Stock Up, Stock Down for San Francisco 49ers Training Camp
The San Francisco 49ers have begun their quest for a Super Bowl title. Offseason trades, the draft and free-agent movement have shaped the 49ers' personnel heading into training camp.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh will attempt to mold this group into a championship team—one able to take one more step than it did last year. Anything less than a Super Bowl title this season will be a disappointment to 49er players, coaches and fans.
As training camp nears the end of the first week, we have already seen some major positives and negatives coming from the 49ers' training facility in Santa Clara.
Let's take a closer look at whose stock is rising and whose is falling thus far.
Note: Stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com.
No. 5 Stock Down: Kyle Williams
The San Francisco 49ers' weakest position group is their wide receiver corps. Michael Crabtree's injury is a major blow to the 49ers, and the team is looking for others to step up to the challenge.
Kyle Williams is entering his fourth season with the 49ers and has shown flashes of being a very good player. Williams has the inside track to claiming a starting job at wide receiver, opposite Anquan Boldin.
However, Williams' health issues always seem to get in the way of his progress. Even dating back to his collegiate days at Arizona State, Williams has never stayed healthy for an entire season.
When Williams joined the 49ers in 2010, they envisioned a quick slot receiver who would also contribute on special teams. In 2012, Williams missed the final five games of the regular season and postseason with a knee injury.
When healthy, Williams has the ability to make big plays. Unfortunately, he is already off to a slow start in training camp.
Williams has been slowed by a strained hamstring, and it's the type of injury he must be careful of. At this stage of his career, with a long history of injuries, Williams is proving to be a player the 49ers cannot rely on to stay healthy.
With Crabtree out, Williams needs to seize this opportunity. Once again, however, it does not look like Williams can avoid the injury bug.
At this point, if other receivers prove they can play, Williams' job could be in jeopardy. He is too brittle to be counted on and the 49ers will ultimately tire of his inability to stay on the field.
No. 5 Stock Up: Vance McDonald
Head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman like to utilize multiple-tight end formations, and McDonald will step in for Delanie Walker, who departed via the free-agent market.
Although McDonald dropped a few passes on his first day of training camp, he has come along nicely. A big asset for McDonald is that he's a very smart player and is learning quickly.
McDonald should make a very solid contribution to the 49ers offense in 2013.
No. 4 Stock Down: Darius Fleming
Darius Fleming was selected by the 49ers in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL draft. They envisioned him as a solid backup linebacker and special teams player.
However, in training camp last year, Fleming tore his ACL and was lost for the season.
Fleming worked very hard to return and the 49ers had high hopes for him. Unfortunately, Fleming again tore the ACL in his left knee—the same one he injured last season.
The 49ers waived Fleming but could retain him if he passes through waivers. If that were to occur, the 49ers would place Fleming on injured reserve and cross their fingers for next season.
Fleming has had issues with his knees since joining the 49ers. At this point, it's entirely possible he will never play a down for the 49ers.
No. 4 Stock Up: Anquan Boldin
The 49ers appeared set at wide receiver when they acquired Anquan Boldin from the Baltimore Ravens. The tandem of Boldin and Michael Crabtree was expected to be outstanding.
Unfortunately, Crabtree tore his Achilles and is not due back until late in the season, at best. This makes Boldin the top receiver for the 49ers. He will have to play well and stay healthy in order for the 49ers passing attack to excel.
Boldin has already been a valuable asset for the 49ers. According to Matt Maiocco of CSNbayarea.com, Boldin has been impressive in camp with his route running and ability to catch the football.
Boldin also does a very good job of mentoring the young 49er receivers.
In 2012, Boldin had a stellar year. He caught 65 passes for 921 yards during the regular season. The 49ers will need Boldin to reach and exceed those numbers.
Boldin also torched the 49ers secondary in Super Bowl XLVII. He had six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.
No. 3 Stock Down: Chris Culliver
Chris Culliver was the 49ers' nickel cornerback in 2012. With the addition of Nnamdi Asomugha to go along with Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers and Perrish Cox, Culliver was in a battle for playing time.
Culliver tore his ACL in a noncontact drill and is lost for the season. This is a blow to the 49ers defense and to Culliver personally.
The past couple of things we remember Culliver for are his homophobic comments prior to the Super Bowl, which he later apologized for. Then, Culliver was torched by the Baltimore receivers—mainly Jacoby Jones and Anquan Boldin.
Culliver plays with a brashness that sometimes crosses the line between professionalism and idiocy. His constant trash talking and overaggressive play leads to penalties and taking chances that get him burned deep for big gains.
To top that off, Culliver tried to lay the blame on Donte Whitner for Jacoby Jones' long touchdown reception just before halftime of the Super Bowl. To try to throw Whitner under the bus most likely cost Culliver the respect of his teammates.
Whitner, who had a poor game, defended himself better than he defended any Raven receiver. He clearly and concisely explained the coverage and both his and Culliver's responsibilities on the play in question. It seemed quite clear that Culliver was in the wrong.
Even if that were not true, Culliver should not have tried to lay the blame on his teammate.
Culliver came to camp with a lot to prove. Athletically, he is very gifted, but it is all the other antics that get him in trouble.
Culliver needs to be a professional on the football field, stop all of his incessant histrionics, and regain the respect of his teammates. Unfortunately, his injury will prevent him from doing that.
No. 3 Stock Up: Ian Williams
Ian Williams has been one of the most pleasant surprises in training camp. In his two previous years with the 49ers, he has played in only four games.
As reported by Taylor Price of 49ers.com, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has very been pleased with Williams. He came to camp in much better shape and has improved his work ethic and technique.
Williams will battle Glenn Dorsey for the starting nose tackle job. Although Dorsey has the inside track, expect Williams to get playing time even if he does not win the starting job.
No. 2 Stock Down: Lawrence Okoye
Lawrence Okoye was one of the biggest surprises at the NFL Scouting Combine. Although he had never played football before, the former British Olympian amazed everyone with his raw athleticism, power and speed.
Running, jumping and lifting while in shorts and a T-shirt does not guarantee success on the football field.
Although Okoye was an eye-opening prospect, his lack of football experience is painfully obvious. According to Jimmy Durkin of the San Jose Mercury News, Okoye has done better in recent practices after doing very poorly on his first day.
Okoye is a long shot to make the 49ers' opening day roster. A more realistic outlook for Okoye would be the practice squad.
No. 2: Stock Up: Vernon Davis
In the 2012 season, when Alex Smith was replaced by Colin Kaepernick, Vernon Davis seemed like a forgotten man to Kaepernick.
Davis and Kaepernick struggled to find a chemistry, and Davis' numbers dipped. Davis had his worst season since 2008. He finished the year with 41 receptions, 548 yards and five touchdowns.
Davis and Kaepernick found some chemistry in the Super Bowl. Davis finished the game with six receptions for 104 yards.
With the injury to Michael Crabtree, the 49ers will need to utilize Davis much more in 2013. In an attempt to free him up for more receptions, Davis has also been working out as a wide receiver, in addition to his normal tight end position.
No. 1 Stock Down: A.J. Jenkins
A.J. Jenkins was rarely able to crack the 49ers lineup last season. Even with injuries to Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham, Jenkins was not active and almost never played. He dropped the only pass thrown to him all season and ended the year with zero catches.
The 49ers made Jenkins their first-round selection in the 2012 draft. Although it is too early to label Jenkins a bust, he must have a more productive year in 2013. With the injury to Michael Crabtree, Jenkins has a golden opportunity to contribute.
According to Matt Maiocco of CSNbayarea.com, Jenkins has not been impressive in the first week of camp. He continues to run poor routes and is dropping a lot of passes. Jenkins is also battling a hamstring strain that has cost him time he can ill afford to miss.
With a very crowded stable of receivers, even without Crabtree and Manningham able to play, if Jenkins is unable to make an impact this year, the bust label will gain more credibility.
No. 1 Stock Up: Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick is having an excellent camp. He has shown tremendous leadership and has also improved his command of the offense.
Many were worried about Kaepernick's focus because of all his media appearances in the offseason. However, based on his play over the first week of camp, Kaepernick is silencing the doubters.
Foxnews.com reports that Kaepernick has been throwing the ball extremely well. In addition to his laser-like throws, Kaepernick has also developed much greater touch on the ball when the situation calls for it.
If the 49ers are going to make another run at the Super Bowl this year, it will be Kaepernick who needs to lead the offense. Thus far, he is looking great.