Michael Crabtree Is Overvalued in Fantasy Football
Not too many people are writing articles about how phenomenal Michael Crabtree is at football.
Fantasy football players also seem to believe that Crabtree is plenty useful, as quantified by the fact that his current average draft position (ADP) is toward the end of the fourth round in standard 12-team leagues. That's ahead of theoretically sexier names, such as Allen Robinson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Stefon Diggs.
But you know what? Heading into the 2017 campaign, Crabtree is overvalued.
He's Not Efficient
Crabtree's decent touchdown output -- we're talking eight scores in 2016 and nine the year prior -- has masked the fact that he's been a highly inefficient receiver.
During his two years in Oakland, Crabtree has averaged 6.62 yards per target, as compared to teammate Amari Cooper's 8.48 yards per target mark over that same span. And while Cooper's Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) per target in 2016 was just barely above league average at 0.68, Crabtree's 0.66 mark was exactly league average. The fact that he led the NFL in drops last season doesn't exactly add to his luster, either.
He Might Not See the Ball
Scott Barrett of Pro Football Focus has shown that inefficient receivers typically see a decline in volume the following year. Considering how ineffective Crabtree was with his targets in 2016, he's a prime candidate for regression.
Then there's that Cooper fella.
While fantasy owners may have been disappointed in Cooper's production through two seasons due to his underwhelming touchdown output -- five in 2016 and six in 2015 -- they can take solace in the fact that he ranks ninth in NFL history in receiving yards through a player’s first two seasons.
None of Cooper's touchdowns last season came in the red zone, while Crabtree hauled in six inside the 20, a gap that should close this coming year. Cooper bulked up this offseason, and weight historically has correlated positively with red zone efficiency. He could also take that typical third-year leap at the wide receiver position, and as Cooper improves, he might well siphon red zone targets and touchdowns from Crabtree.
He'll Be Playing Alongside a Real Tight End
Last season, the Raiders had the third-fewest percentage of targets directed at the tight end, as well as the fifth-worst usage rate in the red zone. This should change with the signing of former Green Bay Packer, Jared Cook.
While health issues ruined what might have been a true breakout campaign in Green Bay, Cook was counted on when it mattered most -- he received at least nine targets in each of the Packers' three playoff games, and could see similar usage to Oakland.
Quarterback Derek Carr has reportedly been targeting Cook often in practice, and head coach Jack Del Rio publicly expressed his desire to get the tight end more involved in the passing game. If the tight end becomes a staple of Oakland's aerial attack, the wide receiver group, including Crabtree, will likely have fewer targets to work with.
He'll Face Some Really Good Secondaries
The Raiders' strength of schedule this year does not help Crabtree's cause, either. In terms of pass defenses they'll face, they'll have to navigate the second-hardest schedule. Those defensive units are especially stingy to outside wide receivers, which is yet another red flag for Crabtree -- he played just 17.4% of his snaps at the slot in 2016.
Thanks to his efficiency issues, a potential decrease targets, likely growth from a star teammate, an upgrade at tight end, and a brutal schedule, it sure feels like this is the first time there's a legitimate shot of Crabtree underperforming his current ADP with the Raiders.