By: Aaron May (Twitter: @AaroneousSports)
Michael Crabtree, one of Fantasy Football’s most undervalued wide receivers.
Coming out of college, Michael Crabtree was regarded as one of the best players in the country. In his two seasons as a wide receiver for Texas Tech, Crabtree complied 231 receptions for 3,127 yards and 41 touchdowns; nothing to scoff at. In 2009, he declared for the NFL Draft and was taken 10th overall by the San Fransisco 49ers. His first few seasons with the 49ers were decent, he was able to put up a stat line of 175-2240-12 from 2009 to 2011.
Crabtree’s fourth season with San Fransisco was when he really began to get into the swing of things, snatching up 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and 9 touchdowns. Just when he got it going in the NFL, Crabtree tore his Achilles tendon and wasn’t able to do much during his 2013 campaign. He returned in 2014 and was active for 16 games. Unfortunately, Anquan Boldin was enjoying one of his more productive seasons in years, posting a solid 83-1062-5 stat line. This left Crabtree to pick up the scraps and string together an average 68-698-4 season.
2015 saw Crabtree traded to the Oakland Raiders. In his first season with the Raiders, Crabtree started to show signs that he was going to be a force for Derek Carr and the Oakland offense. With 85 receptions on 146 targets for 922 yards, 9 touchdowns, and a total of 146.2 fantasy points. I would day that is pretty good output for someone who was being drafted in the 12th round. In 2015, Crabtree finished as the Raiders top wide receiver. He even topped #4 overall draft pick Amari Cooper, who logged a phenomenal 72-1070-6 rookie campaign, yielding 142.7 fantasy points. Cooper finished just behind Michael Crabtree, and he was being drafted in the 4th round of drafts that year!
Even after finishing the previous season as the WR1 for fantasy in Oakland, Crabtree’s ADP (even though it did rise) remained unusually low in 2016. He was being drafted in the middle to late 7th round. An unbelievable value for someone who just out produced Amari Cooper the year before. Despite finishing 2015 behind Crabtree, Amari Cooper was still being drafted all the way up in the 2nd round. Do you want to guess what happened in 2016? Michael Crabtree outperformed Cooper, yet again.
Through 16 games Crabtree put up 89 receptions for 1,003 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 156.3 fantasy points. Amari Cooper, even with more yards, lacked the touchdown totals to supplant Crabtree as the #1 fantasy receiver in Oakland. With 83 receptions on 132 targets for 1,153 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 155.8 fantasy points; Cooper held his own weight. Even with the respectable numbers, his 2nd round ADP was not even close to the value of Crabtree in the 7th in 2016. You are getting more fantasy points for a player drafted 4 or 5 rounds later, it’s a no brainer that Crabtree is the better value option and a fantasy football difference maker.
Even with two seasons in a row of finishing as the better fantasy receiver, Michael Crabtree’s current ADP for 2017 is in the 4th round. That’s 2 rounds behind his teammate Amari Cooper, who is currently going at the back of the 2nd. So, for half the price, you are actually getting slightly better production out of your draft pick. That being the case, instead of taking Cooper in the second and banking on him to have his breakout year, (in all fairness he absolutely could) take a top tier player and then get better production from Crabtree 2 rounds later than you would have out of Cooper. Some of the players being drafted around Amari are, T.Y. Hilton, Jay Ajayi, and Dez Bryant. I would advise taking all of those players before Cooper.
Let’s take a look at some of the other players Michael Crabtree has out performed in fantasy since he has been in Oakland. In doing so, I hope we can gain a better understanding of the impact an undervalued player like Michael Crabtree can make for your fantasy team. Not only with the numbers he is capable of putting on the board, but the ability it gives you to fill your roster with depth of higher tier players.
Since he joined the Raiders 2015, Crabtree has posted 174 receptions 1,925 yards, 17 touchdowns and 302.5 fantasy points through 32 games. Below is a list of players that have had comparable fantasy performances since 2015. Now, I am not saying to NOT draft these players. These guys are players you could draft earlier than Crabtree with the idea of adding him later, knowing, for the production, you are getting the same caliber player at a value. This adds depth with tremendous upside to your roster.
Michael Crabtree’s current ADP is 5.01.
Amari Cooper, ADP: 2.08
Games Played: 32
We have already talked in depth about Cooper’s production and value in comparison with Crabtree, I would not recommend drafting both of these receivers, but I would want the WR1 on the team and that isn’t Amari. Take T.Y. Hilton or a stud running back in the second round instead then you get Crabtree as a stud WR2 for your team all season long.
Dez Bryant, ADP: 2.06
Games Played: 22
Bryant is a monster athlete and we have seen him be an elite fantasy receiver for multiple years. From 2012 to 2014, Bryant racked up 273 receptions for 3,935 yards, 41 touchdowns, and 641.7 fantasy points. Bryant is capable of being an absolute animal. The past couple, however, he has struggled with injury issues, quarterback changes, and some off field attention allowing Crabtree to outpace him. In defense of Dez, he played in 10 less games than Crab in the last two seasons, but this only speaks more to the value of Crabtree in my opinion. You are not only getting the output, but you are getting the consistent 16 game seasons to go along with it. If you wanna snag Dez in the second, because he can always give you that 1,300+ yard, double digit touchdown season; I am cool with that. Pair him with Crabtree in the back of the fourth – top of the fifth round, and you could be the owner of one of the best WR duos out there.
Alshon Jeffery, ADP: 3.07
Games Played: 21
There is a definitely a sort of cult following for Alshon Jeffery and I totally understand why. The guy has had his share of success as a fantasy receiver. 6’ 3” 218 lbs, he is the prototype for a wide receiver and can absolutely be an elite player. The hang up on Alshon, is the consistency. He struggles with injury, misses games, and can turn out to be more of headache than an asset to your fantasy roster. In five seasons with the Chicago Bears, Jeffery only played two 16 game seasons. To add to our woes, he only reached a double digit touchdown total once in his career and has only two seasons over 1,000 yards receiving. He made the move to Philadelphia in the offseason and he projects to be the clear WR1 for the Eagles, but his inconsistency makes him a scary draft pick all the way up in the third round for me; I would rather get a player who has a better chance to pay all 16 games if I am taking him that early. Solidify the running back position here then grab Crabtree a few rounds later. You won’t be disappointed.
A.J. Green, ADP: 1.09
Games Played: 26
Before I go further into this, remember one thing very clearly…If you are picking in the back of the first round, TAKE A.J. GREEN. He is one of, if not the top receiver in the entire league when he is on the field. This guy is a freak show of talent and he produces big play after big play, consistently. He is going to give you production so draft him, please. Since his rookie season in 2011 he has only eclipsed 1,000 yards every year, except 2016. He has been pretty consistent health wise, last season was his smallest number of games played in his career at 10 games, but he still had 964 yards. His touchdown totals can fluctuate and so can his targets, I still take him every time he is on the board late in the first round of drafts. Despite being the stud receiver he has been, Green has only scored 20.7 more fantasy points than Crabtree since he has been in Oakland. Again, to me this speaks volumes for the value you are getting out of Michael Crabtree at the back of the fourth round. Like Dez Bryant, pairing Green with Crabtree could turn out to be a deadly combination for your opponents, and a championship winning duo for you.
Since coming to Oakland, Michael Crabtree has been a huge part of their offense, he has been a consistent fantasy performer and possesses huge upside. Getting a player that has held his own among the game’s best receivers, in the late fourth and early fifth round is what makes Crabtree one of the best value picks in drafts in recent years. You have a potential WR1 that can be counted on to be healthy week after week, slotted in your WR2 spot behind the fantasy stud you were able to grab in the early rounds. Knowing Crabtree will be there to add strong support to your roster later on, allows you to solidify the scarce running back position early on and know you will have strength from the much deeper wide receiver pool when he falls to you with an absurdly late pick. Whether or not his value remains, only time can tell, but if history holds true, you cannot go wrong adopting the safety net that is Michael Crabtree, when making those first few, crucial picks of your draft this season. Get on board now, because I doubt this value will last as Crabtree continues to outperform his ADP.