By Lloyd Vance, Taking It to the House “Draft Guru” / Sr. NFL Writer
(Philadelphia, Pa) – Now that the biggest “non on the field” NFL event is done for this year and 256 players know their destinations, it is time for myself and other talent evaluators to recap the action and then take a well deserved rest.
The 2009 NFL Draft definitely had a ton of buzz, hype, and excitement as Radio City Music Hall was electric when the event kicked off at 4 PM on Saturday. NFL evaluators continued to keep with a fast pace in trading and picking as there were not many countdowns/waiting for selection. On Day 1 the first round took only 3 hours, 23 Minutes, which broke the previous record for time from the 1990 draft (3 hours, 24 minutes). The impressive thing is that the draft moved swiftly despite there being 28 trades on Saturday and Sunday.
The NFL had nine players in the “Green Room” (Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree, Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry, USC LB Brian Cushing, Kansas State QB Josh Freeman, Virginia OT Eugene Monroe, Mississippi OT Michael Oher, Texas DE Brian Orakpo, Baylor OT Jason Smith, and Georgia QB Matthew Stafford) with only OT Michael Oher enduring the “Aaron Rodgers” treatment. Oher was rescued by the Baltimore Ravens at the 23rd spot. Of his wait Oher said, “”It could have been shorter, but it doesn’t matter. I got drafted and that’s the most important thing…I was excited because I knew I was going to get drafted. Don’t feel sorry for me”.
Tidbits from this year’s draft included:
Sanchez steals the show – You knew it was going to be a long day for first overall pick quarterback Matthew Stafford when he was booed and razzed with chants of “Over-rated” after he was announced to the Radio City crowd as #1 pick. The boisterous crowd and everyone else was abuzz about where USC quarterback Mark Sanchez was going to end up. Everyone was talking possible landing spots (Washington, Seattle, Denver, Jacksonville, New York and others), but it was the New York Jets who made the trade of the 2009 NFL Draft. The Cleveland Browns traded their first-round pick (5th Overall) to the Jets for the Jets’ first (No. 17) and second-round (No. 52) picks, plus DE Kenyon Coleman, QB Brett Ratliff and DB Abram Elam. The pick netted Sanchez and the place went nuts when he was announced. Unfortunately he was not there in person to receive the love, but you could tell everyone including the J-E-T-S fans were much more pumped about Sanchez.
Big Conferences Reign Supreme – NFL teams are looking for successful players from big conferences in the draft, because players are being taught pro techniques at these college and universities. A little over 72% of the players selected were from the 6 BCS Conferences. The SEC had the most players drafted overall with 37, followed by the ACC (33), PAC 10 (32), Big 12 (28), Big Ten (28), Big East (27), Mountain West (16), Conference USA (10), Mid-American (10), and Western Athletic (10).
USC had too much talent not to win it all in ’08, right?? – For the second consecutive draft, Southern California had the most first-round draft choices with three – LB Brian Cushing, LB Clay Matthews and quarterback Mark Sanchez. USC now has 63 first-round selections since the inception of the common draft in 1967 – the most of any school. USC had the most players selected with 11 Trojans having their name called on Saturday or Sunday. The rest of the schools with the most players were South Carolina (7), Oregon State (7), LSU (6), Missouri (6), Cincinnati (6), Georgia (6), TCU (5), Penn State (5), and Maryland (5)
Players selected for the ‘Wildcat’– It is hard to believe, but it has been over 14 years since Steelers drafted QB Kordell Stewart to be a multi-purpose threat. But with the emergence of the Wildcat formation in the 2008 NFL season, teams were looking for multi-purpose players. The Eagles traded up to select speedy WR Jeremy Maclin who took snaps out of the Wildcat at Mizzou, the Vikings selected WR Percy Harvin in the first round, the Texans grabbed former Rice TE James Casey in the 5th and the Lions selected WR Derrick Williams also in the 5th Rd. But it was the Miami Dolphins, whe selected the player made to run the Wildcat formation, West Virginia Quarterback Pat White. The Dolphins grabbed the NCAA’s all-time leading rushing quarterback with the 44th overall pick and the possibilities are unimaginable with him in the line-up.
The “U” loses their first round streak – The University of Miami (Fla.) for the first time in 15 years did not have a first round pick. So the “U’s” miraculous streak that started with All-American defensive tackle Warren Sapp being selected No. 12 overall by Tampa Bay in 1995 is over. In fact the only Hurrican drafted was linebacker Spencer Adkins in the 6th round by the Falcons. The formerly mighty Notre Dame football team also had only one player selected (Safety David Burton – 4th Rd by Denver) as did Florida State. If you can believe it, Western Michigan beat the three former powerhouses with 2 players selected.
Rookies Better Watch Their Pockets – With rookie guaranteed money reaching $40 Million dollars (QB Matthew Stafford got from the Lions a 6-year, 72 Million Deal w/ 41 Million guaranteed), a rookie salary cap is in the NFL’s future in the next CBA. Can you believe Stafford got more up front money than Colts future hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning (Signed a seven-year, $99.2 million contract. The deal included a $34.5 million signing bonus). Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a recent interview about a possible rookie cap, “I’m a big fan of the rookie salary cap… I think that it is very much in the best interest of our veteran players, being able to be rewarded for what they achieve on the NFL field, and to the kind of money that’s being guaranteed for rookies that have not played – there’s still a question of whether they can play at the NFL level. That’s something that I don’t think is appropriate, and I think it’s one of the things that we’ve already outlined with the union that we want to discuss and reevaluate it.”
Receivers Make a Comeback – After not having a receiver selected in the first round in 2008, this group proved it had good depth in 2009 starting with a positional high six receivers going in the first round (Oakland (7th) Darrius Heyward-Bey, San Francisco 49ers (10th) Michael Crabtree, Eagles (19th) Jeremy Maclin, Vikings (21) Percy Harvin, Giants (28th) Hakeem Nicks, and Titans (29) Kenny Britt). The NFL is a passing league for sure as almost every team took a developmental receiver in the draft with a total of 34 receivers being drafted. Here is the breakdown by position: Defensive Backs (55, but half were Safeties and the other half CB’s), Linebackers (31), Running Backs (23), Defensive End (20), Tight Ends (20), Offensive Tackles (18), Defensive Tackle (17), Guards (13), Quarterbacks (11), Centers (8), Punter (3), Kicker (2), and Long Snapper (1),
Draft Report Card
I don’t like to give “Letter Grades”, because as I always like to say, “It takes 2 to 3 years to evaluate a draft”. That being said, some teams definitely did seem to strengthen their teams and others seemed to be using darts to pick players in the 2009 Draft.
Philadelphia Eagles – After the Broncos jumped on RB Knowshon Moreno ahead of them, the Birds didn’t panic as they took the best player available. The Eagles made the first of three draft trades to move up and select explosive Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin in the first round. The move to add one of the fastest players in the draft should have brought a smile to QB Donovan McNabb’s face. In the second round the pick of versatile RB LeSean McCoy will help keep Brian Westbrook healthier. On Day 2 the Eagles stayed aggressive on the offensive side by adding field-stretching tight end Cornelius Ingram (5th). The defense and special teams finally got their guy with the addition of DB Victor “Macho” Harris (5th). Add in trades for veterans CB Ellis Hobbs and OT Jason Peters, making this a very good April haul for the Eagles.
Miami Dolphins – The fingerprints of Bill Parcels continue to be on this franchise. The Dolphins brougt in Big Conference players Illinios CB Vontae Davis (1st), West Virginia QB/Wildcat specialty player Pat White (2nd), Utah CB Steve Smith (2nd), big USC WR Patrick Turner (3rd), and Ohio State WR Brian Hartline (4th). Parcels even got a small-school “Jersey Guy” in Monmouth TE John Nalbone (5th).
New England Patriots – You have to like the Patriots haul just based on sheer volume as head coach Bill Belichick brought in 12 new players through the draft. The Patriots were involved in 7 draft trades, their biggest decision was trading out of the first round. But the process gained them four second round picks grabbing tough Oregon SS Patrick Chung, big Boston College DT Ron Brace, smooth corner from UConn and Prime U Darius Bulter along with Houston OT/OG Sebastian Vollmer. Also selected emerging South Florida linebacker Tyrone McKenzie in the 3rd and tough Penn State O-lineman Rich Ohrnberger in the fourth round.
Houston Texans – Texans GM Rick Smith needed a good haul in the 2009 NFL Draft and he seemed to have gotten it. He was able to fill needs on defense and give a nice infusion of talent to an 8-8 team on the cusp of the playoffs. The Texans went heavy with defense early by selecting USC LB Brian Cushing (1st), Cincinnati versatile DE Connor Barwin (2nd), and New Mexico DB Glover Quin in the first four rounds. Smith didn’t forget about his offense though as he added Alabama scrappy center Antoine Caldwell in the 3rd round and tight ends North Carolina State’s Anthony Hill (4th Rd) and Rice’s James Casey (5th – Wildcat Candidate)
Others I thought did a nice job on Saturday and Sunday were Jets (only three playes, but a huge impact), Colts, Bears, Packers, and Seahawks
HEAD SCRATCHERS, BUT I WOULDN’T CALL THEM “LOSERS”
New Orleans Saints – This team needed more especially on defense than CB Malcolm Jenkins (1st). We will have to see if Jenkins is fast enough to play corner or stout enough to play safety in the NFL. Overall only three selections is not a good thing for a team that missed the playoffs in 2008.
Denver Broncos – Did they really need RB Knowshon Moreno in the first round when they already had Lamont Jordan, Correl Buckhalter, and Selvin Young on their roster at running back. I like the picks of Tennessee DE Robert Ayers, Wake Forest playmaking CB Alphonso Smith, and Notre Dame special teams ace David Bruton. However they gave up too much to trade up to select Smith early in the second round — Broncos’ traded their 2010 first-round pick to Seattle for pick 37 in the second round.
Dallas Cowboys – Another wild and crazy draft for the Jerry Jones’ team. The Cowboys had a bad Day 1 where they didn’t have a first round and then passed on their 2nd round selection then traded it away. After having no picks on Day 1, the Cowboys reached for Western Illinois LB Jason Williams (3rd), Ball State OT Robert Brewster (3rd), and USC kicker David Buehler (5th). Brought in 12 players, but the only ones I really liked were Texas A&M quarterback Stephen McGee (4th) and Cincinnati CB Mike Mickens (7th).
Tennessee Titans – Might have had the biggest panic move/selection of the first round when they picked Rutgers WR Kenny Britt with the 30th pick. Then added underachiever Auburn DT Sen’Derrick Marks (2nd) and can you believe it another player from “Football Factory” Rutgers in Jason McCourty (6th).
Oakland Raiders – They passed on Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin to select Maryland WR Darrius Heyward-Bey! To make matters worse they really reached for Ohio Safety Michael Mitchell, in the second round. We will see if Al Davis found a player in Missouri defensive end with a great name, Stryker Sulak.
Others I thought would have gotten low grades if I believed in grades were Redskins, Vikings, and Chiefs,
The 8th Round Begins for Some Players
Every year thousands of players are left heartbroken as “Mr. Irrelevant” (2009’s version was South Carolina kicker Ryan Succop picked 256th by the Kansas City Chiefs) is selected thus ending their dreams of being selected in the NFL Draft. Sure being drafted is an honor, but there have been many outstanding undrafted players including: Broncos great receiver Rod Smith, former Eagles tough strong safety the late Andre Waters, Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, and many others. The great thing for undrafted players is that they can now choose their landing spot in the NFL and possibly enhance their chances by finding a good roster situation before signing.
Some 2009 undrafted players to keep an eye on in training camp are
LSU LB Darry Beckwith
Mississippi State DB Derek Pegues
Oregon RB Jeremiah Johnson
Boise State RB Ian Johnson
Hampton DT Chris Baker
Alabama QB John Parker Wilson
Jackson State CB Domonique Johnson
Wisconsin RB P.J. Hill
Tennessee OG Anthony Parker
Central Washington TE Jared Bronson
Tennessee State Center Cecil Newton (Signed by Jaguars)
Tennessee State OG Cornelius Lewis
Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell
Texas WR Quan Cosby (Signed by Bengals)
West Virginia OG Greg Isdaner
Penn State DE Maurice Evans
Ohio State OT Alex Boone
Hartwick QB Jason Boltus
Tuskegee QB Jacary Atkinson
Purdue LB Anthony Heygood
Untagged – With the Seattle Seahawks selection fo LB Aaron Curry in the first round, they apparently have no need for LB Leroy Hill. On Sunday, the Seahawks announced that they would be removing the franchise tag from Hill, making him a free agent immediately. I guess Hill should have signed his franchise deal or the $36 million offer (rejected last year) when they were offered to him.
Disgruntled Veterans Stay Put – For all the talk that veteran players, especially disgruntled pass catchers Bengals Chad Johnson, Browns Braylon Edwards, and Cardinals Anquan Boldin would be moved this weekend there were only two minor deals involving veterans. Quarterback Brett Raitliff was part of the deal that netted the Jets first round pick Mark Sanchez and the New England Patriots traded DB Ellis Hobbs to the Philadelphia Eagles for two fifth-rounder (No. 137 and No. 141). So I guess Panthers DE Julius Peppers, Eagles CB Sheldon Brown, and the aforementioned pass catchers better report to post draft mini-camps… My guess is more than a few of them will continue to draw lines in the sand and not be in attendance.
What No Quarterback?? – Incredibly quarterback strapped teams the Panthers, Bills, Vikings, and Redskins did not select a quarterback of the future. Overall there were 10 quarterbacks taken with three in the first round. Maybe a team looking for a quarterback can call the Buccaneers who traded up to select Kansas State’s Josh Freeman in the 1st Rd to go with quarterbacks Byron Leftwich, Brian Griese, Luke McCown, and Josh Johnson who were already on their roster.
LSU Pipeline — For the third consecutive draft, the Kansas City Chiefs chose a Louisiana State player with their first-round pick. Defensive end Tyson Jackson (No. 3 overall) joins defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey (No. 5 overall, 2007) and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (No. 23, 2006) as LSU first-rounders chosen by the Chiefs in the past three drafts. Jackson’s selection marked the sixth year in a row that LSU had a player taken in the first round – tied for the longest such active streak by any school (Texas, since 2004).
Stay in School – The NFL is making a concerted effort to draft seniors in the draft and it shows. There were only 41 underclassmen drafted compared to 215 seniors. Some say older players need less coaching, but yet 15 underclassmen went in the first round including first overall pick Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford.
Two pivots taken in the first — Alex Mack of California (No. 21 overall by Cleveland) and Eric Wood of Louisville (No. 28 overall by Buffalo) were selected in Round 1. Their selection tied the record for most first-round centers in one draft. This is the only fourth time two centers have been picked in the first round and first time since 1968. There were eight centers selected unfortunately one of them was not Tennessee State center Cecil Newton.
A Brief Look at the ’10 Draft – It is never to early for some research for the 2010 NFL Draft including: Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford, USC Safety Taylor Mays, Tennessee Safety Eric Berry, Florida QB Tim Tebow, Florida DE Carlos Dunlap and many others. But we have 11+ months to bring you information and draft news about these guys.
That is it for 2009 Draft and may all the teams be enriched going into the 2009 season.
Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)
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