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News » Rookie seen as a work in progress

Rookie seen as a work in progress

Rookie seen as a work in progress
Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is an unpolished work. He didn't catch passes with consistency at the University of Maryland and his route running needs work. His stats were nothing compared to draft peers Michael Crabtree or Percy Harvin, and another year of college ball wouldn't have hurt.

Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin, of all people, confessed as much after the Raiders took Heyward-Bey with the No. 7 overall pick of the NFL draft April 25.

Now that Franklin has everyone's attention, he has this to say to anyone who doesn't like the pick: Just wait, you'll see.

"He's still very raw, and he probably could have used one more year, but his potential is limitless," Franklin said. "I think Al Davis understands that, sometimes in life, you've got to take an educated, calculated risk. You don't get where you want to go all the time taking the safe bet. Sometimes, you've got to put yourself out there.

"I think they have a chance to look like geniuses down the road."

Heyward-Bey got his first chance to prove them right Friday with the start of Oakland's mandatory minicamp. By lunch, he made Franklin sound right on both counts.

He does have a ways to go, but there are indeed hints of something special in the 6-foot-2 receiver with 4.3-second 40 speed.

"Too bad you can't redshirt here," Heyward-Bey said with a laugh.

His post-college education began minutes into the start of 11-on-11 team drills. The first team units took the field. Heyward-Bey lined up on the left sideline, opposite Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

Time to see what the uberfast rookie could do.

Quarterback JaMarcus Russell fired an instant rocket to Heyward-Bey, who cut hard on an "in route." Asomugha read it all the way, jumping the pattern and getting in front of Heyward-Bey for a dropped interception.

Asomugha said he read Heyward-Bey's eyes, and that he'd pull the "kid" aside later for some veteran advice.

"He makes you realize this ain't college," Heyward-Bey said.

Heyward-Bey made up for it later on a deep sideline route, his specialty. He raced about 35 yards downfield, slowed down, adjusted to the ball and made a leaping grab.

He also pulled in a short-range missile from Russell, catching the pass going away and getting both feet down as he fell out of bounds.

Now, all that came against cornerbacks Darrick Brown and Justin Miller, not Asomugha, but he has to start somewhere.

"A lot of the criticism that was spoken, he'll just keep proving that they're not true," Raiders coach Tom Cable said. "If he's going to be that guy, he's got to be pushed, he's got to be forced into it."

Thus, all the first-team snaps. The only way Heyward-Bey can shush the critics is to put up the sort of numbers he never did at Maryland, and that doesn't happen from the bench.

Oh, and about those 13 career touchdowns. Franklin said that was more a product of Maryland's pro-style offense than Heyward-Bey's ability.

Heyward-Bey was double-teamed by a cornerback and safety all year, according to Franklin. Their young quarterback didn't have the arm strength to get the ball deep to the vertical-threat receiver.

Franklin coached the wide receivers at Green Bay in 2005. He knows 49ers rookie Michael Crabtree had the huge numbers at Texas Tech. He still thinks Heyward-Bey can be just as good, now that he has a strong-armed quarterback and a vertical offense.

Just give Heyward-Bey time, Franklin said, that's all.

"When you take Darrius over receivers who have been more productive in their career, you're going to get some flack for it," Franklin said. "Is it a little bit 'typical Raiders' in terms of drafting guys with size-speed measurables, things they believe in? Yeah.

"But I think he's got a chance to make a bunch of splash plays this year and then, in Year 2 and 3, he's got a chance to be special."

Heyward-Bey at Maryland ." - Maryland coordinator James FranklinIt's the potential, not the past, that tempted the when they chose Darrius Heyward-Bey with the No. 7 overall pick in the NFL draft. Still, he finished his three-season Maryland career second in school history in receiving yards and third in receptions. A summary:-- As a redshirt freshman in 2006, started 10 of 13 games and averaged 15.4 yards on 45 receptions for five TDs.-- Started all 13 games as a sophomore, making 51 catches for 786 yards. Just three TDs.-- In his final season, 2008, started all 12 games, averaging 14.5 yards on 42 catches for five TDs. Finished second in Terrapins history in yards and third in receptions.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 9, 2009

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