AFC West: Darius Heyward-Bey
There has been talk that Oakland will make a run at New Orleans' Marques Colston, who will be one of the top free-agent receivers available. It is a deep receiver class that also may include Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe and San Diego’s Vincent Jackson. So, Oakland will have some options if it wants to get into the receiver game in free agency.
While adding a player of Colston’s caliber would certainly help any offense, I don’t think the Raiders should make receiver a priority position.
The Raiders, who at last check were $11 million over the salary cap and one of four teams that still has to get under the cap, will eventually get under the cap. But don’t expect them to be able to be one of the NFL’s biggest spenders. That means Oakland must be prudent in its spending and address the defense first. There is immediate help needed at cornerback and perhaps at linebacker and at safety.
As appealing as adding a big-name receiver may be, the Raiders aren’t in horrible shape at the position. Yes, they do not have a legitimate No. 1 receiver on the roster. But they perhaps have one in the making.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, the No. 7 overall pick of the 2009 draft, made major strides in 2011. After catching a pitiful 35 passes in his first 26 games, Heyward-Bey broke out for 64 catches and 975 yards in 2011. Yes, he is still somewhat inconsistent. But Heyward-Bey deserves a chance to show what he can do in 2012.
There is also 2011 fifth-round pick Denarius Moore. He had 35 catches last season and made some special plays.
I think having Heyward-Bey and Moore as the starters in 2012 is a pretty good start, especially considering the presence of the dynamic, but small Jacoby Ford and the reliable Louis Murphy. The Raiders will probably let former top prospect Chaz Schilens -- whose career has been marred by numerous injuries -- walk in free agency.
A core of Heyward-Bey, Moore, Ford and Murphy (I’m sure other role players will be added) will suffice this season. The Raiders’ offseason must concentrate on defense. Adding a receiver is a luxury that can become a priority in 2013 if either Heyward-Bey and/or Moore fail to progress.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Catching up on a busy night in the AFC West.
The Raiders were chock full of news as coach Tom Cable addressed the media Wednesday in preparation of the team's start of training camp Thursday. Here are some of the significant nuggets:
- Cable all but said the Raiders won't pursue free agent quarterback Michael Vick.
- Defensive end Derrick Burgess did not report to camp. He is now subject to fines. Burgess wants a pay raise and he has lost playing time due to the addition of Greg Ellis. This may have an ugly ending.
- Top pick Darrius Heyward-Bey was not in camp in time, but the team is hopeful he will be signed soon. Heyward-Bey was the No. 7 overall draft pick.
- Cable didn't completely rule out quarterback Jeff Garcia becoming the starter. Still, it is clear Cable wants JaMarcus Russell to succeed.
- Cable suggested backup quarterback Andrew Walter will soon be released.
- The Raiders put oft-injured receiver Javon Walker on the physically unable to perform list. He had offseason knee surgery.
|G Fiume/Getty Images/L. Scott Mann/Icon SMI|
|In a questionable decision, the Raiders took Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (left) with the No. 7 pick instead of Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree, who went to rivals San Francisco at No. 10 .|
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
The Oakland Raiders are a Bay Bridge ride away from what may be their latest draft blunder.
Three picks after the Raiders shocked the NFL by taking fast but inconsistent Maryland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey instead of Michael Crabtree at No. 7, Oakland's rival, the San Francisco 49ers, took advantage and grabbed the Texas Tech receiver.
Crabtree was widely considered the best all-round wide receiver available in the draft. Heyward-Bey was considered a low-first round pick because of the fact that he disappeared in many college games and he has often displayed unsure hands.
But he's super fast. And that's why he is an Oakland Raider. Give Oakland owner Al Davis credit: the man sticks to his guns.
At the age of 79, Davis continues to value speed over everything else. If there is a knock on Crabtree, who is coming off a foot injury, it's that he is not the fastest receiver in the land. Larry Fitzgerald isn't the fastest receiver in the league. He is only the best. Jerry Rice wasn't a burner. But he is considered the greatest receiver ever to play in the NFL.
Heyward-Bey has big bust capability. I would have had no problem if the Raiders had traded down into the 20s to get Heyward-Bey. But it's a bad pick at No. 7. If the Raiders wanted a speedy receiver over Crabtree, they should have taken Missouri's Jeremy Maclin, who has been compared to former Oakland great Cliff Branch. Maclin, who went at No. 19 to the Philadelphia Eagles, is widely considered a better player than Heyward-Bey.
It is a particularly questionable pick considering that Crabtree was on the board. There is very little bust capability for Crabtree, who was ultra productive in college. He is going to be a solid No. 1 receiver in the NFL, at the very least. I'm not alone in my distaste for this choice. In a fan poll on ESPN.com, the Raiders received an "F" grade for their choice.
The Raiders are going to get a weekly reminder in the Bay Area of the one that got away. The 49ers just got a top receiver for the next 12 years.
Oakland desperately needs a No. 1 receiver, not another speedy project. They have Johnnie Lee Higgins, who led all Oakland receivers with 22 catches last season. Higgins is fast, but he's still developing.
Heyward-Bey is going to need time to adjust to the NFL. Oakland doesn't have time to bring along a receiver. It needs an impact player.
This is a pivotal season for Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell, who is entering his second full season as a starter. He needs a reliable receiver. Crabtree would have offered that reliability.
Sure, Heyward-Bey's speed and Russell's big arm will be a nice combination a few times a season. Heyward-Bey probably will make a few big plays as a rookie. It would be a shock if he will be a productive player all season. In fact, I would be surprised if Heyward-Bey ever becomes an elite player. There is little chance he will become the best receiver in the Bay Area.
This could be the worst mistake of all. If it is, the Raiders won't have to look far to be reminded of it.