Stats & Info: Michael Crabtree

Keys to victory: 49ers 23, Packers 20

January, 5, 2014
Jan 5
What were the keys to the San Francisco 49ers' 23-20 win over the Green Bay Packers?

Kaepernick’s scrambling ability
Colin Kaepernick had four scrambles for 85 yards, including one that got a first down on the 49ers final drive of the game.

That was the second-most scramble yards in a game this season (Russell Wilson had 91 against the Colts in Week 5).

Kaepernick finished with 98 rushing yards overall, his second-most in any game in his career (he had 181 against the Packers in the playoffs last season).

Kaepernick has 362 career rushing yards in postseason play, already the fifth-most among quarterbacks in NFL postseason history.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Kaepernick has two playoff games with at least 200 passing yards and 95 rushing yards. There have been only two other quarterbacks to have one such game—Otto Graham (in 1950 against the Rams) and Donovan McNabb (in 2003 against the Packers).

Crabtree and Davis make big impact
Michael Crabtree had a season-high eight catches for 125 yards. He has had at least 100 receiving yards in three of his last four postseason games.

Kaepernick was 5 for 6 for 95 yards on throws that targeted Crabtree more than 10 yards downfield, with one of those completions coming on the 49ers’ final drive.

The 49ers are 6-0 this season when Crabtree plays.

Vernon Davis caught his sixth touchdown pass in six career playoff games. That total is tied with Freddie Solomon and John Taylor for the second-most touchdown catches in 49ers history, trailing only Jerry Rice’s 19.

Pressuring Rodgers
The 49ers sacked or put Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers under duress on 14 of his 32 dropbacks (44 percent), despite sending five or more pass rushers on only three of Rodgers’ dropbacks (9 percent).

Rodgers was sacked four times (tied for his most in any game this season) and finished with 177 passing yards, his fewest in a postseason game.

Matchups to watch: Seahawks at 49ers

December, 5, 2013

Harry How/Getty ImagesIn his return last week, Michael Crabtree, right, showed flashes of what Colin Kaepernick has been needing on the field.

With Michael Crabtree's return last week, and games remaining against the Buccaneers and Falcons, San Francisco's playoff chances look pretty good. At 8-4, the 49ers are a game up on the Cardinals, as well as the Cowboys and Eagles, who are competing for the NFC East crown.

The postseason scenario isn’t particularly complicated for Seattle -- a win or tie seals the Seahawks’ first NFC West title since 2010.

Since the start of 2011, the 49ers (plus-211.3) and Seahawks (plus-165.4) are the first- and second-best defenses in the league in expected points added.

Wilson vs. San Francisco’s deep-ball D
Of his throws at least 15 yards downfield this season, Russell Wilson has completed nearly 60 percent. That’s a higher completion percentage on deep throws than 11 qualified quarterbacks have overall.

Wilson is averaging two more yards per attempt on deep throws than any other quarterback.

On the other side of the ball is the best defense in the league at defending deep passes. Opposing quarterbacks have completed just 31 percent of deep throws against the 49ers, the third-best average by a defense in the past eight years (the start of Stats & Info’s video analysis data).

Crabtree vs. Seahawks' secondary
As most quarterbacks in his spot would be, Colin Kaepernick is a better passer with Crabtree on the field. After missing the first 12 weeks with an Achilles injury, the star wideout had mixed results in his return last week.

Crabtree was largely quiet (one catch for eight yards) in the first half, but showed the big-play ability that has been missing among San Francisco's wide receivers all season.

He had a 60-yard reception with 43 yards after the catch in the third quarter, both of which immediately set season highs for 49ers wideouts. And Seattle will be short-handed in the secondary on Sunday.

Gore vs. Seattle’s loaded box
The quality of Seattle’s cornerbacks allows defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to commit extra defenders to the box. The Seahawks have had 109 snaps this season with at least eight defenders in the box, fifth-most in the league.

Frank Gore

This is not a new strategy to Frank Gore, who has 92 rushes for 333 yards against eight or more defenders in the box this season (both second-most in the NFL behind Adrian Peterson).

His 3.6 yards per rush against at least eight in the box is eighth of 31 backs with at least 20 rushes, but both the Seahawks and recent opponents have stacked the box with success against Gore.

Seattle held Gore to 3 yards on six rushes against a crowded box in Week 2, while the Rams used the same technique to hold Gore to 14 yards on five rushes Sunday.

Lynch vs. 49ers' linebackers
Marshawn Lynch is 30 yards from being the only player in the league with 1,000 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in each of the past three seasons.
Marshawn Lynch

A quick glance at his numbers suggests a down season -- his 4.3 yards per rush average ranks 19th among qualified rushers. A closer look shows Lynch hasn’t been getting nearly as much room to run as he had last season.

He’s averaging 2.0 yards after contact per rush this season, seventh among qualified rushers and better than his average in 2012. Lynch is averaging a full yard less before contact this season (2.3 compared to 3.3 in 2012).

His dependency on yards after contact this year may not serve him well against San Francisco. Linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis are elite run stoppers. Since Bowman joined Willis in 2010, San Francisco has averaged 1.3 yards after contact per rush allowed, fewest in the league.

Only Kiko Alonso (60) has more tackles within three yards of the line of scrimmage on running plays than Bowman (49) this season.

During Willis’ career (starting in 2007), only London Fletcher and Curtis Lofton have more of those tackles than Willis.

Impacts of Crabtree, Pierre-Paul injuries

June, 6, 2013

Harry How/Getty ImagesWith Crabtree out for six months due to injury, Colin Kaepernick will be without his favorite target.
The San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants both have high expectations for the 2013 season. However, both teams will face a difficult road at the start of the season as they deal with offseason injuries to two key players.

49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree tore his Achilles tendon in May and is expected to miss six months. Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants star defensive end, underwent back surgery this week and will be out at least 12 weeks.

Let’s take a look at how each injury affect the team.

Michael Crabtree
One of the big concerns for the 49ers following the loss of Crabtree is how it will affect the play of Colin Kaepernick, who loses his favorite target.

Including the playoffs, Kaepernick threw eight touchdowns and zero interceptions when targeting Crabtree last season. When targeting all other wide receivers, he threw just one touchdown and had four picks.

Crabtree was targeted on 40 percent of his pass routes with Kaepernick as a starter last season during Weeks 11-17. Over that span, only Brandon Marshall was targeted on a higher percentage of his pass routes.

Kaepernick targeted Crabtree more than twice as much as any other 49ers player last season.

The difference was even more pronounced in the red zone, where Kaepernick passed to Crabtree 13 times. No other 49ers player had more than four red zone targets from Kaepernick.

One of Crabtree’s best skills was his ability to work underneath and extend plays with his legs.

His average target depth decreased from 10.8 yards in 2009 to 7.6 yards in 2012, while his average yards after catch per reception has increased from 4.1 in 2009 to 6.2 last season.

Crabtree had 451 receiving yards on throws within five yards of the line of scrimmage last season, sixth most in the NFL.

With Crabtree drawing attention underneath, Kaepernick was among the NFL’s most effective quarterbacks on deep passes last season, ranking among the top three in Total QBR (99.5), completion percentage (53.7) and yards per attempt (14.8) on throws of 15 or more yards downfield.

Jason Pierre-Paul
After a breakout 2011 season with 16.5 sacks, fourth in the league, Pierre-Paul struggled to get to the quarterback last year with just 6.5 sacks. Five of those came with four or fewer pass rushers, compared to 11.5 in 2012.

Pierre-Paul was part of a Giants defense that failed to pressure the quarterback with any consistency last year. That squad had only 21 sacks when sending four or fewer rushers in 2012 after posting 34 with such pressure in 2011.

Even before JPP’s injury, the Giants took steps this spring to address their defensive issues. Although they lost Osi Umenyiora, Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard, New York added Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson at defensive tackle as well as projected pass-rusher Aaron Curry at linebacker.

The Giants also hope that draft picks Johnathan Hankins (defensive tackle from Ohio State) and Damontre Moore (defensive end from Texas A&M) can produce, though both have questions about whether they can contribute this season.

49ers have built success through the draft

April, 25, 2013

Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsThe 49ers have had success with a home grown team built primrily through the draft.
The San Francisco 49ers enter the 2013 NFL Draft with 13 draft picks, the most of any team. If they make all 13 picks, it will be the most for any team in the draft since the 2010 Philadelphia Eagles made 13.

Home Grown Team

The 49ers are looking to build on recent draft success and a mostly home grown team. Five of their 10 first-round selections since 2006 have made at least one Pro Bowl, tied for most in the league with the Washington Redskins. By comparison, 30 percent of the first-round selections by other teams since 2006 have made at least one pro bowl (An average of two per team).

Fifteen of the 49ers’ 22 offensive and defensive starters on last season’s Super Bowl roster were drafted by San Francisco, and seven of them were drafted in the third round or later. They have 10 picks in the third round or later this season.

Tough in the Trenches

The 49ers have built their team in the draft starting with the front lines. They started the same offensive line group in all 16 games in 2012 and were the only group to feature three first-round draft picks as their most frequent line combination (Joe Staley, Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati).

Don’t be surprised if the 49ers beef up their defensive line in this year’s draft. With Justin Smith suffering an injury late last season a lack of depth along the defensive line was exposed. The 49ers recorded a sack once every 16.2 dropbacks and allowed a 57.8 Total QBR with Smith on the field last season. With Smith off the field, the 49ers recorded a sack once every 29.4 dropbacks and allowed a 75.2 QBR.

Moving Up?

Will they move up in the draft order to secure one of this year’s top defensive lineman? San Francisco especially needs depth at the position after they lost starting lineman Isaac Sopoaga and backup Ricky Jean Francois in free agency (although they did sign Glenn Dorsey).

Trading up has worked for them in the past. The 49ers moved up in the 2011 Draft to the No. 36 pick and selected quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Biggest plays this season for 49ers

January, 25, 2013

John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports
NaVorro Bowman (53) celebrates after breaking up a pass to send the 49ers to the Super Bowl.

For the San Francisco 49ers, what plays were the most important in winning games on their way to the Super Bowl?

Here are the 10 plays that most improved their chances of winning through the regular season the playoffs.

Later today, we'll have the list for the Baltimore Ravens.

1. NFC Championship at Atlanta
4th and 4, 1:13 left in 4th Quarter
NaVorro Bowman breaks up pass intended for Roddy White

With the Atlanta Falcons driving for a potential go-ahead touchdown, the 49ers' defense makes the biggest play of their season to essentially lock up a trip to New Orleans. Bowman's pass breakup resulted in a turnover on downs.

49ers' win probablility pre-play: 65.9%; post-play: 97.4% (+31.5%)

2. Week 12 at New Orleans
2nd and 10, 0:31 left in 2nd Quarter
Ahmad Brooks intercepts Drew Brees and returns it for a touchdown

Ahmad Brooks
Already trailing by a touchdown with the New Orleans Saints nearing field-goal range to potentially take a two-score lead into the locker room for halftime, Brooks picks off Brees' pass intended for Jimmy Graham and goes 50 yards for a tying touchdown.

49ers' win probability pre-play: 18.4%; post-play: 47.0% (+28.6%)

3. Week 10 vs. St. Louis
Kickoff with 8:40 left in 4th Quarter
Darcel McBath recovers fumble on kickoff return

Just after the 49ers had cut a 17-7 deficit to 17-14, they forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Tramaine Brock knocked the ball loose from the St. Louis Rams' return man, Isaiah Pead, and McBath picked it up and returned it to the Rams' 20. One play later, Frank Gore took it the rest of the way to give San Francisco a 21-17 lead in a game that would ultimately end in a tie.

49ers' win probability pre-play: 31.3%; post-play: 57.1% (+25.5%)

The rest of the 49ers' top 10:

Colin Kaepernick
4. Colin Kaepernick's 50-yard scramble with 2:28 left sets up a game-tying FG vs. the Rams in Week 13 (+23.8%).

5. Kaepernick's 56-yard TD run vs. the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Playoffs (+19.8%).

6. A 38-yard TD pass from Kaepernick to Michael Crabtree breaks a 31-31 tie at New England in Week 15 (+18.8).

7. Kaepernick's 49-yard pass to Crabtree swings the division-clincher vs the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17 (+17.1%).

8. C.J. Spillman recovers Marcus Thigpen's muffed punt in a Week 14 win over the Miami Dolphins (+17.0%).

9. Aldon Smith recovers Falcons' fumbled snap in the NFC Championship Game (+15.6%).

10. Donte Whitner returns an interception for a touchdown to give the 49ers the winning points against the Saints in Week 12 (+14.2%).

AFC/NFC title games: Need-to-know info

January, 19, 2013
Looking back at the Stats and Info Blog's coverage leading up to the AFC and NFC Championships on Sunday afternoon.

Eight stats to know: AFC championship
Notes stats and trends on Tom Brady’s home-field advantage, the value of being a No. 4 seed, and much more.

Eight stats to know: NFC championship
Notes, stats and trends on the value of being a No. 1 seed, the Atlanta Falcons past against the San Francisco 49ers, and the pair of Matty Ices.

Lewis may not have huge impact vs Brady
Ray Lewis has had a great career, but he’s done little against Tom Brady in past meetings.

Flacco finds deep-throw success in playoffs
Joe Flacco completed only 37 percent of throws 20 or more yards downfield in the regular season. He’s fared considerably better in the postseason.

Kaepernick adds more than rushing upgrade
Colin Kaepernick’s skills include the ability to get the best out of receivers like Michael Crabtree.

Falcons must contain 49ers option game
The Green Bay Packers may have been taken by surprise considering that Kaepernick hadn’t kept the ball on an option play since Week 14. The Falcons won’t be, but they’ve had their share of troubles with quarterback runs this season.

Gronkowski injury will not slow down Patriots
Rob Gronkowski is out for the rest of the postseason, but you can expect the New England Patriots to continue to use their two tight-end set.

Young running backs emerge for Patriots
A closer look at what Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen do best.

Eight stats to know: NFC championship

January, 15, 2013
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesMatt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez are hoping to repeat the celebration from their last win over the 49ers.

The Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers will meet in the first of the two conference championship games on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. Here are eight notes, stats and trends to know heading into this contest:

Looking out for No. 1
No. 1 seeds are 6-0 in conference championships in the past seven postseasons (2005 to 2011). The last to lose was the 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers, who lost to the New England Patriots 41-27.

The Falcons are streaking
The Falcons have won four straight games against the 49ers, including two with Matt Ryan as their starting quarterback (45-10 in 2009 and 16-14 in 2010).

The Falcons' last loss to the 49ers was a 37-31 setback in 2001, one of two overtime losses they suffered against the 49ers that season.

Back so soon
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is the fourth coach to reach the AFC or NFC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons as an NFL head coach.

The other three are George Seifert, Barry Switzer and Rex Ryan.

Ryan is the only one from that trio who did not get to the Super Bowl at least once.

Kaepernick’s impact on the ground
Colin Kaepernick has averaged 8.7 yards per rush, best of any quarterback with 30 rushes (including playoffs) this season.

Including the playoffs, the Falcons have allowed 8.9 yards per rush to quarterbacks this season, the worst rate in the NFL (excluding kneel-downs).

The Falcons twice got shredded by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who ran for 202 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries in two meetings this season.

Kaepernick's legs have helped him to an 82.8 Total QBR the past nine weeks, the best in the NFL in that span.

The value of Michael Crabtree
Since Kaepernick became the starting quarterback in Week 11, Michael Crabtree ranks fifth in the league with 50 catches, fourth with 714 receiving yards and tied for second with seven touchdowns.

In Weeks 1-10 Crabtree tied for 41st in the league with 59 total targets.

Home is sweet for Ryan
Combining regular season and the playoffs, Matt Ryan is 34-6 in home starts in his career. His .850 winning percentage currently ranks second best among quarterbacks whose careers began in the Super Bowl era.

The only quarterback better: Tom Brady of the Patriots (86-15, .851).

One other stat to watch on Ryan: He's completed 70 percent of his passes in the final two minutes of either half this season.

Ryan had completed only 50.0 percent of those passes in his first four seasons.

Matty Ice isn’t just the quarterback
Should the game come down to a field goal, Falcons kicker Matt Bryant should be up to the challenge of trying to make it.

Bryant made the game winner in the final seconds of the NFC divisional win over the Seattle Seahawks.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Bryant was 17-for-18 in regular-season games on go-ahead or game-tying field goal attempts in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime in his career.

That includes a game-winning 43-yard make with two seconds remaining in the last meeting between these teams on Oct. 3, 2010. Bryant’s 94 percent success rate is the best of anyone with at least 15 such attempts in the NFL since 1970.

Too close to call
Our friends at AccuScore ran 10,000 simulations of this game and they gauged it a toss-up. The 49ers won 50.1 percent of the time. The Falcons won 49.9 percent.

Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports
Colin Kaepernick runs away from two Packers defenders on third-quarter TD run.
Colin Kaepernick set an NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback -- in any game, regular season or postseason -- with 181 to lead the San Francisco 49ers to a 45-31 win over the Green Bay Packers.

The 49ers gained 579 yards, the most in franchise playoff history, including 323 yards on the ground, the fourth-most by a team in a postseason game in the Super Bowl era. The 579 yards are the most the Packers have ever allowed in a postseason game.

The Packers couldn’t contain Kaepernick, who ran for 178 yards before being contacted (only three yards gained after contact). Kaepernick scrambled five times for 75 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown, in the first half.

The Packers hadn’t allowed more than 132 rushing yards before contact to a TEAM in any game during the past four seasons.

Kaepernick also collected ran for 99 yards on zone-read option plays, including the game-winning 56-yard touchdown in the third quarter when several Packers over-committed to the running back.

His 99 option rushing yards are the most by any quarterback in a game during the past three seasons, and his 75 scramble yards are a personal career high.

Kaepernick ran for 102 yards and a touchdown out of the pistol formation, the most by a quarterback in the past three seasons. His 12.8 yards per rush was the highest by any rusher out of the pistol in the past five seasons (min. five attempts).

The 49ers ran a season-high 45 percent of their plays out of the pistol set, averaging 6.9 yards per play. Frank Gore ran 16 times for a season-high 87 yards out of such sets, tied for the third-most rushes in pistol sets by a player in the past three seasons.

Kaepernick also got it done through the air, throwing for 263 yards, and became the third player ever with multiple touchdown passes AND touchdown runs in the same playoff game.

He was 6-for-11 on passes thrown at least 15 yards downfield, including 3-for-3 and a 20-yard touchdown when targeting Michael Crabtree.

Crabtree, who has a touchdown catch in three of his past four games on such throws, has been utilized downfield much more in Kaepernick’s eight starts this season, compared with Alex Smith’s nine starts.

Kaepernick has completed nearly 54 percent of his throws at least 15 yards downfield this season (including postseason), which is second in the NFL (min. 50 attempts).

Colin Kaepernick
The 49ers converted eight of their 13 third-down chances (61.5 percent). Kaepernick was 5-for-7 passing for 90 yards and a touchdown on third down, and he scrambled three other times for 53 yards and a touchdown. Entering the game, San Francisco converted only 35.1 percent of its third-down opportunities this season, 25th in the league.

The 49ers sent standard pressure against Aaron Rodgers on all but two of his dropbacks, and put him under duress or sacked him on 11 of his 43 dropbacks. Rodgers was limited to 2-for-9 passing for 13 yards on such attempts after recording a league-high 80.1 Total QBR (among qualified quarterbacks) in such situations during his first 17 games.

AP Photo/Elise AmendolaColin Kaepernick threw a career-high four touchdowns in a win over the Patriots.
The San Francisco 49ers led by as many as 28 points in the second half before the New England Patriots tied the game with 28 consecutive points of their own. San Francisco hung on to win, 41-34, capping a wild night in terms of win probability for both teams (see chart below).

It was the final of six games yesterday matching teams with winning records -- the latest calendar day in NFL history with six games between teams with winning records.

Colin Kaepernick threw four touchdown passes -- he had three in his career entering the game -- and posted a Total QBR of 87.1, the second-best mark of his career in a game with more than five action plays. His QBR this season is 79.5, trailing only Peyton Manning (81.5).

San Francisco’s wide receivers certainly benefitted.

Michael Crabtree scored twice, including the go-ahead touchdown with 6:25 remaining. It was his third career multi-TD game and all three have come in his past 15 games. It was also his third 100-yard game of the season (sixth of his career) -- he’s the first Niners player with 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns in a game since 2005 (Brandon Lloyd).

Randy Moss scored the game’s first touchdown, the 157th of his career, passing Terrell Owens for sole possession of fourth on the all-time TD list. He’s just five behind LaDainian Tomlinson for third place all-time. He passed Isaac Bruce for third on the all-time receiving yards list (15,220) and trails only Owens (15,934) and Jerry Rice (22,895).

What It Means for 49ers
San Francisco clinches a playoff spot for the second straight season, the first time it’s made consecutive playoff appearances since Steve Mariucci’s last two seasons as head coach (2001 and 2002). The Niners can clinch the NFC West with a win Sunday and can clinch a first-round bye with a win and a Green Bay Packers loss.

It’s the first time since 2003 the 49ers have scored 40 points at least twice in the same season. And it’s their first win over the Patriots since 1995 (had lost three straight meetings) and their first road win over New England since 1992. The 49ers have won five straight games against AFC teams.

What It Means for Patriots
New England falls to the third seed in the AFC, behind the Houston Texans and the Denver Broncos. That’s bad news for the Patriots, who were the No. 1 or No. 2 seed when they made each of their five Super Bowl appearances under Bill Belichick.

The loss ends their 13-game December winning streak -- which was tied for the second-longest such streak in NFL history -- and their 20-game home winning streak in December. It was their first loss in the second half of the season since Week 17 in 2009.

Combine speed doesn't equal NFL success

April, 24, 2012

AP Photo/Michael ConroyDarrius Heyward-Bey ran the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.3) in the 2009 NFL Draft Combine, earning him the 7th overall pick by the Oakland Raiders. He has yet to record a 1,000-yard season.
Stats & Information gets you ready for the NFL Draft later this week by taking a look at draft strategies over the years. Today, what we make of Scouting Combine stars.

With the Combine seemingly becoming more of an emphasis each season, what is the correlation between the results from the week in Indianapolis to draft position and success in the league?

Darrius Heyward-Bey played at the University of Maryland for three seasons and never had more than 800 receiving yards or five touchdowns in any given season. Nevertheless, based on the strength of his 40-yard dash (4.3) in the 2009 NFL combine, the fastest of his year, the Oakland Raiders drafted him seventh overall.

In all of his 2009 mock drafts, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. predicted Heyward-Bey to be drafted 25th, below Michael Crabtree (eighth) and Jeremy Maclin (10th). Fellow analyst Todd McShay’s mock drafts were all similar to Kiper’s with Heyward-Bey being drafted around 20th. Both McShay and Kiper cited his speed and 40-yard dash time as primary reasons for teams to draft Heyward-Bey.

However, Heyward-Bey’s high draft position has not translated to success in the NFL. Since entering the league in 2009, Heyward-Bey has 99 career catches, six touchdowns and has yet to record a 1,000 yard season. In comparison, over the same timeframe, Maclin has 189 career catches and 19 touchdowns.

Heyward-Bey is just one example of the increased emphasis on combine results versus college careers since the combine began in 1982. The combine includes physical and psychological tests for the prospects along with interviews with team scouts, executives and coaches.

The 40-yard dash is an essential component of the combine for wide receivers as it can predict their speed in the open field. Similarly to running backs, speed in the 40-yard dash has led to a high draft position.

Since 2005, the average draft position of a wide receiver has been pick 128 (round four/five). The average draft position of the top-10 fastest wide receivers in the combine since 2005 has been 57th, over 70 positions higher than the average.

Unfortunately, their success in the combine and the draft has not translated in the league. Of the top eight fastest wide receivers from 2005-2011, only two are starters in the NFL (Jacoby Ford and Heyward-Bey) and six are not starters or are no longer in the league. They also have no Pro Bowl appearances. Of the six non-starters, they have a combined 184 receptions and 17 touchdowns.

Justin Blackmon better than Dez Bryant

November, 10, 2010
As good as Dez Bryant’s 2008 season at Oklahoma State was, Justin Blackmon’s 2010 year with the Cowboys has been better. Bryant’s banner sophomore year saw him finish tied for second in the nation in receiving touchdowns (19) and third in the FBS in receiving yards per game (113.8). And his 1,480 receiving yards were the second most in school history.

But Blackmon is on pace to shatter those marks. Despite his one-game suspension this season against Kansas State, he still leads the FBS with 1,285 receiving yards, which translates to a staggering average of 160.6 per game. He’s never had a game this year with fewer than 125 receiving yards, and has at least one visit to paydirt via a reception in every game played in 2010.

Blackmon looks even more impressive when you compare him to one of the best single-season receiving performances in recent memory. In 2007, Texas Tech freshman wideout Michael Crabtree took the sport by storm, compiling 1,962 receiving yards (a Big 12 single-season record) and 22 touchdowns. That equates to nearly 151 yards per game, a pace that Blackmon is ahead of through eight contests.

Oklahoma State has four remaining games this year, including a bowl game. That means Blackmon is on pace for roughly 1,927 yards this season, which would fall just short of the conference record.

If he continues his pace of nearly 161 receiving yards per game, however, he’ll set a new mark in that regard. Essentially, Blackmon’s one-game suspension will likely keep him just short of staking claim to the best receiving season in Big 12 history.