The 2009 NFL Draft is now in the books. It should only be a couple more days before Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay return to their relative anonymity until next fall or winter when we come calling for their predictions for 2010. In a draft class that was somewhat lacking in star personalities, at least in relation to recent years, there were still some significant moves, surprises, and “What the —-!!” moments.
As usual in this age of big name agents and even bigger contracts, the suspense of who would go #1 overall reached its peak a couple days before the draft, with the Lions agreeing to terms with Georgia QB Matthew Stafford. The other big-name quarterback was involved in a more exciting series of events, with the NY Jets trading up to the #6 slot to take Mark Sanchez. A subplot of this move that could be interesting to watch over the next few years is the development of Kansas State QB Josh Freeman, who was drafted by the Buccaneers with the pick that Cleveland traded to New York.
Obviously, it’s too early to really grade the draft. It takes three or four years to make an honest assessment of any player who was drafted (or not drafted). But here is a list of some winners and losers, based solely on teams that drafted positions they needed, and teams that seemed to defy logic with their picks (unfortunately for the purposes of this article, the Lions did not draft a wide receiver with their first pick). No one messed up terribly, and in fact most teams addressed their needs, and only a few made questionable decisions.
Green Bay Packers. The Packers needed to address their defense with their pending transition to a 3-4 scheme. They did just that, taking DT B.J. Raji and OLB Clay Matthews with their first two picks. Raji should be an anchor at nose tackle, and Matthews compliments AJ Hawk and Nick Barnett nicely. OT T.J. Lang addresses their needs on the offensive front, and FB Quinn Johnson was an unexpected treat in the fourth round.
Detroit Lions. Although much of the Lion’s draft success hinges on Matthew Stafford, who now has the pressure of not only living up to #1 overall billing, but also living up to a $78 million contract, with $41.7 million in guarantees, they did make quality picks the rest of the way as well. TE Brandon Pettigrew will give Stafford a big target in the middle of the field, and while many thought they should go defense in round 2, they did take corner back Louis Delmas with their 3rd round pick. 4th-rounder Sammie Lee Hill was impressive at the Senior Bowl, and could develop into a solid defensive tackle.
New York Giants. The Giants addressed every need, while still making quality picks without reaching. Hakeem Nicks should be a solid replacement for Plaxico Burress, and 4th rounder Ramses Barden is 6’6”, and gives Eli a tall target over the middle. OLB Clint Sintim and OT William Beatty give the team depth, and potential future starters. A pair of corners at the end of the 2nd day adds further depth to an already deep defense.
New England Patriots. Taking the opposite philosophy as the New York Jets, the Patriots go with quantity over quality – although they didn’t exactly draft non-quality players either. They addressed several needs, and stockpiled depth for the future. Patrick Chung and Darius Butler will solidify the secondary, Ron Brace will plug the middle of the D-Line, and they added depth at WR and along the O-Line.
New York Jets. Although their gamble on Sanchez could pay big dividends, the Jets ended up with only three draft picks, and still have a need for a receiver, a tight end, and a defensive lineman. Their decision to take RB Shonn Greene with their 2nd pick is puzzling, given Thomas Jones’ success last year, and Leon Washington’s presence as a strong backup. The Jets may have been better served negotiating a better deal for Jones, and taking a position of more need with this pick.
Oakland Raiders. The Raiders failed to draft O-linemen, a cornerback, or a linebacker, three positions of need going into the draft. They surprised everyone by passing on Michael Crabtree and taking WR Darrius Heyward-Bey at #7. Nearly every pick has great speed and athleticism, but none were considered the most talented at their position. Some of their picks may turn out decent, but they continue to puzzle most onlookers with their moves. It becomes more and more apparent that there may not be many people in this organization’s management team capable of making sound football decisions.
Again, no team completely blew it (although the Raiders came the closest). All in all, this was an unremarkable draft, although what it lacked in star power, it made up for in depth. The “can’t miss” picks did not get as much billing as some in recent years, but if history is any indication, that actually works in their favor, as more often than not, projected future Hall-of-Famers fail to live up to that billing. This should turn out to be a fun draft class to watch, in part because we haven’t already heard about them to the point of nausea. If I didn’t say anything about your team, feel free to let us know what you think (or if you think I blew my review of your team, feel free to let us know that too!)
Dan Mason is an accountant by trade only – he would much rather write. He constantly daydreams about being in the woods or on the water, in the middle of nowhere. He resides in the Rochester, NY, area and is thankful the Adirondacks are only a few hours’ drive away. He is happiest when there is a pen (read: keyboard) or a canoe paddle in his hand.