Since the 2018 offseason began, the Raiders have been making significant moves. The move that caught most people’s attention was the signing of Jordy Nelson (and the dropping of Michael Crabtree). Nelson and Crabtree signed for about the same amount of money per year, but Nelson’s contract is for two years while Crabtree’s is for three. While Nelson and Crabtree have similarly structured contracts and are about the same age, (32 and 30 respectively) the question remains: Who is a better fit for this team?
Nevertheless, the similarities do not stop with contact and age. Despite drafts in different years, Jordy Nelson’s ACL tear in 2015 allowed the two players to both be participating in their 10th season in 2018. While the years of experience are the same, Nelson has a slight advantage when it comes to who has been throwing passes his way during his career. For a significant majority of his NFL career, Nelson has been catching passes from future hall of famer Aaron Rodgers. On the other hand, Crabtree has been a receiver for a handful of quarterbacks, including Colin Kaepernick, J.T. O’Sullivan, and Derek Carr (obviously).
Although Crabtree has started significantly more games than Nelson (122 to 88 respectively), Nelson has appeared in 11 more games. While games started and game appearances do not necessarily directly correlate to stats, Jordy Nelson has made much more of his opportunities. Jordy has scored 18 more touchdowns, totaled 978 more yards, and averaged three more yards per catch than Michael Crabtree. The two major categories Crabtree leads Nelson in are targets and receptions. From these statistics, it would appear Jordy Nelson is a much more efficient receiver.
Injuries can also make or break a player’s career. While bumps and bruises are issues every player deals with, players can go their whole career without a season-ending/long term injury. Both players have missed the occasional game or two due to such bumps and bruises. Unfortunately, Nelson and Crabtree have both experienced injuries that sidelined them for months. Nelson tore his ACL in 2015 and missed two playoff games, the entire 2015 season, and two 2016 preseason games. Crabtree tore his Achilles tendon in May and missed 11 games of the following season. Both players have appeared in all sixteen games in three of their last four years. In 2017, Nelson missed his week 17 bout due to a bruised lung while (also in 2017) Crabtree missed his week 13 game due to a suspension from a fight with Aqib Talib.
When a team loses a big-name player, it is quite difficult to get behind his replacement. However, it is certainly easier to get behind the replacement when he is the better player. While Raiders fans will miss having the “Three C’s” (Carr, Cooper, Crabtree) and spamming the car/crab emoji combo on Twitter every chance they get. There is no doubt that the fans will quickly get behind Jordy Nelson after seeing him perform. The Raiders landed an surehanded receiver in Nelson.