Crabtree at No. 10? That's a steal for 49ers

Are you kidding me? Michael Crabtree to the 49ers? How did this can't-miss, game-breaking WR ever fall in San Francisco's lap? When the Texas Tech star went floating downstream and still was available 10 selections into the NFL draft, the 49ers jumped on him like a piranha devouring a piece of a meat, and what a fabulous pick it was for a team whose offense is trying to catch up with its defense.

With a pass-catcher like Crabtree in the fold, that offense could be catching up in a hurry, and that could help the 49ers finally catch up with the rest of the NFL after a franchise-record six consecutive losing seasons.

Let's make it clear: Crabtree is a steal at No. 10 for the 49ers. He wasn't supposed to be there. He's the best wide receiver prospect in this draft. He might be one of the best players in this draft, period. He's definitely one of the top play-makers.

With pressing needs to find an impact edge pass rusher to complement their rising 3-4 defense, the 49ers had a choice when they went on the clock of each of the top three prospects that fill that role – Penn State's Aaron Maybin (who was immediately taken at No. 11 by Buffalo), Texas' Brian Orakpo (who went No. 13 to Washington) and Florida State's Everette Brown.

But when Crabtree – who was regarded as a top-five pick by most – went sliding past Oakland at No. 7 and then made it past Jacksonville at No. 8 and Green Bay at No. 9, it made San Francisco's decision a decidedly simple one.

"We had no idea he would be there at 10," 49ers coach Mike Singletary said. "This is one of the last scenarios we'd thought we'd end up with. When we were coming down to it, to the last couple of picks before us, we thought for sure he wouldn't be there."

But there Crabtree was, his package of size and athleticism and big-time college production all wrapped up in one, and the 49ers unexpectedly found themselves with the gift of a tremendously gifted playmaker. And we all know how much the Niners have needed those kinds of players in recent years.

Making plays is what Crabtree is all about. As he said succinctly during his first conversation with 49ers writers after being selected, "I score touchdowns."

Lots of touchdowns, in fact. Crabtree reached the end zone for scores 41 times in his two seasons at Texas Tech, where he broke the two-season NCAA record for receptions with 231, turning all those catches into 3,127 receiving yards. He re-wrote school and Big Twelve Conference records while earning the Biletnikoff Award as college football's top wide receiver in each of his two seasons.

The 49ers have been looking for a guy like Crabtree ever since Terrell Owens bolted from the team via free agency following the 2003 season. Crabtree has the God-given pedigree to finally give the team that legitimate No. 1 threat at WR it has been looking for since Owens took his sideshow act elsewhere.

The Niners have been making gradual upgrades at wide receiver – arguably the team's weakest position over the past half-decade – and finally established some stability at the position last season with veteran Isaac Bruce's arrival and the emergence of rookie Josh Morgan and youngster Jason Hill.

But Crabtree is the kind of guy that can take them to the next level and put them over the top. This isn't just a guy who can be a play-maker. This is a guy who can be a star. A big-time star.

"This is a guy that really has an opportunity to be something special," said Singletary, who usually gives out that kind of praise reluctantly. "When you look at what this guy can do … There's obviously something there. We know we have a playmaker."

Just think of what the addition of Crabtree will mean not only to San Francisco's other receivers, but also for dynamic tight end Vernon Davis – who will see more open room over the middle now – and running back Frank Gore, who should see more space in the running lanes with opponents unable to stack the box with eight defenders.

With excellent size at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, there isn't anything Crabtree can't do. He can block. He has sure hands. He can explode downfield with the ball in his hands. He can separate from unsuspecting defensive backs. He can leap and out-fight defenders for the ball in the air.

Simply put, he is a wide receiver extraordinaire, and he comes to the 49ers as the top receiving prospect they have had since, well, the team selected Jerry Rice with the No. 16 selection of the first round in 1985.

And we all know how drafting Jerry Rice worked out for the 49ers.

"When you see him at wide receiver," Singletary said, "it's not just a guy catching a ball. It's a guy out there that finds a way to get separation. He knows how to use his body. He has exceptional hands, and he's running away from people at the same time. He's willing to block and does a good job of that as well.

"Obviously, you think of a guy like Jerry Rice. You think of a Michael Irvin-type receiver. I don't want to go there because he hasn't done it yet at this level. But obviously we feel he can do it at this level. I'm very excited about what we've got here. He's got the attitude and he's got greatness about him."

And that makes this a great first-round pick for the 49ers. Yes, great. Crabtree promises to be the best top draft pick the Niners have had on the offensive side of the ball in a long, long time, and he could ultimately be the missing piece to push the 49ers back towards the greatness that has been missing in San Francisco since the turn of the 21st century.


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