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Unjustly Underrated: Michael Crabtree

As dynasty owners, we become obsessed with players who had dynamite performances the second half of last season. As we know, that frequently signals an upcoming breakout season. However, we often get caught up with fantasy grudges that cloud our judgment. When I say grudges, I mean owners who were burned in the past by a specific player that further downgrade the individual to an extreme and claim they’ll never draft him again. That creates a value free fall and a tremendous opportunity for many. We just need to look past those highly publicized grudges and aggressively target these type of players.

There is one player who is unjustly underrated and currently presents a great buy opportunity. He does not come without controversy and often creates polarizing opinions that are typically negative. Because of this, many owners’ views are clouded and they miss out on a value opportunity.

If I were to tell you there is a fourth year starting wide receiver who is 24 years old who struggled early in the 2011 season, but in his final nine games put together 47 receptions for 611 yards, would he be a 2012 target or breakout candidate for you? He should be considering that production extrapolated is 84 receptions for 1,100 yards over an entire season. That would have ranked him as the #16 fantasy wide receiver in PPR leagues in 2011. However, this wide receiver is currently ranked by experts and drafted by the masses as follows:

On its surface, a wide receiver with that kind of second half production ranked and drafted this late is crazy. However, if I told you that this wide receiver is Michael Crabtree, I would imagine this makes a lot more sense. Many currently love to hate Crabtree.

There are certainly concerns with Crabtree considering the competition for targets with the presence of Vernon Davis, along with the additions of Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, and AJ Jenkins. To add to that, the 49ers are also a ground-and-pound team, which makes 120 targets or more very unlikely. There is no denying this. However, his second half of 2011 cannot be ignored, either.

Below are specific statistics from the second half of 2011 as compared to the first half. You’ll see that in the second half of 2011, there was a clear change in Crabtree’s performance. While certain qualitative concerns exist and should be considered, the below is a fantastic sign for his 2012 prospects. Despite this, he is still underdrafted.

In looking at the above, note the following:

1.) From weeks one through eight, Crabtree did not consistently receive playing time; his snaps ranged from 32% of total team snaps to 83%.

2.) After week nine, Crabtree consistently played 65% or more snaps

3.) Crabtree’s catch percentage from weeks one to eight was awful and below 65% on a consistent basis

4.) After he received consistent snaps from week nine through week 17, he appeared to pick up his game and he caught a larger percentage of the passes thrown his way

Based on the above, it appears that Crabtree’s solid performance is directly correlated to how involved he is in the game. When he sees a significant number of snaps, he gets into the flow of the game and contributes to the passing attack. With that, let’s drill down to a more granular level and take a look at his production when he received 65%+ of the team’s snaps. Based on the above, that appeared to be a threshold that triggered his improved performance towards the end of 2011.

As you can see in the above breakdown, in the 12 games where Crabtree was involved more than 65% of the time, he produced at a pace that would net him 85 catches for 1,040 yards. On a points per game basis, that would have ranked him as the #26 wide receiver. With this production, Crabtree would have finished as a borderline second / solid number three fantasy wide receiver in 2011. However, he is still being drafted as a number four wide receiver.

While the above is certainly positive, don’t look past the fact that it also includes weeks three, four, and six. While Crabtree played a significant number of snaps in those weeks, it was not on a consistent basis. In the weeks before and after those three games, Crabtree was not involved in the game as much, which appears to have impacted his overall performance over that span.

Because of the inconsistency in snaps early in 2011, let’s look more closely at weeks nine through 17 where he consistently played 65% or more of the team snaps. Here is how his performance breaks down over that period:

With these numbers, Crabtree would again rank as a solid number two wide receiver. Even if you want to knock him down a bit because you feel the 110 projected targets are too high, he’s still going to be a very solid third wide receiver.

This is the most impressive cut of his 2011 performance. It covers the period where he played 65% or more of the teams snaps on a weekly basis and the impact is clear. His production, including his catch percentage, spiked with continued involvement in the game plan. While this isn’t the first time Crabtree has seen more than 65% of the team snaps routinely, it’s the first time he put the consistent snaps and production together. Maybe the first eight weeks of erratic snaps in 2011 served as his smelling salts and he finally “gets it.” It certainly appears that way.

I’m sure it’s clear from the above, but to be explicit, I’m not trying to make the argument that Crabtree is going to live up to his tremendous hype prior to his 2009 rookie season. He’s unlikely to ever be a top ten wide receiver given the start to his NFL career. However, the fact that he is currently being ranked and drafted as a fourth dynasty wide receiver is crazy. Given his production in the latter half of 2011, he belongs ranked as a top 25-30 receiver. He is a solid third wide receiver with second wide receiver potential.

Most people are scared off by Crabtree’s diva attitude, the 49ers’ receiver additions this offseason, and the fact that he hasn’t lived up to the hype thus far, but do not look past the fact that he improved each of his first three seasons, appears to finally be past his foot injury, and is coming off of a solid second half of 2011. In fact, last season’s second half is the most impressive production stretch he’s put together thus far.

Yes, the additions at wide receiver and the running game focus will likely limit his upside and prevent him from being a number one fantasy wide receiver, but the above clearly supports the fact he is worth more than the #40 wide receiver.

If I didn’t convince you that Crabtree is a borderline number two fantasy wide receiver, I hope you at least click away with the perspective that he is an unjustly underrated receiver who should be targeted by all.

Follow Steve on Twitter

Statistics above sourced from ProFootballFocus.com.

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Meens
9 years ago

With Crabtree you have to rely on what your eyes tell you. Anyone who looks at his game honestly has to agree, he doesnt have any special qualities as a WR, non-elite size, speed, route running, redzone presence and possibly work ethic. In my opinion after watching him I am nearly certain this guy isnt going to ever be a game breaking WR. Hes just a pretty good guy, that can get whats given to him.

As far as the extrapolation of his 2nd half of his season numbers, thats only half the story. If you are saying that his 2nd half surge is a predictor of things to come, then I’d say that his 2 playoff games in which he had a nice total of 15 targets but he only was able to record a total of 28 yards but did get a TD pretty much deflates the previous momentum.

Now lets look at the situation change. Vernon Davis who is easily their best pass catcher is still there and more primed for a breakout. They added Moss who will probably disappoint in fantasy but still command his share of targets, they signed Manningham who when healthy has been every bit as good as crabtree while being better at getting to the end zone, they drafted a 1st round WR and added talent and appear to be going with a 3-4 headed volume rushing game. With Alex Smith there is probably only 3200-3400 passing yards to go around and thats an optimistic number.

It’s pretty simple Crabtree was just OK with a wide open opportunity before , now hes just an OK WR with plenty of competition for targets.

I will not be going out and buying Crabtree.

Phorts
Reply to  Meens
9 years ago

I don’t agree w just about every one of your arguments, especially your predictions and your so called eye test evaluation of crab. Funny enough, fantasy douche posted this article a moment http://wagesofwago ins.com/2012/07/14/bartenders-height-and-the-eye-test/

As to the article, I’m more interested as to WHY his snap counts went up. You have to be able to predict the same or more snaps for your theory to have hold water. I don’t presume to know why, and I agree the talent is there and talent generally wins out…. But i don’t see his situation improving any, or enough so that he gets consistent snaps in 2012. A great buy low, however for 2013 and beyond when Moss is gone…

Meens
Reply to  Phorts
9 years ago

well if fantasy douche said so, then you are right. my bad. Crabtree couldnt be any more ordinary. Thats what I see, anyone who argues the other end with gusto is usually a dynasty owner or 49ers fan. I am neither so I can look at it objectively. I just say Crabtrees name and an article titled “unjustly underrated” and I thought it was a late april fools joke. I watch him play football all the time, I just never notice him.

lic217
Reply to  Meens
9 years ago

I have watched every niners game crabtree has played. and completely agree with meens. he has no explosiveness. The only way he will ever be anything close to a low end wr1 or high end wr2 is if he was playing with a hall of fame qb and got 150 targets. his targets went up because the niners HAD NO OTHER OPTIONS AT WR. ted Ginn and kyle williams were the only other wrs on the roster.

Eric MacKenzie
9 years ago

I’m having a tough time with this as well. I really only see Manningham as Morgan’s replacement and Moss as a temp replacement for Edwards until Jenkins is ready to go. Hence, I’m not on the bandwagon of massive improvement in the receiving corps (outside of health) However, the problem here is that week one to five (right before Crabtree’s snap percentage shot up), Morgan was playing. It wasn’t until Morgan went down that Crabtree started to get more looks. There seems to be quite a risk of reversion to pre-65% snap percentage with Manningham filling Morgan’s role and I have complete faith that he can do exactly that. Further we need to factor in continued improvement from Kyle Williams or the massive upgrade from a damaged Braylon Edwards to Randy Moss.

Even if I accept that Roman/Harbaugh leaned on the running game more than they would’ve liked due to regression of the pass protection and injuries to the wideouts, I don’t see them adding more than 50 passing downs, and even that seems a stretch. Is that enough for Crabtree to continue upward progression? I’m not so sure…

Phorts
Reply to  Eric MacKenzie
9 years ago

That’s what I’m talking about. I’m still a buyer and he’s still very much underrated, I’m just not expecting much in 2012

Mangelo
Reply to  Phorts
9 years ago

You shouldn’t buy today what you can buy tomorrow cheaper.

9 years ago

i tend too look at what the team thinks about their players and its very apparent that SF must not be all that confident in crabtree either. granted he did make improvements in the second half of the season, but if harbaugh was that impressed with him, why would he go and sign a broken down randy moss and then after mini camp say “he’s the best wr we have”???? i can see signing manningham to play the slot. i can see drafting a kid like jenkins. but moss is very telling on the confidence they seem to have on the guys they have now…..meaning crabtree? i’m not buying.

Eric MacKenzie
Reply to  bigD
9 years ago

You need more than one receiver and Moss fills a different role than Crabtree. I figure Jenkins was drafted to fill that role once Moss packs it in.

Reply to  Eric MacKenzie
9 years ago

I think you’re dead on Eric. Jenkins and Moss are the same role. Manningham has had success in more of a complimentary role. That still leaves the possession role open, which is what Crabtree is in. I view the starting 3 WRs for San Fran as being Crabtree, Moss/Jenkins, and Manningham. The big question is with Vernon Davis and the run first play calling that Harbaugh prefers, how do they all fit. My personal feeling is that Manningham is the odd man out, not Crabtree.

sean mcguigan
9 years ago

I am on Means camp on this on…..this guy just isn’t that good….and almost never scores…San Fran is extremely limited in passing game partly because of Alex smith but mostly because of coaches style….that is not going to change moss will command a lot of the few targets available….Crabtree will be like 4th option(moss…Davis…gore), in a limited passing o……I will pass there is a reason he is ranked where

9 years ago

Great research and a brave article to write, Steve. Nice job! I don’t have Crabtree in my top 20 as the extrapolated stats would suggest, but he is just outside of my top 25. I think he is very underrated just because so many people were expecting the next elite WR when he came out, and it hasn’t happened. We, as fantasy players, hold grudges like no other! I think he is improving and with his first full offseason will be a very solid WR3 with WR2 upside. Very nice buy for someone that is coming off the board as the 40th WR on average. Nice work.

Brady Lawson
Reply to  Steve Wyremski
9 years ago

It’s odd seeing someone say Moss isn’t a special talent. Oh, how the times change! I definitely agree that Crabtree is undervalued in most leagues. People shouldn’t expect WR1 numbers, but I find it very unlikely he isn’t at least a WR3 and could be a WR2 this season.

Pikachu
Reply to  Steve Wyremski
9 years ago

So, what you’re saying is that he’s a mediocre talent (or “above average”) who’s production will be based on volume? I like him as short-term option, but that doesn’t sound like the recipe for long-term success and production.

Jesse
Reply to  Steve Wyremski
9 years ago

I think Crabtree is mildly underrated, but I do take issue with a couple of points.

First, why use the magical 65% snap count? It appears that that number in this particular data set happens to support your argument… which is simply framing your argument to suit the data, instead of formulating a hypothesis and seeing if the data conforms. How many snaps are available, around 60? So if he plays 39 snaps he is focused and involved, but if he plays 36 (60%) snaps he isn’t? What if we used 70% as a yardstick? Well, then he hit that in 3/6 games in the first half, but only 5/9 games in the second half, so that doesn’t tell us much… which is my point, I guess, the snap count % seems to be a spurious argument.

Second, why would the playoff games not count towards predicting the future? They are more important than regular season games, they occurred after Crabtree’s newfound focus… if he was great in these games, would this bolster your argument? But because he wasn’t, they are thrown out? Won’t San Fran play some good offenses again next year?

Again I don’t disagree with the general argument that Crabtree may be undervalued, but cherrypicking stats to support your argument is disingenuous, IMO.

Jesse
Reply to  Steve Wyremski
9 years ago

I appreciate the reply, Steve. :thumbup:

bbwayne
9 years ago

This isn’t the same WR crew as last year. Crabtree will never be the sideline burner that the 49rs had hoped. This is why they brought in Moss and drafted Jenkins as speed guys. By stretching the field this only improves Crabtree’s opportunities AND Davis’. The stats don’t lie and I see upside. Great breakdown Steve. Crabtree was not on my radar, but will be looking at him going forward. This is why this site is so awesome!

Matt Mueller
9 years ago

Here’s my take. I’m neither super pro or against Crabtree but when I was looking at the stats for my startup PPR league, pre draft, I noticed that Tree was the #12th scoring WR in the league week 10-17. Surely some of that is inflated with his 2 td week 17, so take that game out and he drops down to 17th.

When considering the pick, I consider Crabtree’s value to be strictly a possession receiver who will make some tough short catches, move the chains and maybe make some pays after the catch. Harbaugh as praised his hands, who hasn’t he praised or lied about?-dude blows smoke, but regardless Tree does have good hands and probably Alex’s trust as his most comfortable go to receiver.

So in my estimation, Moss is gonna take the top off the defense. This should open up things running the ball, for Vernon D and likely for Tree as well. If you are double covering anyone on the team it’s Davis. This means Tree might be singled up, as Smith-a limited qb by all accounts-most familar WR target. I can see him getting a bunch of catches.

All this said I took him at 9.09 as my WR 5. (Harvin, Bowe, Stevie, Llyod, Tree)

I think he will prove valuable as a WR 3 fill in/flex at least.

meens
9 years ago

just looking at a guys 2nd half stats is an inaccurate predictor of future success. Crabtree finished 12th in the 2nd half in 2011. Here is a list of guys that finished 6 through 12 in 2010 from weeks 9-17 in non-ppr. Santonio, Manningham, Andre Johnson, Jacoby Ford, Desean Jackson, Mike Williams, Reggie Wayne.

Whole season stats matter a ton more. If you count the playoffs crabtrees late season performance a lot less impressive. They realized they needed WR help and went out and tried to get it. Crabtree doesnt finish top 36 this year, hes a fantasy sub in 12 team leagues.

If any owner offers any 1st round pick for his college production then you have to sell. Its probably 1 year too late though.

Reply to  meens
9 years ago

I’ll be good money Crabtree finishes in the Top 36. He’s a great fantasy WR3 with WR2 upside in PPR leagues. It’s all about value and that’s what is being conveyed here. I don’t think anyone is suggesting relying on him as your WR1. But if you’re one of the people that take a QB or TE in Round 1, Crabtree is usually a guy that comes into play for you as a WR3.

Jimmy Graham Cracker
9 years ago

Alex Smith is still his QB, they added Randy Moss AND Mario Manningham (both of whom are better receivers) and Vernon Davis is still the #1 target there.

Yeah, he’s being drafted low for a reason.

Chris R.
9 years ago

The word “Extrapolated” seems like it was used far too often, and there was too much projection for a guy who has been in the league for 3 years now. He is what he is. I can’t remember 1 signature catch Crabtree has had, or a signature game, or any signs of dominance at any point?

It’s not that people like to hate him, it’s that he was a top 10 pick and the #1 WR prospect in a loaded WR class expected to be a stud. It’s fairly obvious he doesn’t have that stud potential and never will be, we can project all day but he just doesn’t seperate from defenders well enough or have that second gear to ever be viewed as that guy.

In the right system he can produce, and if that’s what your buying for then it’s understandable. I just see far too many people holding out hope that he still ends up being a stud WR.

Josh Gans
9 years ago

Weeks 9-17 show an average week of 5.2 catches for 68 yards and .333 touchdowns. Thats a WR2??? I sincerely hope not unless you are in a 14+ team league or so I’d imagine. Considering the trend for elite WRs, his modest numbers seem to be more accurate as the WR35 or so…which is not WR2.

Matt
Reply to  Josh Gans
9 years ago

Disregarding the TDs that still had him on a pace for:

83 catches and 1,088 yards.

In my PPR league Reggie Wayne finished as the 24th ranked WR, or the last WR 2.

His totals were: 75-960-4

Meens
Reply to  Matt
9 years ago

thats what happens when you include a WRs bad games.Wayne was actually a low end WR2 when you count his bad games. Crabtree barely gets there when you only count his good games. If you pick a random starting point and then discount his 2 bad playoff games although they were the most recent evidence of his game, its a completely tilted argument. Jacoby Ford and Mannighams 2010 2nd half smoked crabtrees and look at their value 1 year later

Matt Mueller
Reply to  Meens
9 years ago

I think that’s a fair point. Certainly we are cherry picking his good second half. (Although I think the OP presented a good argument for it possibly continuing based on his snap % rising)

If we take his full season into account he finished as WR 28 in total points. A mid tier WR 3.

Regardless of what we think of Tree, or Moss, ect, he is still listed as the #1 WR on the team.

Neither Manningham nor Ford had that going for them last year.

And lastly as bad as his playoffs were he still scored a TD in the NO’s game. Including those last 2 games wouldn’t hurt his second half average that much.

I don’t think Crabtree is winning you anything but a solid WR 3/4 value pick he can be.

9 years ago

I think that part of Crabtree’s issue is the same issue that guys like Bennie Wells and Dez Bryant have and that Richardson, Martin, Luck, and RG3 will have. They were all highly touted coming out of college and drafted very early in rookie drafts. That means that everyone expecting elite production from them. If it doesn’t happen almost immediately (rookie year for RBs, maybe 1 extra year for other positions), then we are all over them. Not every guy is going to be a QB1/RB1/WR1. If Crabtree never becomes anymore more than a WR2/WR3, that doesn’t mean he has no value. Sure, those that spent an early 1st round rookie pick on him are disappointed, but that doesn’t mean he deserves to be banished to fantasy purgatory for the rest of his career. If he is still on the team that drafted him a few years back, now might be the time to pick him up and add a solid WR3 with some upside to your roster at the price of a WR4/WR5.

MikDev87
9 years ago

I just traded Ryan Broyles and Josh Gordon for Crabtree. Is that considered an undervalued type of deal, too much, or about right?

Pikachu
Reply to  MikDev87
9 years ago

I definitely would have preferred the Broyles/Gordon side.

MikDev87
Reply to  Steve Wyremski
9 years ago

Yeah I figured that it would be safe to take on a player like Crabtree for a couple unproven rookies. I actually like Broyles a lot, but I feel that it’s going to take him a little bit longer to start contributing in that offense because he’s coming off that major knee surgery. I also agree with the fact that there are too many mouths to feed in that offense right now. As for Gordon, definitely a sell high IMO simply because his measurables outshine his production and playing time in college.

sixshooter
Reply to  MikDev87
9 years ago

I like the deal alot and yes, it was a perfect time to trade the two unproven younger players for a guy who has at least shown the ability to play at the NFL level. Nice job!

danes
9 years ago

Love the article. Thanks. Also wanted to add that perhaps Crabtree’s snap count and involvement in the offense increased in the 2nd half because he didn’t participate in training camp. 2012 will be the first year he’s participated in off-season drills and training camp. Could make a huge difference come the beginning of regular season. I can definitely see Crabtree’s statistics trend in the direction the author points out.

Invisibulman
9 years ago

Why do I feel like I am the only one who remembers that Randy Moss was cut by two teams last year and finished the season out of football… His addition has absolutely no bearing on Crabtree’s production.

Davis and Gore are still the primary weapons in the passing game, but Crabtree is the only other player of relevance on the team. He’ll be fine. Should be a consistent WR3 and can carry you through bye weeks when your top guys are down.

sean mcguigan
9 years ago

Bottom line if you draft this guy you can’t expect him to start….so if you can get him late and as WR4 then I agree that was a good pick but to think you will strike gold with this guy someone is not going to happen…….If i had to take a guess I would expect these type numbers….65/850/4. If you want that on your squad go for it.

alden bietz
9 years ago

I drafted Crabtree as a rookie in the 1st rnd I might ad. I failed to look at the fact that he wasnt mature. The first few seasons he didnt work very hard. But ive heard some good things that he is finnaly getting it. Its a wait and see at least one more year. But he still has a ways to go.

Do I have my head in the clouds on this one?

sixshooter
9 years ago

For those who are dwelling on the fact that the article was based on Crabtree’s last nine games of the regular season since he got off to a slow start with the first seven games…….the whole point of this article is that it is a good time time to take a flier on Crabtree since he likely won’t cost you much if you feel that he may be on the rebound. The fact that so many are down on Crabtree in these comments should tell you something about how little one may have to pay for a guy that is likely to be a starting receiver!

Fantasy owners should be looking at many other players as well who had strong finishes to the season last year as well. Crabtree is no different. Some work out some don’t. I am referring to guys like Shonn Greene and DeMaryius Thomas who are still somewhat unproven but may have a chance to excel this year. Those two are not likely to come as cheap as Crabtree but when looking for players to add to your team, you must look at how they finished last year and what their situation is like looking ahead to the future. I am not convinced one way or the other with Crabtree just yet but have contemplated making an offer for him this offseason but am having a hard time justifying it.

Either way, I think some are being a bit more critical of this article than it deserves because I definitely believe Crabtree is worthy of consideration at the very least if you are looking to make a move for a receiver that may be had for a lesser cost but “could” put up decent stats.

sean mcguigan
9 years ago

Six shooter sorry you can’t compare Shonn Greene and D Thomas….Greene has had his chances to be feature back and just isn’t….he is toooooo slowwwwwww I said this when he came out and nothing has changed that perception he will never be a great RB in the league. D Thomas is completely different situation…he hasn’t been proven yet because of injuries…..when he was finally healthy he exploded even with the horrible Tebow throwing to him….he is big and fast different animals Crabtree while still young has also had his chances…combo of him not really being that good(just average size, speed, run after catch, better than average hands) add all up on a team with a below average QB and completely run first mentality and you have a WR3/4

I am not so sure I would be that high on Davis either while his talent is immense he litterally goes through stretches where he COMPLETELY disappers(look at stats last couple of years) he exploded in playoffs which everyone remembers but his regular season was not great at all….he also tends to get banged up as he is a great blocker and they run all the time…..I traded Davis as a sell high move after playoffs last year and I am glad i did.

JBlake
9 years ago

Steve, nice article. I agree that Crabtree (and Vernon Davis) were punished or otherwise held back by Harbaugh early last year. Once they “got it,” they performed better in the second half of the season and we should rightly expect more out of them this year. I bought low on Crabtree last year (traded J.Starks and J.Cook for Crabtree and Z.Miller), and I was happy to have Crabtree as my WR3/Flex option on a championship team.

I think some are missing the point of this article: Crabtree is a WR3 (maybe low end WR2) who can be had for the price of a WR4. If every draft pick or trade gives you that kind of value, you build a team with nice depth AND upside. Roster Crabtree as your third or fourth receiver, keep your expectations in check, spot start him early in the year until his targets get up to 8 per game, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Tattoo
9 years ago

Reading this a little late but an excellent article in my opinion! I LOVE to read articles like this instead of the usual bland fantasy fare that most places write about. I, too, had been and continue to be, a Crabtree skeptic, thinking he was over-rated when he came out and not worthy of a top-10 NFL draft selection. However, I recognized what he was putting together in weeks 6 and 8 last year and picked him up off the waiver wire for the bare minimum and wound up starting him every week from week 9 through week 15, when my league’s playoffs end. I got solid production out of him and because MFL is such a kick-butt website with a great sorting routine, I can tell you that Crabtree was the 29th highest scoring WR during that stretch, a low-end WR#2 to a very high WR#3, great value for a cheap waiver wire pickup.

Although I remain a skeptic, I am certainly willing to draft him onto my team this year, I’m sure well before others in my league would even consider. I think the larger pointof the article is very true – set your biases aside and evaluate a player in today’s terms, not what may have happened before. Thanks for a great article!

gary bajillion
9 years ago

A few flaws with this reasoning. You can’t extrapolate nine 100% healthy games with a healthy starting QB, and then compare them to what the rest of the league did (#16 overall!) with injuries. Even during Crabs 2nd half, he’s still not a WR2 if you compare his average PPG to the rest of the league.

Basically, you are pointing to numbers that show Crabs was a solid WR3 in the 2nd half and saying that he should therefore be considered in the WR25-30 range. But in many ways, that was a 2nd half in which everything went Crabs way. Alex Smith played the best football he ever has, which may or may not happen again. Smith stayed healthy all year (only 14 QBs played 16 games in 2011). Crabs had VERY little competition from other WRs, and Vernon Davis had to block all the time.

When you compare Crabs to what other WRs would be expected to do if fully healthy for 16 games, it’s not hard to see why he slips to the late 30s. It’s dangerous to target players whose upside appears to be a fringe WR2. And while there are some reasons to think the SF pass attack could be better this year, I wouldn’t hold my breath. It’s difficult to see much big play upside in this offense. Smith’s longest pass play last year was 56 yards. Only Jake Locker and Kyle Orton failed to achieve that mark.

Lastly, I’d just say that it’s short-sighted to assume Crabs gets the lions share of targets again this year. Manningham had much higher prospects going into last year than Crabs has going into 2012. It’s bizarre that you dog MM for struggling to beat out Steve Smith and Victor Cruz. The year he was behind Smith (2009), Steve Smith caught 107 balls and played in the Pro Bowl. In 2010, Smith got hurt and Manningham took on a larger role–starting in only 8 games, he put up 60/944/9. In 2011, Manningham struggled with injuries and was surpassed by Cruz, who destroyed the league and set the Giants single season receiving record. How exactly is Manningham the portrait of mediocrity by comparison?

Crabs was one of the most heavily targeted WRs in the league last year (~25% of the teams targets). Even if he gets 110 targets in 2011, you are also projecting him to jump significantly in Yards per Target if he is going to eclipse 1,000 yards. SF will have to start sending Crabs a lot deeper down the field if he’s going to get to 1,000 yds. Also, it’s kind of ridiculous that you are extrapolating he will turn 110 targets into 84 catches, thus leading the entire NFL in catch% by a significant margin. Delanie Walker was the 3rd most targeted 49er after Vernon Davis. It will be shocking if Moss/Manningham/etc. do not have more targets than last year’s WR crew.

It will be no shock to me if Crabs somehow ends up fantasy’s #25 WR in 2012, but it won’t be a shock if he ends up #50 either. The highest likelihood is that he falls into a range of WR3/WR4s that are all fairly similar. I think there are enough WRs in the 30-40 range that are either more proven or have significantly higher upside, and I think Crabs ADP is accurately reflecting that.

gary bajillion
Reply to  Steve Wyremski
9 years ago

My bad on the PPG–I was looking at a site that was compiling for fantasy through wk 16, leaving off Crabs big game against the Rams. Without that game, he was ~30th in PPG in the 2nd half.

It just goes to show how tricky it is to cherry-pick stats. You can’t throw out Crabs good games, but you have to look at what is repeatable from his best performance of the year. It was against the Rams. 8.4 of his FPs were on a fake field goal. Morgan was on IR, Braylon was waived, Williams had a concussion, and Ginn had a sprained ankle. The only other WRs competing for targets in this game were Hastings and Swain…

He and Smith still only connected for 72 yards. Nothing to sniff at, but not quite the hat-hanging performance to finish the season you’d want it to be. And while you can sort of give Crabs a pass in the playoffs, it’s not like NO and NYG had strong defenses.

There are plenty of 1,000 yard receivers in the pre-season, but a dozen guys or more who seem like locks to be WR2/3s don’t get there. I agree that Kaepernick could’ve ended up improving Crabtree’s numbers–I wasn’t trying to argue that he had the most ideal season he could have, I was saying that it’s difficult to extrapolate his numbers and then compare to the rest of the league’s ACTUAL numbers, which suffer from injuries to both the WRs and QBs, QB changes, etc. By league standards, Crabtree had a very stable situation and a major opportunity.

I’m not saying that there aren’t some reasons to be optimistic that this will be Crabtree’s best season as a pro (at least in real life). But I don’t think the numbers here back that up. The problem is not just cherry-picking these weeks for Crabs, it’s that you are also cherry-picking these weeks for the rest of the league. Yes, Crabs was borderline top 20 in the 2nd half. But some of the guys behind him were Andre Johnson, Miles Austin, Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe, Jeremy Maclin, Steve Smith, Stevie Johnson, etc. It’s straightforward that part of Crabtree’s bump in snaps was due to the fact that the rest of the WR roster was walking wounded. It’s not a plausible argument that the replacements for Edwards/Morgan/Ginn/Williams are comparable to those guys last year. A healthy Edwards/Morgan/Ginn/Williams THEMSELVES would see a significantly greater role in the offense than they did in 2011.

If Crabtree plays 16 games and gets 25% of his team’s targets again, he’s a top WR3. But that’s true of a lot of guys right now, and will be true of very, very few (if any) in January. The bottomline is that unless there is reason to believe that the SF offense becomes much more aggressive, the ceiling for its WR1 looks like 75/900/6. The argument for Crabtree as a safe WR3 with some upside depends on an incredibly high volume of targets. It happened last year due to injuries and a thin roster. I think it’s a leap to say that SF will actually game plan to get Crabs the touches of the entire rest of the WR corps combined.

He says he’s healthier than he’s been in 5 years, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It will be interesting to see if he can make the leap.

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