Birthdate: September 14, 1987
Height/Weight: 6'1 3/8"/215
Position: Wide Receiver
College: Texas Tech, 26 games played
Notable Stats: 231 receptions, 3,127 yards, 41 TDs
My Take: A couple months ago it was heresy to argue Seattle should select anyone at four but Michael Crabtree. That is, if he was even available. Now his availability is in little doubt and few are talking about Seattle selecting him. That has a little do with Seattle signing TJ Houshmandzadeh, and lot more to do with a blunderous couple of months that saw Crabtree participating in the combine only enough to be discovered two inches shorter, before discovering a stress fracture in his foot. He elected to have surgery. That surgery means Crabtree will not perform any pre-draft agility drills. It would be nice to know if Crabtree can run at a respectable rate, but it's not reason in itself to knock him down draft boards. Nevertheless, the next Larry Fitzgerald is now the next Anquan Boldin, and that's a sizable drop.
Let's give scouts and GMs credit. The concern isn't so much can Crabtree run really fast in a straight line on a track in street clothes, it's can Crabtree separate from NFL caliber cornerbacks? Combine numbers function as a surrogate for strength of competition. Crabtree did most of his damage against especially bush league competition. Of his 26 opponents, ten were non-BCS, or BCS schools with defenses that ranked 100th or worse in FEI. Another four ranked 70th or worse in FEI. In his two years, Crabtree faced seven opponents with a top 30 defensive FEI. Since we don't have combine number, let's instead look at some adjusted performance numbers. The backbone of these will be yards per target. It's a stat I debuted last year in this post. The only bad news is the official scorer of the Cotton Bowl did not record who was targeted on incomplete passes. The good news is that the six other games included that data, and the sample is relatively robust: 88 targets.
Here's how Crabtree looks:
Yards per target: 9.67 (DeSean Jackson: 9.5, Eddie Royal 8.88, Devin Thomas 8.08, Jordy Nelson 7.57, Limas Sweed 6.3)
Completion Percentage: 69% (Desean Jackson 63%, Eddie Royal 52.9%, Devin Thomas 56%, Jordy Nelson 63.3%, Limas Sweed 55%)
First Downs: 27 (1 per 3 attempts not resulting in a touchdown)
Touchdowns: 7 (1 per 12.57 attempts)
First Down or Touchdown: 34 (1 per 2.59 attempts)
Pass Interference Against: 1
That's very, very good. As I've stated before, I don't have enough data to see if this is truly predicative, but I think it has merit, more merit than simple yards. The completion percentage is especially interesting, because the biggest concern about Crabtree is his ability to get open. The offense he played in boosts that number, but, I guess you could say, that Crabtree was so often double-teamed probably cancels that out a bit.
Combine numbers be damned, I think Crabtree is special, and, not considering position, the best player in this draft. He's going to make some team's fans very happy, even if they'll have to resign themselves to the fact that Crabtree will never best Ashley Lelie in a footrace.
*Which isn't to say I prefer Seattle drafting Crabtree to Matthew Stafford, only that if Seattle drafted Crabtree, I'd still be pretty amped.