When the word "wide receiver" is mentioned in the same sentence as the San Francisco 49ers, the first name that comes to mind is Jerry Rice. Easily the greatest receiver to ever grace the gridiron, Rice finished his illustrious career with numerous NFL records.
Of course, success wasn't immediate even for a player of his caliber.
As a rookie, Rice posted a respectable 49 receptions for 927 yards and scored four total touchdowns. Those numbers equate to 116 fantasy points in a standard scoring system, or about the same level of production as Muhsin Muhammad and Steve Breaston had last season.
Decent numbers, but certainly nothing to write home about.
Unfortunately, that talent alone won't be enough to make him a viable fantasy starter this season.
In fact, it could be another young wide receiver that makes the greatest fantasy impact in San Francisco this season.
Morgan, a second-year receiver out of Virginia Tech, has made a name for himself among the team's coaching staff this offseason. He was a top performer throughout OTAs and is expected to enter training camp as a starter opposite Isaac Bruce and ahead of Crabtree on the depth chart. Considering Crabtree's lofty contract demands and the chance for a holdout, Morgan could become the better option in fantasy drafts.
While the former Hokie didn't put up impressive overall numbers as a rookie, he did show flashes of potential down the stretch. In his final three games of last season, Morgan posted a combined 159 yards and scored two touchdowns. Overall, three of his 20 receptions went for scores.
The nature of the 49ers new offensive under coordinator Jimmy Raye is based on the run, and questions at the quarterback position won't improve the stock of any receiver in maroon and gold. In fact, it's very hard to project a 1,000-yard wideout with Morgan, Bruce, Crabtree, Brandon Jones, Jason Hill and Vernon Davis all competing for targets.
But fantasy owners just shouldn't assume that Crabtree will be the team's top wideout because of all the hype around him.
In 2007, Calvin Johnson was considered the best wide receiver to come out of the collegiate level in more than a decade. The Georgia Tech product would go on to finish his rookie season with a mediocre 48 receptions, 756 yards and four touchdowns.
He also scored fewer fantasy points than teammate Shaun McDonald.
Sure, Johnson went on to meet expectations as an NFL sophomore and is now considered one of the elite receivers in fantasy football, but it took time. The same scenario will hold true for Crabtree, who must endure what can be a difficult transition to the pro level.
In the meantime, fantasy leaguers need to keep tabs on Morgan during training camp and the preseason. If he continues to shine between the white lines, he could be worth more than even Crabtree in seasonal formats.
News and notes
- » Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell could turn out to be an undervalued fantasy asset this season. He impressed coach Jim Zorn in OTAs and will be motivate to produce after an offseason filled with reports about the team adding Jay Cutler or Mark Sanchez. Campbell is also in a contract year, so he'll need to put up good numbers (and wins) to ensure a sizable contract and a chance as a long-term starter down the road..
- » Eagles rookie running back LeSean McCoy will see most of the first-team reps in training camp while Brian Westbrook recovers from ankle surgery. He's already passed Lorenzo Booker on the depth chart, and the experience he'll gain playing with the starters adds to his seasonal league value. It also helps make McCoy, the heir apparent to Westbrook in the backfield, more attractive for fantasy owners in keeper and dynasty leagues.
- » The Baltimore Sun reports Ravens running back Willis McGahee will begin training camp on the active/PUP list. The veteran will return to work in just a few days, but he's already fallen behind Ray Rice on the depth chart. A backfield committee with Rice, McGahee and Le'Ron McClain remains imminent, but Rice is the player to own. He's coming off a tremendous offseason and will enter this season as a bigger and more physical runner.
- » Reports from the Detroit Free Press suggest that Daunte Culpepper, not Matthew Stafford, will be under center for the Lions in Week 1. Culpepper got back in good physical shape during the offseason and has some talent around him, but he still has little draft value outside of larger fantasy leagues. His time atop the depth chart will likely be short, as the team wants to get Stafford his share of the snaps during his rookie season.
- » Buccaneers running back Derrick Ward is the favorite to start this season, but the St. Petersburg Times reports Earnest Graham will also see his share of the carries. The new offense under coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski will be run-laden, so this could turn into a dual-back committee with Ward seeing time on early downs and in pass situations and Graham on the field in short-yardage and goal-line sets. Ward, though, is the better fantasy option.