Mike Crabtree and The Joy of Not Having a First Round Pick

As you know, the Cowboys had no first or second round picks in last April’s draft. This is annoying, because part of the fun of training camp is seeing the big new star come into the fold, and imagining all the ways that he’s going to help improve the team’s record by at least six wins, before he flames out spectacularly and is eventually cut three seasons later. First round picks are exciting like that.

But there’s also a huge downside to having a first round pick, and that’s the inevitable training camp holdout. There’s nothing more annoying than those daily updates from camp where the pick hasn’t signed yet, and everyone’s asking, “Hey, when that jackass coming into camp?” Then the coach divorces himself from the whole situation by saying something like, “I’m only focused on the guys who are here.” Then the team takes a hard line stance. Then the agent takes a hard line stance. Blah blah blah, shoot me in the ear.

That’s exactly what’s happening in San Francisco, where receiver Michael Crabtree is threatening to sit out the year and re-enter the draft in April 2010, AND he wants to be paid more than Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was drafted two slots ahead of him. Cue the dramatic chipmunk.

This never happens. The last player to actually follow through on sitting out the season and re-entering the draft was Miami Hurricanes QB Craig Erickson back in 1991. Bo Jackson also re-entered the draft after Tampa Bay demanded he choose between baseball and football. And QB Kelly Stouffer sat out the entire 1987 season before the Cardinals traded him to Seattle. Apart from those three, no rookie of note has ever put his money where his mouth is and pulled a Sean Gilbert. It’s a transparent, hugely aggravating bargaining tactic that does nothing but make fans want to punch you in the kidneys.

At worst, Crabtree’s situation will echo those of JaMarcus Russell and Bryant McKinnie, who both held out through midseason, effectively wasting a year (though the holdout did allow Russell to stock up on Cakesters for the winter). The longer the holdout goes, the more pointless it becomes, the threats growing ever more empty. The player always ends up signing - ALWAYS – but not before draining all the excitement of his potential away.

So while the Cowboys could always use some big bad blue chipper coming into camp, this could well be just the right year – a year in which the team has gone to great lengths to avoid any and all drama – to not have that sort of pointless, never-ending distraction hanging around. Have fun holding out and then sucking, Michael Crabtree.

That said, I bet the Double J trades for him a week from now.

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