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Saturday, April 25, 2009
Crabtree will cast a shadow over the Raiders


 
  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.

Four years ago, the Minnesota Vikings took receiver Troy Williamson because of his great speed. He no longer wears purple because he has bad hands and he is inconsistent.

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.

The Raiders' drafts this decade have been highlighted by the wrong call. In 2004, the team took Robert Gallery over Larry Fitzgerald. In 2006, they took Michael Huff over Jay Cutler. And now this.

This could be the worst mistake of all. If it is, the Raiders won't have to look far to be reminded of it.