Two years into his pro career and thus far Darrius Heyward-Bey has done little to change the opinions that poured out on draft night. The moment the Raiders made a reach only Reed Richards would appreciate to grab DHB the hate began. Cris Carter, Mel Kiper, every blogger on the planet, the list of those to dismiss Hey-Bey before he ever put on pads expanded instantly. With two disappointing years in the league under his belt the line for DHB bashing is growing faster than Netflix.
Grantland’s Bill Barnwell is the latest to get in on the diss Darrius action. In response to the NFL’s top 100 list, Barnwell authored a list of the 25 least valuable players. DHB checks in at number 15.
Heyward-Bey actually raised his catch rate (the percentage of passes intended for a receiver that the player actually caught) last year! Too bad it only got up to 41 percent, which was still the lowest rate in the league for a player with 50 or more targets.
The DHB dilemma is an awkward one at best for Raider Nation. On the one hand, he’s done nothing wrong. Al Davis fell in love with his size and speed. Thus burning a top 10 pick on a project. It’s not like Heyward-Bey campaigned to be the first receiver taken nor did he holdout for big bucks. The Raiders offered Heyward-Bey a contract while most of the players picked in front of him were still hammering out deals.
Since coming to Oakland he’s been a team-first player, willing to do all the dirty work most receivers hate and is known for his work ethic. In all DHB is a model player that would find a role on any NFL roster.
On the other hand he is producing nowhere near the expectations of a receiver drafted in the top 10 with a $30-million contract. The biggest question mark for DHB coming out of college was his ability to catch the ball. Not the kind of stigma you want accompanying you upon your transition from college to the pros.
While he’s made strides, DHB is still being given the scholarship treatment. Louis Murphy lapped DHB as a rookie then Jacoby Ford did the same in his first year as a Raider.
Doing him no favors, the Raiders continued to give Heyward-Bey a starting role despite his lack of productivity.
While the least valuable list is just one man’s opinion it is an opinion that is nearly impossible to debate. This is a make or break season for DHB. If and when the lockout ends few players will have as much to prove as Heyward-Bey. If there is any solace for Darrius to take in the latest insult it’s the fact that at least he’s not Jimmy Clausen.