When Al Davis drafted receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey with the seventh pick in the 2009 NFL draft, the selection was mocked by basically everyone. Heyward-Bey was looked at as nothing more than a 40 time and not a football player.
Every "expert" said the Raiders should have taken Michael Crabtree with the pick. Crabtree was thought of as NFL ready while DHB, as Heyward-Bey is known to Raiders fans, was nothing more than a project at best.
Through the first two years of their respective careers, it appeared as if the masses might be right. Crabtree easily outperformed DHB in virtually every measurable statistic, but while Crabtree was making the occasional play and enhancing his reputation as a diva, DHB was working hard every day and learning how to be a complete receiver.
In his first two years DHB ran clear out routes and blocked. He did both extremely well and helped the team tremendously, all the while continuing to work on his skills on the practice field and film room. Now in, oh, so important third year the hard work is starting to show up on the stat sheet as well.
In the four games he has played this year DHB has 16 receptions for 263 yards and one touchdown on a beautiful catch and run yesterday against the Texans. Meanwhile, the highly regarded Crabtree seems to be regressing. In the four games he's played he has only 11 receptions for a paltry 132 yards and no scores.
Maybe Al Davis chose the right guy after all!
In fact, let's quit comparing DHB to Crabtree as it hardly seems fair anymore, considering Crabtree does none of the little things DHB does and now can't even boast superior statistics. Let's see how DHB has stacked up in comparison to some other well regarded players this year.
DHB is averaging 65.8 yards receiving this year, good for 31st in the league. Take out a trip to "Revis Island," and that number would be 86 yards per game which would place him 10th in the league, or one spot ahead of Larry Fitzgerald! Maybe there's a reason Revis lined up on DHB all game?
Even at the 65.8 yards per game, DHB is in, or ahead of, some pretty good company. That average places him higher than Anquan Boldin, Dez Bryant, Deion Branch, Marques Colston and Santana Moss. In fact he's only 4.6 yards a game behind the much more highly targeted Roddy White!
There is valuable lesson to be learned here. We live in a NOW society, but not everything good happens immediately. Sometimes the best things take time to develop.
Al Davis saw this potential in Darrius Heyward-Bey and even though Al won't be here to watch in person, he'll be smiling and saying I told you so, somewhere, as DHB continues his development.
I hope the ESPN guys who mocked this kid on Draft Day will man up and admit they were wrong when DHB makes a Pro Bowl some day. Especially you Chris Carter! I still remember you laughing at DHB before you guys interviewed him! Then again, maybe Raider fans should thank you and everyone else who doubted DHB.
I have a feeling his character would have made him work hard anyway, but I'm sure DHB will take great pleasure in proving you all wrong and once again proving Al Davis right!
Just Win Baby!