Who will step up in Michael Crabtree’s absence?

The San Francisco 49ers received devastating news on Wednesday when they learned that wide receiver Michael Crabtree could miss the season with a torn Achilles tendon,  according to USA Today. The injury occurred during organized team activities on Tuesday.

There’s no way to replace Crabtree. He is coming off a season in which he had career highs in receptions (85), yards (1,105) and touchdowns (nine). It’s also no secret that Crabtree is quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s favorite target. Well, that will have to change.

So, who should the Niners look at to replace the 25-year-old receiver? Since we assume Anquan Boldin will have a good grasp on one side of the field, let’s take a look at some candidates who could come in and make an impact:

A.J. Jenkins

The 49ers spent a first-round pick on Jenkins in 2012 and if he is planning to step up in his young career, the time would be now. Jenkins, who appeared in just three regular-season games last year, has showed up to OTA’s “bulked up and ready to rebound,” according to San Jose Mercury News. Can he take the pounding?

Quinton Patton

We’ve all heard the story about Patton getting drafted and immediately buying a plane ticket (with his own money) and making the trip to the Bay Area to begin workouts. Well, he might not have been able to get in the building, but the trip earned him some brownie points with head coach Jim Harbaugh. That’s great. The fourth-round rookie had an accomplished career at Louisiana Tech. His speed could really add another dimension to this offense.

Mario Manningham

Manningham had a productive season in 2012, but is coming off a season-ending knee injury in which he tore his ACL and MCL. Although Manningham hopes to be ready in time for training camp, he doesn’t want to rush his return. The six-year receiver restructured his deal in March to stay with the club, so the front office will be looking for some type of production.

Kyle Williams

Williams is coming off an ACL injury of his own, and has been rehabbing this offseason. Williams ran for the first time in late March.

Ricardo Lockette

This offseason Lockette has built some chemistry with quarterback Colin Kaepernick. It’s not hard, since they’re housemates. He’ll be battling for a roster spot, but it will be a steep challenge for him to fill in for Crabtree.

In all reality, the 49ers will probably mix and match a variety of these players, and we wouldn’t rule out them taking a chance on another proven free agent.

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