NFL Draft Winners and Losers of '09

Greg RiotAnalyst IApril 27, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 23:  Defensive lineman Larry English of Northern Illinois runs during the NFL Scouting Combine presented by Under Armour at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 23, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

The 2009 NFL Draft is finally over and after months and months of speculation, NFL teams have proven yet again that sometimes it’s impossible to predict what direction they’re going to go in.
The two biggest surprises of the first round were Darrius Hayward-Bey to the Oakland Raiders with the seventh pick of the draft and Larry English going to San Diego with the 16th pick.
The Hayward-Bey pick has many people scratching their heads because Michael Crabtree was available at that spot. Everyone knows the Raiders love fast, big-play threat wide receivers, but Crabtree is a once-every-5-to-10-years type of prospect and a guy like him can be a huge threat in any offense.
In today’s NFL, the long ball doesn’t work nearly as well as it used to even due to the lightning-quick blitzers, at least not without a good running game or underneath receiver. The Raiders should have taken the sure thing in Crabtree and then paired him with a burner later on.
As for English, it’s a better pick than most thought at first glance because of Shawne Merriman’s health concerns. English will be a frightening presence rushing the passer at outside linebacker for other teams in the 3-4.
The Detroit Lions surprised no one earlier in the draft when they took Matthew Stafford out of Georgia. He could develop into the next Jay Cutler or end up as the next Akili Smith, it’s hard to tell and depends on the help the Lions give him. The Lions gave him a top-notch tight end target, a young quarterbacks best friend, with the 20th pick in the draft as they selected Brandon Pettigrew from Oklahoma State.
Mark Sanchez was the one domino everyone was waiting to see fall, and the New York Jets took care of their most pressing need by trading up to get Sanchez at the fifth spot.

That’s a brilliant move for the Jets, who redeemed themselves for the Brett Favre fiasco by getting a potential franchise quarterback to go with the rest of their talent roster.
The distinction of best draft over the last two days might have to go to the Cincinnati Bengals, with the triumvirate of offensive tackle Andre Smith, middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, and defensive end Michael Johnson holding the potential to turn them into one of the more physical and feared teams in the league if they continue to add to that corps.

All three guys have some character and/or motivation concerns, but they definitely aren’t likely to end up on the police blotter with the ghosts of Bengals past, and that’s all the franchise can ask for at this point.
Maybe the Bengals and their head coach Marvin Lewis should just embrace their bad boys' image and start playing with an edge like their Baltimore Ravens division mates. It might be necessary to compete with powerful, nasty teams like them and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC among others.
The New England Patriots also had a good draft, because, well, they’re the New England Patriots. The Patriots didn’t take a single big-name player, but they wheeled and dealed and managed to pick up more picks for next year while taking guys that fit their system such as heady Oregon safety Patrick Chung.
The worst draft? The consensus is that Oakland really messed up yet again, a function of Al Davis’ meddling perhaps. The aging owner has his fingerprints all over the Raiders’ 2009 draft, starting with Hayward-Bey and extending into the second round with the reach pick of Ohio Bobcats safety Michael Mitchell.
In the end, we can go ahead and grade the 2009 NFL Draft winners and losers all we want, but we won’t know just how well each team did until two or three years down the line when these guys mature and grow into the players they’re going to be at the next level.

It was two days full of intrigue and excitement for hardcore NFL geeks, err fans, however. That’s the one thing we know for sure.