Santa Clara, Calif. When Michael Crabtree unexpectedly slipped to the 10th pick in Saturday’s NFL draft, the San Francisco 49ers eagerly caught their highest-profile receiver since Terrell Owens left town.
Crabtree claimed he was delighted to join the 49ers after his record-setting career at Texas Tech, where he won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best college receiver after each of his two seasons. He was widely considered the best pass-catcher in the draft, and San Francisco was thrilled to address its longtime dearth of star talent at the position where Jerry Rice, Dwight Clark, John Taylor and Owens once excelled.
“We had no idea he would be there at 10,” coach Mike Singletary said. “It was one of the last scenarios we thought we would end up with. He’s been one of the best guys, the past couple of years in college football.”
Crabtree is among the college game’s most dynamic playmakers of recent years, catching 231 passes for 3,127 yards and 41 touchdowns in the Red Raiders’ spread offense. Yet he clearly slipped in several teams’ estimation when a stress fracture was discovered in his left foot at the combine.
He underwent surgery that scuttled much of his pre-draft workout schedule while he rested his foot in a protective boot, never running a 40-yard dash. He’s not expected to participate fully in next weekend’s minicamp while continuing his recovery, but should be ready for training camp.
Nine teams passed on him — including the cross-Bay rival Oakland Raiders, who went with Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey with the seventh pick. While Crabtree’s statistics dwarf Heyward-Bey’s accomplishments with the Terrapins, the Raiders apparently thought Crabtree wasn’t fast enough to fit their needs.
“My whole thing was patience,” Crabtree said. “I was just trying to be patient. I like the 49ers. I grew up watching the 49ers and Cowboys. It’s a great history behind the 49ers. A lot of people have played there, and I have big shoes to fill.”