This is a look back at all of the rookies that were drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft and how they did during the season. Did they live up to expectations? Or did they fall miserably? Were they this year's Adrian Peterson or Ryan Leaf? Did they help there teams to the playoffs or assist in a top pick in the 2010 draft. This is a look back over the first year of many young men's NFL careers.
Matthew Stafford was the Number 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft going to the Detroit Lions. The Detroit Lions are a team that has classically struggled to win in the NFL.
At the end of the 2008 season however after the first 0-16 record in NFL history they fired their now former General Manager Matt Millen and head coach Rod Marinelli. In turn they brought in Head Coach Jim Schwartz, a former Bill Belichick and Jeff Fisher assitant coach.
They found it fit that in starting a new regime they bring in a fresh young quarterback that they could develop into their quarterback of the future. So they brought in Matthew Stafford a strong armed gun slinging quarterback out of the University of Georgia.
Stafford played in 14 of the Lions 16 games this past season ending with 2267 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions. Stafford had his best week in week 11 against the Cleveland Browns throwing for 5 touchdowns 422 yards and 2 interceptions.
Now Staffords yearlong totals were not the best of any rookie quarterback ever. However; Stafford showed heart and that he has leadership ability as he fought hard all season to take a franchise without a lot of talent to their first win in over a season.
Stafford was far from offensive rookie of the year, but that is not to discourage the progress he did make throughout the season. Quarterbacks are a hard thing to grade after only one season of play, but for now I will rate him a C+.
He showed some leadership abilities, he found occasions to display his rocket arm, and showed some flashes of brilliance that should only become more frequent as long as the Detroit Lions continue to supply him with ample talent around him.
After a dismal 2-14 season in 2008 the Rams fired head coach Scott Linehan.
They brough in Steve Spagnuolo as his replacement. Spagnuolo recognized the importance of building from the inside out in order to create a successful football franchise. So with the second pick in the 2009 NFL draft the St. Louis Rams selected left tackle out of Baylor Jason Smith.
Smith stepped in at 6 feet 5 inches and 307 pounds. Smith was brought in to be a cornerstone for the offensive line and the future of a struggling St. Louis Rams franchise.
In his first season of action Smith played in 8 games. Managing to start in merely 5 of them. Smith only allowed two sacks all year and gave up one false start. Transitioning into next season Smith should look to be starting all 16 games.
Although there have been major draft hits on offensive linemen in recent year's first round picks it appears that Smith may take a couple of years to develop. For now I will rate this pick as a C-.
The Kansas City chiefs had a poor 2-14 2008 season. After that they decided to fire head coach Herm Edwards and hire head coach Todd Haley. Todd Haley was a hot commodity as an offensive coordinator for the NFC champion Arizona Cardinals.
Todd brought in defensive coordinatory Clancy Pendergast and converted the Chiefs defense to a 3-4.
After trading away Jared Allen to the Minnesota Vikings before the previous season the Chiefs were in the market for the best 3-4 defensive lineman they could find. So with the third pick in the draft they chose the highly regarded best 3-4 defensive lineman available in Tyson Jackson.
Tyson Jackson came in at 6 foot 4 inches tall and 297 pounds out of LSU. Tyson Jackson played in all 16 games managing to start 14 of them. He registered a total of 38 tackles including one assisted tackle for a loss of one yard. He also managed to bat down 2 passes over the course of the season.
Tyson Jackson was not considered to be the third best player in th draft. Jackson was considered as a pick of need and somewhat of a reach.
Overall though he had a decent rookie year playing on a poor Kansas City Chiefs defense.
Moving into next year Jackson should improve tremendously with a full NFL offseason in front of him. Jackson should be able to continue being the full time defensive end that the Kansas City Chiefs drafted him to be, but I wouldn't realisticaly envision his name on next year's pro bowl roster. For now I will grade this pick a C.
The Seattle Seahaks following the worst record in Mike Holmgren's tenure ended up with the number 4 overall pick in the draft.
So in came new Head Coach Jim Mora Jr. Mora made a smart decision and took the highest rated player on most teams draft boards.
Aaron Curry came in at 6 foot 2 inches and 254 pounds out of Wake Forest. Curry managed to play in 14 games starting 12 of them. He had a very solid rookie year with 61 tackles, 2 sacks, 6 passes knocked down, and 2 forced fumbles.
Aaron Curry was considered to be the NFL ready player in the draft.
Although his good production in his rookie year wasn't enough to save new Head coach Jim Mora's job it was enough to ensure Curry a starting spot next season.
Next season I would expect to see Curry really take over this Seahawks offense. Curry has potential to be a top 10 linebacker in the league, but must continue developing through his first full offseason workout program. For now I will grade this pick a B.
After finishing the 2008 season losing four out of there last 5 games and ending with a 9-7 record Head Coach Eric Mangini was fired. The New York Jets then brought in a very charasmatic defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to run the show.
The coaching staff decided if they were going to begin a successful new regime they needed a new face of the franchise. So the Jets traded with the Cleveland Browns so with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft they selected quarterback Mark Sanchez out of USC.
Mark Sanchez came in at 6 foot 2 inches and 225 pounds. In his rookie year he was able to put up 2444 yards 12 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. Mark was even able to help lead the Jets to two post season wins.
Marks started the season off very well throwing 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions through his first three games. Unluckily Mark then had a few very poor performances throwing five interceptions once, four interceptions once, and three interceptions on two other occasions.
Marks post season performances display a positive light on his career throwing for four touchdowns and two interceptions.
Mark Sanchez had a positive rookie year overall. Most rookie quarterbacks don't generally fair too terribly well. It is a position that is tough to transition from college to pro at. Many first round quarterbacks are busts. Although the learning curve is high Sanchez's two playoff wins are a phenomonal accomplishment for any rookie quarterback.
Looking forward I would expect Sanchez to flip his touchdown to intercpetion ratio next season. Hopefully being able to have his opportuities opened up by the league's best rushing offense. Right now I will grade this pick a B-.
Following a disappointing 6-10 season the Bengals were awarded the #6 pick in the NFL draft. After watching the poorest play in years by the Bengals offensive line Marvin Lewis decided that something had to change.
With Levi Jones on his way out of town the Bengals took a flyer on a very good offensive lineman out of Alabama. After some complications with the character of Andre Smith leading to a short combine workout, and a suspension that costed him his final college game Andre Smith was looked at as the most talented offensive lineman in the draft.
Andre Smith was not a surprising pick by the Bengals who have a tendency to look past character issues and try to draft simply based on talent level. A contract holdout kept Andre out of preseason games and minicamps.
Directly following his contract hold out Andre broke his foot and was held out until the last 6 games of the season. He played all 6 starting only one and allowed only .5 sacks.
Looking ahead to 2010 I would expect him to be a starting tackle. Andre is never going to be a superstar until he learns how to be a team player and less of an individual. Working the offensive line requires the ability to sometimes assist the lineman around you, and Smith's me first attitude can only be detrimental to that.
For now I will grade this pick a D.
Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders seem to be at the bottom of the league year in and year out since losing the Super Bowl to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 2008 season was no exception and they finished with another poor 5-11 record.
Over the past few years the Al Davis (Oakland Raiders) has spent his draft picks on high valued skill position players having drafted Jamarcus Russell and Darren Mcfadden. So Al decided he would try and give Jamarcus who had been underperforming since being drafted the ultimate tool. He would bring in a speedy reciever to compliment Russell's cannon arm.
So Al selected Darrius Heyward-Bey a speed wide reciever out of Maryland with the #7 pick overall in the 2009 NFL draft. This was a draft pick highly criticized by all experts and football fans alike. Heyward-Bey was mainly used at Maryland not as a reciever but as a distraction. His speed distracted cornerbacks and safeties alike away from the run game. He was often used to run fly patterns to help open up the rushing game to his side. He was not really used to catch passes.
During the 2009 season Heyward-Bey managed to rack up 9 receptions for 124 yards and 1 touchdown. That total is through playing in 11 games, and starting all 11 games.
I do find it too early to label Heyward-Bey a bust after one year, but he has a long way to go to be a legitimate NFL recieving threat. Who knows maybe he will have a good career; he could get traded at anytime.
Heyward-Beys numbers and contributions overall to his team may have been dismal. However, he is not entirely to blame. With rotation at the quarterback position and a poor offense surrounding him that could contribute to his horrific season.
Moving forward I would expect him to possibly be a slot reciever for the Raider's next year unless they try to make him into a top flight reciever. But realistically he is probably not going to be one of the top 3 recievers on the Oakland Raiders going into next season. For now I will grade this pick an F.
When Oakland's Kahlif Barnes was drafted in the second round of the 2005 draft the Jaguars thought they found there future at Left Tackle. Well in recent years Kahlif Barnes has shown that he wasnt the future anchor that they had envisioned. So Khalif Barnes was let go into free agency at the end of the 2009 season leaving Jacksonville with a big hole to fill on the offensive line.
They picked up veteran Tra Thomas in free agency who had been a solid tackle in Philadelphia for years, but would not be the future of their franchise.
Then all of a sudden on draft day Eugene Monroe a top echelon collegiate tackle out of Virginia fell right into their laps. Jack Del Rio had no choice but to take Monroe considering the belief that games are won and lost at the line.
Eugene Monroe came into Jacksonville at 6 feet 5 inches and 320 pounds, Monroe was a solid contributor right out of the gate playing in 15 games and starting 13 of them. Monroe allowed only 7 sacks on the season.
Moving forward I would expect Monroe to continue to get better with the whole offseason process in front of him. I would not be surprised to see Monroe as a pro bowl player a year or two from now.
For now I grade Jacksonville's pick an A-.
The 2008 season had tons of Favre controversy surrounding it for the Packers. At the end of the day though it was the beginning of the Aaron Rodgers era.
After an average start going 8-8 Mike McCarthy decided it was time for a change. McCarthy brought in former Texans head coach Dom Capers to be their defensive coordinator. Dom Capers in coming to Green Bay was expected to bring in there new look 3-4 defense.
In order to run the 3-4 defense effectively you need a good run stuffing large defensive tackle to build around. So the Packers took the highest rated 3-4 style defensive tackle in the draft in taking B.J. Raji out of Boston College.
Raji came in at 6 foot 2 inches 334 pounds looking ready to take over the NFC North. However after a slow start missing the first three games due to an ankle injury during the final preseason game Raji was only able to finish with one start, 25 tackles, one sack, and one pass defended. Raji had a slow start in his first year as an NFL player.
Often times defensive lineman take a year or two before they begin to truely produce and blossom into the player they were drafted to be.
Moving forward I would expect to see Raji start all 16 games next season. He was a dominant and productive player in college as well after a slow start there. I would not expect to see Raji on the pro bowl roster for at least another season or two though guessing that he is going to take some time. But I do however see Raji fully producing at an NFL a few years down the road.
For now i grade this pick a C+.
Mike Singeltary took over head coaching duties for the last seven games of the 2008 season and was able to find some success. The forty niners look like a team that will possibly be able to contend in the near future.
After the 2008 season they noticed that they have a high quality running back in Frank Gore, they have a good up and coming reciever in Josh Morgan, and they have a young defense that is only getting better. As good as Josh Morgan's potential appeared to be though you can't pass on one of the top players in the draft when they fall into your lap.
So the San Fransisco 49ers drafted a young talented college dominant reciever out of Texas Tech named Michael Crabtree. The need for a big time immediate impact wide reciever was necessary considering Terrell Owens was the last reciever to catch 61 balls in one season for this once proud franchise.
Crabtree however missed all of the offseason workout and training program and even part of the regular season due to a contract holdout. He did make it back in time to start 11 games for 48 receptions, 625 yards, and 2 touchdowns.
Crabtree definately has a bright future ahead of him if he were to continue at that pace. Crabtree proved to be a quality contributor considering his small amount of time he had to gel with the offense and the instability at the quarterback position.
Moving forward I would expect to see Crabtree's name on the NFC pro bowl roster if the 49ers do something to address the quarterback position which would give this offense the tools to truely succeed in the weak NFC west. If he is not given a proper quarterback situation I would still expect to see at least 8 touchdowns, 1000 yards, and 80 receptions.
I must say I give a lot of credit to teams that take the best available players. For now I grade this pick an A-.