With Michael Crabtree looking to finally take the field after the 49ers bye week, it is inevitable that the comparisons to Darrius Heyward-Bey will begin. The entire NFL, along with the Raider Nation were aghast when the Raiders left Crabtree on the board to select the speedster from Maryland in DHB.
With the two receivers being picked three spaces apart by teams on the opposite sides of the bay, it seemed like an inevitability that the two would be forever linked in comparisons. It was the contract given to DHB that played a part in Crabtree's protracted holdout temper tantrum, as Crabtree felt that he was the better receiver, so he wanted at least equivilant money. That holdout initially gave the impression that the Raiders may have actually gotten the better end of the deal, as Crabtree missed all of training camp and the first five weeks of the season. Meanwhile, Darrius Heyward-Bey was in camp, and has started all five Raider games, giving him a head start on his transbay competitor.
Heyward-Bey has one more game to pad his stats before Crabtree takes the field. However, to this point he has a lead of only two catches for 36 yards and zero touchdowns. It is likely that Crabtree could surpass those numbers in his first game after his suspension, if not the first half of the first game. If that happens, once again, the Raider Nation will be up in arms all over again about the pick.
Beyond the Numbers
Michael Crabtree held out for the first quarter of the season, and was a potential distraction to a rebuilding team. It is a credit to 49er coach Mike Singletary and his team that they were able to put it aside and compile a winning record at 3-2 (3-0 division) before Crabtree took the field. In fact, they were one Brett Favre miracle away from being 4-0 before falling to Earth and doing an impression of the Raiders as they were shellacked by the Atlanta Falcons 44-10.
Darrius Heyward-Bey had injury issues all through the offseason workouts. He kept nursing a hamstring that kept him out of most of the minicamp and organized team activities. When he was healthy, he showed himself to be a hard worker. However, his problems with drops would carry over to the season after being evident through much of camp. He sees other parts of his role as a receiver besides the catches, as he laid out after the opening game loss to San Diego, "When we watch film, that's what I'm doing, my job. I had to take one post. I was supposed to take two with me so Louis could have the deep cross. JaMarcus was taken out of the pocket. That's my job. That's my job in this offense."
In the end, there is no way to tell from one season which was the right pick. The Raiders scored in the fourth round with their selection of Louis Murphy out of Florida who is currently second on the team in receptions with 12. He may end up with better numbers than both Crabtree and DHB.
With the countdown on to Michael Crabtree suiting up, expect the comparisons to Darrius Heyward-Bey to come fast and furious, especially any that make the Raiders look bad for selecting DHB over Crabtree. Just remember, that one season does not a career make. Especially, with all the other issues on this offense.