Monday, April 27, 2009

Raider's Draft Went Heyward or Haywire?

By Rick Richardson

I have to admit, by the time the Raiders had made their second round pick, I was shaking my head in disbelief. The salt the pundits were rubbing in my black and silver bleeding wounds didn’t make it any easier.

I could not for the life of me understand why they would choose Darrius Heyward-Bey so early in the 2009 NFL draft just to be different or rebellious.

In fact, I couldn’t see why Al fell in love with DHB even though he possessed the speed Al Davis has always maniacally pursued.

And then it hit me.

I don’t know if it was the Kool-Aid that everyone will swear I am drinking, but I finally got it.

Al Davis could care less what spot he got his man. He didn’t care if he could pick up extra value by trading down. He probably despises the glitzy spectacle it has become, right down to the mouthpieces that clairvoyantly declare winners and losers of the draft.

After all, we all know how many of these "extra" picks actually make the final roster.

Al Davis wanted a vertical threat to go with his cannon armed quarterback, and he wasn’t about to risk it by trying to get cute and slide down.

This is the guy he coveted all along, so what sense would it make to trade down and risk losing the player he desired for two players he didn’t want?

I then reexamined Heyward-Beys football resume.

There it was staring back at me.

DHB ran a scorching 4.23 forty at 6-2 and 212 pounds in 2006. To put it in perspective—Deon Sanders ran a mythical 4.19 back in the day.

Get a stop watch out and time yourself clapping your hands together if you want to know the difference between 4.19 and 4.23.

It is mind numbingly negligible. In a race it is Deon by a nose.

This isn’t a comparison of athleticism, but just pure straight line speed.

The Raiders didn’t draft DHB to be the go to guy; they drafted him to be Cliff Branch. Branch never caught more than 60 balls, but averaged 17.3 yds per reception. The Raiders of old would pound the ball with the running game and line up Branch on the outside as if to say, “I dare you to put eight men in the box."

Some might say that is living in the past, but the same wouldn’t say boo about the 49ers trying to recreate Jerry Rice, especially if they were trying to fit a player in the West Coast offense.

The knock on DHB is his inconsistent hands, but ball catching skills can be improved. Route running can be tightened up, but straight line speed can’t be coached.

Therein lies the rub. Al does have a philosophy.

The Raiders have a scheme, and that scheme requires speed and explosion. It isn’t as simple as coach Cable describes in his “pound the ball and then throw it over their heads” explanation, but that is the gist.

Like any scheme, it does still work as long as you have the right personnel.

And on draft day 2009, the Raiders did what most of us have loved about them for years—they went their own way by thumbing their noses at the Mel Kipers and Mike Mayocks of the world, and picked who they wanted.

Someone who fit the scheme.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love our draft, we got the perfect WR for our offense. And Crabtree never wanted to be a Raider. And for Michael Mitchell. The Raiders had no choice but to get him at numer 2 because Chicago said they were gonna take mitchell in the second round and mitchell is a guy that cable really likes so he was wise to take him in round two.

April 29, 2009 at 5:37 PM  
Blogger Rick Richardson said...

Hey Steve,

I have to admit that this draft is growing on me. Mitchell could be the sleeper of the draft.

I am also looking forward to seeing Frantz Joseph also. He looks like he is a great prospect at MLB.

Thanks for commenting!

May 5, 2009 at 9:29 PM  
Anonymous CJ said...

Keep up the great work Steve.. Do you want to trade links with our Raiders site?

June 18, 2009 at 7:13 AM  
Blogger Raider Karma said...

Great post!

My reaction was very similar to yours (I wanted B.J. Raji or Eugene Monroe) but then I too came around.

Every year in the draft some stiff gets all the hype and then busts. Every year some guy gets overlooked and later becomes the best player in the draft. Gotta give Al props for taking a chance finding that guy who could be the best gem.

For all we know, DHB could become a T.O. type of talent minus the diva attitude. The kid is a hard worker, he played in a pro-style offense and oh yeah, he has serious "Raider Speed".

JaMarcus and Cable have every weapon they could ask for on offense. Now its time to make this work and get this franchise back on track.

June 21, 2009 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger Rick Richardson said...

Hey Raider Karma,

Heyward Bey is off to a slow start, but it won't be the first time a rookie has felt ....well like a rookie.

Here is hoping for a quick start this season!

Thanks for commenting!

June 29, 2009 at 12:15 PM  

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