Is Darrius Heyward-Bey The Next Cliff Branch?

James WilliamsonSenior Writer IAugust 1, 2009

ALAMEDA, CA - MAY 08:  Darrius Heyward-Bey #12 of the Oakland Raiders runs drills during the Raiders minicamp at the team's permanent training facility on May 8, 2009 in Alameda, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

When Al Davis first selected Darrius Heyward-Bey, it really threw me for a loop for about a minute.

I live in Texas so I have to deal with the rivalries between Texas Tech, Texas, and Texas A&M Universities.

One of the most amazing players to watch was Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech. He had been the only receiver that really got any Heisman Trophy thought to him. It was amazing because only two receivers ever won the Heisman Trophy, and they were Desmond Howard and Tim Brown.

Who drafted Tim Brown? Al Davis, that's who.

I was with my semi-pro football team going to a playoff game around five hours away. We were huddling around our phones waiting for the big news.

When Oakland selected Heyward-Bey, I was immediately confused until my buddy J.D. told me that Heyward-Bey had the fastest 40 time at the combine.

I snapped my fingers and realized that Al Davis was going after one thing; speed.

Darrius Heyward-Bey ran a 4.30 40-time at the combine. That was the best time out of all the receivers.

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Who does that sound like? Sounds like Cliff Branch to me.

"Branch committed highway robbery without a gun!"

Branch was the fastest guy on the field when it came to the Raiders. No one in the league could consistently run with the guy on a regular basis.

Pat Haden: "Everytime you think about Cliff Branch, did he ever go short? No, he was always going for 80 yards."

There were signs at the stadium that said, "SPEED KILLS! 21"

Heyward-Bey did not have great statistics in college, but he did not really have a supporting cast at Maryland.

The Raiders needed a receiver on the field. Their number one receiver was Zach Miller with 778 yards. The receiver in second was Johnnie Lee Higgins with 366 yards.

The Raiders threw only 13 passing touchdowns the entire season. They ranked 32nd in pass offense. That is last place people.

The Raiders need a deep threat to have on the field. It adds a dimension to the team and the more dimensions a team has, the more effective that team is.

The Raiders desperately need a receiver that will require double coverage threat and Heyward-Bey is the guy they are banking on with his speed.

He's the guy they want to run down the field to take pressure off the run game or the short pass game.

Is Darrius Heyward-Bey the next Cliff Branch? I don't know, but for Al Davis's sake, let's hope he is.


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