Shutdown Corner - NFL

We should be way past the point of feeling surprise at what the Oakland Raiders do in an NFL draft. After all, they once took a kicker with the seventeenth pick. But the selection made by Al Davis this year may trump even that. With two-time All American wide receiver Michael Crabtree sitting in the green room, Davis took another receiver at No. 7 instead: Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey. The former Terrapin star was projected by many to be a mid-to-late first rounder.

The selection was met with instant derision by the analysts on ESPN and NFL Network. Mel Kiper, in particular, was practically apoplectic, saying that it was unfathomable that the Raiders would take Heyward-Bey with a player of Crabtree's stature still on the board. Both he and the network's other analyst, Todd McShay, graded the pick with an instant F.

The analysis during the NFL draft is usually quite tame. Even though barely half of the players taken in the first round are successful in the league, on draft day everyone is pegged as a future All-Pro. That's what made the sheer venom spewed after the Raiders passed on Crabtree so awkward. Even though the analysts meant it as a compliment to Crabtree, it came across as a massive insult to Heyward-Bey.

Crabtree was the most celebrated receiver in recent NCAA football history. He was involved in the biggest play of the 2008 college football season. From the time he took the field as a freshman at Texas Tech, it was known that he'd be a top ten pick. So when Crabtree was available at No. 7 for the Raiders, it seemed like a natural fit for a team that likes its stars.

But Al Davis is not much for conformity. But taking a fine player from a mediocre ACC program instead of a star from a team that was in the top ten all season is baffling, even for him. 

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