After passing up on Michael Crabtree in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders are seeing that was a big mistake eight years later.
With the seventh overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders selected Darrius Heyward-Bey from the University of Maryland. While a solid talent, possessing the kind of attributes the Raiders loved to draft at that time, many felt he was the wrong choice at No. 7. The reason was another wide receiver available in that draft, one who is now the most consistent wideout on their current roster.
That man was Michael Crabtree, who had an absolutely explosive career at Texas Tech, but also had question marks heading into the draft. In February 2009, it was revealed he had a Jones fracture, and would be forced to miss his pro day at Texas Tech. This scared off some teams, as a Jones fracture requires a screw to be inserted into the foot.
Despite that, Crabtree would go three picks later to the San Francisco 49ers, adding even more insult to the Raiders passing him over. While his career with the 49ers was not as great as many expected, he did help them get to a Super Bowl. However, it has been his work across the Bay that has made him one of the best players at his position in the league.
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Crabtree finished up his 49ers career after the 2014 NFL regular season, where the team made it to the NFC Championship Game. In the final seconds, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw to Crabtree, who was double-covered, and the ball was tipped by Richard Sherman. Malcolm Smith would come down with the interception, sealing the game for the Seahawks, and ending Crabtree’s tenure in San Francisco.
That April, Crabtree would sign with the Raiders, a move that was only six years in the making. Inking a one-year, $3.2 million dollar deal, Crabtree joined rookie Amari Cooper in the starting lineup, giving second-year quarterback Derek Carr two elite weapons on the outside. While Oakland’s record was nothing to write home about, the scene was set for the 2016 season, where Crabtree would play a huge role in the Raiders 12-4 campaign.
For only the second time in his career, Crabtree went over 1,000 yards receiving, finishing second on the team in yards, while leading the team in receptions at 89. He also grabbed eight touchdowns, giving him 17 over the past two seasons. That was by far the most of any Raider in that span. The combination of Cooper and Crabtree has become arguably the best in the conference, and they should be in for another big season in 2017.
Who knows what would have happened if the Raiders selected Crabtree back in 2009? With the struggles the team was going through back then at quarterback, it could have made for a toxic environment for the youngster. Maybe it was a good thing that he spent the first part of his career with the 49ers? He did reach the playoffs in three of his first six seasons. He has brought incredible leadership to the Raiders, and has really taken players like Cooper, Seth Roberts, and former Raider Andre Holmes under his wing.
Eight years ago, Crabtree was a young wideout from Texas Tech with question marks all over him. Now, the only question mark is how is he going to impact the game, as he has shown a propensity for the big play ever since putting on the Silver and Black for the first time back in 2015. Lots of Raiders fans, myself included, questioned taking Heyward-Bey over Crabtree back in 2009, but Crab has proven to be well worth the wait as the Raiders look for their first title since 1983.
With all the excitement around Raiders training camp this year, Crabtree has been a bit on the quiet side. However, he has brought passion to every practice, and has been the consummate role model for the younger players. You have to believe that this Raiders offense is going to be special this season, and for Crabtree, it could mean a third season over 1,000 yards receiving, with a possible trip to his second Super Bowl on the horizon.