Dear Michael Crabtree: Shut Up and Play

Zeke Fuhrman@@mellamoelzekeAnalyst IIISeptember 17, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 25:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell poses with with San Francisco 49ers #10 draft pick Michael Crabtree at Radio City Music Hall for the 2009 NFL Draft on April 25, 2009 in New York City  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Are we sure that President Obama's recent comments about Kanye West were not directed at Michael Crabtree?

Crabtree, the 10th overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, has yet to sign with the San Francisco 49ers. Normally I wouldn't have a problem with that, but seeing as it is Week Two in the NFL, I am a little agitated.

Crabtree, the two-time Biletnikoff award winner, is threatening to sit out the entire 2009 NFL season. If he were to do this, he would be eligible to re-enter the draft in 2010.

In my opinion there are two main reasons why Crabtree hasn't signed: He wanted to be drafted higher and paid like a higher draft pick.

Well, Michael, the reality is this: You were the 10th pick in the draft.

Who is he going to blame for not being selected with the other nine picks? If he needs to blame somebody, blame the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland had the fifth and 21st picks in the draft. The team has a need for another receiver to complement Braylon Edwards.

Instead, the Browns dealt the pick to the New York Jets, selected C Alex Mack with the 21st pick, and drafted WRs Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi with their next two picks.

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Crabtree could blame the Seattle Seahawks for signing free-agent WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh during the offseason. Before the Seahawks signed T.J., ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. predicted Crabtree to be drafted fourth overall by Seattle. After Seattle signed Houshmandzadeh, Seattle felt they had more dire needs than a receiver and drafted LB Aaron Curry of Wake Forest.

He could blame the St. Louis Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinatti Bengals, Jacksonville Jaguars, or Green Bay Packers, who all selected linemen instead of taking the talented Crabtree.

He could also blame the Oakland Raiders for selecting WR Darrius Heyward-Bey with the seventh overall pick in the draft.

That has to sting a bit. A two-time Biletnikoff, the only player to win the award twice, wasn't even the first wideout drafted.

Crabtree must have grown weary sitting in the green room of Radio City Music Hall on Draft Day.

It could have been worse, though. He could have been Ben Roethlisberger, who had to sit backstage until he was selected with the 11th pick.

It could have been even worse. He could have been Aaron Rodgers, who some thought would be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. Rodgers fell to No. 24, and was the second quarterback taken.

The bottom line is this: Crabtree was the 10th overall pick. There is nothing he can do about it.

Or is there?

If Crabtree sits out the entire 2009-10 season, he would be eligible to re-enter the NFL Draft. This would be one of the worst moves of his career.

I don't know what Michael is thinking, but if he were to re-enter the draft, he would not be selected higher than 10. Actually, I would have him going much lower.

Much lower.

It doesn't matter how talented a player is if his reputation is tarnished. Randy Moss was regarded as one of the most talented players in the 1998 NFL Draft, but off-field and character issues led to many teams passing on Moss before he was selected 24th overall by the Minnesota Vikings.

Moss went on to win the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, hold the single-season touchdown reception record (23), and play for two teams that have set the NFL record for points scored in a season (Minnesota Vikings in 1998, New England Patriots in 2007).

Further hurting Crabtree, players who have taken a year off rarely have good careers.

Take QB Kelly Stouffer for instance. Stouffer held out the entire season after being selected sixth overall by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1987. He was traded to the Seattle Seahawks in 1988.

Stouffer would have five injury-plagued seasons in Seattle in which he would throw seven touchdowns, 14 interceptions, and have a career passer rating of 54.4 while appearing in 22 games. (He was the starter in eight of those games.)

A more recent example is WR Mike Williams. Williams, a star at USC, declared for the NFL draft at the end of his sophomore year, however there is a rule that a player must be three years removed from high school in order to be eligible. In Williams' defense, at the time Ohio State RB Maurice Clarett was challenging the rule in court.

Williams hired an agent, which made him ineligible to return to USC for his junior season, and he sat out the entire year. Despite all of this, Williams was selected 10th overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2004 NFL Draft.

Williams lasted only three seasons in the NFL, and is currently a free agent. His career numbers are 44 receptions for 539 yards and two touchdowns.

Even if Crabtree were to sit out the entire season, his draft rights would still be owned by the Niners until next year's draft, which means he wouldn't be able to practice (or talk to) any other teams or participate in the NFL Draft Combine.

Crabtree's other issue is his paycheck. San Francisco offered Crabtree a five-year $16M contract.

The one problem? The Oakland Raiders gave Darrius Hayward-Bey a five year, $25M deal.

A similar situation: Missouri Tigers pitcher Kyle Gibson was ranked among the top five players in the 2009 MLB Draft. But a stress fracture in his forearm helped him fall into the lap of the Minnesota Twins, who had the 22nd pick.

Gibson wasn't signed until less than an hour before the deadline. His main reason? He wanted to be treated (and paid) like a top-10 pick.

Deion Sanders of the NFL Network reported that Crabtree isn't scared to sit out the entire season because he isn't in "dire need" of money.

If Crabtree isn't in dire need of money, why is he holding out for a larger contract?

There is one thing Crabtree needs to do to start regaining his reputation: play.

Crabtree was the most dominant receiver in college football for two years. He has the opportunity to be mentioned in the same sentence as Jerry Rice and Dwight Clark and play in the hallowed red and gold. He has the opportunity to help save a once-heralded franchise.

But he is squandering his chances of heroism and stardom by sitting out.

If Crabtree doesn't sign with the Niners soon, his career will be all but over.

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