San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree will reportedly be activated from the physically unable to perform list and will make his season debut in Week 13 of the 2013 NFL regular season against the St. Louis Rams.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the news:
Fantasy owners should place their waiver claim for Crabtree immediately, but this is the ultimate risk-reward pickup.
At this point in the season, players with as much talent as Crabtree don’t hit the fantasy football wire very often. On the other hand, he's coming off a torn Achilles injury and it's unclear how he'll perform after so much time off.
An Achilles injury is something that takes a long time to heal, and the former first-round pick will likely have to deal with a reduced role with the offense until he regains his rhythm. Crabtree returned to practice Nov. 5 and has been doing everything possible to get into the lineup in the best shape possible. The lack of setbacks on the practice field should help ease the concern about re-injury for fantasy owners a bit.
San Francisco plays a mediocre Rams defense this week that is without No. 1 cornerback Cortland Finnegan, but Crabtree may not play enough of a role in the offense to capitalize on the advantage. It's unclear at this time if he'll be on a snap count or if Jim Harbaugh will want to ease him into game action.
As for the team’s outlook beyond Week 13, the road for the 49ers will get even tougher. In Weeks 14 and 15, San Francisco plays the vaunted secondaries of the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The injury issues and schedule are concerns, but another possible cause for Crabtree's lack of production could be Colin Kaepernick and San Francisco’s lackluster passing success this season. The franchise's air attack is ranked dead last with an unfathomable 173.5 yards per game, and the team has just 14 passing touchdowns on the entire season.
While Kaepernick’s 235 yards and three touchdowns on Monday night against the Washington Redskins was enough to win the game in dominant fashion, he has thrown 235 yards or less in nine of 11 games this season. Those porous numbers should help fantasy owners come to terms with the fact that Crabtree’s impact won’t happen right away.
Another factor in Crabtree’s slow infusion back into the lineup could be the continued use of the other players on the roster that have stepped up in his absence. Not only has veteran receiver Anquan Boldin (52 receptions) shined in his role, but Vernon Davis (38 receptions) has also stepped up with nine touchdowns, making him a primary red-zone weapon for Kaepernick.
While the recently returning Mario Manningham (knee) will be taking targets away from Crabtree as he continues easing back into the lineup, the former Texas Tech standout has far more talent and will unseat him on the depth chart as soon as he returns to full speed.
And full speed is the key here.
All signs point to a lack of production from Crabtree in Week 13, but his track record trumps the negatives afterward. He was able to catch 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns last season and added 28 catches for 285 yards and three touchdowns in the postseason. He was one of the hottest fantasy commodities on the market before his injury, and he clearly has a rapport with Kaepernick.
Crabtree will not make an instant impact for your fantasy team (and he may not return to elite form in 2013 at all), but if you own a team on the cusp of contending for a championship, filling the roster spot with a player that has the potential to blossom in time for the fantasy playoffs should be a no-brainer.
Pick up Crabtree now and let him get his feet wet, as he'll have upside after Week 13.
*Scoring based on standard-scoring leagues. All stats via NFL.com.