For the love of God, would somebody put on some circus music! It’s a sideshow, man. The Oakland Raiders are ridiculous. Maryland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey is the #7 overall pick in Saturday’s NFL Draft? Ahead of Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree and Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin, the two highest rated wide receivers in the class? It’s actually not that odd. If it were any one of the other 31 teams in the league, we could call this an unconventional move. But in Oakland, the perennial ‘what the %#@&’ team in the NFL, it’s nothing but business as usual.

Al Davis loves speed and Darrius Heyward-Bey has got a lot of it. He was expected by most to be taken in the mid to late first round, although WalterFootball.com was right on the money with their last mock draft, updated the morning of the 25th. Outstanding. A 6-2, 206 pound wide receiver that ran a 4.3 second 40 yard dash, Heyward-Bey certainly has the tools to be a productive NFL wide receiver. All considered, most people were in utter shock when Davis selected the Maryland product ahead of the highly touted Crabtree and consensual #2 receiver in the draft, Maclin.

It’s always a show with Al Davis. Nothing is by the book and it’s anything but normal. Watching the draft with some friends, we all perked up when we heard the Raiders were announcing their pick. It’s never boring with the Oakland Raiders. Some might remember when in 2000, Al Davis and his Raiders drafted kicker Sebastian Janikowski in the first round (#17 overall) and later, punter Shane Lechler in the fifth (#142 overall). It’s a bold move when you take a kicker and punter in the first and fifth round. But then again, Al’s a bold guy.

A couple of years ago, the Raiders had the first overall pick in 2007 and drafted JaMarcus Russell, QB out of LSU. He wasn’t signed until September 12, 2007, when the season was already under way. A holdout that long could only happen in Oakland. It is a testament to the way decisions are made in the organization. The man in the track suit is slipping, and has been for years.

Most of the Raiders’ first round draft picks this decade have been anything but special. Janikowski (2000) and Nnamdi Asomugha (2003) are the only of the Raiders’ first round picks that have proven themselves worthy of being selected so high, although some may never consider a kicker worthy of the first round (it’s still too early to rate last year’s first round pick, Darren McFadden, but so far, so good). The jury is still out on Russell, although this season he’s going to have to show the rest of the league what he’s got. We’ll see. Michael Huff (2006), Fabian Washington (2005), Robert Gallery (2004), Tyler Brayton (2003), Phillip Buchanan (2002), Napoleon Harris (2002) and Derrick Gibson (2001) have enjoyed less than spectacular careers in Oakland, and in the rest of the league.

Maybe Heyward-Bey will not be like the busts. Maybe he will be like Asomugha, considered a reach when he was taken by the Raiders with the 31st overall pick. He has since been selected to the Pro Bowl twice (2006, 2008). Heyward-Bey has a rough road ahead of him. He will be compared to Crabtree and Maclin for the rest of his career. Davis’s pick will be scrutinized as well. Not that he really cares. His track record of taking risks and drafting with his heart would lead us to doubt his decision. For the sake of Darrius Heyward-Bey, an extremely talented wide receiver that can really turn on the afterburners, I hope he can shed the stigma that so many high draft picks of the Oakland Raiders have created. Maybe we’ll all shut up and eat our words when Heyward-Bey’s speed and productivity put any and all debate to rest in the next few years. Maybe we’ll be calling Al Davis a diabolical genius.

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