Spotlight - TE Alge Crumpler, Atlanta Falcons
Posted 5/30 by Mike Brown and Mike Anderson,
Exclusive to Footballguys.com
Mike Brown's Thoughts
Alge Crumpler has proven to be remarkably consistent since being drafted in the second round by Atlanta in 2001. The past four seasons, he’s been ranked eighth, fifth, fourth, and fifth amongst players at his position. Additionally, he has steadily raised his game each season to include more receptions and yards than the season before. If that trend continues in 2006, it will mean that Crumpler will have entered the very elite of the league at his position.
There is no questioning that Crumpler’s talent is amongst the very best at the tight end spot. Very few possess his excellent receiving skills and speed with that of a top-tier blocker, all on a 265 pound frame. The three-time Pro Bowler has managed to compile the fourth-highest receiving yardage total by a tight end over the past two seasons despite playing for a team that has ranked 28th and 30th, respectively, in passing yardage over that time.
The last several seasons, Atlanta has brought in guys like Peerless Price, Brian Finneran, Michael Jenkins, and Roddy White in an attempt to establish another presence in the passing game. Yet aside from Crumpler and Warrick Dunn, the Falcons don’t feature another consistent producer downfield. And yet, despite the knowledge that Crumpler is the primary threat in the passing game, teams still have trouble slowing him down. That speaks volumes to the kind of player he is. So why hasn’t he made the leap into the elite at his position? The answer, in short, is Michael Vick. For all of the positives of having Vick rely on Crumpler as his go-to guy, the fact that Vick is the quarterback of this team probably means Crumpler’s fantasy prospects will only go as far as Vick will allow them.
Pay attention to any news over the summer about how Vick looks in minicamp and training camp. If he’s got a firm handle on the offense and looks to be making the jump from “exciting player” to “NFL quarterback”, Crumpler could see a sizable bump in performance. Considering what he’s done with a marginal signal-caller to this point, imagine what he’d be capable of if Vick suddenly realizes his potential. Still, Crumpler, at this point, is what he is: a top 4-6 TE who will pretty much do what you expect of him. Our staff currently has him ranked between 2 and 7, and he’s firmly entrenched in the “just after the elite guys are gone” tier of tight ends.
- Crumpler has proven to be extremely durable over his career, having played in 78 of 80 career games.
- The Falcons still have mostly unproven players manning the wide receiver spots. While this will mean continued attention on Crumpler, he has proven adept at handling such pressure to this point (career-high 118 targets last season). With no big-name guys around, Crumpler is once again “The Man”.
- Everyone knows that Crumpler is Michael Vick’s favorite target. Yet Crumpler enjoyed one of his most productive games of the season in Week 5 (6 receptions, 99 yards, 1 TD on 9 targets), when it was Matt Schaub and not Vick, who played QB for Atlanta. It’s good to know that if Vick were to go down for an extended period (not far-fetched with his history), Crumpler wouldn’t take a back seat to anyone else in the offense.
- Despite a relatively similar amount of red zone targets the past two seasons compared to the elite (Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez), Crumpler to this point has been unable to match the productivity of those players. Again, this could be more a product of Vick than anything but it certainly works against Crumpler no matter the reason. Additionally, despite 44 more targets than he had a year ago, he actually scored one fewer touchdown.
- Michael Vick has proven to the league that he’s an exciting player, but hasn’t quite proven to be an adept quarterback just yet. He gets the job done in the won/loss column, but fantasy owners need statistical results. On the ground, Vick gets it done. Through the air, he is only so-so. If he can improve as a passer, the sky would be the limit for Crumpler. So far, that hasn’t happened.
- Atlanta has one of the best ground attacks in the league, featuring Vick, Warrick Dunn, and T.J. Duckett. With a focus on running the football, it’s unlikely that Atlanta will have the type of offense capable of producing an elite receiver at either the WR or TE spot.
If you choose to use a pick on him, make sure it is not based on the assumption of an increase in production. In other words, don’t lump him in with the elite just because his numbers trend in that direction. Even if another presence emerges in the Atlanta passing game to take pressure off Crumpler, that could just as easily mean they’ll steal targets as well. Additionally, there is a lot of value to be had at tight end this year, and guys like Jason Witten, Randy McMichael, and Todd Heap will all be available right around the same time as Crumpler - and all have just as much upside. Crumpler is being selected in the mid-sixth round on average, which is about right. Don’t reach much before then, and don’t let him fall too much later, and you’ll be happy.
Mike Anderson's Thoughts
Quotations from the Message Board Thread
To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there),
[Crumper is] a top 7 TE, year in and year out.
Problem is, he had a pretty big year last year, and that's going to be hard to duplicate. I don't see him matching the production of last year, and I think many owners are going to expect that.
Everything I've been hearing down here in Atlanta seems to indicate that Vick will be given the opportunity to freelance MORE and be restrained LESS by the west coast offense. If that's the case, I'm going to predict a slight downturn in production for Alge Crumpler, since it really seems that he has benefited from Vick being forced to stay in the pocket. When you watch the Falcons, Vick forces the ball to Crumpler more than any other receiver, based on his extreme confidence in Alge's abilities. With Vick back to the scrambling, running style that made him more effective, I'd expect his reliance on Crumpler as a security blanket to decrease somewhat.
Alge Crumpler Projections
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