Was Patrick Crayton the Best Slot Receiver in Team History?
Pretty sad news today as the Cowboys traded receiver Patrick Crayton to San Diego for a seventh-round draft pick next year. The trade isn’t entirely unexpected, as some thought Dallas would move Crayton once the team selected Dez Bryant in the first round of the draft. Still, Crayton has been a solid contributor since he entered the league as a seventh-round pick in 2004. The receiving corps that season? Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn, Antonio Bryant (before he was shipped to Cleveland), and Quincy Morgan (traded for Bryant).
Since then, all of those receivers left. Terrell Owens came and went. Roy Williams came and has done nothing. Crayton seemed to be a long-shot when he arrived, but he was steady throughout his entire career. He played 82 games in Dallas and started 32 of them. He averaged 32.7 receptions and 481.3 yards per season during that time. He ranks 19th on the team’s all-time list for career receptions (196, trailing Terry Glenn by 12 receptions) and ranks 16th on the list for receiving yards with 2,888. He was a decent punt returner and even took two back for touchdowns in 2009.
The title of the post asks whether Crayton is the best slot receiver in team history. This is a tough question, given that it’s tough to identify a slot receiver before Butch Johnson. Since that time, the team has had a handful of third receivers who played principally in the slot position. I won’t waste time discussing the likes of Ernie Mills, Wane McGarity, or Stepfret Williams. Crayton is among four slot receivers who would be part of this debate. Others include Butch Johnson, Kevin Williams, and Kelvin Martin. Here are the career stats for these players:
Butch Johnson (1976-1983): 112 games, 132 receptions, 2,124 yards, 19 TD
Kevin Williams (1993-1996): 57 games, 98 receptions, 1,268 yards, 5 TD
Kelvin Martin (1987-1992, 1996): 98 games, 237 receptions, 3,083 yards, 9 TD
Patrick Crayton (2004-2009): 82 games, 196 receptions, 2,888 yards, 23 TD
Like Crayton, the others spent part of their careers as starters, but they were best known for playing the slot on third downs and other obvious passing situations. Who among these was the best?
Johnson may be the player most would remember, given his amazing catch in Super Bowl XII and flamboyance in developing the California Quake. But Johnson never caught more than 25 passes in any single season until 1983, when he caught 41 for 561 yards.
Martin’s receptions mostly came during his years as a starter in the 1980s. When the team became competitive in 1991 and 1992, he only had 16 and 32 receptions respectively.
Williams caught a total of 33 passes as a slot receiver in 1993 and 1994 before becoming a starter in 1995. Even while starting 16 games, he only had 38 receptions that year.
Crayton wasn’t a great starter in 2007, but he was consistent while filling the slot role in other seasons. I think he’ll be missed.