The woeful Oakland Raiders have pretty much done nothing in the past couple of years. They've been a less-than-average performing NFL team, and they have provided very little to fantasy football managers, when compared to many other teams.
But that all may change in 2010, for a couple of reasons:
- JaMarcus Russell is finally gone, replaced by a more reliable QB in Jason Campbell.
- Darren McFadden and Michael Bush are completely healthy and ready to improve upon a sub-par 2009 season.
- The Raiders’ receivers are ready to shake off a dismal 2009 season, and show everyone that they are far better than everyone thinks they are.
One of those receivers is 2nd year pro Darrius Heyward-Bey; a prime sleeper candidate.
If you don’t quite remember Heyward-Bey (the seventh overall pick out of Maryland in 2009) don’t feel bad. Heyward-Bey did literally nothing in 2009, primarily due to a bad case of the drops and having his season being cut short with a foot injury.
But in the 7 games he did play, he was good for 9 catches and 124 yards with a single score. We have DHB ranked 53rd.
But there are a couple of interesting reasons why Heyward-Bey has sleeper written all over him in 2010; reasons you should definitely be aware of.
- Heyward-Bey has been getting a ton of reps thanks to him outplaying Louis Murphy in OTAs, and Chaz Schilens being held back in practice due to continued soreness in his surgically repaired foot. The coaching staff has nothing but accolades for Heyward-Bey regarding both his performance thus far, and his work ethic.
- Even though he is slated as the Number 2 receiver opposite of Schilens, Heyward-Bey is getting all the work developing a keen relationship with new QB Jason Campbell, as well as, working closely with DB Nnamdi Asomugha (only one of the best corners in the game right now). As a receiver, when you get all the reps, have a guy who can actually get you the ball, and work with one of the best corners in the business, you’re bound to come out pretty damn good.
- Speaking of QBs who can actually get Heyward-Bey the ball; those two schleps that threw for Oakland last year completed just 51% of their passes combined!!! Jason Campbell did better than that in his rookie year, and has a lifetime 61.2% completion rate. Remember that at draft time.
- Finally, despite only catching 9 balls for 124 yards and one TD, Heyward-Bey was targeted 40 times in seven games. Prorate that to 16 games, and that translates to 90 to 95 targets in a season. That number should increase just a bit, and with a better arm delivering the mail, and everything else mentioned, Heyward-Bey has sleeper written all over him.
Summary: Heyward-Bey was highly considered a major disappointment in 2009, which is a bit of an overstatement considering the kid only played in nine games with two really bad QBs. But he's showing everyone now just how good he is going to be, which means you might not want to underestimate his sleeper potential at draft time.