A.J. Jenkins

Who’s got it better (at WR): 49ers or Raiders?

The history of the NFL is replete with iconic moments: Joe Namath’s guarantee of victory prior to Super Bowl III, Dwight Clark’s catch, Franco Harris’s immaculate reception, and Kellen Winslow’s performance in 1982 AFC divisional playoffs.

But for every monument of greatness, there are the not-so-great. Perhaps none speak to this as perfectly as the infamous Raiders fan’s breakdown after the Al Davis drafted Darrius Heyward-Bey (DHB) over Michael Crabtree.

It goes without saying that the NFL Draft tends to bring out the worst in fans. When it comes to talent, everyone is an expert — except the actual experts, that is. In the case of DHB, Al Davis might have known something that wailing Raiders fans did not: DHB may be better than Crabtree.

According to Football Outsiders, Michael Crabtree is the better receiver, but not by much. Explanations for these stats can be found here.

49ers DYAR DVOA Passes Yards EYds Catch Rate AV
M. Crabtree 167 6.3% 114 880 962 64% 9
K. Williams 61 12.3% 31 241 287 65% 3
M. Manningham 53 -4.2% 77 523 584 51% 4
T. Ginn 10 -8.7 33 220 222 58% 0


Raiders DYAR DVOA Passes Yards EYds Catch Rate AV
D. Heyward-Bey 145 3.6% 115 975 942 56% 8
D. Moore 84 0.9% 76 618 627 56% 5
J. Ford 31 -0.9% 33 279 262 58% 3
L. Murphy 6 -10.1% 33 241 212 45% 2


Crabtree edges out DHB in all statistical categories except for yards gained. Where Crabtree has had the benefit of playing with the same quarterback for three seasons, DHB did not. The best season of DHB’s career was one in which the Raiders’ offense underwent a major upheaval mid season after losing starter Jason Campbell. Sure, Campbell’s replacement, Carson Palmer, was a better quarterback. But is Palmer’s presence enough to explain DHB’s significant improvement?

Though I don’t believe that one mediocre season is enough to crown DHB the better receiver, Pro-Football Focus (PFF) does. According to their projections, PFF believes both DHB and Denarius Moore will have better seasons than Crabtree.

Rk Player Targ Rec Yds TD Fum Pts
34 D. Heyward-Bey 105 58 945 5 1 182
35 D. Moore 110 47 869 7 1 177
49 M. Crabtree 93 60 744 4 0 156
55 J. Ford 89 46 690 4 1 142
61 M. Manningham 70 43 636 3 1 127
85 R. Moss 47 27 427 4 1 95
106 A. Jenkins 33 21 256 1 0 53
110 L. Murphy 31 16 246 1 0 48





Given PFF’s projections and Palmer’s seeming ability to make lemonade out of lemons, I would say the Raiders have the better receiving corps. Granted, Randy Moss might have a breakout season, but that seems as likely as Juron Criner doing the same. Mario Manningham too could become a prolific receiver. But if he wasn’t able to do so in New York, what are the odds he does with the run-happy 49ers?

Fortunately for the 49ers, receivers aren’t the only ones allowed to catch passes. The tight end position has become as vital to the passing game as lensless, black-rimmed glasses are to Lebron James’s hipster aesthetic. As it happens, the 49ers have one of the best tight ends in the league.

49ers DYAR DVOA Passes Yards EYds Catch Rate AV
V. Davis 94 7.7% 95 792 737 71% 10
D. Walker 0 -7.5% 35 198 183 54% 4


Raiders DYAR DVOA Passes Yards EYds Catch Rate AV
B. Myers -39 -28.1% 27 151 72 59 3


There is no need for discussion here. Davis reigns supreme. In fact, Myers would likely be unable to crack the 49ers roster. Kevin Boss wouldn’t though.

Raiders DYAR DVOA Passes Yards EYds Catch Rate AV
K. Boss 105 36.2% 39 368 434 72% 5


Boss’s role with the Raiders was minuscule, but he filled the role much better than any replacement level player could. It should be interesting to see how well he will do with the Chiefs.

Anyways, PFF’s projections certainly do not shock.

Rk Player Targ Rec Yds TD Fum Pts
6 V. Davis 114 82 891 6 1 214
38 B. Myers 42 28 307 3 0 77
48 D. Walker 23 16 181 1 0 44
54 Richard Gordon 21 14 162 1 0 33




Because the 49ers have the better tight ends while the Raiders have the better receivers, it would appear as though the two teams are at a stalemate.

Who’s got it better at receiver? Neither.

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