It comes but once a year.
It's the moment many NFL fans live for.
It's not the Super Bowl, nor is it opening day.
It's the NFL Draft.
Every year, I take a look at the draft class and pick who I think will succeed most and who will be the biggest bust.
We'll start in 2005. Alex Smith was selected number-one overall by the lowly 49ers. I laughed about this for days, weeks, and months, thinking that this was the bust of the decade.
I still find myself laughing from time to time.
He has been injured quite a bit, but when he's healthy, he can barely complete 54 percent of his passes and has thrown an awful 31 interceptions compared to only 19 touchdowns.
Carlos Rogers, one of my favorite players in the draft, was selected ninth. He doesn't get seven interceptions a season, but he is one of the top shutdown corners in the league.
In 2006, I picked Mario Williams to have the best NFL career and Vince Young/Reggie Bush to have the worst. Well, Williams took a little bit to flourish, but now he's one of the most-feared defensive ends in the NFL. Young made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, but has done little since and is now second on the Tennessee Titans depth chart. Bush was over-hyped and has a tendency to fall down when touched by a defender.
In April of 2007, I had Calvin Johnson as the biggest bust. The Detroit Lions had a history of picking wide receivers who didn't pan out. Joe Thomas was going to be the next future Hall of Famer. Well, Johnson is a proven wide receiver and has little help from the quarterback position. Just wait until he get a quarterback who can really throw. Joe Thomas is a Pro Bowler who dominates at the point of attack.
Then 2008 came along. Everyone was talking about how dominant Glenn Dorsey was going to be, but I couldn't see it. He was drafted fifth by Kansas City and it took him nearly 2 months to record his first sack, which also turned out to be the only one. I was also one of the few people to think Matt Ryan could make a huge impact in the NFL. It turns out that he had one of the best season by a rookie quarterback ever.
Now 2009 is upon us. Without even seeing which players will be drafted in the top fifteen, I decided to go ahead and make my predictions a little early. I'll take three players who I think will have great careers and three will likely be forever forgotten after their rookie seasons.
Three That Will Succeed
Aaron Curry (Wake Forest)
Wherever this guy goes, he'll make an immediate impact. He's got descent size for an outside linebacker, at 6'2'' and 254 pounds. He's very fast and extremely strong. He reminds me a lot of a young Ray Lewis, without the whole attitude problem. He is just too good to ignore.
If he goes to the Lions, he would make a deadly one-two punch with Ernie Sims. However, if Detroit decides to pass, he will likely go to Kansas City, where he would replace potential future Hall of Famer Donnie Edwards.
B.J. Raji (Boston College)
At 6'1'' and 323 pounds, this guy is just deadly. He missed the entire 2007 season due to academic issues, but he rebounded in 2008—gathering six sacks and thirty-seven tackles in twelve games.
Over an NFL season, that's eight sacks and fifty tackles, equivalent to what Albert Haynesworth and Kevin Williams did last season. Granted I know the NFL is tougher, but some players actually perform better in the NFL than they did in college. This could be one of those guys. My guess is he'll find a home in Seattle.
Jeremy Maclin (Missouri)
He is not the biggest name in the draft, being overshadowed by Michael Crabtree. He's very unhappy about not getting the recognition he deserves.
He had an amazing year in 2008, grabbing 102 receptions for 1,260 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is not tall, but would make a dangerous number-two receiver.
I expect him to be in the lower half of the first round. With many teams letting go of star wide receivers, the overall class has lost its value. He could very well fall all the way to the Chicago Bears at number 18. That would put him opposite one of the fastest guys in the NFL, Devin Hester.
Three That Will Bust
Mark Sanchez (USC)
Sorry USC fans, but this will be one of the biggest busts ever! He has only one full year under his belt in college. He hardly played from 2005-2007. He had a breakout season last year with 34 touchdowns, 3,207 yards, and 10 interceptions, earning him Heisman honors.
I just can't see this guy making an impact in the NFL. Not many people know it, but he has had some issues with sexual assault, but the charges were dropped due to lack of evidence. He also is injury-prone and will likely take a beating against NFL lineman.
Oh, and the last quarterback out of USC to leave for the pros early was Todd Marinovich in 1990. We all know how well that went.
I expect him to see time with the 49ers.
Michael Crabtree (Texas Tech)
Ah, yes—beware NFL. Sorry, but the hype around this kid is just going to be too much to handle. His offseason surgery will drop his stock just a bit, but he'll still go before Jeremy Maclin.
In 2008, he caught 97 passes for 1,165 yards and 19 touchdowns. His numbers would suggest he would be a big-time NFL receiver, but he doesn't create the separation needed in the NFL today.
Cornerbacks are getting better, and Crabtree relied on a huge vertical jump and spectacular hands to beat his opponents. This will not happen at the next level. I assume he'll end up catching passes for Matt Cassel.
Andre Smith (Alabama)
The big tackle from Alabama. I have been back and forth on this guy for the last month and half. This guy will be a Winston Justice type player, probably giving up six sacks to another dominant defensive end.
He won't be as bad as Tony Mandarich. Well, nobody could be as bad as Mandarich, but his guy will still fit the draft bust status. I see him going to St. Louis, where he'll end up blocking for an aging quarterback duo.
For the most part, I've been fairly accurate. I know you can't judge a player until he gets a few years in the league, but I can't help but believe that any of my bust predictions will get any better—other than Calvin Johnson, who is just a beast when he's healthy.
We'll see what the future holds!