Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Fair or not, there is not a rookie in the AFC West who will have more pressure on him in 2009 than Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Perhaps other than Matthew Stafford in Detroit or Mark Sanchez in New York, Heyward-Bey is facing the most pressure of any player entering the league.
Heyward-Bey seems like a good guy and he certainly didn't ask to be put in this pressure situation. Had he been drafted later in the first round (where he was projected to be taken), by a team such as Philadelphia and Minnesota, there wouldn't be much immediate pressure on the speedy Heyward-Bey.
But because he went at No. 7 and, especially because he was drafted higher than Michael Crabtree (the consensus top receiver available in the draft), Heyward-Bey is going to have a lot to prove right away as he begins his career.
Also, Oakland needs him to come through as a rookie. The Raiders are unproven at receiver and they need an impact player. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell hasn't had a reliable receiver to thrown to in his short Oakland stay. Oakland believes Heyward-Bey will be a star. With Crabtree across the Bay Area in San Francisco, Heyward-Bey will be watched closely every week.
He had a shaky start to his Oakland career during the weekend minicamp. He dropped three passes on three straight plays on Saturday after having a decent session Friday.
The honorable mention pressured rookie is Oakland second-round pick Mike Mitchell. The hard-hitting Mitchell was taken at No. 47 out of Ohio University. Mitchell, who wasn't invited to the NFL combine in February, wasn't on the draft board of four teams I spoke to. But the Raiders love him. He has to prove them right.