Few can deny that Michael Crabtree had a great season in 2012, spilling over into 2013 for the post-season, including an excellent performance in an otherwise disappointing Super Bowl. I'm actually in favor of extending his contract as soon as possible, in fact, before he duplicates or exceeds last season's numbers and seeks an exorbitant amount of money...both of which I think are very likely to happen.
Still some may not consider Crabtree a top-flight NFL wide receiver. They'll cite his lack of deep speed, or the fact that he's not as tall as an Andre Johnson, etc. But what almost everyone knows about the NFL is that first downs and touchdowns are what matter most. If you can't keep the chains moving, or score points, there's no way you'll go far in this league.
That's why ProFootballFocus.com's recent post on wide receivers who excel at first down and/or touchdown productivity (expressed as 1DTD per route run) is so telling of how good Crabtree is. This isn't a subjective stat, either. It's simply dividing the number of passing routes run by how many catches for a first down or touchdown a receiver had. The result should be read as: receiver had a first down or touchdown every X.X routes he ran.
Keep in mind this is routes, not catches. Some of his routes the ball goes to another player, there is a sack, etc. It really speaks to productivity because it looks at every passing play in which the receiver was on the field whatsoever. It also goes beyond catches per route run because catching a 1 yard pass every time wouldn't help the team much.
So on to the results, which have Crabtree as the NFL's fourth best in 1DTD/route run. Crabtree had 57 first downs or touchdowns in 433 routes he ran, good for 13.16%. Another way of looking at it is that he got a first down or touchdown every 7.6 routes he ran, which again, includes passes that didn't even go his way, or were never thrown due to a sack.
Below is part of the list. To check out the whole thing, please visit PFF's site, which is full of other valuable content.