Raider Darrius Heyward–Bey vs. 49er Michael Crabtree: Race to Greatness

Steve DuranContributor IMay 15, 2009

Small boys dream of leaping into the air and making an impossible fingertip catch just inches out of reach of the defensive back. Stumbling across the goal line and collapsing into a wet and muddy end zone, scoring the winning touchdown as time expires. 

His teammates surround him in celebration while he lies still in the cold wet grass. Long moments pass, finally with a whisper of a voice he chokes out, "Did we win...?"  Then he also expires, still clutching the game winning ball.

The moral of the story is millions of boys are dreaming of becoming the All American Hero and who doesn't want a Hero's Death? 

Bottom line, both Darrius Hayward-Bey and Michael Crabtree have fulfilled at least one part of that dream, to be the, Home Town Hero. Now the next step for them is to be the next Great American Hero.

While being drafted in the top 10 is an honor by itself, the threat of being labeled a bust is ever–present and will provide continuous motivation for years to come.

Jerry Rice, one of the greatest receivers ever to play in the NFL, used this fear to develop into perfection. He dreamed of playing the perfect game. He practiced and trained like a mad man. He used parachutes to increase his leg strength and burst speed. 

Many references available list Jerry as only running a 4.60 at the combine, none report he ran in the low 4.4s' as a Pro. Not only were his times better as a pro, but Jerry Rice is the reference by which route running is judged.

Neither Darrius or Michael are anywhere near this level of play.  Moreover, it will take several years for either of them to become anywhere near as skilled or disciplined as Jerry Rice.

That being said, it must also be understood both have many of the same positive attributes: ability to snatch ball out of the air, make plays in space, follow blocks, sideline awareness, and both are ultra competitive players.

It must also be understood both currently have a completely different set of advantages that may or may not transfer to the Pros.

Crabtree: Ultra-productive college career, keeps legs moving when tackled, and stiff–arming techniques.

Heyward-Bey: Exceptional speed, defenders must play deep every play, too fast off line for press coverage, long arms, strong hands, leaping and timing of leaps.

Then you must consider the advantages with caveats:

Michael is credited with better route running ability but only knows the underneath stuff because of his colleges spread offense. 

Darrius is credited with pro–set route running knowledge, but fewer catches.

Currently factors outside either's control give Darrius the early advantage for success. First he has two Quarterbacks, one with a super human arm that can stretch the field and the other with experience if he is needed, so he will have catchable balls in any event . 

Michael currently has neither and is further hampered by not having a trio of running backs that are considered elite. Another point of interest is the apparent snubbing of available opportunities. 

Is this the start of something similar to Randy Moss taking off plays, or not running routes in the dirt?

No one knows now, but everyone will know in three years. What it truly comes down to is which player wants it the most.