San Francisco 49ers: Ranking Alex Smith's Most Valuable Weapons in 2012
The San Francisco 49ers will enter training camp with a roster bursting with talent. Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh have not only addressed the 49ers' weaknesses, but, in addition, they have added depth in areas of strength.
The draft may have surprised a few folks, but Niners fans should come to expect the unknown on draft night. Baalke has turned a few heads with some of his selections over the years. The prime example was the selection of Aldon Smith in the first round last year.
While some may feel the need to still question Baalke's decision-making, despite his success over the years, take comfort in knowing that the 49ers still addressed major needs in the draft. While not only addressing depth issues, the 49ers snagged a receiver and a guard in the first four rounds. These two positions, as many Niners fans have noted, were big-time needs.
The wide receiver position was the higher need, and with their first-round selection, the Niners were able to snag another weapon for quarterback Alex Smith.
Of course, the Niners did address the position in free agency with the additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham.
Now, it's time to decide which weapons will prove most valuable. With that, I have ranked the top five weapons the 49ers will employ to aid the former No. 1 overall selection, Alex Smith.
5. Delanie Walker (TE)
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Let me get this question out of the way first: Why not Randy Moss?
Moss will play a role, but not a big one.
The 49ers will use Moss more to stretch the field and in red-zone instances. Moss can still help a team but not the way many Niners fans envision. This is not the Randy Moss who played for the New England Patriots that some will come to expect.
Walker, on the other hand, will play a huge role this season. As I said in a previous slide, the 49ers employ multiple tight end sets. And before his injury during the regular season, Walker was a huge matchup disadvantage for other teams to defend. In addition, this will be Walker's contract year.
4. A.J. Jenkins (WR)
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The newly minted draft pick should flourish in the early parts of the season. While many expect a first-round receiver to play on the outside, Jenkins will flourish in the slot this season.
The 49ers may tinker with playing Jenkins on the outside but will find the former Illinois product is most effective in the slot.
Rather than take a chance on a outside receiver like Stephen Hill or Rueben Randle, the 49ers instead opted for the safer pick. Jenkins may never be a superstar, but he could turn into a damn good slot receiver.
With the league becoming super pass-oriented, having an excellent slot receiver will help your offense immensely. Just ask the New York Giants.
3. Michael Crabtree (WR)
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As I said before, Crabtree should have a breakout season this year. The pressure will not gravitate towards him solely, and that should benefit the former Texas Tech product out on the field.
Crabtree silently turned into one of the best blocking receivers in the NFL—and I'll let Niners fans determine if that's a good thing or not.
Crabtree should also benefit from full participation in training camp. This may be his last chance to show the front office and Niners fans that he can be a Pro Bowl-type receiver in this league.
2. Mario Manningham (WR)
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Manningham was a nice signing by Trent Baalke, as he fills a major need for the 49ers. I suspect Michael Crabtree will retain his starting role on the outside, and with the addition of Manningham they should form a scary duo.
With competition, Crabtree should have one of his best seasons to date. Manningham is a legit threat on the outside and should take some coverage away from Crabtree.
I expect Manningham to turn into Alex Smith's most reliable receiver target.
1. Vernon Davis (TE)
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Vernon Davis was the obvious choice here. The 49ers employ multiple tight end sets on any given play, and within this scheme it highlights the tight end's skill in underneath coverage.
Davis has the explosive ability to get vertical and play underneath. He can turn a five-yard play into a 60-yard touchdown.
In addition, Vernon is a phenomenal blocker and should be a factor in the run game.