Said ESPN's Mel Kiper: "I don't know how you pass up Michael Crabtree at number seven. I've got to give (the pick) an F. In my opinion there's no way you can pass up Crabtree, or if you want Heyward-Bey, trade down. Take Heyward-Bey and trade down and take him in the middle of the first round."
Kiper's colleague Todd McShay was more to the point. "To me this has bust written all over it. You bring in a wide receiver who can basically be a speed guy. You can go vertically; he does a good job with that at a 4.3 speed. But, he does not catch the football consistently. If you're going to draft in the top 10, you better draft a guy that can do it all. Michael Crabtree can do it all."
Ralph Friedgen, Heyward-Bey's head coach at the University of Maryland, heard the reviews.
Friedgen has no gripe with the analysts and their reviews, but he warns, "We all know the one thing they can't measure is heart and desire. If they could, a lot of players would have far different draft status."
Almost every pre-draft ranking had Heyward-Bey rated behind Texas Tech's Crabtree.
Crabtree was a two-time consensus All-American and two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award given to the top receiver in college football. Heyward-Bey earned all-ACC honorable mention in 2008. Crabtree had 231 catches for 3,127 yards and 41 touchdowns in two college seasons. Heyward-Bey had 138 catches for 2,089 yards and 13 touchdowns in three college seasons.
But the first team in this draft looking for a receiver was Oakland. Oakland loves speed. Heyward-Bey, once clocked at 4.23 in the 40-yard dash, is faster than Crabtree. So the Raiders took Heyward-Bey.
And so, a confluence of circumstances dropped the 22-year-old Heyward-Bey into a cauldron of pressure that he couldn't have anticipated when he woke up on that draft Saturday.
If he weren't so fast, if the Raiders weren't picking seventh, if Crabtree hadn't been unable to run in pre-draft workouts because of an injury, then maybe Heyward-Bey wouldn't have to worry about being the Sam Bowie to Crabtree's Michael Jordan (a reach, I know, but it makes the point).
But, as Friedgen pointed out, so what? Pressure is part of the equation.
"They all have to deal with the pressure of being a first-round pick," he said. "Believe me, he would have felt a lot worse if he'd have been a second-round pick, but there wouldn't have been as much pressure. In Darrius' case, there's been talk about what he hasn't done, but what he is in terms of an overall player and person. Maybe others hurt themselves when it came to that. Teams invest a lot of money in researching these players and then signing them. Maybe it's more important to them to find the guy that wants to be a success and not be a guy who feels entitled.
"I hope Darrius doesn't every change," Friedgen added. "He did everything right here. Character enters into these decisions, and he couldn't be better in that area. People want a finished product on the field, but Darrius has a lot of room to grow there and he's already very good. Believe me, if Oakland decides they don't want him, I'll take him back."
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