Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson breaks down the wide receivers of each NFC West team. Today: San Francisco 49ers.
Michael Crabtree was an early topic for my Pressure Point series. There have certainly been extenuating circumstances that can be blamed for his stunted development, but in the end, Crabtree just needs to play better if he is ever going to reach his vast potential.
The addition of Jim Harbaugh as head coach could be exactly what Crabtree needs. I expect Harbaugh’s version of the West Coast offense to play to Crabtree’s strengths. Expect the Niners to employ Crabtree on a lot of quick-hitting routes where he can use his big body to shield defenders and his exceptional run-after-the-catch abilities once he secures the football.
Drops were a problem last season. He obviously has been inconsistent to this point of his young career, but I think a breakout season could be on the horizon. Maybe that is wishful thinking on my part, because Crabtree really only had two good games in 2010. But getting the most out of Crabtree is what the Niners are paying Harbaugh to do.
Josh Morgan flashes at times, but San Francisco needs more from its No. 2 wide receiver. Morgan disappears for stretches, which is inexcusable, considering that he is rarely given extra attention by opposing coverage schemes. Of course, quarterback play has had something to do with this problem. Morgan is also known as a good blocker, which fits this offense well.
Looking for a home-run hitter, San Francisco traded for Ted Ginn before the 2010 season. Ginn, as he was in Miami, was a colossal disappointment. He caught just a dozen passes all season, which amazingly was good for the third-most receptions among 49ers’ wide receivers. He is a better return man than he is a wide receiver.
In the sixth round, San Francisco selected Ronald Johnson. He has a definite chance to make an impact -- probably out of the slot -- considering the weak state of affairs at this position.
Kyle Williams and Dominique Zeigler both were severely hindered by injuries last season. Williams isn’t especially big, but he has some suddenness in his movements. He has only one career catch, though. With Zeigler’s tall and lanky build, durability could be a continued problem at this level. Lance Long also is on the roster and was a contributor with the Chiefs in 2009.
The 49ers might be wise to add another capable body at this position through free agency, preferably a guy with deep speed to help open things up underneath for Crabtree. Considering just how weak this position is right now from top to bottom, the Niners probably regret losing Jason Hill.
Vernon Davis’ impact from the tight end position is tremendous, and San Francisco should feature him and Delanie Walker quite a bit with double-tight end sets. This present group of wide receivers needs a boost. Although I think Crabtree could really elevate his game, the more I studied the 49ers wide receivers, the less I liked them.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com. Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL.