STADIUM STATUS

2009 Draft Rewind: DHB vs. Crabtree

Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.”

— Joe Theismann

Good call Joe. You certainly proved your own point.

The term genius can apply to numerous minds in the NFL: Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, the Rooney family, Peyton Manning, a young Al Davis and Bill Walsh to name a few. Still, the term genius is a very loose term and a subjective one at that.

Sadly, the two Bay Area franchises are far from anything “genius” at their current state(s).

After numerous failed free agency periods, disappointing drafts and coaching carousals that would make the Minnesota Timberwolves jealous, both franchises are in a state of flux. The Raiders mainly for being still owned by Al Davis and the Niners for still riding the Alex Smith train to nowhere.

There were numerous moves that contributed to both team’s current situations. One of the biggest moves that will forever link the two franchises is the 2009 draft.

The Raiders were coming off Jamarcus Russell’s first full season as the starter. They just drafted Darren McFadden…and then quickly lost him to injury. Their WR corps consisted of Ronald Curry, Javon Walker and Ashley Lelie (I couldn’t make that up). They’re offensive line corps was atrocious. DeAngelo Hall, just signing a 7 year, $70 million deal with $24 million guaranteed, was cut 8 games into the season. The infamous “projector room” was the highlight of Lane Kiffin’s firing just 4 games in. They hired a Cable guy who was later found hosting women in his hotel rooms on road games.  And did I mention Jamarcus Russell started fifteen games? They finished with a 5-11 record.

The 49ers were coming off an Alex Smith-less season. After being diagnosed with a broken bone in training camp Smith was placed on injured reserve and thus paved the way for a J.T. O’Sullivan/Shaun Hill platoon at the QB position. Their WR corps consisted of recently signed Isaac Bruce, Bryant Johnson and the always reliable Arnaz Battle (Still one of the coolest names in sports history by the way). Nate Clements was in the 2nd year of his 8 year, $80 million deal ($22 million of that guaranteed). Mike Martz was in the first (and only) year of his “My Offense is Way Too Complicated for Any QB on the Roster but I’ll Try It Anyway” system. The Mike Nolan era came to a re-sounding end and Mr. Pants on the Ground became interim coach. The Vernon Davis benching, halftime strip show and infamous “I WANT WINNERS!” speech soon followed. The team finished with a 7-9 record.

Whew. Those were the good ol’ days huh? Where to begin? Both teams had so many holes to fill the kids at Camp Green Lake were jealous (If anyone gets that reference they will forever hold a place in my heart by the way). Both needed talent wherever they could get it, but the biggest area of need was on the offensive side of the ball. Both needing talent at the skilled positions, there was one player on everyone’s radar.

Michael Crabtree was arguably the best offensive player in the country while at Texas Tech. Originally slated as the #1 overall pick, Crabtree was 2X First Team All American, 2X winner of the Biletnikoff Award and 2X winner of the Paul Warfield Trophy. In other words, he was easily the best receiver in the country and arguably the best offensive talent in college football. Crabtree was a perfect fit for most teams in the league, let alone the lowly Raiders and 49ers. The Raiders had to dodge 6 picks and the 49ers had to dodge 9. Both seemed like longshots to grab the prize at the time.

 

 

The first six picks went by…and Crabtree was still on the board. “YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” was the word every Raiders fan said after the Bengals choice of Andre Smith. That “YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” quickly turned into a “WHAT THE FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  The Raiders, instead of choosing the premier offensive talent in the country, chose 2008 All ACC Honorable Mention and Biletnikoff Award watch list member Darrius Heyward Bay.  We knew Al Davis liked speed but even that pick shocked the world. The only man on the face of the Earth who predicted the pick was Mike Mayock of NFL Network. I remember reading that exact mock draft and saying “No way…I never even heard of that guy.” Mike Mayock will forever have my respect from now on because of it.

Two more picks came and went and the offensive prize of the draft was still on the board. After picking Patrick Willis and Vernon Davis in 2 of the 3 previous drafts it seemed the 49ers found another gem. This time it fell right on their lap. The “Faithful” couldn’t be happier and the “Nation” couldn’t be more depressed. For each Raiders fan having nightmares of the Heyward Bay pick there was a 49er fan dreaming of what would come with Crabtree.

It’s been two full seasons since that draft and what first seemed like a lob-sided victory for the 49ers has since become a little more interesting of a debate.

DHB:


Receiving

Year

Age

Tm

Pos

No.

G

GS

Rec

Yds

Y/R

TD

Lng

R/G

Y/G

2009

22

OAK WR

12

11

11

9

124

13.8

1

24

0.8

11.3

2010

23

OAK WR

85

15

14

26

366

14.1

1

69

1.7

24.4

Career

26

25

35

490

14.0

2

69

1.3

18.8

Crabtree:

Receiving

Year

Age

Tm

Pos

No.

G

GS

Rec

Yds

Y/R

TD

Lng

R/G

Y/G

2009

22

SFO WR

15

11

11

48

625

13.0

2

50

4.4

56.8

2010

23

SFO WR

15

16

15

55

741

13.5

6

60

3.4

46.3

Career

27

26

103

1366

13.3

8

60

3.8

50.6

“Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.”

                                                             — Jay-Z

The Crabtree era didn’t get off to a promising start with the receiver holding out the first 5 games of the season due to contract negotiations. The words “Crabtree” and “prima donna” seem to go hand in hand these days. Crabtree still has yet to compete in a full training camp or pre-season through his three year career. His rookie season he was holding out, his second year due to an undisclosed injury and this year due to a foot injury.

Both have missed games due to injury, both expected to rejuvenate hindered offenses and both have been disappointing through their young careers.

Is it entirely their fault? No. Both receivers have had suspect QB situations: Heyward Bay had Russell, Charlie Frye, Bruce Gradkowski and now Jason Campbell throwing him the ball. Crabtree had Shaun Hill and Alex Smith chucking him wobblers. Both had very questionable offensive lines to fight through. Both had to ride the coaching carousels their franchises put them through. Both had dis-concerning front offices to play for.

So who won the battle of the 2009 draft: the Raiders or the 49ers?

The question still stands, but the answer so far is Crabtree. Heyward Bay has yet to show any signs of becoming a quality wide receiver. His suspect hands in college have shown in the pro’s and even though he was the 7th overall pick in 2009, late round choices such as Louis Murphy and Jacoby Ford have already passed him on the depth chart. Zach Miller has left the team, but that doesn’t mean more balls will go DHB’s way. The Raiders quickly signed former New York Giant TE Kevin Boss and is a very formidable replacement and catching option to Miller.  Miller is still the better player, but I foresee at least a few TD’s for Boss this coming season.

Heyward Bay still has the speed, but as every person that watches the NFL except Al Davis knows: speed alone doesn’t equal quality. Davis has gotten lucky in the past with speedsters such as Jacoby Ford and Stanford Routt (and soon Denarius Moore), but for the most part Davis’ logic of “speed first, talent later” has flopped. DHB just doesn’t seem to be in sync with any QB he has had. At some point you know if a player is good or not, if he makes plays. Has Heyward Bay made any plays through his two seasons? Has he shown any signs of earning the position in which he was drafted in? No and no.

Crabtree’s situation at QB hasn’t been much better. Shaun Hill and Alex Smith aren’t really the barn burners you see yourself catching touchdowns from when you imagine yourself in the NFL. But what makes Crabtree better than DHB at this point is his signs of actually becoming a quality NFL player. Crabtree doesn’t have 4.2 speed, but he has good hands, can run tight routes and can make QB’s (lackluster ones at that) look pretty good at times. No one can question Crabtree’s talent, but it’s his dedication and work ethic that can be.

Many see Crabtree as a quasi-T.O, a great talent that comes with a bunch of baggage.  T.O. also is a top 10 WR and future Hall of Famer, so comparing stats would be pointless at this point. But you can’t deny Crabtree’s “Me first” mentality at this point in his career, very much like a Terrell Owens had.  The 49ers hope Crabtree can turn into half the player T.O. was. There still is time, and whether Crabtree turns into that player on the 49ers is another question, but the talent is there. The same can’t be said for Heyward Bay.

I don’t see Heyward Bay becoming a quality receiver in the NFL. Sure he has talent, but so does every player in the NFL. Does he have as much talent as his cross-Bay counterpart? No way. Whereas Crabtree’s ceiling is numerous Pro Bowl’s and 1,000 yard seasons, Heyward Bay’s ceiling is a quality #2 option and 500 yard seasons. That could change of course, DHB could turn into the second coming of Santonio Holmes and Crabtree can turn into another Charles Rogers. But for now, Crabtree is clearly the better player, clearly has the brighter future and clearly was the better pick in 2009.

—Jordan

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2 responses

  1. Great write-up man!

    I completely agree with you. Crabtree’s ceiling is higher and his stats have obviously been better so far.
    Crabtree has huge potential and hopefully running slants for Jim Harbaugh will help him live up to it. Not only that, but Crabtree will have Braylon Edwards running opposite to him, so that should help him a lot, considering he won’t have to face the #1 cornerback on each play.

    As a 49ers fan I expect big things from Crabtree this season, I know he’s a prima-donna, but what wide-receiver isn’t?

    August 20, 2011 at 10:15 PM

    • Thanks for the read!

      You’re right, most WR’s are prima donna’s, but the one’s who don’t show it tend to be the best. Guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne, Greg Jennings, Andre Johnson & Roddy White are very humble guys. TO, DeSean Jackson, Ochocinco & Dez Bryant all show it and have suffered either on the field or off it because of it. All talented but the prima donna’s sometimes never reach their full potential.

      August 23, 2011 at 1:56 AM

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