Darrius Heyward-Bey: The Spark the Oakland Raiders Need
Like many Raider fans, I was immediately skeptical of the selection of Darius Heyward-Bey with the seventh overall pick. I wasn't as surprised by the pick as some, as I had read Mike Lombardi's article written the day before the draft. In that article, Lombardi claimed that DHB was a lock to go to Oakland at number seven.
Mike Lombardi is hated by any knowledgeable Raider fans. This was the guy that Art Shell had excommunicated from the church of Silver and Black in his first (or should I say last?) Training Camp during the second reign of Shell. But he wasn't wrong.
Heyward-Bey had all the measurables at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. This is undeniable. But I predict it will be his character, fused with his athletic ability, that will make him a success in the NFL.
Yes, Heyward-Bey is regarded as just another H-W-S specimen that Al Davis covets. But that isn't necessarily the worst thing in the world. Various reports have come out in defense of Heyward-Bey.
One of the more memorable quotes came from his former head coach at Maryland, Ralph Friedgren. Friedgren is quoted as saying, "I think it's because of the way he is. He cares for everybody. He has no ego. He's just a wonderful person."
No ego? And he's a wide receiver?
Try to find the video of ESPN covering Heyward-Bey at the moment he was drafted. Cynics will watch it and claim that he looks sad to be joining the abysmal Raiders. But I watch that video and see a young man realizing his dreams. More importantly, he isn't rocking any JaMarcus-esque bling.
Many like to poke fun at Al Davis for his long-time drafting ideology. But it's not like the guy has no idea what he's doing. The last wideout Davis drafted in the first round was a speedy guy that came out of a mediocre program. His name was Tim Brown. He went to nine Pro-Bowls and made the 1990's All-Decade team.
Am I saying DHB will match Tim Brown's production? Of course not! The point I'm trying to make is that Al Davis still knows what he's doing. He's still sharp. He still knows how to work the media. He still knows how to run the NFL Draft.
Why did the Raiders reach on Heyward-Bey? The short answer is that the Raiders needed a WR. Looking back at 2007, their leading receiver notched only 22 receptions. Oakland needed a guy for their rocket-armed QB to pass to. So why not draft the guy he can't overthrow? On paper, it makes perfect sense.
But through the draft process (before the event actually took place at Radio City Music Hall), players are stripped apart. Every single play in their collegiate careers is re-watched and criticized. That is why the Heyward-Bey selection is questioned. Not because of what he can do, but because of what he didn't.
He didn't win the Fred Biletnikoff award (twice). He didn't catch 800 TDs. He didn't run the crispest routes.
In the end however, it will be his production at the NFL level that will determine the grade of the selection. Not Mel Kiper's knee-jerk reaction.
It will become apparent to the world the first time Heyward-Bey toasts an opposing corner and goes the distance. But what will be even more shocking to the public is Heyward-Bey's swagger (or lack thereof) immediately after.
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