Yeah, you know we’ve reached the seventh wave of free agency when we’re trying to make Darrius Heyward-Bey into some kind of supreme wide receiver overlord. But dammit, I’m cheap, and Heyward-Bey in Detroit will cost you so very few fantasy dollars.
The Raiders castoff will meet with the Lions tomorrow after a visit to Buffalo ended in sadness, as most do. The Lions need wide receiver depth and someone who can do anything — anything at all — opposite Calvin Johnson, because if Megatron can average 122.8 receiving yards per game and finish with 1,964 yards overall while no one of note is on the opposite side of the field for much of the season after Nate Burleson (ACL), Ryan Broyles (ACL), and Titus Young (idiot) went down, we can only assume he’ll record 4,000 yards with speed consistently elsewhere.
That’s why Heyward-Bey in Detroit is great for Heyward-Bey, for Johnson, and for us.
Burleson remains after taking a pay cut, and he’ll be the most significant someone opposite Johnson. But the Lions’ problem is one of depth, as beyond Johnson there are two receivers recovering after pretty important muscles were ripped (Burleson and Broyles). And if even Burleson is at full health next fall as expected, there’s room for production from a third receiver, meaning Heyward-Bey could climb into a flex role, or possibly at best even compete for touches and steal a few from Burleson. Remember that before Broyles’ breakout 126-yard game last Thanksgiving which included a 40-yard catch, he still logged fine lower tier, flex level games with 52 and 51 yards even while playing behind Young, and he also scored in two straight games.
So there’s an opportunity here for a resurgence, and for Heyward-Bey’s speed to be utilized much better than it would have been in Buffalo, a place where passing dreams currently go for their savage deaths. You surely have a deeply embedded need to throw things upon hearing or reading Heyward-Bey’s name, and I understand that reflex. After being the Raiders’ seventh overall pick in 2009, he’s largely been a bust, at least relative to that lofty draft slot. He’s four years into his career, and he still hasn’t recorded a 1,000-yard season yet. But he’s come damn close, as he’s a year removed from a career high 975 yards with four touchdowns, and this past year his red-zone leaping ability led to a career high five scores.
For the Lions, Heyward-Bey would match Johnson’s speed, and along with Burleson he’d create a consistent distraction. And for your fake footballing needs, a pairing with Matthew Stafford gives Heyward-Bey and his deep-threat ability something he hasn’t had during his NFL career yet: a respectable quarterback, and an equally deep arm. If he signs, watch how the touches shake out during OTAs and training camp, and monitor DHB for possible/likely late-round or waiver wire steal status.