Sunday, April 26, 2009

Winners, Losers and Thoughts on the 2009 Draft

The NFL Draft has come and gone, signaling for me the real beginning to the 2009 campaign. I know there’s free agency, but this is the weekend most teams make the biggest adjustments to their rosters; mini-camps are just around the corner, and training camp not all that far behind.

I will check in tomorrow with a GSTV episode discussing how I think the Giants fared this weekend, but for now, I want touch on a few general things from the draft.

The #1 Pick

The Lions locked up QB Matt Stafford on the eve of the draft with the richest rookie contract in NFL history. The Lions desperately needed to give their franchise a fresh start. While they may have contemplated going with an OT or with LB Aaron Curry, it’s is a QB-driven game in the end. Stafford gives them a future leader on the field and the face of the franchise off it. The key for Detroit will be to allow him to develop before they throw him to the…Lions’ opponents.


Give Culpepper the reigns next season, let Stafford learn and before you put him in, make sure he has a front line to protect him and weapons he can work with. TE Brandon Pettigrew is a good start…

Jets Land Sanchez

With Stafford projected to go first overall, USC’s Mark Sanchez was the most widely-coveted QB heading into the weekend. There were a number of teams that were said to have their eyes on Sanchez, and when Seattle didn’t take him at #4, the Jets pulled the trigger to get their man. The “other New York team” had one of the worst QB situations in the league following the second retirement of Brett Favre. Kellen Clemens is no better than a back-up and I don’t think the other players at the position have taken a snap in the NFL.



I think Sanchez has the tools and personality to succeed in the NFL and in New York. He’s also going into a great situation with a solid O-line, solid running game, and great defense. He should be the starter in Week 1, and I think, looking back in a few years, he will be the best QB taken in this draft.

Wide Receiver Shake-ups

When Oakland selected Darrius Heyward-Bey as the first WR taken in the draft, I think the consensus was unanimous: “WHAT?!?!” (and if you were a Giants fan like me, “Yes, we’re not going to trade up for that guy!”) The speedster has impressive natural talent, but taking him over Maclin, Harvin, and certainly Crabtree, is mind-boggling. He was a boom or bust type of prospect heading into this weekend, and I think heading out to the black hole of the NFL will ensure his status as the latter.

As for the other top talent at wide out, the 49ers drafted a star in Michael Crabtree. I know some people weren’t impressed with him in interviews (more on this later), but I think he will be an impact player out there in the NFC West. The Eagles got a great compliment to DeSean Jackson and weapon for Donovan McNabb in Jeremy Maclin; the Vikings took a chance on the explosive yet troubled Percy Harvin. For those guys to fall to the limited extent they did could have a huge impact for the teams that landed them.

Another Year for OT's

Three tackles were chosen in the first eight picks. Jason Smith becomes the heir apparent to Hall of Famer Orlando Pace in St. Louis. Andre Smith, who many claim was the most talented tackle in this draft, gives Carson Palmer somebody to cover his blindside for many years to come, and the Jaguars picked up Eugene Monroe. (They then added Eben Britton in the 2nd round to solidify an offensive line that was decimated by injuries last year.)


Baltimore Ravens' 1st round selection OT Michael Oher.

The best story at this position however, and arguably this draft, is Michael Oher. Oher’s story is incredible, so much so that they are writing a book and making a movie about it. I can’t do it justice, but essentially the kid was homeless, adopted off the street by this family who took him in as their own and provided him with a great education. Now, he’s the first round draft choice of the Baltimore Ravens. From his story to his draft day interview, this kid is a class act and I think he will be a tremendous player in this league.

Winners and Losers

Some might say this draft lacked the “star power” of other years - no Reggie Bushes, Adrian Petersons, Matt Ryans – but I think this batch of draftees was very talented and a number of teams finished the weekend in good shape. Of course, it’s hard to truly measure the quality of a team’s draft class right after the fact, but here are my initial impressions of some teams that did really well for themselves this year.

Winners

I will start at the top of the board with the Detroit Lions. This team is a perennial high draft picker. Coming off of last season, things could get no worse for them and with a new front office and new coaching staff this team is looking to turn the corner. They made some nice picks on both sides of the ball in an attempt to lay the foundation for a more prosperous future, with Stafford as the cornerstone. They picked up the best TE in the draft in Brandon Pettigrew, giving him another target to go along with Calvin Johnson. They added Louis Delmas, the best safety in the draft, and added WR/KR Derrick Willams on day 2. Another year or two and this team might not be completely horrendous.

Another regular in the draft’s Top 10 Club, the Cincinnati Bengals, also made big strides in New York. As I mentioned, they added a promising left tackle in Smith, and they grabbed Rey Maualuga in the second round. He will line alongside former USC teammate Keith Rivers in what could be a tough, young LB unit. They get another steal on defense in the third round with pass-rusher DE Michael Johnson from Georgia Tech, and add a target from Carson Palmer with TE Chase Coffman with their compensatory pick that same round.

Cincinnati’s division-mate the Cleveland Browns also had a nice draft. Despite the Braylon Edwards seemingly staying put for the time-being, the Browns added two promising young receivers in OSU’s Brian Robiskie and Georgia’s Mohamed Massaquaoi. They bolstered their O-line signing C Alex Mack with their first pick, and added a talented LB in the early 4th round with Kaluka Maiavia.

While these teams may still have another few seasons to go before they’re no longer picking in the single digits each round, a few “on the brink” teams made some big moves that could push them to the next level. The Houston Texans - a team I’ve viewed as “almost there” for two seasons now- added help where they needed it with USC LB Brian Cushing and Cincinnati’s Connor Barwin.

The Green Bay Packers, coming off a 6-10 season plagued by injuries on defense, added two top-shelf talents in the first round to play in their new 3-4 scheme. DT B.J. Raji in Boston College is a great player, as is USC LB Clay Matthews. Both should contribute right away to a defense that already boasts some talented young players. I also thought they got a steal in the 5th round with OT Jamon Meredith from South Carolina. I think he has a lot of potential and many were projecting him to go as early as the 2nd round.

Of those “almost there” teams though, the Buffalo Bills had perhaps the best draft of the bunch. They added a pass-rusher in DE Aaron Maybin to compliment Aaron Schobel. Jairus Byrd should contribute right away at CB, and C Eric Wood and OG Andy Levitre are the two best players at their positions. Buffalo still has some holes to fill, but initial impressions are that they will make the AFC East a very competitive division next season.

Of course, they had help from the Jets and Patriots. The Jets may have made the pick of the draft with Sanchez. We’ll have to wait and see of course, but now that New York has a QB, they could do some things under new coach Rex Ryan. New England traded down to get 4 2nd round draft picks, where I thought the 2nd round a majority of the talent this year would fall. At first glance, I think their first 6 picks could develop into major players.

Different conference, same division: I’d say the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins both had great drafts with few picks. The Eagles brought in weapons for Donovan McNabb and a compliment to Brian Westbrook in Maclin and RB LeSean McCoy. Washington got a pass-rushing phenom in Brian “freak, beast, monsta” Orakpo, who could wreak havoc lining up next to DT Albert Haynesworth. (Washington also added LB Cody Glenn in the 5th round, someone I thought was a real sleeper at the position.)

Losers

It’s hard to paint any one team a “loser” in this year’s draft prior to any player even seeing an NFL field, but many would agree that the Oakland Raiders made some very bizarre choices this year. I talked about DHB earlier, but their 2nd Round pick Mike Mitchell was perhaps even more of a head-scratcher. Most scouts saw him as a 5th round talent at best, and the networks didn’t even film or a bio of him to play when they made the pick. There’s a reason the Raiders are what they are…and I’m not sure they’ll break that mold any time soon…

One theory on the DHB pick though…Crabtree failed to impress a lot of teams when they met with him. I heard from one of the commentators that when Oakland skipped Crabtree, Crabtree’s father wiped his head and said “phew.” Perhaps the player expressed some disinterest in playing for the team when he met with them, prompting them to pass him over for the speed demon DHB? One can only wonder…

How Does the Giants’ Draft Match Up?

While many may be perplexed or upset that the Braylon Edwards trade didn’t go down, I think there are a lot of positives to take away from Jerry Reese’s latest effort. I will return tomorrow with an episode of GSTV to break it all down. ‘Til then, you stay classy Giants’ Nation...

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1 comment:

community said...

As much as it pains me, Cincy had a great draft. They added some teeth to a defense that really needed it in the AFC North. Guess they got tired of being run all over.

Oakland....wow. As a Terp fan I'm happy to see DHB doing well but come on Al!!! I thought Crabtree was going to break down in tears waiting.