New England Patriots Eye Up-and-Coming Raiders' Darrius Heyward-Bey

Yusuf HassanCorrespondent IOctober 26, 2011

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 02: Darrius Heyward-Bey #85 of the Oakland Raiders catches this pass over Sergio Brown #31 and Antwaun Molden #27 of the New England Patriots during an NFL football game at Coliseum on October 2, 2011 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Usually you wouldn’t attribute the underdog title to a top 10 pick in the NFL Draft. In Darrius Heyward-Bey’s case, this rule is ignored because most NFL Draft observers, myself included, felt that Heyward-Bey should not have been picked in the first or second round.

The late great Al Davis, however, ignored outside scouting reports and went with his instinct, drafting Heyward-Bey with the eighth pick in the 2009 draft.

In his first year, Heyward-Bey’s routes resembled a young stallion attempting its first steps. The majority of the passes thrown to him bounced off his frail chest.

But on the spirited and emotional Sunday afternoon after the passing of one of the sports world's most sparkling icons, Al Davis, two of the NFL’s most underappreciated players, Heyward-Bey and Jason Campbell, stepped onto the field with an appreciative glitter in their eyes, pulling off the upset.

When I think of Reggie Wayne, Roddy White, Vincent Jackson, Andre Johnson, Miles Austin, Anquan Bolden, Stevie Johnson and Marques Colston, I think of top flight wide receivers. They're "go-to" wideouts who demand attention from defensive backs and defensive coordinators.

Most NFL observers wouldn’t bunch Oakland’s Heyward-Bey with this crowd because of his history of poor production. But today is a new day for the historically unproductive receiver.

Heyward-Bey has more in common with the before mentioned receivers than just having the same job title, and pay checks endorsed by an NFL ball club. I

n 2011, Heyward-Bey has accumulated more yards than all of those receivers. In the AFC West, Heyward-Bey trails only Chiefs Pro Bowl wideout Dwayne Bowe in receiving yards.

Unlike them, Heyward-Bey works hard without complaint.

These may be the reasons that rumors are spreading in New England that the Patriots are considering making a trade for the third-year receiver during the offseason. The Raiders traded their draft picks away and Heyward-Bey will be in his contract year next year.

In addition, Heyward-Bey has collected a fortune from the Raiders. He has an impressive work ethic and he is a model citizen—attritubes that bode well in New England.

During the offseason the New England Patriots picked up Chad Ochocinco, who was supposed to stretch the field for the Patriots offense. But Ochocinco has been a disappointment, and the Patriots need a big fast receiver to compliment Tom Brady and Wes Welker.

In the 2010 AFC playoffs, the Jets exploited the Patriots' inability to stretch the field, going on to upset the Patriots.

If Heyward-Bey continues to produce at the pace he's on, he could have his first 1,000-yard receiving year of his career.

If he can accomplish that in the "ground and pound" Raider offense, what could Heyward-Bey produce under the tutelage of Bill Belechek with Tom Brady throwing to him?