Putting Michael Crabtree's breakout year in perspective

Harry How

Michael Crabtree had his best season in 2012/2013, but it's even more impressive when you look at some key numbers.

Michael Crabtree didn't have the ball thrown his way that much in 2012. What?? Yep, it's true. Despite having far-and-away his best receiving season to date, he did it with very few opportunities. That's what makes it so impressive. Talk about productive, efficient, making the most of your chances...well, Crabtree did.

Mike Sando posted on Crabtree's rise into the realm of NFL elite receivers, and brought up some good points in the post. Among the stats he posted were side-by-sides between Crabtree and Falcons wideouts Roddy White and Julio Jones. The numbers are striking.

White led the group with 97 receptions, Crabtree nipping at his heels with 94 catches of his own. Jones checked-in with 85 grabs. Crabtree and Jones had similar yardage totals at just over 1,200 but the most amazing thing about what Crabtree accomplished statistically is that he did so with around 200 fewer routes-run.

Whereas White ran 585 routes, Jones ran 526, Crabtree was in a pass pattern just 356 times through week 19. That equates to a ridiculous "one catch per 4 routes-run" ratio. On catches, Crabtree has an average of 13.0 yards per reception, no short-yardage receiver here.

Now, you could say that Crabtree get's all of the looks whereas Atlanta spreads the ball around, and you'd be right...but it's still remarkable that even though teams know he's getting the ball, he still get's his catches, yards, first downs, and touchdowns, despite the predictability of it all.

Crabtree has really come-on in the last seven weeks of the season (including playoffs), too. He had 44 catches for 657 yards receiving on just 118 routes, compared to 30/424/176 by White and 32/374/175 for Jones. He also led the group in average per reception with 14.9. Those numbers work out to a catch nearly every three routes run.

While Crabtree may be getting more yards after the catch, does anyone really care where the yards come from, or just that the ball is spotted at the same place no matter if it's thrown in the air a long ways or run down the field after the reception?? I don't hear anyone complaining about Wes Welker's YAC, do you?

Clearly Colin Kaepernick and Crabtree are on the same page, too, with many throws coming in on the back-shoulder, in tight coverage where only Crabtree can make the catch, etc. You can also see their celebrations after touchdowns and their sideline demeanor, too. There's no mistaking that these guys have enormous chemistry.

Still I think that the Atlanta game could be a quieter game for Crabtree with focus on stopping him a likely key for the Falcons' defense. It should be the perfect time to take advantage of the young receiver's past dominance by getting others involved, guys who could find themselves wide open with attention on number 15.

Perhaps this is the game where Vernon Davis or Randy Moss steal the spotlight? Fine by me. Just win. But if that's the case, we can't forget what made it all possible: a scrappy, hard-working wide receiver who many thought would end-up a bust...but instead he bust-ed through in 2012.

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