Combine height: 6-1
Combine weight: 215 pounds
Combine 40 time: Did not run at Combine
Crabtree’s numbers actually fell off from his freshman to sophomore season, but he still caught 97 balls for 1,165 yards and 19 touchdowns. For his two-year Texas Tech career, Crabtree posted 231 receptions for 3,127 yards and 41 touchdowns.
Despite just a two-year career, Crabtree’s productivity is undeniable; his gaudy stats and back-to-back Biletnikoff Awards are testament to that. He has good size, though he measured a little shorter than expected at the Combine, and he’s strong and physical much like Anquan Boldin. Crabtree’s ball skills are legendary, as he consistently battled double coverage and came away with the football. His hands are excellent—Crabtree caught 94 percent of passes thrown to him, according to The Sporting News—and he has both the strength to break tackles and the elusiveness to avoid them once he makes the grab.
Since Crabtree’s recent foot surgery won’t allow him to run a timed 40 prior to draft day, the biggest question he’ll face will be his speed. He wasn’t going to run a 4.3 anyway, and his numbers suggest he has plenty of game speed, but scouts do have concerns about his lack of explosiveness off the line of scrimmage. Crabtree was able to successfully battle press coverage and gain separation in college, but he didn’t run a full array of routes in Texas Tech’s offense and will need to refine his route-running at the next level. The other ticky-tack quibbles—he carries the ball loosely after the catch and his downfield blocking needs work—aren’t the kind of factors that will put a significant crimp in his draft day value.
It’s possible that Crabtree’s injury and inability to run a 40 prior to the draft may knock him out of the top five, though more likely the Seahawks’ signing of T.J. Houshmandzadeh will have just as much to do with any such slide. It’s still possible Crabtree—a perfect fit for the WCO—could still go to Seattle at 4, and if the Browns deal Braylon Edwards they may opt to replace him with Crabtree at 5. The Bengals at 6 are also an option, thanks in no small part to Housh’s journey west, and the Raiders never met a playmaker they didn’t like—plus, their need for help at the receiver position is glaring. The Jaguars at 8 could use Crabtree’s playmaking abilities as well, but even on the heels of his foot surgery (no pun intended) it would be a surprise if he’s still on the board at that point.
You know the drill about rookie receivers rarely making an immediate splash, but the silver lining is that the ones who do have success right away tend to be the bigger receivers like Boldin and Marques Colston. And of Crabtree’s potential landing sites in the NFL, you’d have to like his chances if he has Matt Hasselbeck or Carson Palmer throwing the ball his way; the excitement might diminish if it’s Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson, or JaMarcus Russell. The key to decent first-year production for Crabtree might be how much of his drafting team’s rookie minicamp he’s able to attend following his rehab from foot surgery. If route-running is Crabtree’s biggest hurdle at the NFL level, getting an early start on honing that skill would go a long way towards making sure he’s getting quality looks in his first pro season.
When it comes to dynasty leaguers, there may actually be fewer concerns. Crabtree’s foot surgery may dampen his year one impact but shouldn’t hinder his career, and you have to believe that the more refined his route-running becomes the better he’ll be. Of the teams lined up to select Crabtree, two already have Pro Bowl quarterbacks and two more have first-round picks who have at least shown glimpses of developing into legitimate NFL passers, so he should find himself in an offense that can take advantage of his skills. Ultimately, there are plenty of reasons to think Crabtree’s career will be more Boldin-esque than Mike Williams-like, and he’ll be one of the first rookies off the board in most dynasty leagues.