The NFL is wide open, for the first time in its storied history.
Instead of impactful running games being a dominating force in the league, high-powered passing attacks lead the charge into 2012.
Over the past number of years, teams like the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots have established themselves as top-notch offenses that throw the ball to win.
On March 13th, the NFL’s new league year began and so did a mad dash for wide receiver talent. Top notch players like Vincent Jackson and Marques Colston were snapped up quickly (the latter by his own team), which left a number of receivers on the board.
The San Francisco 49ers were one of the teams that went hard after receivers this offseason, signing the once-great Randy Moss and solid split end Mario Manningham in free agency.
Don’t forget, either, that the team used a first-round pick on Illinois wideout A.J. Jenkins.
With Michael Crabtree, Ted Ginn and Vernon Davis all already in tow, the 49ers look to have a very solid passing offense in 2012. We’ve made rough predictions each player’s stats for 2012, starting with Crabtree.
(NOTE: I left off running backs, like LaMichael James and Frank Gore, because their reception, yard and TD totals would be unnecessarily difficult to project and potentially negligible).
Michael Crabtree: 65 receptions, 810 yards, three TDs
After a big year from Crabtree in 2011, I see a slight regression in his stats come 2012.
Alex Smith will have to share the load between Crabtree and a host of other receivers this season, so look for this former Texas Tech standout’s numbers to go down.
Randy Moss: 50 receptions, 725 yards, seven TDs
Moss returns to the NFL after a one-year hiatus and looks ready to play in Jim Harbaugh’s offense.
I can’t see this former Patriot eclipsing 800 yards receiving, but he’ll be a big factor in the red zone and on deep passes.
Mario Manningham: 35 receptions, 550 yards, two TDs
Manningham was productive last year as the third option in a loaded Giants offense, so look for him to have another solid year.
While he won’t be a 40 reception, 600 yard player, Manningham should be a solid weapon in the 49er offense.
A.J. Jenkins: 18 receptions, 215 yards, one TD
Jenkins may get a look or two in Harbaugh’s run-heavy scheme, but I can’t see him being overly productive in his first year.
I could be wrong, for Harbaugh loves his rookies (see Smith, Aldon), but I’m buying low on this Illinois standout.
Ted Ginn: 14 receptions, 150 yards, one TD
Ginn isn’t much of an impact player in the 49er offense and he looks to be more of a factor on special teams.
He’ll get a few catches here and there, but don’t expect too much.
Vernon Davis: 75 receptions, 850 yards, ten TDs
After watching the 49ers in the playoffs, there’s no doubt that Vernon Davis is the No. 1 wide receiver on this football team.
He’ll break out this year and should finally reach double-digit touchdowns in 2012.
Summary: If we add it all up, Alex Smith should have a very solid year with his new receiving corps. Assuming he stays healthy the whole season, this is to say that Smith would throw for 3,300 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Compared to the 49er signal caller’s 3,100 yard, 17 touchdown performance in 2011, this projection assumes that San Francisco is more successful in the red zone this season.
I’ll give Smith around ten interceptions, which would give him a solid stat line as he grows into his role in Jim Harbaugh’s offense.
Look for the 49ers to win a good number of games in 2012 behind a newly-charged passing attack.