks away from getting over the hump in 2013. There is fuel in the 49ers tank, and it is ready to combust. The Super Bowl loss will forever haunt this 49ers squad, and until they get back and win it, players like Frank Gore, Patrick Willis, and Justin Smith will continue to push until that barrier is destroyed. This is a team primed for success in 2013, and one that will be front and center in your upcoming fantasy draft.