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32 in 32: Colin Kaepernick as MVP candidate for 49ers?

"NFL Total Access" has launched its "32 in 32" series, breaking down the biggest subplots of every NFL team as the 2013 season approaches. Around The League will follow along and offer our own take. Up next: The San Francisco 49ers.

Schein: 49ers remain NFL's best
Yes, Michael Crabtree's injury hurts, but Adam Schein explains why San Francisco is still the team to beat in 2013. More ...

1. I was ready to declare the San Francisco 49ers the runaway favorite in the NFC before Michael Crabtree's Achilles gave out this spring. The Niners remain at the top of the conference food chain, but Crabtree's absence allows a sliver of doubt to creep in the room. Anquan Boldin will be a nice fit at receiver in this offense, but how much can be expected from Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams -- two players coming off serious knee injuries? A.J. Jenkins, last year's first-round draft pick, needs to lose the invisibility cloak.

2. Speaking of uncertainty at wide receiver, it will be interesting to see how Vernon Davis is deployed this season. Davis reportedly practiced exclusively with the wide receivers -- not the tight ends -- during minicamp. Davis has the speed to work on the outside -- will Jim Harbaugh give him the opportunity?

3. The Niners had another strong year defensively, ranked No. 2 in scoring. They hardly were impenetrable, however, as we saw the unit get beat on big plays as the season wore on. Donte Whitner is an impact player, but he surrendered eight touchdowns in primary coverage in 2012, according to SI.com. Losing talented free safety Dashon Goldson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won't help, though the team has high hopes for first-round pick Eric Reid.

4. Colin Kaepernick came within 5 yards of achieving folk-hero status. He and the Niners fell short, but the future is no less bright for the 25-year-old quarterback. Harbaugh made one of the gutsiest coaching decisions in years when he chose Kaepernick over the established and capable Alex Smith last November. Smith wisely was shipped out of town, giving Kaepernick peace of mind as he enters his first full season as starter. With offensive coordinator Greg Roman guiding the read-option attack, don't be surprised if the multi-talented Kaepernick emerges as an MVP candidate in 2013.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.

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