Predicting the NFL draft has never been an exact science, especially when preparing mock draft boards. Even after the dust settles, predicting which newly selected NFL prospect will have a great career, an average career, or will be bagging groceries within three years is even tougher.
So with that said, here are my meaningless predictions of the 2009 first round draft class, and how things might shake out. Please keep in mind that if I call a player a bust, it doesn’t necessarily mean I think he’ll be another Ryan Leaf, it just means he won’t live up to the lofty expectations of a first round pick, especially if he was drafted much higher than he should have been.
Conversely, if I call boom on a player, it doesn’t mean he’s going to be a perennial pro bowler, and punch his ticket to the hall of fame on the first ballot. He could just end up being a solid, yet unspectacular player who lasts ten years in this league and never really achieves greatness.
1) Lions - Matthew Stafford - QB
Boom: He might not end up being the next Peyton Manning, but if Detroit develops him the right way and doesn’t force him into the starting lineup, he should turn out ok and eventually lead the Lions back to the playoffs. Has this team ever even had a true franchise QB?
2) Rams – Jason Smith – OT
Boom: Should be a franchise cornerstone for years to come, and will help immensely in pass protection. Look for Smith to have a Ryan Clady type of impact as a rookie and also open some nice holes for Steven Jackson who is in the prime of his career.
3) Chiefs – Tyson Jackson – DE
Bust: He might end up being a serviceable player, but definitely not a top 5 pick caliber player. Pioli has made some bold moves and is rolling the dice big time here as he tries to distinguish himself from "The Hoodie Empire", and make his mark in KC. This would have been a better pick if he could have traded down and took Jackson later in the first round.
4) Seahawks – Aaron Curry – OLB
Boom: Should be a complete stud from day one and might have been the best overall player in the entire 2009 draft. There’s absolutely nothing here that indicates Curry will bust unless an injury derails his career early on. There’s also a lot of good defensive talent around him in Seattle to work with.
5) Jets – Mark Sanchez – QB
Bust: Might be one of the more over-hyped prospects in quite some time. With his new head coach already predicting big things, there is going to be a tremendous amount of pressure for him to produce from day one in a very demanding sports city. I don’t see it happening and the Jets offense could be an epic disaster in 2009.
6) Bengals – Andre Smith – OT
Boom: If not for the immature antics at the combines, he could have been the #1 or #2 overall pick. Regardless there is too much raw talent here for him to bust assuming he matures rather quickly. Starting off his career at right tackle should also help him have an impact early on.
7) Raiders – Darrius Heyward-Bey – WR
Bust: Might end up being a solid #2 down the road, but he’s pretty much a one trick pony as a deep threat, and not a complete WR at all. Definitely not the type of WR you draft with a top 10 pick, but the Raiders seem to be on a different page than the rest of the NFL in regards to their war room strategies.
8) Jaguars – Eugene Monroe – OT
Bust: I was torn on this one simply because of his injury history, obviously there’s a strong chance he could end up being a great NFL Tackle, but my gut feeling tells me that all 3 tackles taken in the top 10 won’t pan out, so he’s my candidate for the one that doesn’t.
9) Packers – BJ Raji – DT
Boom: Raji is an animal that should have an immediate impact in the Packers new 3-4 defense. Not sure he’s the best fit at where they want to play him though but the talent is good enough to overcome a positional change that he might not be suited for. I was really hoping he fell to Buffalo two spots later but it didn’t happen.
10) 49ers – Michael Crabtree – WR
Boom: Was easily a top 5 pick before the injury concerns leading up to the draft. Expectations in the bay area will be high considering guys named Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens were once catching passes there. The question is whether or not they have a Joe Montana or Steve Young to get him the ball.
11) Bills – Aaron Maybin – DE/OLB
Bust: I’m torn on this one as well, and even if Maybin can have moderate success rushing the passer, he’s not a complete player at this point. He might never get there either., but when you draft a DE or OLB in the top 15 that is what you’re typically looking for from day one. I’m really hoping he doesn’t end up being another Vernon Gholston, or it will be a disaster for a team desperate for QB pressure and sacks.
12) Broncos – Knowshon Moreno – RB
Boom: Given Denver’s success with RB’s of all flavors over the years, hard to see a first rounder busting there. Might not be an LT or Adrian Peterson, but Moreno will certainly be a perennial 1000 yard rusher and will be given the opportunity to shine in McDaniels offense from day one.
13) Redskins – Brian Orakpo – DE
Bust: Hard to read because just like PSU, Texas has had a negative history when it comes to highly touted first round prospects. Also the Redskins plan to play him at OLB in a traditional 4-3 defense in which I don’t see him being a good fit. Then again he will be playing behind a defensive line featuring Albert Haynesworth.
14) Saints – Malcolm Jenkins – CB
Boom: Another player that many scouts had rated as high as a top 5 pick on their draft board. He’s a versatile athlete capable of playing safety at the next level as well. He should be an instant upgrade on one of the leagues worst defenses.
15) Texans – Brian Cushing – OLB
Bust: Very tough to gauge this one. Even though I think Cushing could be consistent, but I’m not sure I see him as an impact player at outside linebacker in the NFL.
16) Chargers – Larry English – DE
Boom: English is a hard player to read. Is he a DE or LB? Is he a 1st rounder or 2nd rounder? Is he the next Shawn Merriman or Demarcus Ware? When it’s said and done I think he’ll pan out because I believe he was drafted by a team and defense that will know how to maximize his talent.
17) Buccaneers – Josh Freeman – QB
Bust: At one point I believed Freeman was oozing upside and potential, but the more film I watch on him the more I see another potential big armed washout with bad mechanics that is prone to turning the ball over, ala Akili Smith and JP Losman.
18) Broncos – Robert Ayers – DE/LB
Bust: Some scouts were in love with this kid leading up to the draft and felt he might be the best tweener DE/LB in the draft. For me there are too many questions marks to assume he’s going to pan out at the next level, especially since sacking the QB wasn’t something he did frequently in college.
19) Eagles – Jeremy Macklin – WR
Boom: He’s still quite raw heading into the NFL and needs to improve route running, but I do believe he fits perfectly in the west coast offense and has a great coaching staff and the right personnel around him to help develop early.
20) Lions – Brandon Pettigrew – TE
Boom: If the Lions ask him to be a dominant run/pass blocker and catch a lot of mid range passes than mission accomplished. You can’t consider him a bust if he isn’t able to be a dynamic downfield receiving threat because he’s simply not that type of player.
21) Browns – Alex Mack – C
Boom: He might have been taken a little too high, but he should be the anchor of the Browns offensive line for years to come, and likely will visit the pro bowl several times over the course of his career.
22) Vikings – Percy Harvin – WR
Bust: He has the speed, but too many questions marks about durability, route running, size, and his overall game for me to think he can be a true #1 WR in the NFL. Also big time questions as to who will be throwing him the ball in Minnesota. Missing the mandatory rookie symposium also has him on the league office radar.
23) Ravens – Michael Oher – OT
Bust: Ozzie Newsome has a great track record in Baltimore, and a lot draftniks felt that Oher was a steal considering he tumbled this far. But you can’t strike gold every year, and I feel Oher has too many flaws in his game to pan out as a top flight NFL tackle. With news of Mason’s pending retirement, they are going to wish they went WR here.
24) Falcons – Peria Jerry – DT
Bust: He would probably excel in a pure Cover 2 defense, but I’m not sure Atlanta is the best fit for him. There are also concerns about durability, and his overall football IQ heading into the pros. He will be asked to produce from day one on a suspect defense as well, which will add significant pressure.
25) Dolphins – Vontae Davis – CB
Bust: Probably one of the more overrated players heading into the draft, and there are definitely concerns about his inconsistency and lack of overall playmaking ability. Can’t really see him being anything more than a solid nickel back at best in the NFL but Parcells does have a good track record with drafting DB’s so that is one thing going in his favor.
26) Packers – Clay Matthews – OLB
Bust: Definitely a head scratcher, especially since the Packers gave up valuable draft picks to the Patriots to move up and get him. I guess this was Green Bay’s way of apologizing to New England for trading Favre to the rival Jets last year. Matthews was really nothing more than solid reserve/ST stud at USC so it’s hard to fathom him being anything more in the NFL.
27) Colts – Donald Brown – RB
Boom: Solid all around back that will be another weapon for Peyton Manning out of the backfield. Should produce from day one and take carries away from Addai gradually over the course of the season.
28) Bills – Eric Wood – C/G
Boom: Definitely the better first round choice for Buffalo as he will provide immediate help at guard. Will likely end up playing center down the road, but regardless he’s a great blocker that should be a cornerstone for years to come and will shore up the interior right away.
29) Giants – Hakeem Nicks – WR
Boom: Very solid all around WR that is probably more NFL ready than the rest of the 2009 WR draft class. Playing in a physical, run oriented offense will maximize his potential in New York.
30) Titans – Kenny Britt – WR
Bust: Hard player to read because of his inconsistency in college and questionable first step. He’s most certainly a long term project, but he landed on a team looking for an immediate impact at WR, and what complicates matters is the QB situation as well.
31) Cardinals – Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells – RB
Boom: Hard to imagine he was the third RB taken in the 2009 draft considering many had him rated as a top 10 pick. Regardless the Cardinals had to feel grateful that he fell all way to them at #31 because he’s going to be a dynamic weapon for an offense already loaded with stars and plenty of firepower.
32) Steelers – Evander Hood – DT
Boom: Do the Steelers ever draft bad defensive players? Everything I’ve seen from Hood indicates he should be on his way to being yet another perennial pro bowl fixture for a team that already boasts the NFL’s No. 1 overall defense.