Debating the success of an NFL team’s draft before any of the members of their rookie class has taken the field is as pointless as Braille on the handlebars of a motorcycle.
Cris Carter’s maniacal laughter ushered in the Darrius Heyward-Bey era. According to the former wide receiver turned analyst, there is no need to watch DHB play, the verdict is already in.
The Heyward-Bey selection was the most talked about moment of the 2009 NFL draft. The biggest knock on the former Maryland speedster are his inconsistent hands. The assumption was that his 4.30 40-yard dash was the only reason Al Davis so coveted him. He had a sore hamstring that limited his participation in OTAs and one of his first impression on the sports media was to drop three straight passes just prior to the first time his now lingering injury flared up.
Are these warning signs of impending doom? Or is this just a case of a young talent still growing into the game of football?
Only time will tell.
No matter the assumptions, the proof will be revealed on the field.
When Michael Crabtree is eventually healthy enough to play football, after he ends his inevitable hold out, his success will only be relative to what Hey-Bey has or hasn’t done.
The two receivers are forever linked as either trivia or trivial fodder.
SI’s Peter King himself can’t hide his fascination with the story lines surrounding Heyward-Bey and his former coach at Maryland is even quoted as questioning the receiver’s biggest question mark.
I think one of the guys we’ll all have eyes on this summer is the first-round pick of the Raiders, wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey. Seems like a classic boom-or-bust pick. His college coach, Ralph Friedgen, is a huge fan of Heyward-Bey’s, but he also says the wideout needs to improve his hands. “There would be times in practice he would really struggle,” Friedgen said.
The Raiders have inadvertently placed Heyward-Bey in the most unflattering spotlight. The national media began angling their stories to author yet another chapter in the train wreck-like decline of a once proud franchise.
Heyward-Bey is becoming the media mascot of Oakland. Many are anticipating his performances to be the kindling for the fires of sarcasm that have been burning in the East Bay since the Super Bowl loss to Chucky.
Every year in the NFL draft, a highly regarded pick goes bust while a slept on talent goes boom. Years later, we all look back and wonder how David Terrell and Koren Robinson could be top ten picks in a draft when Reggie Wayne went at the end of the first round while Chad Johnson and Steve Smith both slipped to the second and third rounds respectively. The Bears and the Seahawks would love a do-over of the ’01 draft. The Raiders are betting on Heyward-Bey to be the reason they won’t need to revisit 2009 eight years from now.
Whatever your take on Heyward-Bey is, just know this: in an era when the Buffalo Bills sold their soul to Drew Rosenhaus just to get Ed Werder to show up in Orchard Park on occasion, the Raiders and an unknown commodity playing wide receiver are garnering similar attention, albeit on a smaller scale. There are no hype men doing the work of Flavor Flav in Oakland, there are only football headlines that have many watching and anticipating.
The next hurdle is getting a contract executed before camp starts in two days. After that, the potential to become a dynamic talent is all on the coaching staff and Heyward-Bey.
Comparisons are unfair – especially for a man who has yet to play an NFL down – but if you squint your eyes and look at Darrius, you just might see a resemblance to another receiver with good size, great speed and questionable hands who currently plays in Upstate New York. Of course, the Oakland version is not a diva nor does he need a reality show to remain relevant. All he did was impress Al Davis.
The rest will be history, for better of for worse.
Subscribe to JBB
Follow JBB on Twitter