As always, people that follow the NFL will try to grade drafts that we really won’t be able to accurately evaluate for three years. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to try the week after the draft.
I will discuss five teams that I was impressed with on draft day and five that I wasn’t impressed with.
Considering that I am a Packer fan, I wanted to talk about their draft too, but I really didn’t think they fit into the winner or loser column. So I touch on their draft at the end of the article.
1) New England Patriots
The Patriots were the big winners in this draft.
They thought that many of the players at the end of the first round looked similar to players in the second or third rounds. They traded down to acquire more picks.
As a result, they had four second round picks and two third round picks. Then they just started accumulating talent on both sides of the ball.
The Pats used their first three picks on defense.
Patrick Chung gives them more safety help at a position where they need to get younger. Rodney Harrison is coming off a serious knee injury and is 37-years old. Ron Brace is a big 330 lb. defensive tackle that fits well in their 3-4 defensive scheme. He provides good depth behind Wilfork.
Darius Butler gives them another young cornerback, a position that they have taken a hit at in the last few off-seasons between the free agent defections, highlighted by Asante Samuel in 2008, and the trading of Ellis Hobbs to the Eagles.
Sebastian Vollmer gives them a massive 6’ 7” offensive tackle to develop.
Brandon Tate is a wide receiver that can also contribute on special teams. The only concern with him is his durability and a positive test for drugs at the combine.
Finally, Tyrone McKenzie gives them more depth at linebacker. Given the position that they were drafting from and the situation on their team, the Patriots knocked it out of the park.
They were 11-5 last year without Tom Brady. If he comes back healthy, they are going to compete for the Super Bowl again in 2009.
They had a good draft last year finding Jerrod Mayo, the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
New England didn’t need to find five or six starters for this year in the draft. What they needed to do was replenish their depth and add youth to a team that is built to win now.
By trading down in the draft, they found numerous good prospects that can help on special teams and in backup positions this year with the potential to become stars in years to come.
Their strategy added much more value rather than packaging the picks together and trading up to get one impact player in this year’s draft. The Patriots didn’t get the big names in this draft, but when do they ever do that?
They stuck to their drafting philosophy that has made them the premier franchise in the NFL. There is no reason to believe it will fail now.
2) Philadelphia Eagles
I really like what the Eagles did in the draft as well. They have a veteran team that probably only has a couple of more cracks at Super Bowl contention.
Trading a first round pick for Jason Peters makes sense. Peters is only 27-years-old, so it isn’t like they got a 34-year-old tackle that will only be able to help for a year or two.
Teaming him with Stacy and Shawn Andrews is going to really upgrade their offensive line. Peters was better than any tackle they could have drafted.
Then they selected WR Jeremy Maclin with the 19th pick. That was great value seeing that many experts projected him as a top-10 player.
Some people were moaning about the selection, saying that he is the same player as DeSean Jackson, I’m not really seeing that.
Jackson is 6’ 0” and 178 pounds. Maclin is about the same height, but weighs 20 more lbs. and is one of the fastest guys in the draft.
Granted, he isn’t 6’ 6” and doesn’t remind anyone of Calvin Johnson. But for where they were selecting, that was a great value pick and gives McNabb another target to throw the ball to.
Adding another play-maker was a priority in this draft and taking a taller receiver that couldn’t play as well doesn’t help the Eagles or Donovan McNabb.
I also like the addition of LeSean McCoy at running back to team up with Brian Westbrook. It gives them good depth in 2009 and possibly a replacement for the future.
Cornelius Ingram was a solid selection in the fifth round to give them more tight end depth.
Finally, the Eagles did well in trading a pair of fifth round picks for Ellis Hobbs, who will help their secondary and return units. Unlike the fifth round picks, he will be able to contribute immediately.
The Eagles most immediate concerns were on the offensive side of the ball and they found some players that will not only be the future of this team, but should be able to contribute this year.
It was a great draft for the Eagles and should allow them to compete in the NFC for another shot at the Super Bowl, provided that McNabb and Westbrook remain healthy this season. I’m pretty sure the Giants and Cowboys didn’t like what they saw happening in Philadelphia.
3) Detroit Lions
I think the Detroit Lions did pretty well for themselves in this draft.
I like Matthew Stafford a lot better than Sanchez, and I think Stafford was worthy of the No. 1 pick. The Lions now have a franchise quarterback to build around that can get Calvin Johnson the ball down field consistently.
They also drafted Brandon Pettigrew, who was by far the best tight end in the draft. When you add that to Kevin Smith, the Lions have a very nice nucleus on offense.
Do not underestimate the addition of Derrick Williams as a third or fourth receiver and in the return game. I think he was a solid third round addition.
The one downside is that the Lions allowed 517 points in 2008. It is a defense that needed a lot of help. It would have been nice to add at least one defensive player in the first round.
They did go defense in the second and third round with Louis Delmas, who many considered the best safety in the draft. They also added DeAndre Levy out of the University of Wisconsin to add linebacker depth.
What I like about the Lions draft is that they went into it with the right mentality. They were 0-16 last year, and 0-16 teams can worry about upgrading certain positions. Winless teams need to upgrade everywhere.
Detroit got the best quarterback, tight end, and safety in the draft. Those should be immediate upgrades from 2008.
They still have a long way to go, but you aren’t going to fix a 0-16 team in just one draft. They just tried to get players that were better than those they had on the roster and guys that they think can develop significantly.
If these draft picks work out, the Lions will be more competitive in 2009 and beyond.
4) Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals selected three players that some people thought would be first round picks. Furthermore, they didn’t have to trade up to get any of them.
Their first selection was Andre Smith, the massive tackle out of Alabama. He’s a guy with some off the field concerns, but there is no questioning his talent.
If he dedicates himself in Cincinnati, he could be a Pro Bowl tackle for the next 10 years. It should allow Carson Palmer more time to get rid of the ball.
In the second round, they added Ray Maualuga, whom many thought would be picked in the first round with his USC teammates Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews. He should help upgrade the middle of their defense.
In the third round, they selected Michael Johnson out of Georgia Tech. He is another guy that had first round talent, but didn’t always give first round effort.
Missouri tight end Chase Coffman could help their passing game and Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber won the Ray Guy award. He could help their special teams.
The one negative is that the Bengals went with talent over effort with most of these top picks. That has been a problem in Cincinnati with some of their existing players.
You hope that adding players with work ethic issues to a team that has some other guys like that doesn’t deter the draft picks from working hard.
If these draft picks don’t perform, the Bengals are going to have what they have had the last three seasons. Teams that look good on paper, but not on the field.
5) San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers had to be jumping up and down when Michael Crabtree just fell to them at No. 10. It was partly the result of Oakland making a reach with Darrius Heyward-Bey at the seventh pick and the Jaguars and Packers having more pressing needs than at WR.
Jacksonville could have used Crabtree, but wisely took Eugene Monroe, who some projected going to St Louis with the second pick. Jacksonville needed to get lineman to help Maurice Jones-Drew run the ball.
Green Bay’s deepest position was at wide receiver and they weren’t about to trade down and lose out on B.J. Raji. That left the 49ers with the best receiver in the NFL draft.
They also did well to trade this years' second round pick with Carolina in exchange for Carolina’s first round pick next year.
They were still able to add Glen Coffee in the third round who should be a great spell for Frank Gore. That allowed them to build for now, while nicely helping their future in the 2010 draft.
The 49ers had needs on both sides of the ball, but this is a team that just hasn’t had a lot of firepower on the offensive side of the ball in recent years. A more efficient offense is going to keep their defense off the field and put them in better positions.
Other than Frank Gore, there hasn’t been a lot to be scared of on the 49ers offense. Many people feel Josh Morgan and Vernon Davis are ready to break out. Michael Crabtree is the perfect player to bring in and should help those players have better seasons.
The 49ers have their first potential franchise receiver since Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens left town. The fact that they didn’t have to trade a single draft pick to do that is a big victory.
Furthermore, they came out of this draft with an additional first round pick in the 2010 draft, which helps their future. If Coffee can contribute this year, the 49ers have gone a long way to upgrading their offense, which they need to do if they are going to compete with the Cardinals and the Seahawks in this division.
Ultimately, I like the direction the 49ers are headed in.
1) Oakland Raiders
The Raiders never cease to amaze me.
They are my undisputed loser of this draft. They have the seventh pick in the NFL draft, yet that doesn’t stop them from taking Darrius Heyward-Bey out of the University of Maryland.
Heyward-Bey was projected by ESPN to be the 25th best player in the NFL draft. He was the fourth ranked receiver in the draft.
Yet the Raiders selected him before both Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin. Peter Schrager of Fox Sports had him going 29th in the draft to the New York Giants. In other words, the Raiders took a guy most people viewed as a late first round pick in the top of the draft.
Then in the second round, the Raiders selected Michael Mitchell out of Ohio University. Many of the ESPN analyst and NFL Network experts had him as a late round pick, although their were rumors reported by USA Today that the Chicago Bears had Mitchell targeted with the 49th pick, two selections after the Raiders. It's hard to say if they reached there.
The last first round pick they hit a home run with was Nnamdi Asomugha in 2003. The JaMarcus Russell and Darren McFadden picks are still too early to tell.
Year after year, I don’t get what goes on in Oakland. The focus seems to be more on 40-times and athletic ability than it does how well the guy played college football. To me, it appears that the Raiders don’t even pay attention to college players until the combine.
The Raiders probably could have tried to trade down in the first round a couple of times and still got Darrius Hayward-Bey. I believe they really reached with these first two picks.
The Raiders have a record of 24-72 since 2002. If they had a better track record of success in recent years, then maybe you could chalk it up to them knowing something everyone else doesn’t. Instead, it appears the Raiders are clueless once again.
They cannot afford to keep missing on prospect after prospect, something they have done a good job at since 2003. If this is the mistake it appears to be then it will continue to negatively affect the Raiders and put them in position to keep missing with high draft picks in future drafts.
2) Washington Redskins
Maybe Dan Snyder didn’t notice that his offense killed him in 2008. They were 28th in points scored, 19th in yards gained, 17th in first downs gained, 23rd in passing yards, and 26th in passing touchdowns.
I already talked about their neglect of the offense in free agency when they signed Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall to mega contracts. Now they used their 13th pick to select Brian Orakpo, a LB/DE hybrid out of Texas.
I have to be consistent. I usually bash GMs for taking a need position rather than drafting the best available player.
At that point, Orakpo was the best player on the board and I understand the move. Nevertheless, you would think they would have gotten back to offense after that pick.
The Redskins spent their third, fifth, and sixth round picks on a corner back, outside linebacker, and inside linebacker respectively. Kevin Barnes has some good value at cornerback, but Cody Glenn was suspended this year and ranked pretty low at linebacker. That might have been a slight reach.
They didn’t get around to an offensive player until the 227th pick when they selected FB Eddie Williams out of Idaho. They also selected WR Marko Mitchell with the 243rd pick.
I just don’t understand the thinking.
Washington averaged 12.5 points per game over the last eight games of the season. It was a big reason they went 2-6 after starting 6-2.
You would think they would have wanted to add something to the offense, especially with Clinton Portis stating to get a little older and his career carries starting to tally up. Without him, they have very little offensive firepower.
I understand that they selected two wide receivers and a tight end in the second round last year. The problem is that Devin Thomas put up the best numbers of those guys with 15 catches for 120 yards and zero touchdowns.
I don’t see what they saw in those guys last year to make them think the youngsters will step in and contribute right away this year.
Jason Campbell has been inconsistent, but part of the reason he is inconsistent is they don’t surround him with enough talent to throw the ball to. Santana Moss is very inconsistent and Chris Cooley can only do so much at the tight end spot.
We will see if all the trade talk motivates Campbell to have a big year in his final year of the contract and if he is able to make the jump to the elite quarterback level. If he doesn’t, the Redskins will continue to struggle on offense.
I think the attention they paid to the offense this off-season was unacceptable and that puts them in a bad position to compete in a brutal NFC East. In the division, the Giants had a much better team heading into the draft and did very well. The Eagles also made a lot of improvements.
3) New York Jets
I don’t think many people have the Jets here in the losers column, but let me explain.
I am not very high on Mark Sanchez. No one thinks that a quarterback selected in the top-10 is going to bust. If teams thought that, the guy wouldn’t be a top-10 pick.
Here is an example: Bob Jordan of the AP had this to say about a quarterback in the 2002 NFL draft. “Assertive leader with good presence under pressure…Has the mobility to escape when the pocket collapses and shows a fluid lateral movement rolling out. Reminds me of Tom Brady...More elusive than Brady, but despite his youth, he is very cool under pressure and rarely forces the ball into traffic. Just look at his record as a starter (25-3) and you know quality is evident.”
That player Bob Jordan was raving about was Joey Harrington.
The fact is that not every first round pick at quarterback becomes a good player, much less a Hall-of-Famer. To think that the Jets found their quarterback for the next 15 years is assuming a lot.
There are three things that trouble me about Sanchez.
First, he has only 16 starts in college. If you look at the history of NFL draft busts, it is littered with guys that didn’t get many college starts. Akili Smith and Ryan Leaf are examples of that.
The reason is two-fold.
One, good players start games, and if a college quarterback is able to start as a freshman that is a good sign that he has talent. However, the bigger thing is that when a player starts 35 to 40 games there is a lot of tape on them and it is easier for scouts to find weaknesses that will equal NFL futility.
The second issue I have is that he was injured quite a bit at USC. How will he hold up when he starts getting hit by NFL linemen? I could see him being a big injury risk, which you don’t want when you are taking a guy with the fifth overall pick.
The third issue is that everyone is projecting him as a great West Coast quarterback. What that tells me is that people aren’t really sold on his arm strength as a college player, but like his accuracy and think he projects well to play in the NFL offense that requires less arm strength.
Pete Carroll didn’t think Sanchez was ready for the NFL yet, and he has been a head coach in the NFL twice and coached defenses at that level. That concerns me.
Sanchez answered some of those questions with good combine numbers, but we’ll see if he has enough arm strength with 300 pound guys rushing at him in the NFL.
I just haven’t seen enough to be sold. I think this is a guy that became a top-five pick because of 413 yards passing in the Rose Bowl and some great workout numbers.
That makes me nervous.
Even taking all that into account, the first round doesn’t bother me in and of itself. The Jets needed a quarterback and it was going to take a first round pick to get Sanchez.
I get that, but is it worth it to trade DE Kenyon Coleman, DB Abram Elam, QB Brett Ratliff, the No. 17 overall pick, and the No. 52 pick?
Some people think that was a bargain, because it was just a second round pick and some lesser names. Sometimes the lesser names in trades are the ones that comeback to kill you.
Then the Jets didn’t do anything to upgrade their WR position. They selected Doak Walker Award winning RB Shonn Greene, who they also traded up to acquire.
The Jets traded their third-round (No. 76), fourth-round pick (No. 115), and seventh-round (No. 228 overall) picks the Lions in order make that deal happen. As a result, their only other draft pick was G Matthew Slauson in the sixth round.
It just doesn’t seem worth it to me.
They added no receiver help to replace Laveranues Coles who left for the Bengals after being waived. Their starting receivers of Jerricho Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey are among the weakest starting WR units in the NFL.
They now have a quarterback with seven pro starts and another with 16 college starts trying to make it happen with a weak receiving unit. If Sanchez develops, this draft will be worth it. If he doesn’t, it will be one of the worst in Jets history.
I think this is a team that was so caught up in getting one player at the expense of the overall draft. We will see in three years if that was a good move or if they should have stayed at pick 17 and kept their players and picks.
4) Denver Broncos
The thing the Broncos were supposed to do in this draft was upgrade the front-seven of a defense that allowed the 30th most points in the NFL.
When they traded Jay Cutler to the Bears, it was supposed to give them the picks they needed to upgrade the defense, in particular their front-seven. Therefore, it only makes sense that they drafted a corner back and safety in round two to go along with a tight end. It also makes sense that their two fourth round picks were a safety and tight end.
The only player they drafted to improve the front seven was their first round pick in Robert Ayers. Some people are projecting him as a Justin Tuck type, which if that is the case he is a great value. Still, they chose to add no other player to that front seven.
Don’t get me wrong. I think RB Knowshon Moreno was a fantastic value at No. 12. They need a featured running back and he has the potential to fill that.
I like adding Richard Quinn at tight end to help their run blocking. I like that they added a safety to learn under Brian Dawkins.
But on a team that needs a lot of picks to fill holes on defense, was it worth it to go from No. 49 to No. 37 in this years' draft in exchange for sending a 2010 first round pick to Seattle?
I’m not seeing that at all. That completely negates the gain they got by acquiring Chicago’s first round pick in 2010. Alphonso Smith had better be a great player if that trade is going to be a win for Denver.
I just don’t understand how this defense is going to be that improved in 2009.
It is imperative that this team stops the run better in 2009. They are changing to a 3-4 defense, which will help some of their lighter players that got pushed around in the 4-3.
Ayers is a good pass rusher, and you need that in a three-four. But the Broncos don’t seem to have enough beef on the defensive line to keep their linebackers free.
They still seem a year away from fixing this front seven and are now without one of their two first round picks. When you also consider that the offense isn’t going to be as explosive without Jay Cutler, it makes you wonder how Denver will win more than the eight games they did in 2008.
While rookies don’t necessarily bring a lot to the table in year one, it would be nice to start this defensive rebuilding process this year so that they are in a better position to compete in 2009. I’m not sure they accomplished that in this draft.
5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Same complaint I have with the Jets. You don’t know if Josh Freeman is going to work out or not.
They have Luke McCown, Brian Griese, and Byron Leftwich. I understand why they wanted a first round quarterback.
But they gave up a sixth round pick to move up two spots that they probably didn’t need to move up to get. Definitely not as much as the Jets gave up to get Sanchez, but every pick is valuable.
Most of the teams at the back of the draft didn’t need to pick a first round quarterback and it was going to take a huge package to get to No. 17 or 18 from the second round.
I hold the belief that all picks are to be valued and I think Tampa threw away a sixth round pick in that deal, and as a result will have to pay slightly more guaranteed money to Freeman, because he was selected two slots higher.
The Bucs really needed to add defense. I think by picking Freeman they ignored that.
Atlanta and New Orleans have very scary offenses heading into 2009 and the Panthers have arguably the best one-two punch at running back in the NFL with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. This team needs to improve their defense.
They cut many of their veterans loose, particularly at linebacker. The additions of DT Roy Miller and DE Kyle Moore may help their defensive line, but probably not this year.
The Buccaneers selected no linebackers in the entire draft. For a team that cut Cato June and Derrick Brooks loose, you would think that replacing them would be a higher priority.
This is another draft that will be determined a success or failure based on how Freeman works out. I don’t think he will start much this year, possibly at the end of the year when the Bucs are probably out of the playoff hunt.
To me he is a Jason Campbell or a Trent Edwards type with a slightly stronger arm. He will probably be a serviceable NFL starter, but I am not seeing super star written all over him.
The Bucs may have been better off going with a defensive player that could help them this year and waiting until 2010 when Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy come out of college. I think they may translate to better pro quarterbacks than Freeman will, as they are more accurate and have enough arm strength to succeed on the NFL level.
Now let’s get to my favorite team, the Green Bay Packers.
Let me start by saying that I love the selection of B.J. Raji. ESPN had him ranked as the best defensive tackle in the NFL draft and the fourth best player overall. Not only did they get the best available player, but at a great position of need.
At 6” 2” and 337 lbs., he can step in and play the 3-4 nose tackle spot. He really helps upgrade their defensive line.
I think Ted Thompson hit a home run with that pick and did the smart thing by taking him and not Crabtree. I have been critical of Thompson in the past, but that was a great move.
Then just as I think Ted Thompson is in position to knock the draft out of the park, the Packers did something that I don’t quite understand.
They have A.J. Hawk, who is an outside linebacker that stands at 6” 1” and 245 lbs. He is a muscular, bulky linebacker that plays the outside.
So the Packers decided it would not only be a great idea to draft 6’ 3” 240 lb. Clay Matthews, but it was also be a good idea to trade up to the 26th pick in the first round and give up their 41st, 73rd, and 83rd picks to do so. The Packers also had the 162nd pick in the draft, which was in the fifth round.
So let me get this straight. A third round pick for Randy Moss is too much, because third round picks are to be treated as gold.
But Clay Matthews, who has started one year at USC, is not only worth a third round pick, but two third round picks? Does anyone else see something wrong with that?
Furthermore, New England has a need to get younger at linebacker and also plays three-four. You would think if they were that high on Matthews, who had slipped further than most people had anticipated, that they would have refused to make the trade and would have just picked him.
They had five picks in the top-100 already; so it wasn’t as if they needed to trade down to acquire more picks. What does New England, the best front office in the NFL know about Matthews that made them decide not to pick him?
To me the Packers got the exact same player as A.J. Hawk. When you ignore free agency, you have to do better than that in the draft. They had a lot of holes to fill.
In a year when everyone said it was a top-heavy draft, with picks 20 through 60 probably having the same value, Ted Thompson does a 360 turnaround and trades up, eliminating all their high third round picks in the process.
As a result, they didn’t pick again until the 109th pick, when they selected tackle T.J. Lang. He may be able to start at tackle this year, but is probably going to be a backup.
They also selected FB Quinn Johnson with the 145th pick. They are pretty deep at fullback, so I do not understand that pick considering their other needs.
The only justification I see is that they did struggle at times to score from the goal line and he is supposed to be a very good blocker. We will see if he can help in that area in 2009.
The Packers didn’t add anyone of significance to their aging corner back duo of Harris and Woodson and only got two offensive linemen to take the place of Tauscher, a fourth and fifth round pick no less. You never know if these late picks will work out.
The man Lang may be replacing in Tauscher was a seventh round pick and was not expected to start his rookie year.
He not only started his rookie year, but game one of that season. The Packers may have hit some home runs at the end of the draft.
Rarely do teams get the better end of the deal when trading with New England. I’m really curious why the Patriots decided they didn’t want to take Matthews and were willing to move down in the draft and select a lot of other players, something that seemed like a pretty logical move.
It was a mixed bag for me.
They did too well to be in the loser category. I love the drafting of Raji; however, I don't have them as big winners either.
I am not necessarily sold on Matthews, although I think he is a safe pick. He may not end up being a 10-time Pro Bowler, but I think he is a guy that will play in the league for a long time, assuming he stays healthy. Overall, they were probably slightly above the middle of the pack in terms of how they handled their draft.
I’m not sure how all these pieces are going to fit together in the three-four. Dom Capers is going to have a lot of work to do between now and opening day to implement that scheme change.
I am skeptical at best right now.
What were your thoughts on your team’s draft? Did you like how they did or are you scratching your head? Maybe a little bit of both?
I look forward to reading your comments about how your favorite team did in the draft.
By Derek Lofland, NFL director at Football Maniaxs
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