Teams would be wise not to pass on Crabtree

One of the bigger stories surrounding the NFL scouting combine this week (besides the ongoing antics of Alabama’s Andre Smith, that is) is the foot injury that has caused Texas Tech wideout Michael Crabtree to skip workouts. He’ll need to have surgery to repair the slight fracture in his foot and therefore won’t be able to run the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day in March.

When players require surgery before the draft, the notion among some pundits is that their stock will fall. Hopefully teams aren’t that stupid in the case of Crabtree because anyone that has seen him in game action knows how dynamic he can be.

We live in a time where the 40-yard dash seems to rule all. A couple pundits were sporting wood last week when Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith ran a 5.22 forty, which blew away every O-linemen at the combine. Besides displaying great athleticism, I don’t know why anyone would get overly excited about an offensive tackle running a fast forty. Unless a team plans on him being a combo left tackle/tight end, nobody should flip their lid over Smith (or any offensive tackle for that matter) running a 5.22 forty.

That said, Crabtree not being able to run the forty means very little. He wasn’t even supposed to run a fast time anyway, so nothing changes. He’s still a top 10 pick, he’s still one of the best overall prospects in the draft and he’ll still be the best wideout available come April. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Percy Harvin and Jeremy Maclin are all fantastic receiving prospects. But Crabtree beats them all – good 40-time or not.

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Offseason Blueprint: Oakland Raiders

Notable Free Agents: Nnamdi Asomugha (re-signed), CB; Shane Lechler (re-signed), P; Chris Johnson (re-signed), CB; Jake Grove, C; Cooper Carlisle, G.

Projected 2009 Cap Space: $4,000,000

Draft Order: 7

Top Needs: Not unlike other teams selecting at the top of the draft, the Raiders are mostly in need of offensive line help. Defensive line, wide receiver and linebacker could also be addressed.

Offseason Outlook: The Raiders’ top priority was to ensure that cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha didn’t hit the open market, and they accomplished that by inking him to a new three-year, $45 million contract. Asomugha’s deal is complex and you can read more details here, but the bottom line is that he’ll once again anchor the Raiders’ secondary in 2009.

Al Davis also re-signed punter Shane Lechler to a four-year, $16 million contract. That might not be big news to some, but considering how much the Raiders punt during the regular season, re-signing Lechler was a wise move.

The biggest challenge Davis now faces is how will he free up enough cap space to address other needs. The Raiders were sitting at $4 million under the cap before the re-signings of Asomugha and Lechler. Are cuts coming? If so, who will be shown the door?

One name that has recently come up in trade speculation is defensive end Derrick Burgess, who the Raiders are rumored to be shopping. Burgess becomes a free agent after the 2009 season so it would make sense that Oakland would trade him now in order to gain compensation. If they were able to trade him, they would free up $3.5 million in cap space, which isn’t a huge amount but it would help.


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