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NFL Draft Preview: Darrius Heyward-Bey

Michael Crabtree is the class of the wide receiver position and the household name likely to go somewhere in the top 10, but flying a little under the radar is Maryland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey, who is falling somewhere between 20 and 32 in most scout’s rankings. Okay, “under the radar” may still be a bit of hyperbole for Heyward-Bey. But he’s still being ranked below four or five other receivers in most mocks. Under the right guidance, he can turn his physical tools into football skills which could make him an elite receiver some day.

About those physical tools I speak of: 6’1″ and 210 lb, giving him legitimate top-end size for a receiver and similar size to the other top receivers in the draft. He was also not just the fastest receiver, but the fastest player at the Draft Combine this year, running a 4.30 in the 40-yard dash. He has the instincts and toughness to compete for jump-balls and make tough catches in traffic.

The drawback for Heyward-Bey, which is inevitable for such a physical specimen to be ranked relatively low, is his lack of consistency in route running and catching. Obviously, these are two very important facets of being an NFL receiver, and he has a tendency to drop easy catches. This is a sign of either lack of focus, or focusing too hard. He’ll need to balance this out in order to become a top-level receiver in the NFL. He also has a tendency to be inconsistent with his route-running, as he can lose his way and drift around the field at times. These are problems that can be fixed with the right coaching and a lot of practice. You can’t coach his tremendous physical skills, which are his biggest assets.

As a deep play threat, Heyward-Bey is arguably the best in this year’s draft, and shouldn’t fall too far down in the first round, and would be a steal in the second. If the Bears pass on him at 18, the Eagles look like a nice destination as they search for a go-to-receiver for Donovan McNabb. The Eagles can also wait for pick 28 to take him if they are confident enough that the Ravens (the team to which he is marketing himself) would also pass on him, but that’s highly unlikely for a team in need of receivers to pass on the Maryland alum. Because of Philly’s position, they look like the most likely destination for Heyward-Bey, but if he’s the best player on the Patriots’ draft sheet when it gets to them, he’ll be headed to Foxboro. And if they both pass, he’ll be in Raven purple in 2009.

Watch this highlight video of Heyward-Bey at Maryland, including some spectacular plays. He makes an amazing one-handed catch at 1:20, a nice touchdown grab at 6:03, and an awesome falling catch to recover a bobble at 6:15.

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March 28, 2009 - Posted by | football | , , , , , , , , ,

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