Green Bay Packers: Evaluating the 2009 Draft

Bradley SmithContributor IIIJune 4, 2012

Green Bay Packers: Evaluating the 2009 Draft

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    In this society of instant gratification, it is easy to forget that time is needed in order to properly evaluate any situation in life. 

    The same holds true in the NFL

    The 2012 NFL draft is not even two months past and experts and evaluators have been quick to grade each team's draft.  Yes, it is entertaining, but such grades are not doing anyone justice.

    Many NFL experts and insiders say you need to wait three years before a draft can be properly dissected.  With that said, it is now appropriate to look back at the 2009 NFL draft. 

    A few teams stood out with their selections, but maybe no one more than the Green Bay Packers.  Their picks in 2009 dramatically changed the dynamic of the team and helped the Packers become one of the NFL's elite teams.

B.J. Raji

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    Round: 1

    Pick: No. 9

    Position: Nose tackle

    School: Boston College

    Entering the 2009 season, the Packers hired Dom Capers as their defensive coordinator and changed their base defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4. 

    To make that switch, the Packers needed to find a nose tackle.  B.J. Raji provided just what they needed.

    "The Freezer" had his breakout season in 2010, starting all 16 games and making 6.5 sacks.  But he made his signature play in the NFC Championship game, intercepting Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie and returning it 18 yards for what would be the game-winning touchdown, helping the Packers reach Super Bowl XLV. 

    In 2011, the Packers suffered numerous injuries on their defensive line, forcing Raji to play almost every snap.  His numbers declined as a result.

    With a revamped defensive line, look for a fresher Raji in 2012 and a return to his 2010 form. 

Clay Matthews

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    Round : 1

    Pick: No. 26

    Position: OLB

    School: Southern California

    Another key to running a 3-4 scheme is having a capable outside pass rush.  The Packers got that in linebacker Clay Matthews.

    They gave up a lot to move into the first round, sending a second-round pick (41st) and two third-round picks (73rd and 83rd) to New England, while picking up a fifth-round pick. But looking back, it was more than worth it. 

    Matthews may not be the heart and soul of the defense, but he definitely is the engine that gets them started. 

    He came into the league with a chip on his shoulder and has made his presence felt.

    In 2009, he had 10 sacks, setting a team record for most sacks by a rookie and earning the first Pro Bowl selection by a Packers rookie since 1978. 

    He added to his sack totals in 2010, recording 13.5, and was a key to helping the Packers win Super Bowl XLV, forcing a fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter which halted a Pittsburgh Steelers' drive.

    While Matthews saw his sack numbers go down in 2011, his pressures were still up and he had three interceptions and three forced fumbles. 

    With 2012 first-round pick Nick Perry on the other side of Matthews, look for him to pile up the sack numbers and help the Packers defense regain its elite status.

T.J. Lang

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    Round: 4

    Pick: No. 109

    Position: OG

    School: Eastern Michigan

    Here is a prime example of what Ted Thompson likes to do: draft and develop.

    Lang showed that he is versatile in 2009 and 2010, serving as a back-up at left guard and both tackle positions.  

    In 2011, he got his opportunity to start at left guard and did not disappoint.  He held his own and showed that is a capable pass-blocker.

    The combination of Lang and right guard Josh Sitton is one of the better guard tandems in the league. 

Quinn Johnson

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    Round: 5

    Pick: No. 145

    Position: FB

    School: LSU

    There is one word to describe Quinn Johnson: nasty.

    The Packers drafted him because they loved his attitude and physicality as a lead blocking fullback. 

    He made some contributions in 2009 and even started four games in 2010 on a team that went into that season with three fullbacks. 

    In 2011, Green Bay went in a different direction offensively and traded Johnson to the Tennessee Titans, where he is currently the backup fullback.  

Jamon Meredith

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    Round: 5

    Pick: No. 162

    Position: OG/OT

    School: South Carolina

    Here is a reason why "grading" a draft after it just happened is difficult.  Many believed Ted Thompson and the Packers got great value in getting Meredith this late in the draft.

    He was regarded by some as one of the better left tackle prospects in 2009. 

    He never played a down for the Packers. 

    The Buffalo Bills signed him off the Packers practice squad in 2009, and he went on to start four games for them. 

    Since then, he has bounced around in the league, going from the Bills to the Detroit Lions, New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers, and is now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jarius Wynn

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    Round: 6

    Pick: No. 182

    Position: DE

    School: Georgia

    Everyone interprets "value'' in different ways.  From my point of view, getting any contribution from a sixth-round pick and beyond is valuable. 

    Jarius Wynn would not be considered valuable, but he has been solid for the Packers.

    At the very least, he has been a body for Green Bay to throw out there on the defensive line. 

    He was cut in 2010 before the season started, but injuries allowed him to come back, and he has proved to be a nice backup/rotational player.

    He will have his work cut out for him in 2012. The addition of Jerel Worthy and Anthony Hargrove will push Wynn for a spot in the rotation. 

Brandon Underwood

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    Round: 6

    Pick: No. 187

    Position: CB

    School: Cincinnati

    Underwood may be more known for his off-field troubles than his on-field contributions.  He contributed mostly on special teams for the Packers in 2009 and 2010. 

    He was cut before the start of the 2011 season and was out of football.

    He recently signed with the Oakland Raiders after Reggie McKenzie, former director of player personnel in Green Bay, agreed to be the general manager of the Raiders. 

Brad Jones

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    Round: 7

    Pick: No. 218

    Position: OLB

    School: Colorado

    Considering Jones was an afterthought in 2009, he has been a nice contributor.  He showed promise in his rookie year with four sacks in seven starts opposite Clay Matthews.

    After that, he has not shown much in the pass-rush department, which has prompted the Packers to use a merry-go-round of players at the other outside linebacker position.

    Still, Jones has an opportunity to show what he can do in 2012. But look for his value to be mostly on special teams if he comes out of camp as one of the 53. 

Recap

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    2009 NFL Draft Grade: A

    General manager Ted Thompson did a remarkable job with this draft. 

    He was able to land a star in Matthews, an anchor at nose tackle in Raji and a quality left guard in Lang.

    Also, what should be highly noted, he has received contributions from every player in this draft except for Meredith. 

    Wynn and Jones are still on the team, while Johnson, Meredith, and Underwood are still in the league with other teams. 

    In any case, the Packers got three starters with their first three picks.