Commentary

New Bay Area WRs permanently linked

Originally Published: May 4, 2009
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Michael Crabtree and Darrius Heyward-BeyUS Presswire/Getty ImagesBoth Michael Crabtree (San Francisco), left, and Darrius Heyward-Bey (Oakland) will try to become the best wide receiver in the Bay Area.

The Raiders' decision to draft Darrius Heyward-Bey over Michael Crabtree hit this week's mailbag like a tremor in the San Andreas fault.

That's why it's fitting Heyward-Bey is on one side of the Bay while Crabtree ended up in San Francisco as the No. 10 pick. The Raiders' decision and how each receiver develops will be the topic of conversation in the Bay Area for many years.

Raiders fans are either angry or defiant. The angry Raiders fans are tired of Al Davis' tendency to take huge risks with top-10 draft choices. It's not as though anyone doubted Heyward-Bey was one of the top wide receivers in the draft. He was rated as a first-round pick, although most people didn't think he was worthy of the No. 7 pick.

Loyal Raiders fans are doing their best to understand Davis' decision-making.

Others are just flabbergasted. The Raiders are 24-72 over the past six seasons. If Crabtree ends up being the most talented receiver in the draft and Heyward-Bey ends up being just a 40-catch deep threat, this decision could come back to haunt the Raiders.

Let's dive into the mailbag:

From the inbox

Q: Why is everyone giving the 49ers such a low grade when we got the best receiver (Crabtree), a two-time Big East defensive player of the year (Scott McKillop), the second-best blocking tight end and a quarterback (Nate Davis) who for a stretch was being thought of as a first-day pick? Please explain.

D-Mac in Houston

A: I agree with you. Crabtree has a chance to eventually establish himself as the second- or third-best receiver in the division. The beauty of the 49ers' draft was getting an extra first-round pick in 2010 (by virtue of a trade with Carolina), when there will be three top quarterbacks and good first-round depth for defensive tackles. The 49ers were hoping cornerback Jairus Byrd was going to fall to them at No. 42. Once he was gone, the 49ers were considering taking center Max Unger. The 49ers have enough to get by on the offensive line. The value of the 2010 first-rounder could outweigh the addition of a good interior offensive lineman. In Glenn Coffee, they got a good running back to back up Frank Gore. I'd give them a strong B or B-plus.

Q: Are the Pats still pursuing Julius Peppers or Jason Taylor?

Jeremy in Birmingham, Ala.

A: The Patriots have a decent chance of getting Taylor, but don't expect anything for a couple of weeks. The Dolphins want him. The Bucs are exploring the idea of making a move for him. The Bucs hired former Dolphins defensive coordinator Jim Bates, who knows how to play Taylor in the 4-3. Forget about Peppers. The only way the Pats could have acquired him is if they offered first- AND second-round picks, and I'm not sure the Panthers would have accepted that offer. Carolina wants to keep him.

Q: With the No. 4 pick, the Seahawks drafted Aaron Curry. Should they have taken Crabtree? And how will they fare with a new coach, not to mention a quarterback dilemma?

Nolan in Tacoma, Wash.

A: Curry and Crabtree were probably the two best players in the draft. Curry was rated higher, and general manager Tim Ruskell stuck to the values on his draft board. Crabtree might have been the sexier pick because he's on offense, but Curry is a perfect player for this team. He's a great leader and top-level player. With Curry and Lofa Tatupu, the Seahawks have two elite defensive players. Curry is a quality person off the field, fitting the Ruskell profile. He comes to the team mature and ready to play. There is no quarterback controversy, and I think Jim Mora will do well. He's a players' coach and he's got good players.

Q: You cannot be serious. The Lions' philosophy of taking the best available athlete in this year's draft was a "departure" from the previous regime? Matt Millen's mantra was always about taking the best athlete and filling in the holes for need. Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew both served under Millen and appear to share this knucklehead philosophy. Mr. Clayton, I respect your reporting, but you were way off base with that comment.

Patrick in Charleston, S.C.

A: Patrick, I am serious. Millen may have said he drafted the best athletes available, but go through the choices. He was all over the place with his selections. If you think Mike Williams, the wide receiver, was the best athlete available at No. 10 in 2005, you must have been reading a different draft board than I was. Face it, the Millen years were the Dark Ages of Lions football. Let's see whether Mayhew and Lewand are showing a new light.

Q: The thing none of the sports analysts seems to comprehend about Heyward-Bey is that he does not need to be an 80-catch guy to be a good pick. If he averages 40-50 catches a year and 800-900 yards, he will be a great pick for the Raiders. The offense will revolve around the running game. Heyward-Bey is what the Raiders really want -- a guy who can dictate coverage and take attention away from the running game.

Tim

A: Heyward-Bey is going to get around $10 million a year. A 900-yard season would be helpful, but it's not going to live up to what he's being paid. If he gets through his rookie contract, the Raiders won't be willing to give him a raise unless he has a couple of 1,000-yard seasons. That's the problem with taking a receiver in the top 10 who doesn't perform like a No. 1 receiver, and a No. 1 receiver needs to catch around 80 passes a season.

Q: Did Peppers hurt his chances of being traded by giving the Panthers a list of teams that he would like to play for? Also, with him being a good but inconsistent player, what is his market value?

Antoine in Charlotte, N.C.

A: I do think that was the case. I never understood why Peppers kept going public with the idea he wanted to be an outside linebacker, a position that could pay as much as 40 percent less than a top defensive end. Players want the most money, so I thought he made a serious mistake by trying to make a position switch. The Panthers knew early that the Patriots were Peppers' team of choice. However, unless the Panthers received a big ransom, they weren't going to give him away.

Q: Why is there not a lot of conversation about Michael Bush in Oakland? The kid played well last year and I feel he is better than some starting running backs in the league. Has there been talk of trade? Maybe the Bengals or Seahawks? I just don't see how he gets on the field in Oakland.

Colby in San Diego

A: The Chargers tried to trade for him in October, but Al Davis wouldn't give him up to a division rival. There were rumblings the Bucs were interested, but nothing happened. The reason things are quiet for Bush is the same reason things are quiet for Larry Johnson and other running backs who have been under trade consideration. The league is loaded with good running backs. Many teams like the Raiders are overstocked in the backfield. Because of that, it's hard to get value for a running back in a trade. If you can't get value in a trade, you might as well keep the players. Thus, Bush remains a Raider.

First draft: Knowshon Moreno

NFL.com Video

The Denver Broncos draft RB Knowshon Moreno with the 12th pick in the 2009 draft.

Q: Why so much hate for the Broncos? With the addition of Knowshon Moreno, won't the offense be as good as last year? They addressed the front seven with Robert Ayers and several undrafted rookies, including Chris Baker. I think it is premature to say coach Josh McDaniels is in over his head just because he didn't fill all the needs in the manner in which you assumed he would.

Lee in Phoenix

A: Lee, this is no hate for the Broncos. It really isn't. But a team in the rebuilding mode should never give up a future first-round pick for a 5-foot-9 cornerback. A third of the league plays a 3-4 defense, so it's still going to be a long shot for an undrafted player to make an impact. As you probably guessed, I thought the Broncos made a major mistake in trading Jay Cutler. Cutler has more talent than Kyle Orton, and talent is often more important than the system. I just fear this is going to be a long year for the Broncos. I'm used to going there five times a year, and a bad season will keep me away.

Q: Do you think QB Brett Ratliff, DE Kenyon Coleman, SS Abram Elam and the 52nd pick were enough for the Browns to trade the No. 5 pick to the Jets? Or did the Browns get shorted?

MJD in Cleveland

A: I don't think they were shorted in every way. Coleman and Elam will probably end up being starters, but the Browns had to come out of the trade with a first-round pick next year. They opted to take the second-rounder this year, but the No. 5 pick should have netted more. After all, they were giving up a chance to draft a potential franchise quarterback. I know teams are willing to give a top-six pick away at a discount. This was too much of a discount.

Q: As a lifelong football fan and ex-Harvard QB, I am rarely totally stumped by teams' actions in trying to assemble winning teams. The Browns are a prime example. First, I can't understand why they got so little for the fifth pick in the draft. Second, why did they take a center with their first pick?

Adam

A: Your Harvard education is right on. If there is a class at Harvard about football, it would teach a student to never move back from the fifth pick and not come away with a first-rounder for the next year. It would also teach you never to drop from No. 5 to No. 21 and then draft a center. The Browns needed a No. 1 receiver to eventually replace Braylon Edwards, not two second-round receivers. The Browns needed impact. I don't think they got it.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer