Athlete Profile: Michael Crabtree

What do you dream about? NBA Finals Game 7 with five seconds left, you catch the pass at the top of the key and…swish. Lottery numbers dropping into place on your winning ticket while you sip a martini next to Minka Kelly? Not Michael Crabtree. He doesn’t dream about being the next big NFL star or driving a Ferrari around Milan.

Michael Crabtree dreams of routes, pass coverages, and catching, catching, catching.

Growing up in Dallas, Texas, Crabtree has always had an intensity bordering on the surreal. Because of his size and physicality, Crabtree’s father chose to have him play football in leagues above his age.

“I actually cried the few times he made me play against people my age,” Crabtree said. “I was like, ‘Dad, I don’t want to hurt those little kids.”

After dominating the youth leagues, Crabtree continued showing his phenomenal ability at Carter High School by playing both basketball and football. In fact, his first scholarship offer from Texas Tech, his future university, came in the form of a basketball scholarship. In his senior year, Crabtree averaged more than 20 points a game. This is not to say he was slacking on football during his high school career. He was one of the best football players in the state as a quarterback. As a matter of fact, he only had one reception his senior year, but rushed for 646 yards and nine touchdowns on 100 total carries. He also added an interception, as well.


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Houshmandzadeh to visit Seahawks

According to FOXSports.com, free agent wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh will make a visit to Seattle on Friday.

T.J. HoushmandzadehHoushmandzadeh has averaged 89 catches for 1,012 yards and seven touchdowns in five seasons as a Bengals starter. But he also will be 32 in September, which may scare some teams from offering the lucrative long-term contract Houshmandzadeh is seeking.

The Seahawks failed to have a wide receiver crack the 500-yard mark in 2008 — the first time that had happened in a non-strike season since the franchise’s inception in 1976.

Two of Seattle’s top four receivers — Bobby Engram and Koren Robinson — are now free agents.

Hopefully Housh enjoys blocking because if he signs with Seattle, he’ll be doing a lot of it in Greg Knapp’s West Coast Offense. Not that he wouldn’t be a fit for the Seahawks because they do need dependable wide receivers (some mock drafts have the Hawks taking Texas Tech wideout Michael Crabtree in the first round), but Knapp has been known to frustrate receivers before (Terrell Owens and Peerless Price are just two examples) and Housh isn’t the type to bite his tongue if he’s unhappy about his role.

Housh also told ESPN 950 that if the Eagles want him that he’d, “be an Eagle tomorrow.” But does Philly want him?

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.

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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Top 32 NFL Draft Prospects

Pete Prisco of CBSSportsline.com ranked the top 32 prospects in this year’s NFL draft.

Here are his top 10:

1. Matt Stafford, QB, Georgia: When he throws for the scouts, they will be in awe. There are some who think he locks on to receivers at times. But that can happen to young passers with big arms.

2. Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest: Think Derrick Brooks. He’s a run-and-chase linebacker who has good size at 240 pounds. He might be the cleanest player in the draft, the one with the fewest flaws.

3. B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College: He’s a power player who could not be blocked at the Senior Bowl. At 335 pounds, he also has good quickness.

4. Jason Smith, T, Baylor: This former tight end has great feet and plays with a nasty streak. He is 6-4, 300 pounds and has the frame to get bigger. He’s a better pass blocker, but will get better for the run as he matures.

5. Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech: He is the next Larry Fitzgerald. He’s big and strong. The once concern with him is his 40 time. But Fitzgerald wasn’t fast either.

6. Eugene Monroe, T, Virginia: He’s another tackle who is better as a pass protector than blocking for the run. Is that a bad thing?

7. Andre Smith, T, Alabama: He played left tackle at Alabama, but some scouts wonder if he’s not more of a right tackle. He’s the best run blocker of the three top tackles, but he has struggled with some speed rushers.

8. Mark Sanchez, QB, USC: He’s accurate, poised and his arm is plenty strong. The knock on him will be that he was a one-hit wonder. Don’t believe it.

9. Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State: He’s a smart cover player who might not have blazing speed, but he plays fast enough. He’s easily the top corner in this draft.

10. Everette Brown, LB-DE, Florida State: Think Dwight Freeney. He’s short at 6-1 but has a great burst off the edge. He might even rise up this board as we go through the process.

Everyone is going to have varying opinions on which prospect is better than the next (everyone is an expert this time of year), but I think that’s a pretty solid top 10. I don’t think Sanchez is a top 10 prospect, but that’s just me. For the amount of talent USC had this year, he certainly didn’t dominant and I think he’s a raw prospect in that he’ll need a couple years to develop.


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