Fooch's Update: Joyner got back to me. Crabtree had 48 targets against red/yellow rated CBs.
ESPN "Insider" K.C. Joyner provides a variety of analysis behind their paid wall, combining various statistical measurements to break down the NFL. In his most recent post, he came up with the term "matchup-buster" to break down wide receivers.
A matchup-buster is a wide receiver that hauled in relatively high yards per attempt against cornerbacks that gave up relatively low yards per attempt. The cornerbacks included were rated by Joyner as red- and yellow-rated cornerbacks. A cornerback with a red rating is defined as allowing a YPA total of less than 7 yards. A yellow rating is defined as allowing a YPA total of 7-9 yards.
The top rated matchup-buster wide receivers tallied a YPA of 10+ yards against these red and yellow corners and included four receivers (Vincent Jackson, Victor Cruz, Steve Smith, and Mike Wallace). The next level tallied a YPA of 8-10 yards and included eight receivers (Laurent Robinson, Antonio Brown, Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, Torrey Smith, Nate Washington, Pierre Garcon, Calvin Johnson).
Our own Michael Crabtree was in the honorable mention category, with a 7.1 YPA against red and yellow corners. Other receivers in this honorable mention category included Brandon Marshall, AJ Green, Hakeem Nicks, Dwayne Bowe and Steve Johnson.
In trying to assess the performance of players, I look at it as trying to piece together a puzzle without all the pieces. We will never have a complete picture of a player's performance for several reasons. Among others, we don't know the nuances of the offensive and defensive play-calls involved on a single play, we don't have access to the all-22 film, and we don't know who, if any players, made mistakes in their particular assignment. Accordingly, it should be hard to get too positive or too negative about a given player based on our limited information.
Nonetheless, we can take difference pieces of the puzzle and build at least a partial picture. I view this stat as a piece of the puzzle. The article does not state how many attempts went at Crabtree or how many times he faced red- and yellow-rated corners. I tweeted KC Joyner to see what additional info I can get, and if he responds I'll add an update. But when you're mixed in with this group of receivers, I am willing to take that at face value as not too shabby.
Crabtree took a step forward this past year in his development, and stats like this serve as some measure of evidence towards that conclusion. I believe he still has tremendous potential and hopefully he can continue moving up lists like this as the seasons progress.