When the Oakland Raiders used the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft to select Darrius Heyward-Bey, the McDonogh graduate and Maryland product was the first wide receiver taken off the board.
That honor raised the bar for Heyward-Bey, who is trying to assert himself as the Raiders’ top wideout. NFL Network analyst and former kick returner Bucky Brooks thinks there is still room and time for Heyward-Bey to develop into that role.
Here is what Brooks had to say about Heyward-Bey.
How would you assess Darrius Heyward-Bey’s progress?
“I think expectations were heightened when he jumped up and was taken ahead of Michael Crabtree. I think Crabtree – in most people’s minds – was going to be the crown jewel of that wide receiving class. And so when DHB went ahead of him, it fueled speculation that he was going to be the marquee wide receiver early in his career. I think the development he has gone through is typical of most wide receivers. He had to learn how to run pro routes, he had to learn how to adjust to the speed of the pro game, and sometimes when you’re dealing with those things, you lose some confidence. I think early on in his career, he dropped a number of passes, and to me, that suggested that the kid had kind of lost some of that confidence that made him really, really good in college. He was very prolific at Maryland, and he was able to make a lot of big plays down the field for the Terrapins. But it takes a while to kind of find your groove in the NFL, and I think after three or four years, he has kind of settled into who he is as a player.”
With Denarius Moore seemingly becoming Carson Palmer’s favorite target this season, should Oakland be disappointed that Heyward-Bey hasn’t blossomed into a top receiver?
“Anytime you invest that kind of capital in a first-round pick, you expect him to be your go-to guy. I think the difference with Denarius Moore is, he’s more comfortable running those short and intermediate routes on the route tree. So he’s sable to run more of the things that allow him to be the primary option on those routes. With Darrius Heyward-Bey, he can stretch the field and he can do some things when he has the ball in his hands. So he’s able to take bubble screens and reverses and those things. I think they would certainly like to get more out of him, to get him to be a No. 1 receiver because that’s what you’re thinking when draft somebody in the top 10. But I think he’s come in the last couple years, and if he continues to come along, I think they’ll be satisfied with his progress as a primary target in the passing game.”
What does Heyward-Bey need to do to improve?
“I think there’s still a role for him in their offense. To me, he has to develop more consistency, and he has to take advantage of the opportunities when he has an opportunity to get his hands on the ball.”