Oakland Raiders: 4 Reasons Darrius Heyward-Bey Is a Fantasy Football Sleeper

Steven Slivka@@StevenSlivkaCorrespondent IIISeptember 4, 2012

Oakland Raiders: 4 Reasons Darrius Heyward-Bey Is a Fantasy Football Sleeper

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    It's been a long time since the Oakland Raiders have had a legitimate No. 1 receiver lining up outside.

    Tim Brown was the last great receiver the Raiders had, and trying to find a solid No. 1 option has plagued the team since he left in 2004.

    Al Davis drafted Darrius Heyward-Bey with the seventh-overall pick in 2009 with the hopes of bringing a young, fast receiver to Oakland, and the Raiders' late owner took plenty of heat for his decision to pass on Jeremy Maclin and Michael Crabtree for the speedy Heyward-Bey.

    Though he was a disappointment in his first two years in the league, Heyward-Bey finally showed some promise in 2011, giving Raider fans some hope for the future.

    He's not a standout receiver like Larry Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson, but he's more than capable of putting up big numbers in fantasy leagues. He's been overlooked so far, and here are four reasons why he is a fantasy sleeper this season.

He's Carson Palmer's No. 1 Receiver

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    Denarius Moore showed excellent playmaking skills last season for the Raiders, but injuries have sidelined him for the entire preseason, making Darrius Heyward-Bey the No. 1 receiver in Oakland.

    Heyward-Bey averaged over five receptions per game from Palmer during Oakland's final seven games of the season, including two games where he caught for at least 130 yards.

    Palmer likes to throw the deep ball, and Heyward-Bey has the speed to burn any defensive back in the NFL.

    His acrobatic catch against the Detroit Lions during the preseason showed that he has the potential to make "game-changing" plays at any given moment.

    The Raiders have been stricken with injuries to their starting wide receivers so far, and at the age of 25, Heyward-Bey will be the most experienced receiver in Oakland once Week 1 rolls around.

Defenses Will Be Busy with Darren McFadden

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    Running back Darren McFadden is without question the Raiders' most explosive weapon.

    When healthy, he's one of the most dangerous running backs in the league, and he's just as dangerous in the passing game as he is in the running game.

    Defenses are sure to do everything they can to limit McFadden's impact on the field, which will open the door for Heyward-Bey to make big plays.

    When the Raiders establish their run game, Carson Palmer can utilize the play-action with McFadden and hit Heyward-Bey for big chunks of yards.

    Opposing defenses put eight men in the box against Chris Johnson, and Nate Washington ended up getting over 1,000 yards last season for the Tennessee Titans.

    Who's to say Heyward-Bey can't do the same?

He Finally Showcased His Talents in 2011

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    Darrius Heyward-Bey finally showed why he was worthy of being picked No. 7 overall after two disappointing seasons in the league.

    Last season, he finished with more yards than DeSean Jackson, Percy Harvin and Dez Bryant.

    His 15.2 yards per catch was higher than Greg Jennings, Dwayne Bowe and Marques Colston.

    Although he only scored four touchdowns last season, he only had two in his first two seasons combined.

    Heyward-Bey finished 2011 with 975 yards and had three games where he had one catch or less. 2012 is the year he'll finally blossom into the receiver Al Davis thought he would be.

Opposing Pass Defenses

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    Five of Oakland's opponents in 2012 finished in the bottom-third in the league in pass defense in 2011.

    All four teams from the NFC South finished no higher than 20th against the pass in 2011, something Heyward-Bey is sure to capitalize off of.

    Not to mention he'll fare well against divisional opponents as well.

    He'll also face the Denver Broncos twice, who finished 18th against the pass last year.

    In the Raiders' final game of the season against the San Diego Chargers in 2011, Heyward-Bey finished with nine catches for 130 yards and a touchdown.

    The Kansas City Chiefs finished sixth in pass defense last year, but Heyward-Bey had 159 combined yards in the two games the Raiders took on the Chiefs.

    Oakland will be challenged by the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens this year, but if Heyward-Bey can start this season the way he closed out last season, he'll be one of the most dangerous, lesser-known wide receivers in the league.