There is a lot of hype around the No. 1 selection on Saturday's 2009 NFL Draft. The expected pick is Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford. For Georgia in 2008, he threw for 3,459 yards, 25 touchdowns and ten interceptions.
Those are very impressive statistics, but there are other options. Wake Forest outside linebacker Aaron Curry is considered the best overall football player in the draft and thus, the safest pick.
Since 2005, we've had exciting drafts. There have been ten quarterbacks taken in the first round, compared 17 linebackers. Of the quarterbacks who have been taken in the first round, only five have had successful careers—or at least thus far.
As a rookie in 2005, he was disastrous, going 84-for-165 (50.9 completion percentage) with one touchdown and 11 interceptions. Smith didn't exactly blow away the competition, and in his career, is 435-for-800 with 4,679 yards, 19 touchdowns and 31 interceptions. At 25, he has all kinds of potential, but it has yet to translate.
Aaron Rodgers was brought in because of an aging Brett Favre. However, Rodgers didn't see any significant playing time in 2005, 2006, or 2007. He proved last year he benefited tremendously from Favre's tutelage, as he threw for 4,038 yards, 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
At 25, he is one of the brightest quarterbacks in all of football. Campbell was drafted a pick after Rodgers, by the Washington Redskins. Campbell has had trouble adjusting to learn the Redskins complex offense, but picked it up last year, and was very efficient last year, throwing for 3,245 yards, 13 touchdowns and just six interceptions.
Lets take a look at the linebackers in this draft. In 2005, DeMarcus Ware was taken as a youngster out of Troy by the Dallas Cowboys. Ware has been absolutely dominant in his NFL career. Last year for the Cowboys, he had a legit shot at Defensive Player of the Year, but James Harrison won the award.
In four seasons, he hasn't missed one game, has compiled 233 sacks and 53.5 sacks and is one of the most consistent players in the NFL. Taken immediately after him was Shawne Merriman, the linebacker out of Maryland, by the San Diego Chargers.
While Merriman missed almost all of last season, he is a dominant pass rushing force. In his first three seasons in the league, he totaled 187 tackles and 39.5 sacks.
Taken three picks after Merriman was Derrick Johnson, the Texas Longhorn, by the Kansas City Chiefs. In my opinion, Johnson is a very under appreciated guy. In four seasons, he has 349 tackles, 12 sacks, and has consistently been productive as a linebacker, totaling tackle amounts of 95, 75, 94 and 85. Picks after him, David Pollack out of Georgia was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals.
After having a decent 2005 in which he racked up 4.5 sacks, he missed 14 games in 2006 and then decided to retire. However, three great impact players and one bust compared to one bust, one rising star and one low impact quarterback, I give the edge to the linebackers.
In the 2006 draft, three quarterbacks were taken in the first eleven picks. Vince Young was taken third overall by the Tennessee Titans, Matt Leinart was taken tenth overall by the Arizona Cardinals and Jay Cutler was taken eleventh overall by the Denver Broncos. This is a very odd draft.
Leinart has 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in his first three seasons for the Cards, but could've had a lot worse production without receivers like Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Vince Young has horrible statistics, but has led his team to victories. In three seasons, he has 22 touchdowns and 32 interceptions.
While Jay Cutler has been extremely productive, he is 17-20 as a starter, never led his Broncos to a playoff appearance, and on top of that, was traded to the Chicago Bears. Of the three drafted, one is not on their original team and two are backups.
In the first round, teams stocked up on linebacker. In fact, six linebackers were taken in the first round. AJ Hawk (Ohio State) went sixth overall to the Packers, Ernie Sims (Florida State) went ninth overall to the Lions, Kamerion Wimbley (Florida State) went 13th overall to the Browns, Chad Greenway (Iowa) went 17th overall to the Vikings, Bobby Carpenter (Ohio State) went 18th overall to the Cowboys and Manny Lawson (NC State) went 22nd overall to the 49ers.
Overall, some productive football players made their splashes. Hawk, 25, compiled 119 tackles and 3.5 sacks as a rookie. Last year, he had 86 tackles and three sacks. While his production has dipped, he's still a good defensive player and if the Packers can beef up defensively, Hawk can be the leader.
Sims has been one of the few Lions draft picks that has payed off. In his first three seasons, he has had 113 tackles or more. Sims has been a productive linebacker, and in his career, he has 371 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
We don't hear much about Wimbley, but he actually had a moderately successful season in 2008, compiling 66 tackles and four sacks. Surprisingly enough, Wimbley has had a very good career thus far. As a rookie, he even racked up 11 sacks. Greenway is one of the most promising linebackers in all of football.
For a dominating Vikings defense, he totaled 115 tackles, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles, a true breakout defensive player. Greenway, at 26, is one of the best young linebackers in football.
Carpenter, 25, has been disappointing for the Cowboys, to say the least. In his three year career, he has 50 tackles combined. Carpenter and Lawson are the only busts in this group.
In this group, I also would give the edge to the linebackers because Hawk, Greenway and Wimbley lead their respected defenses while Leinart is a bust, Young is a backup and is having emotional issues and Cutler isn't on his original team anymore.
The 2007 draft was an absolutely horrible draft for quarterbacks. The first overall pick was JaMarcus Russell, a strongarmed quarterback out of Louisiana State. The Raiders tabbed him as their franchise quarterback.
Through his first two seasons, he hasn't been that. As a rookie, he was 36-for-66 with 373 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. I, among others, thought he'd bounce back given the chance to consistently start. In 2008, he threw for 2,423 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Two words: not bad. However, he wasn't brought in to be "not bad", he was brought in to dominate opposing defenses. Brady Quinn out of Notre Dame slipped all the way to 22, where the Cleveland Browns selected him.
His pro career has looked nothing like his college career as an Irishman. In two seasons, he is 48-of-97 with two touchdowns, two interceptions and a rating of 65.8. Disappointing.
Again in 2007, teams stocked up on linebackers in the first round. Among the linebackers taken were Patrick Willis (49ers), Lawrence Timmons (Steelers), Jon Beason (Panthers) and Anthony Spencer (Cowboys). To say the least, this is a very impressive group. To tell you the truth, I think Willis is the best young linebacker in the draft.
As a rookie, he racked up 174 tackles and even totaled 141 in 2008. Timmons is a true breakout guy as a pass rushing linebacker for a dominant Steeler defense, as he racked up 65 tackles and five sacks in 2008 and I definitely see him providing more production. Beason is another great young linebacker.
In his first two seasons, he has averaged 139 tackles a year for the Panthers, and like Willis, is one of the best young linebackers in football. Spencer, like Carpenter, hasn't quite lived up to his potential for the 'Boys.
He has 4.5 sacks and 70 tackles in his first two seasons, but an elevated role next year with Kevin Burnett out is expected. If you don't think this was a better draft for linebackers, you're high.
2008 was also a very interesting year. The two quarterbacks taken in the first round, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, had impressive years. Ryan, the Rookie of the Year, threw for over 3,000 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Flacco was just 29 yards away from 3,000 and tossed 14 touchdowns.
For the first time in a while, the linebackers were rather disappointing. Vernon Gholston, taken sixth overall by the Jets, had just 13 tackles. However, he should flourish under new head coach Rex Ryan, who is a defensive guru. Keith Rivers (9th overall, Bengals), was having a respectable year until an injury crashed his rookie campaign. Jerod Mayo was taken tenth by New England and had a fantastic season.
As a young linebacker, he compiled 128 tackles. I think for the future and present, quarterbacks have the advantage for this draft. However, from 2003 to 2007, the linebackers had more successful careers.
Martin Mayhew, what makes you think this draft will be different?