Remember back when Colts' owner Jim Irsay tweeted about the "whopper" wide receiver the team was going after? Well, regardless of who they were originally going after, the player they did sign was former Raiders wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey, which addressed a big need at the wide receiver position after the departure of Donnie Avery.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, or DHB for short, was drafted by the Oakland Raiders with the 7th overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft. At the 2009 NFL Combine, he ran a 4.3 40 yard dash - making him the perfect fit for the speed-crazy Raiders. In four years in Oakland, DHB played in 56 games and started 53, and he caught 140 passes for 2,071 yards and 11 touchdowns while also adding 8 carries for 83 yards. Last season, he played in 15 games (starting 14) and caught 41 passes for 606 yards and a career-high 5 touchdowns.
The first year in Oakland, however, was rough for the 6-2, 216 pound receiver - with a drop rate at an insanely bad 35.7%, per Pro Football Focus. To put that in perspective, Colts fans remember how bad Donnie Avery was in the area of drops last year, right? His drop rate was 16.7%. DHB's was 19% worse than that his rookie year. Now, to his credit, Heyward-Bey improved greatly (how could he not?) and by 2011 his drop rate was down to just 8.6%. Last year it was at 12.8% - still high - but better than Avery last year and certainly not awful. More concerning than that is probably the fact that he has been targeted 75 times 20 or more yards down the field and he has 11 stinking catches. 11. That's a catch rate of 14.6, and there's no other way of saying it but that the number absolutely must improve. In Indy, that can happen.
All of that said, however, let me offer this advice about Darrius Heyward-Bey: don't look too much into his numbers. He had no consistency at quarterback, other than the fact that they all sucked. In just four years there, DHB played with seven different starting quarterbacks: Jamarcus Russell, Charlie Frye, Bruce Gradkowski, Jason Campbell, Kyle Boller, Carson Palmer, and Terrelle Pryor. Heck, I'd take the Colts' third string quarterback (Chandler Harnish) over most of those guys. And throw in the fact that the inconsistency at the spot prevented DHB from developing chemistry with his quarterback.
In Indianapolis, he will be able to. There aren't any excuses anymore, really. He will have consistency at the quarterback spot. He will have great play at the quarterback spot. He will have a veteran, future hall of fame wide receiver on the other side of the field in Reggie Wayne. There aren't excuses anymore. We can chalk his career in Oakland up to several different circumstances that got in the way of the first-rounder reaching his potential. In Indy, there won't be.
He will likely be asked to take the top off the defense for the Colts. And he will bring the speed that will allow him to both burn defenses before he catches the ball and burn defenses after he catches the ball. It will be interesting to see how the team uses him and gets him the ball.
After the Colts released Donnie Avery, the wide receiver position needed to be addressed. It was by signing Darrius Heyward-Bey. The real question that remains is whether this is a short-term fix or a long-term one. At only 26 years old, he could be a good receiver for Andrew Luck for a while. Though he is only signed on a one year deal, a good year this year could mean that the Colts sign him to an extended contract after that. Either way, this year is a big test for DHB and it was a signing that the Colts made, confident that Heyward-Bey can live up to his pre-draft hype. If he reaches that potential - and what better situation to reach it in than with the Colts this year - then this signing really could be a "wopper," even though right now it may not seem like it.