With the production the Raiders got last year from their starting wide receivers, everyone had a hunch this was the need they would address early in this year's draft.
Michael Crabtree had been considered by many the top overall prospect in the draft and spent most of the offseason as a projected top three pick. Experts believed that with some help from Seattle and Cincinnati, he might actually fall to the Oakland Raiders.
The experts were right. The seas parted, and Michael Crabtree dropped to pick seven, where the Raiders were waiting patiently for their guy.
Without hesitation, the Raiders stepped up to the plate and got their guy—Darrius Heyward-Bey.
The crowd at Radio City was stunned.
Everyone watching on television and listening by radio was stunned.
Here's a realistic look at just what the Raiders whiffed on by passing on Michael Crabtree.
1) Oakland missed the opportunity to own a wide receiver who thinks he is bigger than the team. Crabtree will be the face of his franchise.
For better or worse, you can count on it. When the crap hits the fan, guess whose face gets smeared? Not Craptree, the self-declared face of the franchise. Sorry for the analogy, and no, spell check did not make a mistake.
2) Oakland whiffed on the opportunity to pay a player who believes he has already earned his check. Michael Crabtree did not catch one ball last season in the NFL.
Big 12 defenses are as soft as a baby's bottom. Not to mention they don't run the ball—Texas Tech threw 662 passes in 12 games last season. Are you kidding me? The Red Raiders are not the Oakland Raiders. At 55 passes a game, Tom Brady would throw 883 passes in a season. How many catches would Wes Welker and Randy Moss have at that rate?
3) Oakland missed on a wide receiver who already has injury concerns. Michael Crabtree knew about his foot injury in college but never revealed it. It popped up during a physical before the combine, and he removed himself from the combine as a result.
Even a 4.5 would not have hurt his draft status. Is he slower than that? He had no good reason not to give NFL teams a 40-yard dash time unless it would hurt his draft stock. After the uncertainty of surgery, just how slow can he be?
4) Michael Crabtree did not want to be in Oakland. His family did not want him in Oakland. Why would Oakland want him in Oakland? Therefore, the Raiders whiffed on the opportunity to suit up another player who didn't want to be there. I don't like any player who is not grateful just to be drafted.
I know things worked out for Eli Manning, so my case may be weak here, but I think Archie was the one calling the shots on that one. Compare Crabtree to Michael Oher. Oher drops to 23rd in the draft and bawls his eyes out at the opportunity to play on an NFL roster. Heyward-Bey didn't cry, but Raiders shouldn't cry, so we'll leave it at that.
5) Lastly, the Raiders would have missed on Darrius Heyward-Bey. Prorate Heyward-Bey's stats into an offense that throws 662 times, and he would have had 75 catches for 1,100 yards as a junior. His sophomore stats would have been 90 receptions for 1,400 yards!
Living just across the bay from Maryland's campus, I am comfortable telling everyone that his stats came with a miserable quarterback at the helm.
In Heyward-Bey's freshman season, Maryland started senior quarterback Sam Hollenbach. While Hollenbach was no Graham Harrell, he hit Heyward-Bey 45 times for 694 yards. In the Texas Tech offense, that translates to 80 receptions for 1,228 yards.
Heyward-Bey comes into the season looking to earn his paycheck. Michael Mitchell was bashed on the national stage by Mel Kiper. They both know they have something to prove. Physically, they are at least as talented as anyone drafted around them.
For them, it began on draft day; for Michael Crabtree, it's where it ends. He reached the top of the mountain. He made his money in college and will cash in on San Francisco.
Good luck, San Francisco, living up to his expectations.
The draft is always bit of a crapshoot. Either receiver could excel, and either could be another first round bust. In the worst-case scenario, Heyward-Bey is certainly the least likely to bring the whole team down around him.