Michael Crabtree: When Do We Apply the "Bust" Label?

Gordon BlockContributor IIISeptember 20, 2011

Michael Crabtree: When Do We Apply the "Bust" Label?

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    Few players bring the ire of San Francisco 49ers fans quite like wide receiver Michael Crabtree

    The first-round draft pick from 2009 has drawn plenty of frustration, from sitting out half of his rookie year in a dispute about his contract to picking fights with teammates. 

    Many people are ready to call him a bust. Don't count me as one of them.

    Here are four things that have to happen before the bust label can fall to Crabtree.

1) He Has to Have a Full Preseason

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    Entering his third season, Crabtree has not had a year where he didn't miss time in the preseason.  He missed the preseason of 2009 disputing his contract, and then missed the following two years' preseasons with injuries. 

    While preseason football may be unimportant, the massive changes taking place during the past three offseasons means Crabtree would have been much more effective in the offensive scheme.

2) The 49ers Find a Better Receiving Option

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    Minus the newly signed wide receiver Braylon Edwards, the Niners have a major dearth in top-level, pass-catching talent. 

    So the question is: Who would they go with as a starting receiver? Joshua Morgan (he's not exactly a leading receiver)? Kyle Williams (who made only the second reception of his career for a touchdown Sunday?)

    Until the Niners can find somebody better to take on the starter role, it's tough to say Crabtree is a complete bust.

3) Crabtree Has to Actually Find Stability

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    In addition to the lack of stability in his playing career, Crabtree has seen plenty of shifting around his organization. 

    In his rookie season, he had to adjust to the pro game after playing his first game in Week 7.

    Last season, he saw three different passers line up under center (with neither playing all that well.)

    He now has to adjust to a new coach, and recurring injuries that sidelined him for everything except a small portion of Week 1.

    Most players struggle without stability, and it's tough to call Crabtree a bust when he and the team have been sidetracked for almost all of his time by the bay.

4) The 49ers Don't Want Him Anymore

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    No matter what kind of setbacks Crabtree sees, it's clear that he has the support of the organization. 

    Even if the Niners aren't crazy about Crabtree, they know they have bigger priorities if they want to get back to the playoffs. Crabtree is not going anywhere.

    However, if Crabtree's play is so underwhelming that the team decides to drop him or send him away this year or this offseason (only halfway through his initial rookie contract), then the label of bust may be more justified.