Healthy Crabtree running better than ever

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Healthy Crabtree running better than ever

SANTA CLARA -- Pro Bowl cornerback Carlos Rogers rates Michael Crabtree's hands up there among the best receivers in the game, comparable to those belonging to Larry Fitzgerald.Where Rogers has seen a noticeable improvement is with Crabtree's foot speed. Crabtree was healthy for the 49ers' entire offseason program. And it appears the eight practices he missed with a right calf strain was a mere speed bump.Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said he agrees with Rogers that Crabtree is running much better than a year ago."He was playing last year on a bad wheel and battled his way through it," Roman said. "I think he's a lot healthier this year, and he certainly appears to be much quicker and faster. Another year under his belt from an experience standpoint is very important."Crabtree is listed as a 49ers starting receiver after catching a team-high 72 passes for 874 yards last season. The other starting position remains unsettled Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and Ted Ginn currently listed atop the depth chart.RELATED: 49ers release second depth chart
Crabtree spoke to the media Wednesday for just the second time since the end of last season. Here is what he had to say:Q: Carlos Rogers talked about how you look faster. Is that a fair assessment?
Crabtree: "I've been in competition with Carlos since I started camp. I got a little tablet in my locker of how many days I've won, how many he's lost. So I'm keeping that tablet. I'm winning right now. I'll try to keep it like that."Q: Are you faster?
Crabtree: "It's really limited on the injury. You got a foot injury, of course you're not going to go to full speed, you can go fast enough to play. My feet are good right now. I'm out there running."Q: How do you determine who wins your battles with Carlos?
Crabtree: "Obviously, I got to catch every pass. I can't let him knock a ball down. We don't really face each other that much out there. It's whenever I'm up against him, I just count that as a win. He's good competition -- friendly competition -- really, just making each other better. Really, making the practice more enjoyable."Q: Do you give him a chance to dispute your tally, look over the running score and make an argument?
Crabtree: "Every day. It's on the board, so I write it down before I go out. I say I won already before I go out. It's all fun and games."Q: Do you keep tab on any other defensive back?
Crabtree: "No. Just with Carlos right now. He's the only one who's doing a lot of talking. We're just having fun out here."Q: Before your calf injury, did you train to improve your speed?
Crabtree: "Really, just working hard. We got a good training staff, a good strength and conditioning program out here. Those guys have been real good at working on things you really need, things you need to focus on like speed and power, quickness. I just use it."Q: Carlos thought you might have lost some weight?
Crabtree: "No, I weigh same. That's the crazy thing about it. I've probably gained a little more muscle. That's about it."Q: What excites you about your role in the offense?
Crabtree: "Everything. It's football. Every day I come out here I'm looking to do something new, not just the same old routes I've been doing the whole camp or last year or the year before that. Just really trying to do something new and try to fit in with the rest of the guys we have -- that's (Randy) Moss, Teddy (Ginn), (Mario) Manningham, K-Dub (Kyle Williams), all those guys are out here competing and going hard. I just really feel like I need to fit in and have fun. Where I fit in is make some plays, either inside or outside, just trying to make a play."Q: There was a lot of talk in the offseason about how the 49ers needed to add receivers. How did you react to that? Did you take that as a challenge to you personally?
Crabtree: "Not at all. It's a team. We've added running backs. We've added receivers. Quarterback is looking good. That's just how the game goes. I don't think one receiver is enough. You never know what's going to happen in the season. Guys go down. For instance, last season we had four or five guys in the beginning. At the end of the season, it was just me and Brett Swain and my guy, Joe Hastings. I think you need that depth at receiver."Q: Jim Harbaugh said a while ago that you have the best hands he's ever seen. Is there pressure now to live up to that hype?
Crabtree: "No, not at all. It's really just be yourself and go out and try to catch every pass. It's not too much pressure."Q: Do you have the best hands?
Crabtree: "I don't know. I just going to go out there and be me. If that's what the people say, that's what the people say. I'm just going to play."Q: How much work does it take to make catching a pass look effortless?
Crabtree: "It's really focus. Probably, most of the drops come from not focusing and not seeing the ball. That's really catching the ball. If you can't see the ball, you can't catch it. You take your eye off the ball, you're not going to catch it. It's really just focus."Q: Carlos said you have a unique ability to catch the ball without your eye on it. Is he wrong?
Crabtree: "I don't know what Carlos is saying, man. Carlos is saying all kinds of things. But I'm just practicing on catching the ball every day."Q: You're going back to Houston, where you played your first game in 2009. How have you changed since then?
Crabtree: "I've grown a lot. Just going on my fourth year, that's crazy. Just each year, I get better and better, stronger and stronger. Learning how to be a pro. Learning from guys. There's been a lot of talent around me since I've been here, especially at receiver. A lot of old guys, Isaac Bruce, those guys, that I take new things. If I can learn something from those guys and put it in my notepad, and I'm running with it."Q: The fact that you're practicing and you've played in an exhibition game, do you feel much further along than past years?
Crabtree: "It's just preseason. I feel like being around, I'm a step ahead. Not being injured, it's always a plus. I'm looking good."

49ers trade up, select QB C.J. Beathard in third round of 2017 NFL Draft

49ers trade up, select QB C.J. Beathard in third round of 2017 NFL Draft

C.J. BEATHARD
Position: Quarterback
College: Iowa
Height: 6-2
Weight: 219
Selection: Third round, No. 104 overall

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers traded back into the end of the third round to select a quarterback to join Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley on the 49ers' roster.

General manager John Lynch's fourth trade of the draft netted the team the grandson of legendary NFL personnel man Bobby Beathard. His grandson, C.J., joins the 49ers after a four-year career at Iowa. Beathard completed 58.6 percent of his passes last season with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Beathard was not generally expected to be chosen within the first two days of the draft. He was the sixth quarterback selected, falling behind Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Deshone Kizer and Davis Webb.

"They won't regret it," Beathard said on a conference call with the Bay Area media.

The 49ers traded up with the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings had the No. 104 pick, and called the 49ers to see if they were interested in a trade. After some consideration, the 49ers decided to move up from No. 109 while also giving the Vikings a seventh-round pick at No. 219.

"Might he have been there at 109? That’s what we had to weigh," 49ers John Lynch said. "But at the end of the day, we felt like it was worth it to be able to go to bed knowing that we had a player that we liked and want the opportunity develop at the quarterback position."

And that's what coach Kyle Shanahan plans on doing. He said Beathard is not coming to the team this season to compete with Hoyer for the starting job.

"We’re bringing him in here to develop him and give him a chance, but just like any other position, everyone competes," Shanahan said. "Brian is our starting quarterback and, right now, Matt Barkley is our second. And I look at him to come in and be our third with us only having three on the roster.

"By no means did we come into this draft thinking we’re going to get a guy to compete with Brian."

Shanahan said Beathard and Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman were the two quarterbacks in the draft who ran offenses in college most similar to the offense he will install with the 49ers.

"One thing that helps is being able to see guys play the way you’re going to ask them to play," Shanahan said. "It helps being at Iowa and watching the system he’s in. It’s easier to see to watch him over the years. He’s a three-year starter. He’s led his team to a bunch of wins, especially in 2015 when they had a better team and he played unbelievable."

As a junior at Iowa, Beathard completed 61.6 percent of his pass attempts for 2,809 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. 

"He’s a leader. He’s tough. He processes very well," Shanahan said. "He's extremely accurate and he lives and dies football."

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

AHKELLO WITHERSPOON
Position: Cornerback
College: Colorado
Height: 6-2 3/4
Weight: 193
Selection: Third round, No. 66 overall

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers selected Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, a Sacramento native, in the third round of the NFL draft with the No. 66 overall pick.

“Being close to home is an incredible opportunity, as well as the type of defense they play -- press man, up in your face,” Witherspoon said. “When I came in for a visit, they were asking me if I’ve adopted that role and if I’d be willing to continue that. And I said, ‘Absolutely.’

“It’s an opportunity to play for such a great organization, close to home, with such a savvy defensive mentality. I think it’s going to be a great place for me.”

The 49ers were also scheduled to have the next pick, but traded the selection at No. 67 for the New Orleans Saints’ second-round pick in next year’s draft, as well as a seventh-round selection (No. 229 overall) this year. The 49ers now have 10 picks in next year’s draft.

The Saints used that pick at No. 67 to select Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara.

Witherspoon began his college career at Sacramento City. He played his final three college seasons at Colorado. He started 12 games last season and earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors.

Witherspoon led the nation with 22 pass breakups. He recorded one interception -- a game-saving pick in the end zone to preserve a 41-38 victory over Oregon. A pre-med student majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, he said he aspires to be a doctor after his football career.

But Witherspoon said he is committed to football and promised the 49ers during his visit to Santa Clara that he will make huge strides over the next few years as he continues to develop as a player.