The 2011 season was the most productive campaign yet for Oakland Raider’s wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. DHB finished the year with 975 receiving yards, good enough for 20th in the NFL. His 64 catches and 4 touchdowns are respectable numbers for a slot receiver or a tight end. Heyward-Bey, however, is neither of those.
Darrius Heyward-Bey was drafted 7th overall in the 2009 NFL draft. You don’t use the 7th overall pick in a draft to select a slot receiver, tight end, or even a number 2 wideout. Using the 7th overall pick in the draft, or any top ten pick for that matter, on a wide receiver is saying “this guy is going to come in, start, and dominate.” Since 2007, three wide receivers other than Heyward-Bey have been taken with a top 7 pick: A.J. Green, Julio Jones, and Calvin Johnson, a.k.a Megatron. Of those three, DHB eclipsed only Jones in yardage last season, while crossing the endzone half the number of times that the Atlanta wideout did.
It’s no secret that Heyward-Bey was drafted because of his speed. Al Davis loved size and speed. He thought the same way in the 21st century that he thought in the middle of the twentieth century; that if you are bigger, stronger and faster than the other team, you’ll win. That is no longer the case in today’s NFL. Today’s NFL is a thinking man’s league.
The 2012 season will mark Heyward-Bey’s fourth in the league. In the three seasons he has played so far, he has totaled 99 receptions, 1465 yard, and 6 touchdowns. Last season alone, 3 players caught 99 or more passes, 4 had over 1400 yards receiving, and 32 caught more than 6 touchdowns. This is a flat-out unacceptable stat for a guy drafted so high.
Granted, Darrius Heyward-Bey didn’t draft himself. He wasn’t responsible for the quarterback and coaching changes that have gone on during his short career. He didn’t ask for the pressure of being a top-ten pick for a rebuilding franchise.
I’ll tell you what he DID do: He signed a 5 year, $38 million contract with a smile on his face.
So here we sit in year 4 of this 5 year deal. Was it worth it? He’ll cost Oakland over $5.7 million in cap space this year; $14 million this year and next.
You know the answer, so stop coddling him.
These are the facts: At 6’2, 210 pounds, he is not undersized. He is the same size as Justin Blackmon. We know he’s faster than Blackman. Faster than Julio Jones. Faster than A.J. Green. Faster than Megatron. He’ll be catching passes from a healthy Carson Palmer this season. A Carson Palmer who knows his receivers and will be comfortable in his surroundings.
Heyward-Bey had his finest season last year, however, he’ll need to increase his yardage total by 50% and triple his scoring production to come anywhere near being worth what the Oakland Raiders pay him. If he does this, it will be a great year for DHB and the Oakland Raiders. It will probably mean a division title, a home playoff game, possibly a pro-bowl trip. If he does anything close to or less than what he did last season, it’s time for the Raiders and Raider Nation to face reality: Darrius Heyward-Bey is another bust and another reminder of the detrimental effect that the ego of a proud old man had on a once proud franchise.