by Ray Kuhn
The Raiders drafted Darrius Heyward-Bey seventh overall three years ago and last season it looked like he was finally starting to live up to expectations. It was never a question of Heyward-Bey having the talent, size and speed to be an elite receiver, but due to various factors he had never really been able to put it all together. Last season with a new Raiders regime and the arrival of Carson Palmer, Heyward-Bey had himself a nice season that provides momentum to build upon for this season with 64 catches for 975 yards but only found the end zone 4 times.
Currently Heyward-Bey has an ADP of 97.20 and is the 35th wide receiver being drafted (ADP data courtesy of www.mockdraftcentral.com) He is being drafted as WR4 or flex option in 10 team leagues and if he gets his touchdowns up it is possible he could provide low end WR2 value, but conservatively he will be a worthy WR3. Let’s take a look at whether Heyward-Bey is someone you should plan on drafting in that spot?
- At this point unless something changes Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore have been consistently lining up as the 2 starting receivers with Jacoby Ford as the 3rd receiver. In the Raiders offense and with Palmer at QB, there will be enough balls to go around and there won’t be a question of whether Heyward-Bey will receive enough targets. Heyward-Bey and Moore have been going back to back in drafts, but Heyward-Bey is more talented and seems to have number one billing.
- Last season Heyward-Bey led the Raiders with 115 targets and ranked 16th in the league with 8.5 yards per target. I can see that number rising slightly this season and keep in mind that early in the season he was inconsistent, but overall there was more good than bad. He had 3 games of 100+ receiving yards including 2 of last the final 3 games of the season.
- With a 15.2 yards per catch average, Heyward Bey showed his explosiveness and as he grows more comfortable in the offense and with Palmer look for that to continue.
- Without question he will have to find the end zone more this season to increase his value. Optimistically, he had touchdowns in 3 of his last 5 games so hopefully there will be some momentum built there.
- Palmer’s arrival was the first time in his career Heyward-Bey played with a legitimate quarterback, but even then Palmer was not full comfortable in the offense. Having a full offseason to prepare and develop more chemistry should prove to be beneficial for Palmer, Heyward-Bey and the offense in general. The emergence of Moore and Ford should also take some of the secondary’s focus off of DHB.
Heyward-Bey looks like he could provide some value as a sleeper this season. He was a high draft choice, has the talent, the opportunity, the starting quarterback and most important positive momentum to build off of from last season. What separates Heyward-Bey from others who exploded in the last few weeks of the season is that this is what he was supposed to do. This performance should not come as a surprise to fantasy owners. Based on last season 80 catches for 1,200 yards would not surprise me. Although I would probably forecast Heyward-Bey a little more conservatively between those numbers and last year’s statistics it is clear that if he is drafted in the 9th or 10th round as a WR3 he will provide a nice value.
At this point what will hinder Heyward-Bey’s value is the lack of touchdowns. Coming off of a 4 touchdown season, I am not sure that it would be wise to expect more than 8 or 9 this season. Forecasting that total could keep his value down as unless you are in a PPR league, there could be some weeks where Heyward-Bey does not return much value. At least for this season, that will keep in the WR3/WR4 group of receivers, but it does not mean that a breakout is not out of the question.
Do you agree? When do you plan on drafting Heyward-Bey?