The history of the NFL is replete with iconic moments: Joe Namath’s guarantee of victory prior to Super Bowl III, Dwight Clark’s catch, Franco Harris’s immaculate reception, and Kellen Winslow’s performance in 1982 AFC divisional playoffs.
But for every monument of greatness, there are the not-so-great. Perhaps none speak to this as perfectly as the infamous Raiders fan’s breakdown after the Al Davis drafted Darrius Heyward-Bey (DHB) over Michael Crabtree.
It goes without saying that the NFL Draft tends to bring out the worst in fans. When it comes to talent, everyone is an expert — except the actual experts, that is. In the case of DHB, Al Davis might have known something that wailing Raiders fans did not: DHB may be better than Crabtree.
According to Football Outsiders, Michael Crabtree is the better receiver, but not by much. Explanations for these stats can be found here.
Crabtree edges out DHB in all statistical categories except for yards gained. Where Crabtree has had the benefit of playing with the same quarterback for three seasons, DHB did not. The best season of DHB’s career was one in which the Raiders’ offense underwent a major upheaval mid season after losing starter Jason Campbell. Sure, Campbell’s replacement, Carson Palmer, was a better quarterback. But is Palmer’s presence enough to explain DHB’s significant improvement?
Though I don’t believe that one mediocre season is enough to crown DHB the better receiver, Pro-Football Focus (PFF) does. According to their projections, PFF believes both DHB and Denarius Moore will have better seasons than Crabtree.
Given PFF’s projections and Palmer’s seeming ability to make lemonade out of lemons, I would say the Raiders have the better receiving corps. Granted, Randy Moss might have a breakout season, but that seems as likely as Juron Criner doing the same. Mario Manningham too could become a prolific receiver. But if he wasn’t able to do so in New York, what are the odds he does with the run-happy 49ers?
Fortunately for the 49ers, receivers aren’t the only ones allowed to catch passes. The tight end position has become as vital to the passing game as lensless, black-rimmed glasses are to Lebron James’s hipster aesthetic. As it happens, the 49ers have one of the best tight ends in the league.
There is no need for discussion here. Davis reigns supreme. In fact, Myers would likely be unable to crack the 49ers roster. Kevin Boss wouldn’t though.
Boss’s role with the Raiders was minuscule, but he filled the role much better than any replacement level player could. It should be interesting to see how well he will do with the Chiefs.
Anyways, PFF’s projections certainly do not shock.
Because the 49ers have the better tight ends while the Raiders have the better receivers, it would appear as though the two teams are at a stalemate.
Who’s got it better at receiver? Neither.