Oakland Raiders: Should Darrius Heyward-Bey have a chip on his shoulder in 2012?
Jimmy Hal – Jun 22, 2012
In 2011, Oakland Raiders' wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey showed that he very well can be a productive receiver in the NFL. The controversial first round draft pick of 2009 had humble beginnings during his previous two seasons in the silver and black, but in year three he showed that hard work and tenacity does pay off in the end.
As the first receiver taken in the 2009 draft, many called Heyward-Bey a bust before he even took his first professional snap. Three years later, Heyward-Bey is starting to come into his own as an offensive weapon, but is that enough?
As the top wide-out taken in his draft class, Heyward-Bey will be compared to every other first round receiver from that class, however there is one receiver that will forever be tied to him—Michael Crabtree. Crabtree was the best receiver in the draft in the opinion of multiple "experts." Almost every mock draft had the Raiders selecting Crabtree at the number seven selection, but instead Raiders' owner Al Davis opted to pass on the talented prospect, allowing him to fall to the cross town rivals, the San Francisco 49ers with the tenth pick.
It seemed San Francisco had selected the better receiver until 2011 where Heyward-Bey out produced Crabtree. In fact, Heyward-Bey produced more than any other first round receiver from the 2009 draft with the exception of Hakeem Nicks of the New York Giants.
In retrospect, the selection of Heyward-Bey may not have been as bad of a decision as was initially thought. Consider that Crabtree has yet to become the 49ers best receiver, as they have selected yet another first round receiver in 2011. Jeremy Maclin of the Philadelphia Eagles is a playmaker, yet is in the backseat as Desean Jackson takes the lead.
Tennessee Titans Kenny Britt may be the best receiver from the 2009 draft class, yet has proven to be injury prone. Percy Harvin, like Maclin has been productive, but not dominant and now has become a distraction for the Minnesota Vikings as he has requested a trade. With all that is known now, the selection of Heyward-Bey may still not be considered the best pick, but it was certainly the safest in terms of the wide receiver position.
Still, Heyward-Bey does not get the credit for being a hard-working teammate that produces on the football field. Why is that?
It may be have to do with the fact that some believe Heyward-Bey is not even the best receiver on his team. In 2009, Heyward-Bey was outshined by fellow rookie Louis Murphy, a fourth round pick. In 2010, Jacoby Ford made many big plays getting a lot of fan praise and in 2011, the season that saw Heyward-Bey lead his team in receptions and receiving yards, rookie Denarious Moore took much of the spot light.
Now heading into 2012, many fans believe it will be Moore that leads the team in receiving rather than Heyward-Bey.
So what does Heyward-Bey have to do to, not only prove his past critics wrong, but also get the fans on his side? Heyward-Bey must prove 2011 was no fluke. Though 2011 was his best season, he still has a lot to do to polish his game. Having a quarterback the likes of Carson Palmer’s pedigree should benefit in this regard.
If there is any receiver with the most chemistry with Palmer it should be Darrius Heyward-Bey. They both took time in the early spring to work out together in southern California and in OTA’s and mini-camp, Heyward-Bey is working with Palmer with the first team.
In order for Heyward-Bey to really shed his "bust" label, and also gain the fans' trust, Heyward-Bey must head into the 2012 with an even bigger chip on his shoulder than in previous years and more importantly, translate that chip into even more production on the field.
Only then will he get the respect he deserves.
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