Going into the season, the general fantasy football consensus was that Michael Crabtree would be taking a back seat to Amari Cooper this season. Cooper is the more talented, and younger, wide receiver. Neither has been great this year, and most of that with Cooper has been touchdown flukiness. For Crabtree, it’s plain inconsistency of targets. This weekend, the Raiders and their passing game travel south (very south) to Mexico City to take on the Houston Texans.
Crabtree’s production this season has varied wildly, and is mostly tied to his target volume. His numbers on the year are respectable (596 yards and six touchdowns). That puts him on track for over 1000 yards and double-digit scores on the year. If you look at just those numbers, he looks like a useful weekly option. Unfortunately, three of those six scores came against Baltimore in week four. Since then, he’s had five games, with three of them as useful and two of them as absolute garbage (37 yards combined across those two games). While Crabtree’s production has fluctuated, he has gotten seven or more targets every game but the two disastrous ones this season.
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Unfortunately, with the atmospheric difference of Mexico City, the Raiders (if they’re smart), will slow the game way down, and lean on the run game (which is their MO outside of a few games this year). That means fewer opportunities for Crabtree to keep the Raiders from succumbing to exhaustion in Mexico City. There will be fewer targets going Crabtree’s way, and he has thrived on volume this season. If the bottom drops out, it will be difficult to justify using him over many better options.
If you take that game plan issue and add it to the opponent, you have a recipe for disaster this weekend for Crabtree. The Texans give up the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers on the year, and have only given up three 100+ yard receivers on the season (Allen Robinson, Alshon Jeffery and… Adam Theilen?!). They’re an extremely stout pass defense which will stifle the Raiders passing game and leave them moving towards the run.
Michael Crabtree has been a very good fantasy asset so far this season, but he has been up-and-down lately as the Raiders coaching staff leans on the run. This weekend against the Texans in Mexico City, it is unlikely that the Raiders’ game plan will lead to a massive fantasy day for Crabtree. There are plenty of other options out there, so he’s better suited as a backend WR3 without much upside.