Seth from New Orleans recently hit the NFC West mailbag with a question seeking clarification for recent items regarding what Michael Crabtree's injury will mean to the San Francisco 49ers. He thinks some of my analysis appeared contradictory, but I'm pretty confident we can bridge what Seth sees as a potential gap in logic.
On the one hand, I suggested losing Crabtree could be significant to the division race, particularly with the Seattle Seahawks adding Percy Harvin. On the other hand, I said Colin Kaepernick, not Crabtree, would be the key to the 49ers' season.
"Granted, Crabtree is a different type of receiver, but you do say Harvin's impact on the Seahawks could easily be huge," Seth writes. "How can the Seahawks gaining a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver make such a big impact, yet San Francisco losing a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver will have not much effect at all?
"Is this your way of saying you believe that Kaepernick is a better and more important QB for the 49ers than Russell Wilson is for the Seahawks?"
Not at all. Both teams are similarly dependent on their quarterbacks. Neither would fare very well with its backup quarterback starting for an extended period.
It's just that adding Harvin to Seattle while subtracting Crabtree from the 49ers represents a net change significant enough to affect a very close NFC West race. Also, I think Harvin is more dynamic than Crabtree even though Crabtree produced better receiving stats last season.
Matt Williamson, who scouts the NFL for ESPN.com, put it this way during our recent receiver rankings: "I'll take Harvin every day over Crabtree and that is not a knock on Crabtree. Harvin is more dynamic, more versatile. He frightens defenses way more. You can do so much more with him. He has big-play ability and is just a better football player. When I rank the wide receivers in this division, it goes Larry [Fitzgerald], Harvin and Crabtree, but Harvin is closer to 'Fitz' than Crabtree is to Harvin."
Even so, losing Harvin would not crush the Seahawks' chances in 2013. The team already was very good without him. A healthy Harvin will make them better. If an injury were to fell Harvin, I would acknowledge its significance to a close NFC West race while noting that the Seahawks' season was going to hinge on Wilson to a much greater degree.