2009 NFL Draft Roundup
April 27, 2009 by Brad Oremland • Print Story •
Maybe I'm going soft in my old age, but my draft report card this year is filled with As and Bs. Maybe teams drafted better, maybe I just saw the glass as half-full this weekend, or maybe the other 31 teams benefitted from Oakland's bizarre use of early picks. Here are my choices for this year's draft winners and losers, plus a few tweeners who mixed good and bad.
2009 Draft Winners
* Washington — Perennial draft losers under Daniel Snyder, they have to be thrilled with Texas DE Brian Orakpo in the 13th spot. Adding Albert Haynesworth and Orakpo should have an immediate impact on Washington's underachieving pass rush. Local product Kevin Barnes, a cornerback from Maryland, could help fill the hole created by Shawn Springs' departure.
* San Francisco 49ers — Like Washington, picked up a talented player who dropped, getting Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree with the 10th slot in the draft. Some scouts believed Crabtree was the best player in the whole draft. The Niners also got Carolina's 2010 first-round selection in a trade for the 43rd pick this year.
* University of Southern California — With more first-round selections (3) than any other school, and more first-day selections (5) than any other school, USC remains the premier proving ground for NFL rookies.
* Green Bay Packers — Got two highly regarded defensive prospects who could be immediate impact players. B.J. Raji was the premier nose tackle in this year's draft, and Clay Matthews III is a versatile LB who should also facilitate the transition to a 3-4 defense. That makes the Packers draft-day winners, but they probably overpaid in the trade for Matthews, giving up two third-round picks by trading up.
* New England Patriots — Turned their first pick (23rd overall) into a second-rounder this year and two second-round choices next year. The Patriots made six picks in the first three rounds, and they're well on their way to the same in 2010.
* Wide Receivers — After no wideouts went in the first round last year, six were taken in this year's first round.
* Teams that pick quickly — Washington, Denver, and Minnesota, I'm looking in your direction here. Thanks for helping to keep the first round under six hours. For the rest of the league, if you know who you're picking and you haven't gotten a serious trade offer after a couple minutes, just go to the damn podium. I swear some teams use the whole 10 minutes to deliberately waste everyone's time.
* Minnesota Vikings — Drafted for need. Third-round CB Asher Allen should help address the team's weakness on pass defense, and gigantic second-rounder Phil Loadholt (6'8", 332 lbs.) was a great value who could start at right tackle on opening day. The question mark is first-round selection Percy Harvin. He fills the team's need for a play-making wide receiver, and no one questions Harvin's talent, but some league observers have concerns about potential off-field issues.
No one is the next Randy Moss, but it's hard not to draw the connection between Harvin, a talented-but-troubled WR who slipped to 22nd in the draft due to character concerns, and Moss, a talented-but-troubled WR who slipped to 21st in the draft due to character concerns, especially since both were eventually drafted by the Vikings. Harvin was a substantial gamble, but even if he doesn't work out, Loadholt and Allen could salvage this draft. If Harvin is anything like Moss, though, Minnesota may have had the best draft of any team in the league.
* Tyson Jackson — A week ago, he was projected to go in the middle of the first round. Now he's the third choice in the draft, staring at a $50 million contract.
* Seattle Seahawks — Aaron Curry fell to them with the fourth pick, plus they got Denver's 2010 first-rounder in exchange for this year's second-round pick, and then traded up to grab OL Max Unger in the middle of the second. Curry will have to be awfully good, because it looks like the 'Hawks will go into 2009 minus both of last year's starting OLBs, Julian Peterson and Leroy Hill.
* UConn — When did the Huskies become a football powerhouse? They had four players selected on the first day of the draft, more than anyone except USC (5) and Ohio State (4).
* Philadelphia Eagles — I'm not sure I understand their first-round selection of Jeremy Maclin. Was it a value pick on a player they had graded in the top 10, or were they targeting a WR? Maclin is the same type of player as DeSean Jackson, a burner and a returner. It's not surprising that the Eagles picked a receiver, but most people expected them to go with a bigger, possession-type receiver. Same thing in the second round, where Philadelphia added a running back, LeSean McCoy, who is almost exactly the same size as Brian Westbrook. The team has needed a power back for years, but McCoy seems more like Westbrook's heir apparent than a short-yardage complement. I don't question that these were good value picks, but I'm not sure how the players fit into the Eagles' 2009 lineup. It looks to me like the team addressed strengths rather than weaknesses. This team is a contender right now, and it should be building a team for 2009, not 2012.
Despite some concern that Philadelphia is sacrificing the present by planning for the future, I do like their fifth-round picks and the trade for Jason Peters. Through some wild wheeling and dealing in the third and fifth rounds, the Eagles also secured extra third- and fifth-round choices in next year's draft, a couple of extra late-round picks this year, and veteran CB Ellis Hobbs, who started all 16 games for New England last year and has a KR TD in each of the last three seasons.
2009 Draft Losers
* Oakland Raiders — They're in danger of becoming an automatic selection here. Darrius Heyward-Bey was a huge reach at seventh overall, and might even have been available with the team's second-round pick. A decent trade in the second round was spoiled when they took safety Michael Mitchell 47th overall. Mitchell likely would have been available at least a full round later. Both Mel Kiper and NFL Network's Mike Mayock graded Mitchell as a seventh-rounder, and this pick prompted SI.com to opine that "the Raiders appear to have no rhyme or reason with their selections."
* Anquan Boldin — It's looking less and less like he'll get that trade he's been asking for. In fact, ESPN has reported that the Cardinals may have "forgotten" to call back teams that were interested in Boldin. Now, after choosing receivers in the first round, potential trade partners like Philadelphia and Tennessee have probably lost interest in him.
* Radio City Music Hall Audience — What on earth is wrong with these people, who think it's okay to boo 21-year-olds on the best day of their lives?
* Dallas Cowboys — What do you think of Roy Williams? Dallas didn't make a selection until 69th overall, so Williams, who cost the team this year's first-rounder, is the only marquee addition from their draft picks. Williams had one great season in Detroit (2006), but he has struggled with inconsistency and gave the Cowboys nothing down the stretch last season. This was not a real big weekend in Dallas.
* Ian Johnson — The Boise State RB went undrafted despite a great college career and the second-fastest 40-yard dash by a running back at the Combine. Twenty-two other RBs were chosen in the draft.
* ESPN television audience — ESPN takes all the drama out of the draft by revealing the picks before the Commissioner even gets to the podium. Chris Berman takes special delight in showing off that he knows who the pick is before it's official. And what point does Steve Young serve on this broadcast? Yes, Steve, we know you think every team should take a quarterback. If I were Mark Sanchez, I might look into a restraining order against Young.
* Chicago Bears — I actually like their third-round selections, but any team with no picks on the first day is a draft loser. Everyone has a strong opinion on the Jay Cutler trade, and I think the Bears gave up too much to get him.
* Everyone who took a quarterback on the first day — The Lions' draft is going to be judged almost exclusively on whether or not Matthew Stafford succeeds. The Bucs traded up to get Josh Freeman at 17th and didn't pick again until the third round. The Jets traded up for Sanchez, and only had two other picks. Those teams have all their eggs in one basket. To a lesser extent, that's also true for the Dolphins, who chose West Virginia's Pat White 44th overall. White could be a huge impact player, an effective part-time player in the Wildcat, or a total bust. He's a fascinating wild card, and his success level could define Miami's 2009 draft.
* Kansas City Chiefs — I like their third-round choice (Purdue DL Alex Magee), and the trade of their second-round pick for Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel was a steal. But Tyson Jackson third overall was a need pick, and you don't just draft for need in the top five. Jackson was a reach who probably would have been available later.
* Houston Texans — At the end of last season, I wanted them to draft "a play-making strong safety or a dynamic outside linebacker" and "a complementary pass rusher." The Texans used their first two picks to take dynamic USC outside linebacker Brian Cushing and pass-rush phenom Connor Barwin. I love the picks, but they appear to echo the free agent acquisitions of OLB Cato June and DE Antonio Smith. Will June be a backup, and Barwin exclusively a pass-rush specialist?
* Carolina Panthers — Traded away next year's first-round choice, for the second draft in a row. Several teams had a first-round grade on Everette Brown, so he was a good value at 43rd overall, but they mortgaged next year's draft to get him, so Brown needs to produce. Jake Delhomme just got a contract extension, but he's 34, and some fans wanted Carolina to draft its QB of the future.
* Cleveland Browns — The most active team on the first day of the draft, the Browns traded down three times and made four selections on the first day, netting some solid players who should contribute immediately, but no obvious high-impact playmakers. The most interesting acquisitions weren't draft picks, but the players acquired by trading the fifth overall selection to the Jets: backup QB Brett Ratliff, DB Abram Elam, and DE Kenyon Coleman. This wasn't a flashy draft, but if the cards fall correctly, the Browns may have addressed a lot of problems on Saturday. On the other hand, it's also possible that the team added a bunch of backups and special teamers when it needed to draft a star.