1. He's the best player on the board.
I've never heard an NFL GM or scout say, "We had a huge hole to fill and reached a little bit on John Doe." But chances are if you've tuned into the NFL Network's coverage of this year's Combine (or the Draft), you'll hear every front office representative preach about their belief in choosing a player's value over their team's need. Just wait until April 25th and count the times you hear someone say, "He was the highest player on our board". College kids are probably making a drinking game out of it right now.
Ultimately, teams do reach for players, but I'm of the opinion that you must stay true to your Draft board unless you're absolutely convinced that you're only one player away from turning your franchise into a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The Seahawks certainly aren't only one player away from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy over their heads, but this year is different. Crabtree is both the best player on the board and he also fills a need for the Seahawks.
Media Draft "experts" (Mel Kiper, Mike Mayock, Todd McShay, Rob Rang, etc) all have Crabtree listed as the best player in this year's Draft. That in itself means nothing, but it's very rare that all of them agree as to who the best player in the Draft is. You can bet that all NFL teams aren't of this opinion, but I believe that most of them are. If Michael Crabtree is the highest rated player on Seattle's board, they should take him.
We don't know where Seattle has Crabtree rated and going on the opinions of people like Mel Kiper Jr. isn't how you build a franchise.
Seattle isn't worried about whether or not the media likes their pick. They're going to take the best player available at #4 and if that's Crabtree, they'll take him.
2. Production and
Each player should be judged largely on what they do on the field. If that's the case, Crabtree should be a no-brainer for Seattle. He's racked up 231 catches, 3,127 yards and 41 TDs the past two seasons and was given the Biletnikoff Award (NCAA's best WR) in both years. At just over 6'1" 214, he has very solid size, but it's his leaping ability and ball skills that make him truly special.
He often catches the ball at its highest point, out leaps defenders and isn't afraid of going over the middle. Crabtree catches the ball with his hands and rarely lets it get into his body. He makes the difficult catch look easy and is explosive in and out of his routes. And despite his lack of elite speed, Crabtree can get deep and also does damage with the ball in his hands.
His stats are nice, but he comes from a pass-happy offense that inflates offensive numbers. How sure are we that he would have put up those kinds of numbers anywhere else?
Crabtree's numbers were definitely inflated, but talent is talent. He would be the best WR on any team in the country. His numbers may not have been as big as they are at Texas Tech, but he'd still be the same player and would likely have tremendous production.
3. 4.3 speed isn't
necessary to be a success in the NFL.
I can't think of a single person who wouldn't agree that Arizona's receiving tandem of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin aren't among the most dominant players at their position in the league. But does anyone remember their 40 times? I do. Fitzgerald ran a pedestrian 4.63 and Boldin was outrun be several linebackers at 4.72. So how are two of the NFL's best so good? The answer is ball skills, separation and run-after-catch ability. Fitzgerald has the best ball skills in the NFL, constantly catching passes in traffic and while double and even triple-teamed.
Boldin also has good ball skills, but he's extremely physical, pushing over smaller DBs and using his stiff arm as a weapon. However, both are able to do something that the stopwatch can't measure- get separation from defenders. Fitzgerald and Boldin know how to run routes and set up defenders to create the space necessary to get open. And as long as you can get open, you can have success in this league. Remember, Jerry Rice was never a "fast" receiver and all he did was become the greatest WR to ever lace 'em up.
Boldin and Fitzgerald are excellent players, but if I'm going to spend the 4th overall pick on a guy, I want him to be able to turn on the jets like Steve Smith or Andre Johnson. You also have to look into the future a bit. If Crabtree isn't very fast now, how fast is he going to be as the years go by, and maybe after an injury or two?
This is Fitzgerald's 5th season and he's had some injuries. All he is right now is the best receiver in the league. Like Fitzgerald, Crabtree's timed speed probably won't increase, but he'll be a better player after experience and with NFL coaching. The tape doesn't lie. This kid is the real deal.
4. Dominant WRs go
early. If Seattle has a chance to get one, they should.
What do Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson have in common? They're all dominant receivers and they were all selected in the first three picks of their Draft classes. Crabtree has been compared to Fitzgerald by many scouts and if Seattle has the chance to get a game-breaking WR like that, they should absolutely do it. Unlike most teams that are drafting in the top-5, Seattle is a playoff team (when healthy). Next year's team shouldn't have the same health problems and the opportunity to get a player like this won't come around again for a long time.
What do Carlos Rogers, Troy Williamson, Mike Williams and Reggie Williams have in common? They're all busts that were taken in the top-10. Taking a WR that early is extremely risky. Why not trade down, get some extra picks and grab someone like Roddy White, Dwayne Bowe or Santonio Holmes?
It's impossibly for a team to know where they'll be drafting in the future, so banking on that is never a good idea. I would have traded future #1's with Atlanta or Miami last year, thinking they'd again be a selecting in the top-10, but look how they turned out this year. Grabbing a solid WR later in the Draft would be great, but there are busts later in Round 1 just as there are in the top-10. Rashaun Woods, Michael Clayton, Robert Meachem, Bryant Johnson and Ashley Lelie were all mid-to-late Round 1 picks that didn't pan out. You have to trust your board and get the best player at that pick.
5. Seattle doesn't
have a single offensive player that opposing defenses have to game plan for.
Crabtree would instantly be the best WR on the team and a player that scares
As I look at Seattle's offense, I don't see anyone that opposing teams need to focus on stopping in order to win the game. Gone are the days of Steve Largent, Joey Galloway or Shaun Alexander with a dominant offensive line in front of him. Seattle's WRs are small, often injured and lack game breaking skills.
If the Seahawks offense is ever going to be great again, adding a player like Crabtree is a huge step in the right direction. From day one, he'd command attention from defenses, thereby opening things up for other receivers like Deion Branch and helping the running game by lessening the chance of seeing 8 defenders in the box. Let's also not forget that Branch can't seem to stay healthy, Nate Burleson is coming off ACL surgery and the younger guys haven't done anything.
If you're talking about helping the team, who would help more, a WR or an OL or DT? Seattle rode a dominant offensive line all the way to the Super Bowl and didn't have elite threats on the outside. Before Randy Moss got to New England, they won Super Bowls without elite receivers, too. If this team is going to get better, they should grab one of the stud O-lineman or a beast DT like Boston College's B.J. Raji. An offensive lineman would help both the run and passing games and Raji is the big DT the 'Hawks have needed for years.
Raji is a solid player and the OTs have awesome potential, but Crabtree is the best player on the board. What if Burleson isn't the same player he was before the injury? What if Branch continues to get dinged up and young guys like Obomanu, Taylor, Payne and Kent don't develop? Wouldn't it be nice to have Crabtree in a 'Hawks uniform? Or better yet, imagine a healthy Branch and Burleson to go with Crabtree! QB Matt Hasselbeck's gotta like that.
6. Most of the best O-lines in the league have undrafted or late-round picks as starters. That's proof that taking an OT with the 4th overall pick is un-necessary.
Denver, Tennessee, New Orleans, Indianapolis and Atlanta were the Top-5 teams in sacks allowed. Of the combined 25 starters between those teams, 14 players were either 4th Round Draft picks or lower. 3 of the 5 teams have Undrafted Free Agents starting for them! On the flipside, take a look at the best receivers in the NFL. Since 2005, the Pro Bowl has seen 19 different WRs come through Hawaii.
Of the 19, 9 were 1st Round picks, 3 were 2nd Round picks, 2 were 3rd Round picks, 1 was a 7th Round pick and 2 were Free Agents. Looking at these numbers, it's easy to see that you can get offensive lineman anywhere in the Draft, but if you're going to get an elite WR, you'll have to take in early. This is another reason Seattle should pull the trigger on Crabtree.
And how many Pro Bowl offensive linemen were early picks? Better yet, just throw out the names of the best offensive lineman in the league. Walter Jones, Joe Thomas, Steve Hutchinson, Logan Mankins, Shawn Andrews, and Jake Long are all Round 1 picks. Just like any other position, you're going to find a Jason Peters (Undrafted), but for the most part, the best players in the NFL are early Draft picks. So why not find the next Walter Jones with the 4th overall pick this year?
You'll notice that of the 5 teams listed above, only Denver missed the playoffs. And only 1 of the 5 lacks an elite WR (Tennessee). This is more proof that unless you have a dominant running game and a defense (like the Titans have), you can win games by having a solid offensive line made up of later Draft picks and having solid weapons on the outside. Marques Colston, Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, Brandon Marshall and Roddy White are all Pro Bowl WRs. Does it surprise anyone that while Colston was a steal as a 7th Round pick, 3 are 1st Round picks and another is a 3rd?
7. It takes too long
for WRs to develop, so why draft a kid with the 4th overall pick if he's not
going to contribute as much as another player?
While rookie receivers definitely have a learning curve, that's not a significant enough reason not to take such a highly rated player. Take a look at two of last year's rookie WRs, Denver's Eddie Royal and Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson. Royal brought in 91 catches, 980 yards and 5 TDs and Jackson logged 62 for 912 and 2 TDs. Both totals are better than any Seahawk WR put up last year, proving that a rookie can have an impact. Seattle's last Round 1 WR, Koren Robinson, put up decent numbers as a rookie and then had a very solid sophomore season with 78 catches, 1,240 yards and 5 TDs. I think Crabtree can do the same, if not even better.
How come you didn't mention Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly or James Hardy's rookie stats from last year? Between the three of them, they caught 27 balls for 225 yards and 2 TDs. Not exactly the kind of production you want from 3 2nd Round picks. They may develop, they may not, but I'd rather pick a player that Seattle is likely to get more production from right away.
8. Crabtree has excellent character, making him an even better choice.
Are you just as sick as I am when you see me-first WRs like Terrell Owens, Plaxico Burress and Chad Johnson? All have great skills, but the baggage that comes with them can destroy a locker room. Crabtree can have the same impact on the field as any of these guys, but doesn't have the prima donna attitude to be a problem for a franchise. His character is icing on the cake and another reason he should be a Seahawk.
GM Tim Ruskell is dedicated to bringing in the highest character players to Seattle as well as the best football players. But despite Ruskell's dedication to bringing good guys to Seattle, bad things happen. Look no further than LB Lofa Tatupu's DUI last season and LB Leroy Hill's recent arrest. Both players were said to have high character, but both were arrested. Even good people make mistakes and Crabtree's supposed good character is nice, but it's no guarantee.
Of course there's no guarantee that Crabtree, or any other player won't make a mistake off the field. But team's like Seattle will look deep into every prospect's character to be as sure as possible about their pick. Nothing is certain, but his character checks out above some other high-profile WRs in this Draft.
Final Opinion for Crabtree
The last receiver the 'Hawks took in the first 3 Rounds of the Draft was Koren Robinson. That was 8 years ago! It seems odd to me that for a team that uses so many 3 and 4 WR sets, the only receivers they select are late-round picks like Ben Obomanu and Jordan Kent. For the first time since 2001, Seattle has the ability to add a truly special weapon to its offense. A player like Crabtree would instantly upgrade the offense because of his ability and also just his presence.
For once, an opposing defensive coordinator will have to pay special attention to one of our receivers, the same way Seattle's defensive staff worries about Larry Fitzgerald or Anquan Boldin every time we play Arizona. Crabtree size, ball skills and overall ability will give QB Matt Hasselbeck a legitimate threat on the perimeter and allow other receivers to do more. The Seahawks should have learned last year that you can never have too much talent at WR and Seattle's instability at the position continues. History has also shown that you can get solid offensive lineman much later in the Draft, so adding Crabtree is the right choice.
Final Opinion against
Michael Crabtree is a fine player, but this team can't afford to miss with this pick. Receivers taken recently in the Top-10 of the Draft are simply too prone to being a bust. Taking an offensive lineman, one of the safest positions to Draft for, or a DT like Raji, would help the entire team and be a better move. LT Walter Jones has arguably the best O-lineman of his generation, but he's getting older and getting his replacement would be a great move, as would getting an elite DT that makes the entire defense better.
If Coach Mora is going to play more Cover 2 (as predicted), it's necessary for the front four to get pressure on the QB and Raji would do that. It's highly unlikely that in 2009 Seattle will go through the same injury problems that haunted them last year, meaning they'll probably have Branch, Burleson, etc, back on the field. Adding an OT or DT is better for the team and that's why the Seahawks should pass on Crabtree.