The 2009 NFL Draft has the potential to be one of the most unpredictable in recent memory. Some of the most important names on draft day won't even be eligible to participate.
That is because they are already in the league. Wide-outs Braylon Edwards and Anquan Boldin could dramatically alter the course of this year's draft with trades. Teams like the Eagles, Giants, and Titans all have interest in trading for these petulant pass-catchers and will likely have to shell out top draft picks in order to do it.
The biggest name in the draft right now is SC's quarterback Mark Sanchez. Everyone seems to have interest in acquiring him and his stock has risen so far that even the Rams seemed to have considered him at No. 2. He could play a huge role in how the top 10 rounds out.
1.) Detroit Lions (0-16) - Mathew Stafford QB Georgia
Peter's Projected Pick: Mathew Stafford QB Georgia
The deal is done and Stafford will be the first overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft. The contract (6 years $72 million) is the only good news as Stafford goes to a team that couldn't win a game last year.
Stafford's big arm is well-documented, but the Lions will need to be patient with Stafford, who would benefit from watching from the sidelines for a few games. He cannot be relied upon to be "the guy" in 2009, but Stafford has as much potential as any player in this draft.
2.) St. Louis Rams (2-14) - Jason Smith OT Baylor
Peter's Projected Pick: Jason Smith OT Baylor
Although this pick seemed a forgone conclusion, the Rams took all of their time making the decision to grab the best projected left tackle in the draft. Desperately needing to replace Orlando Pace, the Rams passed on getting a franchise quarterback forgoing Mark Sanchez.
Smith is the best pass-blocker in the draft, plus with outstanding feet and agility, will be solid in the running game for Stephen Jackson. It certainly isn't a "sexy" pick, but either was Jake Long last year at No. 1, and it worked out for the Dolphins. Smith is probably a better pass-blocker than Long, and will be a great fit protecting Bulger's blindside.
3.) Kansas City Chiefs (4-12) Tyson Jackson DE LSU
Peter's Projected Pick: Tyson Jackson DE LSU
Scott Pioli's interest in Jackson really came to the forefront in the last day or two so this pick is not surprising. However, with a switch to the 3-4 defense, this team needs linebackers, and the best player in the draft, OLB Aaron Curry, was still on the board. This is the first reach of the first round.
To be fair, Jackson is a solid fit for the 3-4 defense at end. With a 6-4 296 pound body, he can hold his ground on the outside against the run and free up edge rushers off the corner. He was rated in the teens in terms of best players available, but is the best 3-4 end in the draft and should be solid for the Chiefs.
Unfortunately, for a team that won just four games last year, you'd like to get more than just a "solid" player at No. 3.
4.) Seattle Seahawks (4-12) Aaron Curry OLB Wake Forest
Peter's Projected Pick: Aaron Curry OLB Wake Forest
Mark Sanchez would have been an ideal fit from HIS standpoint as he would get to sit behind one of the best signal-callers in the game. However, the presence of Matt Hasselbeck allows the Seahawks to pass on Sanchez and pick up the top-rated player in this draft.
Curry is a physical player who flied around the field in the ACC. He didn't get the opportunity to blitz very often, but is an underrated pass-rusher. Curry has a nose for the football and can be a Pro Bowl linebacker for the Seahawks. This is the first steal of Round 1.
5.) Jets F/ Cleveland (9-7) Mark Sanchez QB USC
Peter's Projected Pick: B.J. Raji DT Boston College
As mentioned, Sanchez was going to shake up the top of this draft. The Jets had the most interest in Sanchez, the question was how much were they willing to give up to get their guy.
The Jets will go from the greatest iron-man in the history of the NFL to a player who has 16 career starts. Sanchez has tremendous ability, but remains highly unproven. New York really needed to sure up the quarterback position and Sanchez will be asked to do that right away.
He has just as much talent as Stafford with a live arm and solid athleticism. How will an unproven California QB fare when the cold winds blast through the Meadowlands? Jet fans are rightfully excited to find out.
Cleveland gets the Jets 1st Round pick and 2nd round pick, plus 3 back-up players.
6.) Cininnati Bengals (5-10-1) Andre Smith OT Alabama
Peter's Projected Pick: Eugene Monroe OT Virginia
While this pick may upset some Cinci fans who were hoping to stay away from guys with character issues, you can't fault the Bengals for drafting a guy with arguably the most raw talent in the draft.
Smith is an absolute road-grader, by far the best run-blocker in this draft. He also has surprisingly quick feet, but may be a better fit at right tackle in the NFL. As noted, there are some character issues as he was suspended for 'Bama's bowl game and seemed to mismanage his post-season engagements.
Ultimately though, this was a player being talked about as a potential No. 1 pick and can immediately step in to help the Bengals offense.
7.) Oakland Raiders (5-11) Darius Heyward-Bey WR Maryland
Peter's Projceted Pick: Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech
Another year and another botched top 10 pick for the Raiders. There is a reason they pick here every year. If you wanted a wide receiver, arguably the best player in the draft in Michael Crabtree, and Jeremy Maclin were both still on the board so this makes absolutely NO sense.
Heyward-Bey can absolutely fly and was the fastest player at the combine. Unfortunately, he disappears from games and has been inconsistent catching the football.
I had Bey was the 25th best player in this draft, so I felt like there were at least 15 better players for the Raiders at this point. I just don't understand how you pass on Maclin, who is also a speed-burner, or Monroe to sure up the offensive line.
8.) Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11) Eugene Monroe OT Virginia
Peter's Projected Pick: Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech
The Jaguars has plenty of choices here with 4 of the 7 players in the draft still available at 8. The Jaguars offensive line was banged up last year and they were never able to find any sort of cohesion upfront.
Monroe is not an All-Pro type talent, but may be the most complete tackle in the draft. He is certainly capable of being a solid left tackle in the NFL and protected David Garrard blindside.
9.) Green Bay Packers (6-10) B.J. Raji DT Boston College
Peter's Projected Pick: Brian Orakpo DE/OLB Texas
Ted Thompson is notorious for drafting the best player available. They must have had a terrible time in the war room passing on Michael Crabtree. However, in the 3-4 Raji can play NT or potentially even DE and is an outstanding talent.
When you talk about defensive players who had Crabtree-like impact, they are few and far between. Raji is that kind of player and was by far the best defensive player at the Senior Bowl. Raji is a top 5 talent and he fits a need. That makes him an excellent pick for the Pack.
Orakpo would have been a great fit as well, but pass-rushers are easier to find than fleet-footed 320 interior defensive lineman who can dominate the line of scrimmage.
10.) San Francisco 49ers (7-9) Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech
Peter's Projected Pick: Jeremy Maclin WR Missouri
When you have the opportunity to throw the ball to a guy like Crabtree, it does not matter who is throwing it to him, because he will make a play. Crabtree was a top 2 player on just about everyone's board and is the biggest steal of Round 1.
Crabtree has drawn comparrisons to Larry Fitzgerald with his strong frame and outstanding hands. He is a difference-maker with the ball in his hands and will go up and win a jump ball in traffic. This is the best receiver in college football and, when healthy, the most dominating player in the nation.
The 49ers have to be thrilled that a player of this caliber fell to them at 10.
11.) Buffalo Bills (7-9) Aaron Maybin DE Penn State
Peter's Projected Pick: Andre Smith OT Alabama
The Bills struggled mightily to rush the passer in 2008 and Maybin is a monster off the edge. He is lightening fast turning the corner and with Tom Brady in your division, you have to be able to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
Maybin carried a lower grade than Texas DE Brian Orakpo and also lacks the bulk to be an ideal fit for a 4-3 defense. The scouts in Buffalo must have thought that Maybin had more upside than Orakpo given Maybin's superior quickness and agility.
If the Bills wanted the best pass-rusher in the draft, Orakpo would have made more sense, but they got someone to bring pressure off the edge. That is what they needed, and they got it.
12.) Denver Broncos (8-8) Knowshon Moreno RB Georgia
Peter's Projected Pick: Aaron Maybin DE/OLB Penn State
After trading Jay Cutler, the Broncos needed to find an identity offensively. Moreno was a Heisman Trophy candidate at Georgia and was arguably the top running back in the draft. Josh McDaniels has made it clear with this pick that they are going to be a run-based offense.
This is only slightly too high for Moreno in terms of draft placement, but again the Broncos needed help on the defense line and decided to pass on Orakpo. Moreno is a franchise caliber running back and has a chance to rush for 1,000 yards in Denver as a rookie ( a 1,000 yard rusher in Denver? What else is new)
I actually thought the Broncos would pick Moreno with the second of their two first round picks, but when you like a player enough to draft him, you have to make sure you get him when you know you have the chance. That is what the Broncos did here.
13.) Washington Redskins (8-8) Brian Orakpo DE Texas
Peter's Projected Pick: Robert Ayers DE Tennessee
As soon as the Broncos passed on Orakpo, the Redskins basically sprinted up to the podium to pick up the most dominating end in the nation last season. Washington hasn't had a top-flight defensive end in what seems like forever and made it clear they wanted to get one in this draft.
Orakpo is a beast off the edge and can play either standing up or with his hand down. He has outstanding strength and gets a good initial burst, making him difficult to contain. With terrific quarterbacks in the NFC East, the Redskins needed to add someone who could create pressure. There was no one better in this year's draft at creating pressure than Brian Orakpo.
Another steal in the middle of Round 1.
14.) New Orleans Saints (8-8) Malcolm Jenkins CB/S Ohio State
Peter's Projected Pick: Chris "Beanie" Wells RB Ohio State
This pick was going to come down to two Buckeyes: Chris "Beanie" Wells and Malcolm Jenkins. Ultimately, the Saints realized that it didn't matter how many points Drew Brees and Reggie Bush put up if you couldn't stop anyone.
Jenkins is the top defensive back is the nation and is a big, physical player who can play either Cover 2 or Cover 3. He has outstanding ball skills and instincts which can make up for his lack of elite speed. Jenkins can play safety or corner and will likely get the opportunity to show he can play corner first.
This is a perfect fit for both Jenkins and the Saints.
15.) Houston Texans (8-8) Brian Cushing OLB USC
Peter's Projected Pick: Malcolm Jenkins CB/S Ohio State
With Shaub, Slaton, and Johnson, the Texans offense was potent last season. The need was clearly on the defensive side coming into the draft, particularly at outside linebacker. They couldn't go wrong with any of the Trojan linebackers, but Brian Cushing gets the call here.
Cushing has all the physical tools to be an stand-out linebacker in the NFL. He can get to the quarterback and has a knack for getting into opposing offensive backfields. I had Mathews and Maualuga, his USC teammates, both rated higher than Cushing. Part of that had to do with a history of injuries for Cushing. When Cushing is healthy, he takes a backseat to no one as a playmaker at the linebacker position.
16.) San Diego Chargers (8-8) Larry English OLB/DE Northern Illinois
Peter's Projected Pick: Michael Oher OT Mississippi
The second huge reach of the first round goes to a team that can afford to take a risk. The Chargers defense was not the same without Shawne Merriman and needed to get another rusher to play opposite him.
English dominated in college at Northern Illinois, but scouts wondered about the level of competition he faced on a weekly basis. English has elite physical tools for a pass-rusher and is the best hybrid OLB/DE on the board after Everette Brown's stock plummeted in recent weeks.
A reach to be sure, but the Chargers get a versatile defensive difference-maker.
17.)Tampa Bay Buccaneers F/ Cleveland F/ Jets (9-7) Josh Freeman QB Kansas State
Peter's Projected Pick: Percy Harvin WR Florida
Let's see if we can follow this. The Browns acquired this pick from the Jets so the Jets could draft Mark Sanchez. Then the Browns turned around and traded this pick to the Buccaneers. From the outside, it looks like the Bucs were afraid the Broncos would snatch up Freeman at 18.
The Buccaneers have no proven quarterback on their roster and Freeman has everything you look for in an NFL signal-caller. Freeman has an effortless release to go with a rocket arm. He is incredibly athletic for a player 6-6 250 pounds. The problem is he struggled with his consistency. One week he looked like a top 5 pick, the next he looked like a 5th round pick. Some scouts compare him to Daunte Culpepper, the good and bad.
The Buccaneers will have to be patient with Freeman, but with a solid defense and a stable of running backs, the onus will not be on their young quarterback to win games.
I saw this happening two picks later, but when you like a guy, sometimes you have to take a risk and move up to get him. From a talent level, this is not a reach, but from an overall rating standpoint, Freeman carries a second round grade.
The Browns will get the Bucs 19th pick and a 6th round pick
18.) Denver Broncos F/ Chicago (8-8) Robert Ayers DE Tennessee
Projected Pick: Knowshon Moreno RB Georgia
I got the DE/RB combo almost right, and they probably could have picked Ayers first and gotten Moreno with this pick. Since they got both, no harm no foul. The Broncos have to rush the passer on defense and addressing that need was paramount.
Robert Ayers' stock picked up steam as the Draft drew nearer and is a good fit as a 4-3 or 3-4 DE with his size and speed. He is not a top-level edge rusher, but is a complete defensive end. The Broncos could line him up as a 3-4 end, or a stand-up edge rush linebacker.
We won't know if the Ayers/Moreno combo makes the Cutler trade work, but at this point it just doesn't seem likely. There is now a Rocky Mountain size burden on these first round draft picks to produce.
19.) Eagles F/ Cleveland F/ Tampa Bay (9-6-1) Jeremy Maclin WR Missouri
Projected Pick: Josh Freeman QB Kansas State
The Eagles sure hope Donovan McNabb is watching ESPN right now. The Eagles move up to make sure they grab one of the top play-makers in the nation last season and the No. 2 receiver in the draft. Even if it took a convuluted set of trades to get this pick in.
Jeremy Maclin is a top 10 talent and was the 8th best player on my board. He is not just a speed receiver but he can move 6-0 200 pound frame in a hurry. He runs crisp routes, but not very many NFL style routes. Fortunately for Andy Reid, he can run the slants, bubble screens, drags, and posts so critical to this West Coast style offense.
Pairing Maclin with DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis gives McNabb and the offense a trio or big-play wide receivers capable of really spreading out defenses and stretching him deep.
20.) Detroit Lions F/ Dallas (0-16) Brandon Pettigrew TE Oklahoma State
Projected Pick: Rey Maualuga ILB USC
A quarterback's safety net is his tight end. The Lions have gotten basically zero production from the tight end spot for a number of seasons now and adding the top player at the position in the draft is a big upgrade for Detroit.
While an offensive tackle like Michael Oher seemed to make more sense, Pettigrew is an outstanding in-line blocker in pass-protection and the running game. He is one of the top 5 senior prospects in the draft and should quickly become one of Mathew Stafford's favorite targets.
In a draft deep on offensive lineman, the Lions got the best player available at a position of need.
21.) Cleveland Browns F/ Philadelphia (4-12) Alex Mack C California
Peter's Projected Pick: Brandon Pettigrew TE Oklahoma State
The Browns have traded back 3 times, doubling their total selections. With so many holes to fill, this seemed like a smart strategy and finally got a player they like here at 21.
The Browns needed help upfront on the offensive line and Mack was the top center prospect in the draft. Cleveland gets a versatile interior lineman
22.) Minnesota Vikings (10-6) Percy Harvin WR Florida
Peter's Projected Pick: Darius Heyward-Bey WR Maryland
The Vikings really only have one glaring need and that is at the quarterback position. They could have used a right tackle as well which is why Michael Oher would have made sense. Instead they decided to add a dynamic weapon to their offense which already features probably the most dynamic player in the NFL.
If you need a big-play in a big game, you get the ball to Percy Harvin. He can play wide receiver, or you can line him up in the backfield as well. Teams in the NFC North cannot like to see Harvin going to the fasttrack in the Metrodome to player with AP.
Without a great quarterback, now you can hand to Adrian Peterson, or throw a bubble screen to Harvin. Harvin can make this offense scary good.
23.) Ravens F/ New England Patriots (11-5) Michael Oher OT Mississippi
Projected Pick: Vontae Davis CB Illinois
The Patriots have the most pick in the league this year, and yet moved back to acquire more picks. The Ravens move up to grab a top 15 talent on the offensive line where they need to make sure they can protect Joe Flacco.
Oher has a complete game as a tackle and can play left or right tackle in the NFL. The Ravens are ready to compete in the AFC right now, and Oher will only make this offense better. They could have used a corner and perhaps another receiver, but Oher is an excellent value here.
This is another superb pick from a franchise with a history of smart drafts.
24. Atlanta Falcons (11-5) Peria Jerry DT Mississippi
Projected Pick: Peria Jerry DT Mississippi
The resugerence of the Ole Miss program by Houston Nutt can be credited to players like Oher and Jerry. The Falcons needed an interior play-maker on defense and they got an outstanding defensive tackle in Jerry.
By adding probably the best pure pass-rushing defensive tackle in the draft, the Falcons help sure up a defense that played very well for new coach Mike Smith. Jerry is a hard-worker and if he can stay healthy, could be a crucial cog for the Falcons in a tough division.
25. Miami Dolphins (11-5) Vontae Davis CB Illinois
Projected Pick: Clay Mathews OLB USC
The Dolphins desperately needed a No. 1 corner to play against the receivers in the AFC East like Moss and Owens. Despite coming into the season as a potential top 15 pick, Davis' stock slipped as scouts broke down the film and found inconsistent foot-work and technique.
From a physical stand-point though, Davis is an elite prospect in the draft. At times, it seemed futile to even look to his side of the field. Other times, he would be caught out of position by either gambling or just breaking down mentally. The Dolphins can afford to risk that here, and if he plays anywhere near close to his potential, could wind up being an absolute gem for the Dolphins.
26. Green Bay Packers F/ New England F/ Baltimore (6-10) Clay Mathews OLB USC
Peter's Projected Pick: Alphonso Smith CB Wake Forest
Breaking News: The Patriots acquire more picks. Green Bay traded back into the first round to grab a linebacker to play in their new 3-4 system. The Packers clearly feel like they could not wait to get a rush linebacker.
Mathews is an outstanding athlete who can turn the corner, and is strong enough to take on guards on stunts inside. He was arguably the best player on the best defense in the nation last year. He will be an excellent fit on the outside opposite sackmaster Aaron Kampman for the Cheeseheads.
The Packers gave up a 2 and both their 3's to trade back into the first plus a New England 5. That seems like a lot to give up for a rush linebacker when there are so many in this draft.
27. Indianpolis Colts (12-4) Donald Brown RB Connecticut
Peter's Projected Pick: Eben Britton OT Arizona State
Peyton Manning made sure the Colts did not quite when Joseph Addai was lot to injury. Indianapolis needed to get Manning some help at receiver after losing Marvin Harrison in the off-season as well as get a quality back-up to Addai, which is exactly what they did when they got Donald Brown.
Brown was a serious workhorse in the Big East and can be a pounder in the NFL. He is the kind of back you can hand him the ball over and over again knowing he is going to get you positive yards. He may not be a homerun hitter in the NFL, but he is shiftier than he gets credit for and runs with excellent balance.
28. Buffalo Bills F/ Philadelphia (7-9) Eric Wood C Louisville
Peter's Projected Pick: Brian Cushing OLB USC
The Bills acquired this pick in the Jason Peters trade and really wanted to replenish their troops in the offensive trenches. Wood, Mack, and Max Unger all have similar ratings, but all carried late first, early second round grades.
Wood is an excellent interior lineman who can play guard or center. He has solid mobility and has the intelligence to communicate up front. The Bills want to control the line of scrimmage in the run game and Wood gives them a solid player upfront to help them do so.
29.) New York Giants (12-4) Hakeem Nicks WR North Carolina
Peter's Projected Pick: Kenny Britt WR Rutgers
Since the Giants couldn't swing a deal for Boldin or Edwards, they settle for the best receiver on the board at this point.
Hakeem Nicks took the ACC by storm last year and is as NFL-ready as any early entry in this year's draft. He is a physical receiver who will not be out-fought for the football.
Nicks may not have elite speed, but can make people miss in the open field and understands how to get separation. He can be a solid player for Eli Manning and the Giants offense.
30.) Tennessee Titans (13-3) Kenny Britt WR Rutgers
Peter's Projected Pick: Hakeem Nicks WR North Carolina
ESPN teased us a little bit by showing Beanie Wells smiling on the phone and fans in Nashville must have thought "Not another first round running back." Breath easy Titan fans, you got the right guy.
Kenny Britt is an outstanding route runner and has an NFL-size frame. Britt has been a rising prospect because he has every measurable you want, plus outstanding production despite not having consistent quarterback play at Ruters.
Regardless of whether he is getting the ball from Kerry Collins or Vince Young, Britt has the chance to be an impact player for the Titans as a rookie.
31.) Arizona Cardinals (9-7) Chris "Beanie" Wells RB Ohio State
Peter's Projected Pick: Donald Brown RB Connecticut
Despite picking 31st because of their outstanding playoff run to the Super Bowl, the Cardinals get a player worth taking in the 20's where they would have been picking. The Cardinals have the play-makers at wide receiver, and needed to get an every-down back to help the offense.
Beanie wells was being talked about in the top 10 at some points during this process, and outstanding work-outs had his stock rising. That buzz did not translate to draft day, but the Cardinals will be happy with the player they got. Despite his size, Wells is deceptively quick and can break big plays. He isn't a punishing runner as his size might indicate, but the Cardinals won't run a power scheme running game.
This is a steal for the Arizona.
32.) Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) Evander "Ziggy" Hood DT Missouri
Peter's Projected Pick: Alex Mack C California
The Steelers biggest needs heading into the draft were along the offensive and defensive lines. Eben Britton would have been smart here, but the Steelers determined Hood was a better value at this point.
Hood played inside at Missouri, but doesn't have the bulk to be a NT in the 3-4. He is a slippery rusher on the interior and will be a great fit at end. The Steelers defensive line is getting old and Hood will inject energy and youth with an outstanding motor.
He was one of the most impressive defensive players at the Senior Bowl and will be a solid player for the Steelers punishing defense.