That makes him a potentially curious choice to outproduce the Cincinnati Bengals' Chad Ochocinco from a fantasy perspective, but ESPN's Matthew Berry made some strong points in debating the issue with Eric Karabell. A couple of highlights:
Karabell: I have Chad at 15 and Crabtree at 20. While I understand Crabtree has great upside -- Alex Smith scares me a little bit -- Ochocinco is still productive and I don't think the presence of Terrell Owens is really going to hurt him all that much. And as bad as you might think Ochocinco was last year, he still had over 1,000 yards, scored nine touchdowns. I don't see why he can't do that again, even with Owens on the other side of the field.
Berry: The thing about Crabtree last year, it's hard to base it on. He did not come into camp until after game five and then it was a bye week, so Week 7 was the first week we saw Michael Crabtree. And remember, the 49ers last year, a team in transition, that whole offense. Frank Gore was out for a little while. Joe Staley, their best offensive tackle, he missed seven games. Vernon Davis didn't really emerge (right away). Alex Smith didn't start until Week 8. Now, coming into the season, they have got all those pieces together. Last year, after Week 8, which is when Alex Smith became the starting quarterback, Michael Crabtree, among wide receivers, 14th in the NFL in targets.
Crabtree hasn't played in an exhibition game this year -- or ever -- and he most recently made news for his role in a spat with Davis. I'll pass along a couple comments about Crabtree gathered from training camp, one from Davis and another from veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes.
Davis compared Crabtree to "a cat in the night" and explained that Crabtree "just runs his routes so well". Spikes said Crabtree needs to guard against a sophomore slump.
"We all going to push Crabtree," Spikes said. "He only played 12 games last year and he ended up with almost 800 yards receiving. ... He can get a lot better. The reason why is when people don’t have any film on you, when you step in, it's like, 'We know he was good in college, OK, let’s go.' His challenge to me is, can you get over the sophomore struggle? Everybody knows about you now. Now we’re about to start game-planning. What can you do? It may not be catching the ball. Sometimes it may have to be as a decoy. He understands that."