Michael Crabtree needs a buddy.
The 49ers wideout finally was healthy in 2012 and finally emerged as a No. 1 receiver. What the 49ers need now is a true No. 2 so that defenses - indeed, everyone in the stadium - doesn't know where Colin Kaepernick is throwing in critical moments. (See: Super Bowl, final drive). Free agent Randy Moss was decent in that role late in the year because teams respected his speed and the 49ers used it to manipulate defenses. But he was not very productive, and three of Kaepernick's five interceptions were on passes to Moss. (The others were passes to Kyle Williams (Nov. 25) and Vernon Davis (Jan. 12)).
Would the 49ers tap a wide receiver in the first round in successive drafts? If so, these are the players they would consider. Thanks to CBS Sports' Rob Rang for helping to compile the list. He has an extensive database on all the receivers here.
Cal, 6-3, 210
Allen won't be around when the 49ers are on the board, right? Two things at least could push the physical Cal receiver in their direction. One, he is coming off a knee injury, and teams are eager to see how Allen checks out medically in Indianapolis. Two, he is not expected to be very fast in the 40-yard dash. If that landed Allen in, say, the mid 20s as far as draft, the 49ers conceivably could jump up and grab him. That would give them two starting-caliber receivers without elite deep speed. How would that work? It seemed to be perfectly fine when Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin both played for the Cardinals.
West Virginia, 5-9, 175
You almost dismiss Austin off hand because of how small he is. He looks positively elfin amid even college players and you wonder how long he could last in the NFL game. But then you watch him against teams like Clemson and LSU and Oklahoma and you see his explosion and you start to change your mind. Austin also played extensively at running back, which speaks to his toughness and which makes you wonder what a creative offensive coordinator could do with him and the other talents on the 49ers roster. Austin also is an accomplished kick and punt returner, and at the very least his addition would be a big upgrade - at multiple positions - over Ted Ginn. Remember, Williams can return punts but his status at the start of the season as of now is unknown because he is coming off an ACL tear. The big question for Austin is whether he could hold up as the No. 2 receiver opposite Crabtree. His weigh-in and 40-time in Indianapolis will be critical.
Clemson, 6-1, 200
Hopkins is another Crabtree-like receiver. He's not as big as Allen and doesn't have elite speed. But he's very competitive, has strong hands and fights for the ball. That feisty personality will appeal to Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke, who are cut from the same cloth. So will Hopkins' numbers: 1,405 receiving yards on 82 catches and a school-record 18 touchdowns, which was good for second in the nation this year. Also, he shouldn't have a steep learning curve as far as catching Kaepernick's fastballs. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd also puts plenty of zip on his passes.
Tennessee, 6-3, 205
Patterson's attributes scream, 'No. 1 receiver': He has size, speed and a nose for the end zone. He's excellent with the ball in his hands, and Tennessee often gave him chances as a running back and allowed him to return kicks and punts. He set a school record with 1,858 all-purpose yards. The problem is that he doesn't have much experience having played at community college until last season. He's unpolished and would be a gamble in the first round. Still, his raw talent and deep speed seem to be the perfect complement to Crabtree's skill set. That Patterson also has special teams value is a bonus. CBS Sports ranks him as the No. 2 wideout in the draft.
- Matt Barrows