Speed Bump 20 - Michael Crabtree vs the Giants WRs
Posted Aug. 14 at 01:06 PM
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With poll #20 of 30 we get back to wide receiver, examining two more of what looks to be a legendary draft class from 2009 in Michael Crabtee and Hakeem Nicks, plus Nicks' teammate Steve Smith, whose 107 receptions was 2nd in the NFL last year to only Wes Welker. The odds of getting all the polls correct will surpass one in a trillion with the next poll.
After a lengthy holdout, Michael Crabtree enters year two after what ended being a very successful rookie season. After off-season surgery because of a stress fracture in his left foot, two months of rehabilitation, missing all of training camp and the first five games of the year, Crabtree nonetheless collected 5 balls for 56 yards right out of the gate, and averaged 4.4 receptions and 57 yards per game in the last 11 weeks of the season (with a fairly solid 13.0 YPC average). With no camp, and coming from a college spread offense Crabtree put up a season pace of 70 catches, 909 yards as a rookie. Crabtree has unique skills. He won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the top NCAA receiver as a redshirt freshman and sophomore, collecting 231 passes for 3,127 yards and 41 TDs in just two seasons as a starter in college. He quickly had 86 targets last year - a season pace for 125 which would have been 17th best in the NFL and more than Miles Austin or Sidney Rice had. Here's an interesting stat – per Fantasy Index, Crabtree didn't have a SINGLE target inside the 10-yard line (out of 22 attempts for the Niners). You can bet he will this year with a training camp under his belt. Can Michael Crabtree take down either and both of the Giants WRs?
While Steve Smith was not much of a big-play (he only had two plays of 40+ yards last year and averages 10.8 YPC over his 3-year career), the "other Steve Smith" actually totaled more receptions in a single season than Carolina's Steve Smith ever has in nine NFL seasons. With 157 targets, only Andre Johnson, Roddy White and Wes Welker had more passes thrown their way last year. Last season very well could be Smith's ceiling but after catching a studly 71% of his targets he surely will be a main target for Eli Manning; Smith helped Manning get to his first-ever 4,000-yard season, plus being the #8 PPR WR as he was last year is nothing to sneeze at. Smith also has incentive for another big year as he's in the final year of his original rookie contract and will earn a relatively paltry $550K (although he could get a deal done prior to the season ending). Smith set the Giants' franchise record for receptions in a season last year and his yardage total was higher than Plaxico Burress was able to accomplish as a Giant.
Currently with an ADP of the first pick in the 5th round (the 17th WR off of the board) Hakeem Nicks is the longshot of the group here marginally speaking but certainly capable of holding his own we suspect. Nicks finished his rookie season with 47 receptions, 790 yards and 6 TDs. Nicks started off slow last year with an ankle sprain in Week 1 and missed Weeks 2 and 3, but starting in week 4 Nicks was the #27th best fantasy WR through the end of the season. Per Fantasy Index, at one point last year Nicks had a reception of 25+ yards in six straight games - no one else from last season can make that claim. Nicks also had a TD in 4 straight games at one point and also collected two 100-yard games. Nicks' 16.8 YPC was best among the elite rookie WR class from last year (minimum 40 receptions), despite playing with a broken toe and injured wrist, each of which required off-season surgery, and his average TD distance came from 42 yards last year.
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