The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly Truth: Week Nine

Jacob Feldman


One of the things we as human beings tend to do an awful lot of in our lives is react to the things we see around us. Often times this is a good thing. For example, if a car just so happens to be driving down the same sidewalk you are walking on, you better get out of the way! That’s definitely a good reaction.

There is another side of the coin, though – that is the gross overreaction which is becoming more and more common into today’s world, thanks in part to social media. This isn’t just in life but also in the world of fantasy football. It isn’t uncommon for the smallest of things are blown way out of proportion. Other times what should be a minor blip on the radar gets way more attention than it deserves. There are also times when we ignore all of the warning signs and try to stay the course, not realizing we are heading for a cliff. Don’t worry though, because I’m here to help with these very things.

Each week I will examine a player or sometimes multiple players to see if their value is on par with what people are talking about. Often times this will be a player who “breaks out” the previous week and might be getting a lot of attention in trade talks or on the waiver wire. Other times it might be a player who received a lot of hype during the off-season who isn’t living up to expectations. Regardless of what it is, I’ll be doing my best to steer you in the right direction and get you a step ahead of your leaguemates.

Keep in mind that no one is perfect. After all, I told you to ignore Justin Forsett after opening weekend last year. Hey, we all make mistakes, but I like to think I’ve had a pretty good track record over the years of doing this. Two years ago, I was one of the first to lay out why you needed to trade Trent Richardson for whatever you could get, much like the Browns had done a week or two before. At the time I was blasted by readers, but if you listened you sold before his value crashed. I was also dead on with Larry Donnell fading down the stretch, Allen Hurns being good enough to stay ahead of Marqise Lee on the depth chart, Antone Smith being little more than a rarely used home run hitter, and countless other takes from the last few years. Moral of the story, I miss from time-to-time like everyone else, but I feel I get it right much more often. When I’m wrong, I’ll own that mistake.

This time of year it is starting to get a little difficult to find players who are suddenly “breaking out”. So I’m going to switch gears ever so slightly and try to start looking at one player who has far exceeded expectations to see if this is a long term impact or just a single year of production. This week I’m going to take a look at a receiver who has had rather inconsistent careers up to this point, but he is definitely an every week starter this season.

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Michael Crabtree, WR OAK

Season stats: 47 receptions on 80 targets for 591 yards and five touchdowns.

Projected 2015 stats: 94 receptions on 160 targets for 1182 yards and 10 scores.

This past NFL offseason, you would have guessed Crabtree had the plague. Free agency came and went with him still sitting on the market. In fact, it took almost a month before he received any kind of visit with an NFL team and it was “only” the Raiders. When his deal was announced as a one year prove-it variety to the tune of just $3 million for the season, many in the NFL and fantasy community figured it was a sign Crabtree was near the end.

Some pointed to his attitude as a key factor while others looked at his history of injuries and started to wonder if they had sapped him of his athleticism. It was definitely concerning. As a result, he was often viewed as a low cost, low-upside fantasy option for the 2015 season for someone who wanted a WR3/4 type of player. As it turns out, he’s been a top 15 receiver this season and is on pace to set career marks in pretty much every category. He’s been able to stay healthy and has been highly productive when lining up opposite from star rookie Amari Cooper.

He’s been a very hot trade item in a lot of my leagues with him moving from a rebuilding team to a contender in the vast majority of them. Sometimes for a pretty decent return. The question is if he is just a one year wonder (again) or if he is going to revitalize his career and give owners a few more great ones like the current one.

The Good: One of the best things about Crabtree’s season is he has managed to stay off the trainer’s table. While he was actually fairly durable during his six years in red and gold, playing 15 or more games in four of the six seasons, he did have some major injuries with his foot and Achilles. He seems to be completely over those issues and is showing very little if any lingering issues from them, which makes me think he just wasn’t 100 percent last season, because he looks better now. It is quite possible the achilles issue just look a little longer for him to return to peak condition than we thought it would. He is looking a lot like the guy who set the college world on fire for a few years.

Another huge plus for his value both this season and in the future is his involvement. The Raiders are throwing the ball a lot and Crabtree is highly involved. He has at least eight targets in all but one of his games this year and has at least four receptions in every game. In three of his eight games he has seven receptions or more for at least 100 yards and one touchdown. Definitely not bad for someone expected to be a low end WR3 this year.

The Bad: Ever since his time in college, there have been questions about Crabtree’s work ethic and motivation. The fact that he is currently on a one year prove-it deal is going to give him a lot of motivation. Especially since his time with the Raiders was likely his last in the NFL if he didn’t produce this year. The big question is what is going to happen if someone signs him to a three- or four-year deal after this season. Will he be able to stay motivated and continue to produce like he has this year on the one year deal? Will the questionable attitude of the Crabtree of old return? It is anyone’s guess.

The other major concern if you are looking long term for Crabtree is where is he going to be playing after this season? Oakland has actually been one of the better passing offenses in the league this year, have an ascending quarterback and a highly skilled receiver playing opposite to prevent defenses from focusing on Crabtree. If he goes to a team with a weaker offense or a place where he is expected to be the sole focus of the passing game, we might not see the same kind of production out of him as we are seeing this year.

The Ugly Truth: For the first six years of his career, Crabtree was trapped in San Francisco, one of the worst passing offenses in the entire league over that time. Some of the blame was placed on the lack of weapons in the receiver corps, but Crabtree’s effectiveness in Oakland is casting some doubt on that argument. It is very possible that San Francisco is a bit of a black hole when it comes to offensive production in the passing game.

Crabtree has been an extremely important veteran presence in Oakland. Not only has he been the reliable possession receiver, but he has undoubtedly helped Cooper make the transition from the college game to the pro game. Given the lack of other options in the passing game for Oakland, I fully expect Crabtree to continue to produce at a top 15-20 wide receiver level for the rest of this season, making him a very solid buy for any contender, especially if his price is as low as some people have him ranked.

I also expect him to be re-signed by Oakland this next offseason because it makes a lot of sense for both sides. The Raiders have no receiver depth worth mentioning and they were willing to take a chance on Crabtree when no one else wanted him. Not only that, but remaining in Oakland would allow Crabtree to stay in the San Francisco Bay area, which was reportedly important to him.

The biggest question is what will happen to Crabtree if he does get that three-year deal. I think his character issues and motivation issues have been a little bit overblown. I think if he is involved in the offense and feels valued he will continue to work hard. That shouldn’t be a problem for the Raiders. As Cooper continues to develop, there is a chance Crabtree’s role could see a slight reduction, but it won’t be too much. Instead of the nearly 50/50 split they are seeing this year, I would expect it to be a 60/40 relationship next year in Cooper’s favor. I think some of that loss in percentage will actually be made up as the offense continues to evolve and improve, so I’m not overly worried about Cooper stealing the show.

The one concern I would have is if he does go to a new team. I don’t think Crabtree is the kind of talent which can overcome a terrible offense. After all, we saw him in that role with the 49ers. It just didn’t work for him. He can be solid in a good offense, but on a bad one he is going to struggle, meaning there is some risk in picking him up as a key piece for future years.

Final Verdict: Crabtree is going to help an awful lot of teams make the playoffs this year, and if he stays with the Raiders he should continue to produce near his 2015 pace for a few more seasons. His production is going to be fairly dependent on the team he plays for though as he has shown he isn’t able to overcome a terrible offense. None the less, given his price tag I’m definitely buying him if I’m in the hunt this year or expect to be next year.


jacob feldman