For those of you that read the title of this article and DIDN’T respond with, “Yeah, you know me,” get ready to kick it with one of 2012’s best value picks, Darrius Heyward-Bey. We can’t quite call DHB a sleeper, as most of the world is aware of the speedy wide receiver thanks to Mr. Al Davis (big ups) surprisingly selecting him 7th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, so we will settle on the less exciting title of “Value Pick.” Heyward-Bey exhibits three traits I always enjoy seeing in mid/late round picks: direct route to playing time, excellent late season performance the previous season, and an Average Draft Position (ADP) in a tier of players he will easily outperform. Let’s turn up the bass and get into the breakdown…
2011 was a difficult season in terms of playing time for Darrius Heyward-Bey. He was often on the short end of the Oakland wide receiver rotation (zero catches in weeks 9 and 10), and was far too inconsistent to be trusted with a starting spot on any respectable fantasy team. Fortunately for Heyward-Bey, teammate Jacoby Ford left Oakland’s week 10 game with a sprained foot, creating more opportunity for DHB to work himself into a starting role and the good graces of new quarterback Carson Palmer. As Ford nursed his foot injury until week 17, DHB cemented his status as a starter with a string of solid performances. Now, pick up that remote and fast-forward to Oakland’s second game of the 2012 preseason. Now hit pause! In that game, Ford re-injured the SAME FOOT and will miss more time. So, with Ford injured again, DHB has a secure starting job with the Raiders and will look to build upon his impressive end to the 2011 season.
It was the final four games of the 2011 season that finally gave the world a glimpse of the potential that the Raiders saw in DHB while he tore up the NFL Draft combine as a young, hopeful draft candidate. Over Oakland’s last four contests, Heyward-Bey racked up 26 catches for 433 yards and two touchdowns. Let’s take a quick moment and have some fun with extrapolation. Sounds awesome, right? Heyward-Bey’s performance over the final quarter of the 2011 season would give him a final line of 104 catches for 1,732 yards over a 16 game season. Now, I’m not here to tell you that DHB is going to rival the fantasy output of the great Megatron, but this small window of performance does give us a snapshot of the type of potential Darrius Heyward-Bey possesses.
Finally, and most importantly, Heyward-Bey’s ADP is currently in a very advantageous location. Our good friends at Fantasy Pros have compiled the Average Draft Positions of fasntasy drafts from six different host sites, including ESPN and Yahoo. This great tool shows us that DHB is, on average, being selected as the 37th wide receiver and 108th player overall. That would put our new target’s ADP at the end of the 9th round in a 12 team draft. This is where we, as drafters of title winning fake football teams, make our money. Let’s compare DHB to the four wide receivers currently being drafted before him in drafts:
All signs point to Heyward-Bey building upon his 2011 campaign, and at his current price, he is an excellent investment in the fake football marketplace. Now as you polish off your first bag of Tostitos, crack open another cold one, and enter the 9th round of your draft, keep your eyes squarely focused on Oakland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, 2012 value pick.