Oakland Raiders: Darrius Heyward-Bey

Let’s continue our countdown of the worst Oakland Raiders draft picks since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger with linebacker Rolando McClain checking in at No. 3…

McClain
LB Rolando McClain (Alabama, first round, No. 8 overall in 2010)

Who else was available? S Earl Thomas, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, TE Rob Gronkowski

Finally, after years of misses, the Raiders appeared to have nailed a pick. McClain was the can’t-miss prospect who would man the middle of Oakland’s defense for years. His study habits were above reproach as the top linebacker in college, owner of the Butkus Award for the Crimson Tide.

Except…

Alabama played a 3-4 defense; the Raiders played a 4-3. And McClain could seemingly never get comfortable being away from home, even if going home is what would get him in so much trouble with the law.

Indeed, there always seemed a little something sinister about McClain, who had shots fired at his SUV, was arrested for allegedly firing a gun next to a friend’s head and arguing with police, for example.

On the field, he seemed to loaf after plays and oftentimes guessed the wrong gap to hit. He did not endear himself to fans, either, when he complained about the lack of sellouts in Oakland. Fans began calling him “Slowlando.”

His career in Oakland came to an inglorious end after a mid-practice shouting match with coach Dennis Allen resulted in McClain being suspended (he was not disciplined in terms of missing a game by then-coach Hue Jackson, who promised to conduct his own investigation after the aforementioned shooting incident and arrest).

After McClain returned to the team, he had the indignity of playing scout team fullback in practice before the Raiders finally cut him after three lackluster seasons. He signed with the Baltimore Ravens before retiring. This spring, he made noises about returning to the Ravens before “retiring” again, at 24 years of age.

Bottom 5 Raiders draft picks since 1970 merger

Dishonorable mentions

No. 5: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey

No. 4: DE Bob Buczkowski

No. 3: MLB Rolando McClain

No. 2: ?

No. 1: ?
We begin our list of worst Oakland Raiders draft picks since the 1970 merger with receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey checks in at No. 5 …

Heyward-Bey
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (Maryland, No. 7 overall in 2009)

Who else was available? DT B.J. Raji, C Alex Mack, LB Clay Matthews

You almost feel bad for DHB with this one; he wasn't the one who drafted himself so high and you could never question his work ethic.

But he was the epitome of an Al Davis pick late in his tenure -- the fastest guy at the combine who was as raw as he was fast. Remember what I wrote earlier about Davis desperately trying to find the next Cliff Branch?

Thing was, Heyward-Bey was a project while more established pass-catchers were still on the board such as Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin and Hakeem Nicks.

As a rookie, Heyward-Bey caught just nine passes for 124 yards, then had 26 catches for 366 yards in his second season before seemingly breaking out with 64 catches for 975 yards and four TDs in 2011.

But he regressed mightily in 2012 as his rookie case of the dropsies returned with a vengeance (remember that potential game-winning pass against Kansas City in 2009 from Bruce Gradkowski that instead bounced off three of DHB's body parts before being intercepted by Mike Brown?) even as he had 41 receptions.

With a new regime, Heyward-Bey was deemed expendable and cut.

Those Raiders had many more problems than Heyward-Bey, but with his draft slot he's on this list.

Bottom 5 Raiders draft picks since 1970 merger

Dishonorable mention

No. 5: Darrius Heyward-Bey

No. 4: ?

No. 3: ?

No. 2: ?

No. 1: ?

Raiders' Hayden has a rocky beginning

September, 10, 2013
9/10/13
8:00
AM ET
That D.J. Hayden played in a professional football game less than a year after nearly dying on a college football practice field is a story in and of itself.

Hayden
But the Oakland Raiders' top draft pick wants to leave that storyline behind and be judged solely on his performance on the field. So how did the cornerback fare in the Raiders’ 21-17 loss to Indianapolis?

“I thought overall, it was OK,” said Raiders coach Dennis Allen. “I think, when you look at it, he had a couple opportunities to make some plays and he was just off just a little bit. So I think D.J.’s going to be fine.”

Hayden did not start -- he was not expected to -- and mostly saw time coming in as a third cornerback in Oakland’s nickel defense, playing left corner with Tracy Porter sliding into the slot.

Still, while Hayden was credited with three solo tackles, they came on completions he allowed … for a total of 37 yards.

What stung was when they came … all three were third downs the Colts converted.

Perhaps the most glaring completion Hayden surrendered was the first … because it was to former Raiders first-rounder Darrius Heyward-Bey (remember him?), and it was a 16-yard pickup, on third-and-5. And it was the fourth play in the Colts’ eventual 10-play, 89-yard scoring drive to open the game.

The second completion came on third-and-8 in the fourth quarter, when Hayden gave up a 12-yard completion to T.Y. Hilton.

Later in the same series, Hayden was beaten by Reggie Wayne for a nine-yard completion on third-and-2.

The last two completions came during the Colts’ game-winning drive.

“D.J.’s going to have to continue to learn, continue to improve, continue to get better,” Allen added. “For the first time out, not bad. But there’s a couple of plays in there you’d like to see him make.

“As he continues to grow, I think you’ll see him make a few more of those plays.”
Darrius Heyward-Bey is one of the poster children for the Oakland Raiders' recent woes.

The speedy, but not so sure-handed receiver was the No. 7 overall pick of Raiders in the 2009 NFL draft. But Heyward-Bey, despite having a decent third season with Oakland, never panned out. Oakland, in a salary-cap crisis, dumped Heyward-Bey this winter. He then turned around and signed with the Indianapolis Colts -- the very team the Raiders open the 2013 season against on Sunday.

After a somewhat disappointing career thus far, Heyward-Bey has been impressive and has worked his way into being a starter. With Andrew Luck as his quarterback, Heyward-Bey could be on the cusp of big things.

This ESPN.com Insider piece suggests Insider Heyward-Bey could enjoy a career resurgence.

Here is a piece of the article:
In 2012, DHB was graded out as 68th among WRs in drop rate by Pro Football Focus after he caught only 41 of the 77 passes that came his way. As it turns out, though, that wasn't all on him, because only 47 of those 77 passes were classified as catchable, which means he actually only dropped six of 47 passes. This month, Heyward-Bey took part in two preseason games and caught seven of the nine balls targeted for him -- the two he didn't catch were deemed not catchable. In other words, he didn't drop any balls in exhibition action.


It will be interesting to see how Heyward-Bey starts his Colts' career against his former club.

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