The 2009 NFL Draft has now come and past, with the football world having been shaken up in a drastic way. This year’s draft class was particularly deep in several positions (Wide Receiver, Linebacker) and lacking in several others. Every NFL team puts months worth of preparation into making their respective selections, all in an effort to build a winning team.
Yet which teams came out with the best outlook for the 2009 season? Which ones with the gloomiest? Here are some of the NFL Draft’s biggest winners and losers.
1. Green Bay Packers-Only one word could be used to describe the Packers draft day: Unbelievable. With a little bit of luck and excellent planning, coach Mike McCarthy potential revitalized a franchise who suffered a dismal season after an NFC Championship bid in 2007. DT B.J. Raji, considered by many as one of the best talents overall in the draft, fell down to Green Bay at #9. The nose tackle is a crucial position in a 3-4 scheme, and Raji will fit perfectly there. The same can be said for LB Clay Matthews, who will give the Packers a huge threat in a line-backing core that already include A.J. Hawk. With two strong picks in OT T.J. Lang and OT Jamon Meredith, the offensive line may be set for years to come.
All picks: DT B.J. Raji, LB Clay Matthews, OT T.J. Lang, FB Quinn Johnson, OT Jamon Meredith, DE Jarius Wynn, CB Brandon Underwood, and LB Brad Jones.
Grade: A+. The Packers did an outstanding job in reaching out to fixing their poor defense. Aaron Rodgers can now confidently play well with less pressure, and B.J. Raji will be a defender who will stick around for a long time.
2. Baltimore Ravens-Many would definitely believe that the Ravens upgraded their team to that of Super Bowl-caliber. With the selection of OT Michael Oher in the first-round, Baltimore exemplifies drafting genius. Oher will finally be the right person to replace the retired Jonathan Ogden, and will provide excellent support for the running back trio that is Willis McGahee, Le’Ron McClain, and Ray Rice. Additionally, he will be used as the security guard for the sohphomore Joe Flacco, enabling him to stick around in the pocket a little bit longer than normal. Selecting DE/LB Paul Kruger should benefit as well, as Kruger was truly a misplaced linebacker playing defensive end in Utah. With Baltimore’s 3-4 defense, Kruger should be able to slide into a position in which he is more comfortable.
All picks: OT Michael Oher, DE/LB Paul Kruger, CB Lardarius Webb, LB Jason Phillips, TE Davon Drew, and RB Cedric Peerman.
Grade: A. The Ravens did a spectacular job in this draft, and could be on their way from being an AFC Championship-bound team to a Disneyland-bound squad.
3. New England Patriots-With this draft, Bill Belichick proved he may possibly be the single greatest “draft day head coach” in the history of professional football. Bill uses a strategy in which he feels that one does not need to pick if they are not in dire need of a particular position. He hit it dead on the nose this year once again. The Patriots were parts of seven trades, not selecting in the first round. However, they worked up four second-rounders (with an additional two for 2010), and two others in the third-round. The selection of hard-hitting safety Patrick Chung delivers them an instant starter, and CB Darius Butler could be the man they have been looking a long time for since Ty Law.
All picks: S Patrick Chung, DT Ron Brace, CB Darius Butler, OT Sebastian Vollmer, WR Brandon Tate, LB Tyrone McKenzie, G Rich Ohrnberger, C George Bussey, DT Myron Pryor, LS Jacob Ingram, WR Julian Edelman, and DT Darryl Richard.
Grade: A. Though the Patriots did not pick up any instant stars, their future is extremely bright. Look for a return to dominance very soon, especially with the return of a certain quarterback.
4. New York Jets-Yes, ladies and gentlemen, believe it. The New York Jets seemingly have had a strong draft. The key to being successful in a football game is to be aggressive, as is the case with several teams during the NFL Draft. With a dire need for a quarterback, the Jets dealt the #17 overall pick, #52 overall pick, DE Kenyon Coleman, QB Brett Ratliff, and S Abram Elam for the #5 overall pick. This selection was of course used to bring in USC QB Mark Sanchez. The young gun out of Southern California was barely projected to be in the top fifteen just one month ago, but his stock rose drastically over the past two weeks. With the addition of Sanchez, the Jets now have a big named man behind center, who should work nicely with WR Jerricho Cotchery.
All picks: QB Mark Sanchez, RB Shonn Greene, and G Matt Slauson.
Grade: A-. The upside Sanchez brings is incredible, and makes general manager Mike Tannenbaum look smart for the first time in a while. Drafting Shonn Greene could signify the end for Thomas Jones, who is unhappy with his contract situation. Overall, despite not having many picks, the Jets did a fine job.
5. New York Giants-Both sets of New York fans were happy after Sunday, especially those of the New York Football Giants. With rumors swirling around over the week of a potential deal that would have sent Browns WR Braylon Edwards to the Meadowlands, the Giants opted instead to select Tar Heels alumni Hakeem Nicks. Nicks, though not as tall as the departed Plaxico Burress, has some of the best hands of the entire draft class. While his speed is not exceptional, he is the playmaker that Eli Manning will need in order to begin passing over the middle once again. LB Clint Sintim out of Virginia will be a push in forcing him to switch over to a 4-3, but is an aggressive hitter the Giants are looking for. OT William Beatty could potentially be the best tackle long-term in this entire draft, looking to replace another William in the mind’s of Giants fans (bust DT William Joseph).
All picks: WR Hakeem Nicks, LB Clint Sintim, OT William Beatty, WR Ramses Barden, TE Travis Beckum, RB Andre Brown, QB Rhett Bomar, CB DeAndre Wright, and CB Stoney Woodson.
Grade: B+. The G-Men did a great job planning for the future, but may have addressed the weakest part of their defense too late (the secondary). Travis Beckum provides another weapon for Eli, an additional plus to this draft. Could this be as impactful as the 2007 class that won the team a championship?
Other teams who faired well include the Atlanta Falcons (B+), Arizona Cardinals (B+), Jacksonville Jaguars (B+), Kansas City Chiefs (B+), Houston Texans (B+) and Tennessee Titans (B+).
On the Bubble
1. Detroit Lions-The Lions came out with the first overall pick in QB Matthew Stafford, in a move that they hope will revitalize a dormant offense. The only thing that turns people away from the Georgia product is that he never put up exceptional stats, with only 25 touchdowns last season (compared to that of other quarterbacks drafted and even un-drafted). TE Brandon Pettigrew is an outstanding option for Stafford, and a great blocker as well for RB Kevin Smith. Louis Delmas will be a great fit at safety as well. Overall, a nice job for the Lions.
All picks: QB Matthew Stafford, TE Brandon Pettigrew, S Louis Delmas, LB DeAndre Levy, WR Derrick Williams, DT Sammie Lee Hill, RB Aaron Brown, OT Lydon Murtha, LB Zach Follett, and TE Dan Gronkowski.
Grade: B. A solid job, but this team is still a long way from a championship.
2. Minnesota Vikings-Two words: Percy Harvin. With the acquisition of Florida superstar WR Perey Harvin, the Vikings all of a sudden have what may possibly be the most devastating offense in the entire NFC. The question remains as to if his character will hold up however, but counseling and/or fines should do the trick. OT Phil Loadholt could stand in for a long time to come as well.
All players: WR Percy Harvin, OT Phil Loadholt, CB Asher Allen, LB Jasper Brinkley, and S Jamarca Sanford.
Grade: B-. Not a lot of picks for the Vikings in general, but those two mentioned could turn out to propel this franchise to places unimagined. It could also put them in a money hole.
3. Philadelphia Eagles-In the first-round, the Eagles picked WR Jeremy Maclin out of Missouri. Maclin is going to be an instant playmaker, which will aid QB Donovan McNabb in a gigantic way. Throw in RB LeSean McCoy, who will finally be the right person to compliment the often-injured Brian Westbrook.
All players: WR Jeremy Maclin, RB LeSean McCoy, TE Cornelius Ingram, CB Victor Harris, OT Fenuki Tupou, WR Brandon Gibson, and G Paul Fanaika.
Grade: B-. The problem with this draft is that after Maclin and McCoy, there is not much more upside to this team. The selection of Harris in the secondary seemingly forced the upset Sheldon Brown out of town. In the words of AC/DC, riff raff?
The Washington Redskins (C+) are another squad who find themseleves on the bubble, along with Cincinnatti Bengals (C+).
1. Oakland Raiders-Is there truly a need to explain this one? While WR Darrius Heyward-Bey is undoubtedly a talented product, he is most certainly not Michael Crabtree. Instead, the Raiders will pay someone who may have been late first-round top ten money. QB JaMarcus Russell will now have to prove even more of himself, with little help from Heyward-Bey’s playmaking abilities. S Michael Mitchell was not even supposed to be drafted up until about a month ago, when he ran an incredibly fast 4.43 40-Yard Dash. Al Davis is a man solely about speed and strength, which would explain the pick here. Coach Tom Cable will now have even more stress to worry about, and may not last long at all in Oakland.
All players: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, S Michael Mitchell, DE Matt Shaughnessy, WR Louis Murphy, DE Slade Norris, DE Stryker Sulak, TE Brandon Myers.
Grade: F. Al Davis is the most pathetic owner in NFL history, and that’s not even an opinion. The Raiders are spiralling down to a level which may not be repairable, and this is not the way to fix it. If Heyward-Bey and Mitchell do work out though, Davis will earn himself a cheese stick.
2. Denver Broncos-First, they fire one of the NFL’s longest tenured coaches. Then, they trade the guy who was supposed to be the franchise quarterback for years to come. Now, the Denver Broncos are just a complete mess. After blowing a playoff berth on the final day of the regular season, Denver needed to address several aspects of the team (most notably the defense). While they did pick arguably the best back in the class Knowshon Moreno, it makes one question their upper management. Why? They signed three running backs this offseason and now have a returning Peyton Hillis.
All players: RB Knowshon Moreno, LB Robert Ayers, CB Alphonso Smith, CB Darcel McBath, TE Richard Quinn, S David Bruton, G Seth Olsen, WR Kenny McKinley, QB Tom Brandstater, and C Blake Schlueter.
Grade: D-. The Broncos main weakness last year was their defense. Though they did trade up to select Alphonso Smith, they gave up their first round pick for next year. This could drastically impact a system that will rely on young talent. Also, their was nothing done to address the horrific defensive line, and this completely wastes their entire draft in many fans minds.
Other losers include the hopeless Buffalo Bills (D+), Dallas Cowboys (who earn themselves a C- by not even having a Day 1 pick), and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (C-).
In general, this draft was an enjoyable one to watch. The standards have been set to a drastically high level for 2009, and many of the league’s best held up to their promises in haning tight. With mini-camps getting underway shortly, football season is already on its way.
Note: Though many teams are not on any of these lists, it is only due to the indifference they present towards these respective categories. In other words, they fall under neither, and presented themseleves average in the draft proceedings.