The 2009 NFL Draft is in the books. While it’ll be three to four years before we really know how any of the teams did — it just takes that long for players, especially quarterbacks, to demonstrate their potential — we all want to know how our teams did. So, I’ll collect draft grades from the experts over the next couple of days in this space, updating as the report cards come out.
Rick Gosselin, Dallas Morning News:
Arizona A The Cardinals addressed the worst running game in the NFL with the addition of Wells. They addressed atrocious special teams by selecting the best gunner in the draft, Johnson, and a return specialist in Stephens-Howling.
Atlanta C The Falcons needed to improve on the NFL’s 24th-ranked defense and did so, using seven of their eight selections on defensive players. Jerry will help the pass rush, and Moore will be a force in run defense.
Baltimore B Pencil in Oher as a future Pro Bowler. Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Peter Boulware, Chris McAllister â€“ GM Ozzie Newsome doesn’t miss often in the first round. He added a pass rusher in the second and a kick returner in the third.
Buffalo B The Bills needed to retool their offensive line to give QB Trent Edwards and RB Marshawn Lynch a chance, and they did so with Wood and Levitre. Maybin also brings speed to a pass rush that sorely needs it.
Carolina C Irvin will bulk up the run defense, and Brown will dial up the pass rush for the Panthers. For a team that didn’t have a first-round draft pick, the Panthers acquitted themselves quite well. Robinson was a solid gamble in the fifth.
Chicago C The Bears had the best third round of this draft. Gilbert and Iglesias were second-round values who slid into the third. The Bears got a late start â€“ their first pick was 68th overall â€“ but they finished strong.
Cincinnati C If the Bengals can get Smith to control his weight, Maualuga to play in control at middle linebacker and Johnson to find the on switch at end, this could be one of Cincinnati’s better drafts. That’s too many ifs, though.
Cleveland B The Browns had the best sixth round of the draft. Carey and Francies will contribute this fall, and Davis is insurance against the aging Jamal Lewis. Robiskie and Massaquoi give the Browns the freedom to deal WR Braylon Edwards.
Dallas C After inexplicably opting out of the first day, the Cowboys finished strong with some solid second-day selections. Brewster gives the Cowboys insurance at guard and tackle. Hamlin, Mickens and Smith bolster the secondary.
Denver B After forcing half the starting lineup of an underachieving defense out the door, new coach Josh McDaniels needs Ayers, Smith and McBath to become instant starters. Moreno gives the Broncos and QB Kyle Orton a fighting chance on offense.
Detroit C The Lions had the best start to the draft, snaring the best quarterback, tight end and safety in the first 33 picks. Hill gives the middle of the defensive line some size, and Williams gives Stafford another weapon in 2010.
Green Bay C The Packers are implementing a 3-4 defensive scheme this season, and Raji gave them the best nose tackle in this draft. Matthews provides an outside presence in the pass rush. Johnson was the draft’s best blocking fullback.
Houston A+ Quality from top to bottom. Top: Cushing was an All-Pac 10 linebacker and leader of the Southern Cal defense. Bottom: Nolan started only two seasons but intercepted 10 passes. Barwin and Casey bring versatility, and Brice has 4.33 speed.
Indianapolis C RB Brown represents a huge upgrade over Dominic Rhodes. With coach Tony Dungy gone, GM Bill Polian wanted to build a bigger defense, and he has done so with tackles Moala (305 pounds) and Taylor (306).
Jacksonville C The Jaguars needed to address the OL and wound up with two of the five best tackles in the draft. Thomas, Dillard and Underwood on the flank and Jennings in the backfield have the talent to make David Garrard a better quarterback.
Kansas City D New GM Scott Pioli, wanting to craft a defensive line like the one he had in New England, grabbed some size in Jackson and Magee. But too many reaches in the second day slowed his rebuilding process.
Miami B With Tom Brady back in the AFC East this season, the Dolphins drafted cornerbacks to stand up to his aerial assault. Smith has the size to match up with Randy Moss, and Davis has the physical game to check Welker.
Minnesota C Pencil it in â€“ Harvin will be the rookie of the year. Adrian Peterson slid to the Vikings in 2007 and won the award; now it’s Harvin’s turn. Minnesota also got bigger on offense (Loadholt) and tougher on defense (Brinkley).
New England C The Patriots had the best second round of the draft. Brace can spell Vince Wilfork at the nose, and Butler and Chung will one day be starters on a Super Bowl contender. Tate could be the grand slam pick of this draft.
New Orleans C With only four choices, the Saints couldn’t muster much draft-day momentum. They needed to address the defense, though, and did so with their first three picks. Jenkins and Vaughn will make the Saints bigger at the back end.
N.Y. Giants B The best team in the NFC just got better. Barden gives the Giants the size on the flank to replace Plaxico Burress, and Nicks provides the playmaking ability. Brown will step into the running back rotation for Derrick Ward.
N.Y. Jets D The Jets boldly traded into the top five to land their quarterback of the future. But that was the one high point of the weekend. Greene slid deep into the second day because he’s a non-contributor in the passing game.
Oakland D Heyward-Bey was a reach that high in the first, and so was Mitchell anywhere in the second. But Al Davis is consistent â€“ he loves speed, and those two players were among the fastest at their positions. This draft was all about speed.
Philadelphia B Andy Reid has his offense of the future locked into place with QB Kevin Kolb, McCoy, WR DeSean Jackson, Maclin and Ingram. The Eagles had the best fifth round of this draft with Ingram, Harris and Tupou.
Pittsburgh D Urbik may be the most important selection because he addresses Pittsburgh’s most pressing need. Wallace can provide the deep speed that departed with Nate Washington. But there was too much reaching in the second day.
San Diego C The Chargers had the best fourth round of the draft. Moore is a dynamic cover corner and return specialist. He lasted into the fourth because he lacks size and speed.
San Francisco C Getting Crabtree at 10 was a gift. He’ll make the San Francisco quarterback better no matter who it is. The 49ers rolled the dice on Davis and Jean-Francois, hoping they can point both players’ sliding draft stock in the other direction.
St. Louis C The Rams passed up Matt Ryan in 2008 and missed out on Matthew Stafford in 2009. Marc Bulger had better return to his Pro Bowl form, or all of St. Louis will have regrets. Smith steps in for Orlando Pace, and Laurinaitis gives the defense a leader.
Seattle C The Seahawks had the best seventh round of the draft. With all the reaching that was going on late in the draft, GM Tim Ruskell was able to pluck three big-time producers at big-time schools. Reed could be the steal of the round.
Tampa Bay C A solid draft that’s unlikely to make the Bucs appreciably better in 2009. That’s OK. New coach Raheem Morris has time to develop his franchise quarterback in Josh Freeman. Think Ben Roethlisberger.
Tennessee C Albert Haynesworth left a huge hole in the defensive front seven when he left in free agency. The Titans drafted Marks and McRath to try to plug that hole. Britt and Cook give QB Kerry Collins some weapons to open up the offense.
Washington D Not enough picks and too many reaches doomed the Redskins in this draft. Washington will be more competitive on defense in 2009 with Orakpo and Barnes, but the Redskins needed to do more to keep pace with the Giants and Eagles.
Todd McShay, Scouts, Inc.
Dallas Cowboys 2009 draft class
Best pick: DE Brandon Williams, Texas Tech (Fourth round, No. 120 overall)
Worst pick: OLB Jason Williams, Western Illinois (Third round, No. 69)
Bottom line: When looking at Dallas’ 2009 draft you have to consider WR Roy Williams, who the Cowboys traded first-, third- and sixth-rounders to acquire during the 2008 season. His production is not great, but he is their primary receiver. In addition, the Cowboys traded out of the first day and failed to find any players who will make an impact in the future. Stephen McGee is a good developmental quarterback who could turn into a good No. 2. Victor Butler is a nice situational pass-rusher, DeAngelo Smith can be a No. 3 or No. 4 corner, Michael Hampton projects as an in-the-box safety, Jason Williams is a much better athlete than football player and Robert Brewster is big, but lacks toughness and we don’t envision him as anything more than a backup in the NFL.
New York Giants 2009 draft class
Best pick: WR Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina (First round, No. 29 overall)
Worst pick: OT William Beatty, Connecticut (Second round, No. 60 overall)
Bottom line: Considering that the Giants were, for the most part, drafting near the bottom of each round, they cleaned house a little bit. They got a potential No. 2 WR in Hakeem Nicks, upgraded their pass rush with OLB Clint Sintim, and TE Travis Beckum and RB Andre Brown could develop into midround steals in time. New York took Beatty about where we projected him, but he is a finesse player who has not played to his potential, and who just doesn’t seem to have the same crafty, hardworking attitude the Giants value up front.
Philadelphia Eagles 2009 draft class
Best pick: RB LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh (Second round, No. 53 overall)
Worst pick: OT Fenuki Tupou, Oregon (Fifth round, No. 159 overall)
Bottom line: On paper, the Eagles appear to have one of best classes of 2009. Granted, Jeremy Maclin has a lot of developing to do as a route-runner, but his RAC skills project perfectly in Philadelphia’s West Coast offense and should be able to at least help as a No. 3 wideout and return man this year. McCoy is the best pass-catching back in this draft and should pay dividends by initially taking the load off Brian Westbrook. Long term, he should develop into the full-time starter two or three years down the road. TE Cornelius Ingram was a steal in the fifth round as was WR Brandon Gibson in the sixth.
Washington Redskins 2009 draft class
Best pick: DE Brian Orakpo, Texas (First round, No. 13 overall)
Worst pick: OLB Cody Glenn, Nebraska (Fifth round, No. 158 overall)
Bottom line: It looked for awhile like the Redskins would land QB Mark Sanchez, but after failing to do so, they are now left doing damage control with returning starting QB Jason Campbell. The good news is Washington’s first two picks — its only two in the first four rounds — should both become good starters. Orakpo fits better as 4-3 defensive end and should help immediately upgrade the Redskins’ feeble pass rush. CB Kevin Barnes is an underrated corner who, when healthy, shows the potential to develop into a good starter.
Arizona Cardinals 2009 draft class
Best pick: RB Chris Wells, Ohio State (First round, No. 31 overall)
Worst pick: OLB Cody Brown, Connecticut (Second round, No. 63 overall)
Bottom line: There’s something to be said for the Cardinals drafting at the bottom of the round, which is uncharted territory for them, and they handled it like veterans. Arizona cashed in on Beanie Wells, who fell to them at No. 31, which minimizes his durability risk because he doesn’t cost as much to sign. Brown is a little bit of a reach, but he fits as a rush LB and could potentially help upgrade the Cardinals’ pass rush, or at least add some depth. The best value pick was S Rashad Johnson, who the Cards snagged in the third round. Johnson is an instinctive ball hawk and it won’t surprise me if he starts in a nickel role in Week 1.
San Francisco 49ers 2009 draft class
Best pick: WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (First round, No. 10 overall)
Worst pick: ILB Scott McKillop, Pittsburgh (Fifth round, No. 146 overall)
Bottom line: While San Francisco would have liked to address needs on the offensive or defensive fronts with its first pick, it’s impossible to fault the 49ers for taking one of the top three players in this year’s draft in Crabtree, who fell to them at No. 10. Making it an even better decision is any concerns about Crabtree’s character or how he interviewed leading up to the draft should be erased with Mike Singletary at coach. While the QB situation in San Francisco is less than ideal still, Crabtree will allow the 49ers to help see if they have the right QB in-house as he should only bring out the best in the existing signal-callers. As for Day 2, RB Glen Coffee is a good change-of-pace runner, McKillop is limited, but solid versus the run and should contribute on special teams. Finally, there’s nothing wrong with taking a chance on developing QB Nate Davis in Round 5.
Seattle Seahawks 2009 draft class
Best pick: LB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest (First round, No. 4 overall)
Worst pick: QB Mike Teel, Rutgers (Sixth round, No. 178 overall)
Bottom line: I liked Seattle’s approach to its first three picks where it simply took the best available players. Curry should immediately become the face of the defense as his versatility, toughness and leadership skills should provide an overall upgrade for this unit. Unger is a starting NFL lineman, the only thing that remains to be seen is whether it’s at center, guard or tackle. While undersized, WR Deon Butler is a natural playmaker with great speed, quickness and hand-eye coordination. There are other QBs we would have taken in the sixth round other than Teel, but we’re nitpicking to call this the worst pick.
St. Louis Rams 2009 draft class
Best pick: OT Jason Smith, Baylor (First round, No. 2 overall)
Worst pick: CB Bradley Fletcher, Iowa (Third round, No. 66 overall)
Bottom line: The Rams made the right call drafting an OT in their situation as a replacement for Orlando Pace at LT. I also thought cashing in on James Laurinaitis at No. 35 was a good move. He should provide leadership and upgrade the range of the Rams’ LB corps. After that, though, things fell off for St. Louis. Fletcher was the biggest reach. While he’s a big, physical corner, he lacks ideal range and is not an overly instinctive playmaker, so I’m not sure he’ll ever be more than another sub-package DB on a roster filled with plenty of them already.
Chicago Bears 2009 draft class
Best pick: CB D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt (Fourth round, No. 119)
Worst pick: WR Juaquin Iglesias, Oklahoma (Third round, No. 99 overall)
Bottom line: The Bears’ biggest need was finding weapons for new QB Jay Cutler, and they failed to accomplish that goal. Iglesias is, at best, a possession No. 3 receiver and Johnny Knox will probably max out as a receiver in sub packages who would contribute on special teams. On the positive side, the Bears hit homers on DT Jarron Gilbert and Moore.
Detroit Lions 2009 draft class
Best pick: TE Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State (First round, No. 20 overall)
Worst pick: OLB DeAndre Levy, Wisconsin (Third round, No. 76 overall)
Bottom line: We’ve made it perfectly clear that we would have built up the supporting cast and taken the offensive linemen instead of putting the weight on Matthew Stafford, who is very talented but will need some time to get ready. On top of having great hands, Brandon Pettigrew is one of the top three blocking tight ends in this year’s class and was a good value pick. WR Derrick Williams was worth the third-round pick and will be a No. 3 receiver right away and is also going to produce at kick returner. However, the Lions weren’t able to find an offensive tackle and we’ll be surprised if Levy emerges as more than a situational cover guy and special teams player.
Green Bay Packers 2009 draft class
Best pick: DT B.J. Raji, Boston College (First round, No. 9 overall)
Worst pick: FB Quinn Johnson, LSU (Fifth round, No. 145 overall)
Bottom line: It’s hard to pinpoint a weakness in this draft. Raji is a perfect fit at NT as the Packers transition to a 3-4 defense, and OLB Clay Matthews gives them a player with experience in a hybrid 3-4/4-3 scheme. OT T.J. Lang is one of the most underrated offensive linemen in this year’s class and could emerge as yet another midround O-line starter for Green Bay. The Packers also took some chances in the later rounds on risk/reward players like G Jamon Meredith and CB Brandon Underwood.
Minnesota Vikings 2009 draft class
Best pick: WR Percy Harvin, Florida (First round, No. 22 overall)
Worst pick: OT Phil Loadholt, Oklahoma (Second round, No. 54 overall)
Bottom line: I really like the Vikings’ approach during the draft. It’s obvious Minnesota targeted Harvin with head coach Brad Childress having met with him leading up to the draft. Childress has the offensive mind to utilize Harvin properly and it helps that Childress gave Harvin his stamp of approval. While there are questions about Loadholt’s ability to protect the perimeter, he is a massive RT prospect who is capable of pushing for a starting job. I also think Minnesota got good values in CB Asher Allen in the third round and ILB Jasper Brinkley in the fourth.
Atlanta Falcons 2009 draft class
Best pick: DE Lawrence Sidbury, Richmond (Fourth round, No. 125 overall)
Worst pick: S William Moore, Missouri (Second round, No. 55 overall)
Bottom line: Peria Jerry is a solid pick in the first round. He plays just under 300 pounds, but is tough versus the run. He is clearly the second-best DT in this class behind B.J. Raji and fills a priority need. Atlanta then turned its focus toward the secondary with three of its next four going to DBs. CB Chris Owens (third) and CB William Middleton (fifth) are solid developmental projects, but Moore has too much bust potential for my liking. It’s easy to fall in love with the size/speed combo, but I really question his instincts as a player. But with Jerry and Sidbury, who is a pass-rush specialist, the Falcons improved their pass rush and that should take some pressure off their secondary moving forward.
Carolina Panthers 2009 draft class
Best pick: DE Everette Brown, FSU (Second round, No. 43 overall)
Worst pick: DT Corvey Irvin, Georgia (Third round, No. 93 overall)
Bottom line: Considering how little it had to work with, Carolina did a strong job. It got a first-round talent in Brown at 43, who should be effective but slipped because of less-than-ideal height and top-end speed. Still, he’s quick enough off the edge to make an impact as a situational rusher as a rookie. While it might have seemed like a reach to some, CB Sherrod Martin’s stock was soaring leading up to the draft and it won’t surprise me if by midseason he’s a starter. I thought there were better options available in the third round other than Irvin, but the Panthers made up for it with the additions of RB Mike Goodson in the fourth round and talented but inconsistent OG Duke Robinson in the fifth.
New Orleans Saints 2009 draft class
Best pick: DB Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State (First round, No. 14 overall)
Worst pick: ILB Stanley Arnoux, Wake Forest (Fourth round, No. 118 overall)
Bottom line: The Saints were wise to avoid the temptation to take a running back in the first round, and Jenkins is a ball hawk who will get a shot to play CB but is more likely to emerge as a difference-maker at FS. Chip Vaughn can be a hard-hitting safety but New Orleans has to hope he plays with the effort he showed in 2007 rather than last season. Arnoux is a reach in the fourth round because we felt there were other LBs on the board who could have improved the defense more.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2009 draft class
Best pick: DT Roy Miller, Texas (Third round, No. 81 overall)
Worst pick: QB Josh Freeman, Kansas State (First round, No. 17 overall)
Bottom line: This will be a good situation for Freeman, who has tremendous upside and will be given the opportunity to watch and learn from the sidelines behind Byron Leftwich and company. Still, the Bucs purged their roster in the offseason and have a multitude of needs, and instead of addressing one in the mid-first round, they traded up two spots to reach even more for a QB with high bust potential. Time will tell, but I’m not sure the risk is worth the potential reward for this rebuilding franchise. I really like Miller in the third, however, and defensive coordinator Jim Bates is trying to get bigger and stronger. It’s not the old Tampa 2 and both Miller and DE Kyle Moore project better for what Bates is looking for in his new defense.
Buffalo Bills 2009 draft class
Best pick: DE/OLB Aaron Maybin, Penn State (First round, No. 11 overall)
Worst pick: C Eric Wood, Louisville (First round, No.28 overall)
Bottom line: On paper this is one of the best drafts of 2009. I would have liked to see them take an OT with one of their two first-round picks and Wood was a bit of a reach late in the first, he and G Andrew Levitre will ultimately become starters and boost what was the weakest area of the team entering the draft. Buffalo’s second biggest priority was to upgrade its pass rush and that goal was accomplished by selecting Maybin, who is the best pure edge rusher in this class. Maybin will play in a rotation with Chris Kelsay and Aaron Schobel early on and will have time to get bigger and stronger. And watch out for TE Shawn Nelson, who could turn into a late-round steal.
Miami Dolphins 2009 draft class
Best pick: CB Sean Smith, Utah (Second round, No. 61 overall)
Worst pick: WR Patrick Turner, USC (Third round, No. 87 overall)
Bottom line: I was surprised because the draft seemed to veer from a typical Bill Parcells draft. The Dolphins loaded up on needs at WR and DB. CB Vontae Davis could be a stud or he could be a bust due to poor technique and a marginal work ethic. QB/WR Pat White is intriguing because of his athleticism and potential to contribute in the Wildcat, but there were better options if Miami was looking for someone to line up opposite Ted Ginn Jr. at that point (and no, Turner is not one of them). I think Davis and Smith can be coached well and will upgrade the secondary significantly over time, and both will be good players in that system.
New England Patriots 2009 draft class
Best pick: CB Darius Butler, Connecticut (Second round, No. 41 overall)
Worst pick: OG Richard Ohrnberger, Penn State (Fourth round, No. 123 overall)
Bottom line: Bill Belichick, as usual, was trading at a dizzying pace and ended up with a bunch of versatile players, a handful of whom should find a way to contribute immediately. S Patrick Chung is a hard hitter who can be protected in coverage in New England’s scheme, while Butler is a phenomenal athlete, but it will be interesting to see if his lack of toughness becomes an issue for Belichick. Other potential contributors include Ron Brace, a two-gap DT, Sebastian Vollmer, the draft’s most underrated OT, and WR Brandon Tate, who has the ability to return kicks and can contribute as a sub WR and on special teams.
New York Jets 2009 draft class
Best pick: QB Mark Sanchez, USC (First round, No. 5 overall)
Worst pick: OG Matthew Slauson, Nebraska (Sixth round, No. 193 overall)
Bottom line: I applaud the Jets’ aggressive mindset. Sanchez might not be ready right away, but he fits here, has the mentality to handle NY and the Jets have the right philosophy in place to protect him with a solid running game and a good defense no matter when he starts. Sanchez comes from similar system and understands his role in that philosophy. There’s not much else to this draft with just the three picks, but RB Shonn Greene provide insurance and protection for a group of running backs who might not be there long term.
Denver Broncos 2009 draft class
Best pick: DE Robert Ayers, Tennessee (First round, No. 18)
Worst pick: TE Richard Quinn, North Carolina (Third round, No. 64)
Bottom line: The biggest issue we have with Denver’s draft was the decision to trade next year?s first round pick for CB Alphonso Smith, even though Smith will develop in a quality starter. The Broncos drafted some good players who will fit their system. RB Knowshon Moreno and Ayers will start immediately and Smith could play as a No. 3 corner. Darcel McBath could also develop eventually into a quality No. 3 corner eventually.
Kansas City Chiefs 2009 draft class
Best pick: DT Alex Magee, Purdue (Third round, No. 67 overall)
Worst pick: CB Donald Washington, Ohio State (Fourth round, No. 102 overall)
Bottom line: Obviously, the best player will be Tyson Jackson, but it’s hard to stamp the third-overall pick as the best. Magee provided better value, but Jackson should fit perfectly as a 5-technique in the Chiefs’ 3-4 defense. Still, by no means do I think he’s the next Richard Seymour, as he has been touted as in the days leading up to the draft. Magee has typically been better on the move, but he has the size, quickness and power to develop into a contributor on the defensive front. He has a quick first step and will help as an interior pass rusher on certain downs. Washington, however, was nothing more than a height/weight/speed pick who blew up at the combine, but has never come close to reaching his potential in college. OT Colin Brown is another one-year starter with some upside, but I’m not sure he’ll ever develop into a good starter and there were better linemen on the board when KC drafted Brown. It was an uninspiring first draft for Scott Pioli and I’m sure Chiefs fans expected more.
Oakland Raiders 2009 draft class
Best pick: WR Louis Murphy, Florida (Fourth round, No. 124 overall)
Worst pick: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland (First round, No. 7 overall)
Bottom line: The Raiders obviously march to a different drummer. They found speed in Heyward-Bey and they think he can provide the vertical element that Al Davis always wants in his offense and can take advantage of QB JaMarcus Russell’s rare ability to drive the ball downfield. But the thing is, Oakland is going to have to pay big money to Heyward-Bey, who might not even be a No. 2 receiver.
San Diego Chargers 2009 draft class
Best pick: G Tyronne Green, Auburn (Fourth round, No. 133 overall)
Worst pick: DT Vaughn Martin, Western Ontario (Fourth round, No. 113 overall)
Bottom line: It’s hard to knock the pick of DE Larry English at No. 16 overall because I think he is a good all-around player who will help the Chargers in the long term. However, San Diego’s Super Bowl window is closing quickly and drafting English at arguably their deepest position — assuming Shawne Merriman returns to health — does nothing to upgrade the team in the short term. The Chargers needed an impact player at ILB or a physical presence at RT, and after passing on those needs in the first round they were left to wait until the third round for their next pick. Martin has upside thanks to his combination of size and athleticism but it won’t surprise me if he’s not on their 53-man roster this fall. The only really good news for San Diego is that Green and Louis Vasquez will beef up the interior of the offensive line now and in the future.
Baltimore Ravens 2009 draft class
Best pick: DE/OLB Paul Kruger (Second round, No. 57 overall)
Worst pick: TE Davon Drew, East Carolina (Fifth round, No. 149 overall)
Bottom line: I was a little surprised to see the Ravens move up to No. 23 overall to take OT Michael Oher, but whether you agree with the move or not there is no denying they got one of the most physically gifted tackles in this year’s class. If Baltimore can motivate Oher to play to his potential he should become the long-term answer opposite Jared Gaither. There is not much flash in the rest of the draft but Kruger is a good fit given his versatility and CB Aldarius Webb and his elite speed were good pickups in the third round. The only real concerns about this group are questions about Oher’s work ethic and Webb’s past off-the-field issues.
Cincinnati Bengals 2009 draft class
Best pick: ILB Rey Maualuga, USC (Second round, No. 38 overall)
Worst pick: RB Bernard Scott, Abilene Christian (Sixth round, No. 209 overall)
Bottom line: The only issue I have with this draft is that the Bengals continue to put themselves in jeopardy from a character standpoint. While the immaturity of OT Andre Smith and past off-the-field incidents for Maualuga can be overlooked, why on earth would Cincinnati draft Scott in the sixth round? He has bounced around to four different colleges and has reportedly been arrested at least five times since high school. Still, you could make an argument that this is the best top-to-bottom group in the draft. Smith could solidify the offensive line, while Maualuga and DE Michael Johnson could thrive under the tutelage of head coach Marvin Lewis. If Maualuga can become more consistent and Johnson can be motivated to reach his considerable potential they will become very good NFL players. Other great values include TE Chase Coffman in the third round and C Jonathan Luigs in the fourth, both of whom should become starters in the next few years.
Cleveland Browns 2009 draft class
Best pick: WR Mohamed Massaquoi, Georgia (Second round, No. 50 overall)
Worst pick: WR Brian Robiskie, Ohio State (Second round, No. 36 overall)
Bottom line: While teams don’t usually like to take centers so early in the first round it’s unlikely Alex Mack would have been off the board in the next few picks had the Browns not traded up to No. 21 overall to get him. You can’t fault them for bringing Mack into the fold, but they had other priority needs including wide receiver and a pass-rush upgrade that could have been addressed there. Cleveland got its receivers in the next round, though I think Robiskie was a reach because he likely won’t turn into anything more than a possession-type No. 3 receiver. I expect Massaquoi to emerge as the bigger playmaker of the two. I also liked the way the Browns hankered down on Day 2 and found versatile, instinctive playmakers like DE David Veikune, LB Kaluka Maiava and DBs Don Carey and Coye Francies.
Pittsburgh Steelers 2009 draft class
Best pick: G Kraig Urbik, Wisconsin (Third round, No. 79 overall)
Worst pick: DT Evander Hood, Missouri (First round, No. 32 overall)
Bottom line: The Steelers traded out of the second round and got value in the third round in what is a comparatively lean overall class. Urbik is a big, tough guard who fits the classic Steelers mold and will bolster the interior of the offensive line. Hood has some versatility and can fit as an end in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 front, but he tends to play high and I’m not sure he’s ideally suited to taking on blockers. WR Mike Wallace and CB Keenan Lewis could develop into solid role players, and CB Joe Burnett could be the diamond in the rough in this group.
Houston Texans 2009 draft class
Best pick: TE James Casey, Rice (Fifth round, No. 152 overall)
Worst pick: S Glover Quin, New Mexico (Fourth round, No. 112 overall)
Bottom line:The Texans targeted their needs early and were able to find two potential starters in LB Brian Cushing and DE Connor Barwin. Cushing should start right away at the Sam linebacker, while Barwin is a developmental prospect with great measurables and potential off the edge. I also like C Antoine Caldwell in the third round. He could start at center or guard. This draft is solid from top to bottom. There’s nothing spectacular about it, but the Texans accomplished what they set out to do. The one downside was Quin was a reach. Houston will not get the production at safety they would hope for from Quin and could have gone other direction at that point.
Indianapolis Colts 2009 draft class
Best pick: RB Donald Brown, Connecticut (First round, No. 27 overall)
Worst pick: DT Fili Moala, USC (Second round, No. 56 overall)
Bottom line: For the most part, the Colts got good values with each pick, including Moala who was projected to go where Indy took him. The issue with him is that he appears to be better 2-gap player and doesn’t have the explosive 1-gap upfield burst the Colts generally look for. Brown gives them another versatile back who should excel in that scheme. Jerraud Powers is an underrated cover corner who plays bigger than his size and has good instincts for Indy’s Cover 2 heavy system. Even though WR appeared to be a bigger need and would be addressed before the fourth round, Austin Collie has the potential to develop into a solid No. 3 wideout, which in theory the Colts would live with long term.
Jacksonville Jaguars 2009 draft class
Best pick: WR Mike Thomas, Arizona (Fourth round, No. 107 overall)
Worst pick: DT Terrance Knighton (Third round, No. 72 overall)
Bottom line: Lots of highs and lows here. The Jaguars nailed the first two picks they made. OT Eugene Monroe was the best tackle on the board at No. 8 overall, and I like the fact that instead of going with sexy pick of Michael Crabtree in first round the Jags got back to Jack Del Rio football by bolstering the line and building from the inside out. Monroe should be a solid starter and second-round OT Eben Britton can develop into a starter at RT. Neither Knighton or CB Derek Cox were worthy of third-round picks, but Jacksonville bounced back with a potential wide receiver steals in Thomas, who also possesses return skills, and Jarett Dillard, who should put his leaping ability and solid hand-eye coordination to use as a sub package WR.
Tennessee Titans 2009 draft class
Best pick: TE Jared Cook, South Carolina (Third round, No. 89 overall)
Worst pick: CB Ryan Mouton, Hawaii (Third round, No. 94 overall)
Bottom line: The Titans finally addressed a big hole at wide receiver by taking Kenny Britt at No. 30 overall, giving themselves a big, physical wideout with strong hands who is NFL-ready right now. He fell to the bottom of the first round because he does not have exceptional top-end speed and his attitude will need to be monitored, but Britt will combine with Cook to give Tennessee a more wide-open passing game. DT Sen’Derrick Marks might be most effective in a rotation but worth a second-round pick if he proves capable of disrupting things in the middle. Mouton is the only issue here because I felt there were more proven commodities available at that point, including Rashad Johnson and Keenan Lewis.
Mel Kiper, ESPN:
Green Bay Packers: GRADE: A
I love what this team did to solidify its shaky defense in the first two picks alone, with the selection of two excellent players in defensive tackle B.J. Raji and outside linebacker Clay Matthews. Tackle T.J. Lang was a good pickup for the offensive line, while Quinn Johnson could be a bruising lead fullback in the league. Sixth-round pick Brandon Underwood could make this team and give the Packers depth as a backup.
New York Jets: GRADE: A-
The motto of the Jets’ draft was quality over quantity. Mark Sanchez’s selection made this team’s draft because he’s a franchise-maker. New coach Rex Ryan likes his defense, so the organization felt it could focus on the offense in his first draft. The Jets picked up Iowa running back Shonn Greene, who will fit into the rotation with Leon Washington and Thomas Jones. Guard Matthew Slauson was an OK pick in the sixth round, but the key to this draft is up top with Greene and Sanchez.
Arizona Cardinals: GRADE: B+
Chris Wells was a major acquisition for the Cardinals in the first round of this draft. He was a bargain for a team that was in dire need of a running back to rotate in with second-year back Tim Hightower. Wells gives this team the home run threat that the running game was sorely lacking last season. In addition to Wells, I liked the Cody Brown pick in the second round because he should be a good 3-4 rushing end in the Cardinals’ system. Bringing in LSU offensive lineman Herman Johnson in the fifth round and Illinois defensive end Will Davis in the sixth were good pickups for this organization. While I thought Johnson was a bit overrated, he is huge and will give the line a big presence when he’s on the field.
Buffalo Bills: GRADE: B+
Aaron Maybin was the pass-rusher this team needed to anchor the defensive line. On the other side of the line, the selections of center Eric Wood and guard Andrew Levitre in the second round were excellent picks. Wood is a very good center and Levitre very well may be the best guard in this draft. Also, Jairus Byrd’s ball skills could help him become a very good nickelback in this league. They got the tight end they needed in Shawn Nelson to give this offense another weapon. The reason this team didn’t receive an A is because it didn’t get a right or a left tackle, which I thought was a need with the trade of offensive tackle Jason Peters.
Houston Texans: GRADE: B+
This was a very productive draft, as the Texans’ first five picks (Brian Cushing, Connor Barwin, Antoine Caldwell, Glover Quin and Anthony Hill) will all contribute quickly. These are solid football players and I really like the Barwin pick. Look for sixth-rounder Brice McCain and seventh-round selection Troy Nolan to also compete for playing time.
New England Patriots: GRADE: B+
You have to give the Patriots credit for acquiring even more picks for next year’s draft. Safety Patrick Chung, defensive tackle Ron Brace and cornerback Darius Butler were all good selections in the second round, although offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer was a reach. Wide receiver Brandon Tate was a decent third-round pick and I really like the sixth-round selection of Jacob Ingram, the best long snapper in the draft.
San Francisco 49ers: GRADE: B+
Obviously the 49ers hit the jackpot with wide receiver Michael Crabtree falling to them at No. 10. Running back Glen Coffee gives the 49ers a nice one-two punch with Frank Gore. Getting inside linebacker Scott McKillop in the fifth round was a steal. Bear Pascoe is one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft, and the two LSU kids (Curtis Taylor and Ricky Jean-Francois) were great pickups in the seventh round.
Atlanta Falcons: GRADE: B
The Falcons did a good job early with the Peria Jerry pick in the first round and the selection of safety William Moore in the second. I really like the Moore pick because if he is able to get healthy, he could be one of the top steals of this draft. He has a tremendous amount of talent and could be a superstar for this franchise. Overall, the Falcons did a nice job for the second year in a row.
Baltimore Ravens: GRADE: B
First-round selection Michael Oher gives this team great flexibility on the offensive line because he can play right or left tackle for the Ravens. Second-round pick Paul Kruger has the ability to play immediately in this league and may push for ample playing time. Also, Lardarius Webb is a little light at around 180 pounds, but with the help of an experienced safety to support him, he can definitely play cornerback in this league. I love the fifth-round selection of inside linebacker Jason Phillips. He’s going to fit in very well with this talented group of linebackers.
Chicago Bears: GRADE: B
I think Jarron Gilbert is one of the steals of the draft. Wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias was a good pick, as were cornerback D.J. Moore and wide receiver Johnny Knox. Seventh-round pick Derek Kinder could turn out to be quite a sleeper if he’s able to return to his strong level of play before his injury a couple of years ago.
Cincinnati Bengals: GRADE: B
The Bengals had a lot of picks and they did a good job getting good quality with their quantity. Andre Smith, Rey Maualuga and Michael Johnson are great ways to start a draft for any team. These guys could fill big holes for the Bengals. The fourth-round selection of offensive lineman Jonathan Luigs was a little high, but it wasn’t crazy. The late-round picks weren’t anything to write home about, but they did a good job of getting strength in numbers and getting some depth for their team.
New York Giants: GRADE: B
The selection of first-round wide receiver Hakeem Nicks could be a good one, but he really needs to keep his weight up to make an impact in the NFL. I like the selection of offensive tackle William Beatty in the second round and wide receiver Ramses Barden in the third round. They made some good selections late in the draft with running back Andre Brown in the fourth and the two defensive backs in the sixth and seventh rounds: DeAndre Wright and Stoney Woodson.
Pittsburgh Steelers: GRADE: B
First-round selection Evander Hood was a good pick because he should fit in well as a defensive tackle in the Steelers’ system. I love third-round wide receiver Mike Wallace’s speed. Cornerback Joe Burnett and running back Frank Summers were good selections in the fifth round. Defensive tackle Ra’Shon Harris could be a steal out of the sixth round.
Seattle Seahawks: GRADE: B
The Seahawks passed on Sanchez to get Aaron Curry, and while I don’t agree with the pick, it’s not a bad pick for the Hawks, especially since Curry was the No. 1 player on my board. Max Unger is an excellent fit for this offensive line and wide receiver Deon Butler reminds me of Bobby Engram. I don’t understand the Mike Teel pick in the sixth round because there were better quarterbacks out there, but the selection of safety Courtney Greene in the seventh round was a great selection.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: GRADE: B
The Bucs could’ve stayed where they were and still gotten Josh Freeman, so I don’t understand the decision to trade up for him. He has a lot of upside, but he’s a risk/reward type of player because he isn’t as polished as some of the other top quarterbacks in this draft. The Bucs made some very solid picks throughout the draft, including defensive end Kyle Moore in the fourth round and wide receiver Sammie Stroughter in the final round.
Cleveland Browns: GRADE: B-
Alex Mack was a good pick at No. 21 and Mohamed Massaquoi was a very good pickup in the second round. I think fellow second-rounder David Veikune was a bit of a reach in that round, but not enough of one to seriously dent the Browns’ grade. They didn’t get a great receiver in Brian Robiskie in the second round, but he’s polished enough as a rookie that he could be a solid possession guy for this franchise.
Detroit Lions: GRADE: B-
Matthew Stafford was what this team needed, but fellow first-rounder Brandon Pettigrew was a reach at No. 21. Third-round pick DeAndre Levy was a little bit of a reach, but a good pick. Selecting Derrick Williams in the third round was a good move. The best late-round pick for this team was seventh-rounder Zach Follett out of California. The Lions should’ve gotten a left tackle at some point since that is an obvious need right now, particularly with their current quarterback situation.
Philadelphia Eagles: GRADE: B-
Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was a good pick, but he needs to work on his route running to be a consistent threat in the NFL. Running back LeSean McCoy was a good selection in the second round and so was tight end Cornelius Ingram in the fifth round. The fifth round was a good round for the Eagles, who also picked up cornerback Victor Harris and offensive tackle Fenuki Tupou.
Indianapolis Colts: GRADE: C+
Donald Brown is a good player but kind of a luxury pick, which isn’t a knock on it because running back Joseph Addai has had some injury issues as of late. Fili Moala and Jerraud Powers were taken a little high, though. Terrance Taylor is a good pick in the fourth round because he could jump into the Colts’ rotation.
Jacksonville Jaguars: GRADE: C+
I understand the Jaguars felt that offensive line was a need, but I felt picking Eben Britton that early in the second round was a reach, but not nearly as big of a reach as cornerback Derek Cox in the third round. The selections of Mike Thomas and Jarrett Dillard in the fourth and fifth rounds were good ones and I really like the seventh-round selections of Rashad Jennings and Tiquan Underwood. Honestly, the late-round selections are what saved the Jaguars’ grade.
Minnesota Vikings: GRADE: C+
If they can keep wide receiver Percy Harvin focused and maximize his potential, then taking him at No. 22 could end up being a good selection. The only problem is the fact that he has some character question marks surrounding him, but there’s no questioning his talent. Third-round selection Asher Allen is a good pick, inside linebacker Jasper Brinkley could be a good fit and seventh-rounder Jamarca Sanford is a good player.
Tennessee Titans: GRADE: C+
Wide receiver Kenny Britt was a good selection in the first round. Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks was a bit overhyped, but he wasn’t a bad reach at No. 62. I love the selection of tight end Jared Cook. Troy Kropog was a little bit of a reach in the fourth round, but he was a good player at Tulane.
Washington Redskins: GRADE: C+
Brian Orakpo fell into their laps and he gives them the pass-rushing presence they haven’t had since Dexter Manley. Kevin Barnes is a decent third-round pick. Robert Henson is a decent late-round pick at linebacker.
Carolina Panthers: GRADE: C
They gave up next year’s first-round pick to get Florida State defensive end Everette Brown, which I really don’t like. Brown is a fine player and could make an impact for this team, but I believe that a first-round pick is too steep a price to pay. None of the players they selected in this draft have great potential. Sherrod Martin and Corvey Irvin have the ability to be starters in this league and running back Mike Goodson could be a situational back, but none of the Panthers’ picks really stand out.
Denver Broncos: GRADE: C
Knowshon Moreno is a good running back and Robert Ayers has excellent ability. Alphonso Smith was one of my favorite defensive players to watch in college, but I don’t agree with trading a future No. 1 pick for the rights to pick him. Richard Quinn was selected a little too high for a one-dimensional blocking tight end. David Bruton is an OK player and so is Seth Olsen.
New Orleans Saints: GRADE: C
First-round selection Malcolm Jenkins is a good player. Fourth-round safety Chip Vaughn is a solid player and had some great workouts. He looks great on paper, as does fellow fourth-rounder Stanley Arnoux, the inside linebacker from Wake Forest. The only player out of the four the Saints selected who will be a difference-maker is Jenkins.
St. Louis Rams: GRADE: C
If I were the Rams, I would have taken Mark Sanchez at the No. 2 spot, but I do like offensive tackle Jason Smith. Inside linebacker James Laurinaitis was a good selection in the second round. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher would’ve gone higher if he had better speed. There were better quarterbacks available in the sixth round, when they took Keith Null.
San Diego Chargers: GRADE: C+
The selection of linebacker Larry English at No. 16 was a little high, but he fills a potential need for them and he’s a good player. Guards Louis Vasquez and Tyronne Green were good selections in the third and fourth rounds. Defensive tackle Vaughn Martin was a bit of a reach in the fourth round because he played in Canada against a lower level of competition. The late-round picks of running back Gartrell Johnson, cornerback Brandon Hughes, safety Kevin Ellison and wide receiver Demetrius Byrd were all good picks.
Kansas City Chiefs: GRADE: C-
Linebacker Tyson Jackson is a very good football player, but he was a reach at the No. 3 spot. This team focused on shoring up the defense early, and selecting defensive tackle Alex Magee in the third round will help. I do like the selection of offensive tackle Colin Brown in the fifth round, but the rest of the late-round picks didn’t really do anything for me. I saw a couple of reaches in those late rounds that definitely didn’t help the grade.
Miami Dolphins: GRADE: C-
Cornerback Vontae Davis is a risk/reward type of player. Pat White has to play receiver to have value where they picked him (No. 44 overall). Defensive back Sean Smith was a good second selection, but third-rounder Patrick Turner was a major reach. With the exception of safety Chris Clemons in the fifth round, the rest of the late-round picks weren’t very impressive.
Dallas Cowboys: GRADE: D
The Big D gets a D this year. They didn’t get a lot of top-end talent due in part to their not having a pick until the third round, but they then went out and reached on Jason Williams and Robert Brewster. Victor Butler is a decent pick, as is Brandon Williams, but I’m not enamored with any of their later picks. They got players that could help them in terms of depth, but no one who is going to really strengthen this football team.
Oakland Raiders: GRADE D
Oakland’s draft was a head-scratcher. The Raiders took wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey at No. 7 even though Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin were still on the board, but the biggest reach of their draft and of the entire draft was the second-round selection of safety Michael Mitchell. This kid was thought to be a seventh-round pick at best and possibly an undrafted free agent, and the Raiders pulled the ultimate reach by taking him in the second round.
I just want to say that my issues with those two picks have nothing to do with those players. Congrats to them for getting picked and obviously having the talent to make it to the NFL. My issue is that these weren’t good value picks for the organization. The Raiders could have gotten more value from the No. 7 pick and definitely more value from the No. 47 pick, and that’s why I believe they made a mistake. The only reason Oakland didn’t receive an F is because they did get some players.
Michael Lombardi, National Football Post/CBS Sportsline:
ARIZONA: I love Chris “Beanie” Wells, and for a team that really needs more juice in the backfield, this was a great pick. I suspect Edgerrin James and his $5-million salary might be moving on now. The Cards addressed some pressing needs in the secondary and along both lines. When picking where the Cards picked in each round, you have to have positional flexibility and stick with the board.
ATLANTA: Tony Gonzalez makes this draft look better, plus the Falcons get a good defensive tackle (Peria Jerry) in the first round. I’m not in love with safety William Moore as a coverage player, but in Mike Smith’s defense, he might have a role. If the Falcons can get Lawrence Sidbury’s talent to match his play, they’ll view this draft as exceptional.
BALTIMORE: One of my favorite drafts. The Ravens solved their need at right tackle, get a future left tackle in Michael Oher and add a very good corner in Lardarius Webb in the third. They added good players in each round. Watch out for Cedric Peerman from Virginia, their pick in the sixth.
BUFFALO: I know they needed a left tackle, but who could they have picked when they passed Oher in the first? The Bills have to configure their line the right way, but they need to add some inside pieces to help them work through the problem. They have work to do in the coming months.
CAROLINA: The future is always now in Carolina. Trading away next year’s one for a second was an interesting move, and if Everette Brown is the rusher they hope, then he was a steal. But I’m not sure on that one. Mike Goodson is a good back, and I think he might be a sleeper, but how does he get any carries in Carolina?
CHICAGO: As Tom Waddle, my NFL Network partner and radio host in Chi-town, tells me all the time, this draft is about Jay Cutler. And he is so right. But adding a talent like defensive tackle Jarron Gilbert to a very good defensive line coach in Rod Marinelli could be a great marriage.
CINCINNATI: The Bengals had a good day. As they always do, they stayed in each spot, and this year their picks seem very solid. DE Michael Johnson was killed by scouts for his perceived lack of toughness, but how many sons of a Marine do you know who aren’t tough? He might be a great pick for them.
CLEVELAND: When both Aaron Curry and Tyson Jackson went, the Browns had to move — and adding the Jets players does help their defense. Remember, they signed Abram Elam to an offer sheet this offseason, and he and Kenyon Coleman are both starters. Don’t count out Brett Ratliff as a real threat to be the starting quarterback.
DALLAS: Looks like a special teams and depth draft to me. If I were a pro guy in the NFL, I might want to watch the ‘Boys this summer and make sure I know all these picks before they play in the preseason. They can’t keep all of them.
DENVER: Never confuse hope for a plan, and the Broncos might be hoping their defense is going to be better. Hell, I hope they are, but I’m not in love with trading a one for a short corner unless his name is Darrell Green. I’m confused, to say the least, and will spend the next few weeks watching more tape to see if I can understand what they were doing. I love Robert Ayers and Knowshon Moreno, but after that, it was a hard one.
DETROIT: The goal was to get good before they get great, and this draft is a start. The Lions got bigger on the lines and were able to get some pieces as they rebuild their defense. This is going to take some time in Detroit.
GREEN BAY: Five of the Packers’ seven picks are offensive and defensive linemen (outside backers in the 3-4 are like lineman), so how can I not like this one? They addressed their needs in the most crucial areas, and it will be fun to watch these players develop.
HOUSTON: If I had to pick one draft that I was not excited about, this would be the one. But I might be too hard on my evaluation of Brian Cushing and Connor Barwin. I just don’t see how these two players can help a slow, non-pass-rushing defense get better. Time will tell, but this is the kind of draft that the Texans’ front office better have right or it might not improve their team in ’09 — and it might cost some people some jobs.
INDY: It made sense to me that the Colts picked a back, but I was thinking Beanie Wells, not Donald Brown. I like Brown, and he will help this team greatly. DT Terrance Taylor, their pick in the fourth, might surprise a few people with his power and balance. He gives them some much needed girth.
JACKSONVILLE: The Jags needed to fix their offensive line, and that’s what they did. Eugene Monroe gives them a left tackle who will be a star soon. This will be the first time the Jags have more athletes than brawlers in their line.
K.C.: The Chiefs have so many needs, but you have to factor in getting a starting quarterback. They’re like the Lions — they have to get good before they get great.
MIAMI: I think this draft is sneaky good. I Love Pat White and love the fact he will compete for a job. He’ll surprise people with his accuracy and talent. This draft was a classic size/speed draft, which is right up my alley.
MINNESOTA: It’s all about Percy Harvin. He’s the quick slot man the Vikings’ offense needs, and he can make plays with the ball in his hands. This is a great fit for them. Phil Loadholt is limited to right tackle only, but he’s better than Ryan Cook, and this might allow Cook to move to center, where he played some in college.
NEW ENGLAND: What can I say? The man is the best — and did you see his draft room? Six people; clearly he hates committees as much as I do. I e-mailed the president of another team during the draft and wrote, “Belichick is the best,” and he wrote back, “Without a doubt.” Ron Brace should be in Denver instead of a small corner. If you want to run a 3-4, you need a nose tackle, not a little corner. This draft for the Pats was all about the back end of the roster. Add in the fact they got two No. 2s in 2010, and it makes it even better.
NEW ORLEANS: I think Malcolm Jenkins is really good, and if Jon “Love You Bro” Gruden (he was great on the NFL Network all weekend; he knows the league inside and out and he can blend the players into the scheme) is right about Pierre Thomas as the main back, then they have all their needs fixed. But I’m not buying that one. If Jenkins can cover inside as well as I think he can, he’s going to really help them.
NEW YORK GIANTS: I’m not in love with Hakeem Nicks, but I always love the Giants’ draft. If there was one team that always had a direct hit on players I liked, it was the Giants. They’re a size-speed team and they just keep fixing the lines. The Giants and Pats had the best offseasons, and this draft will be a redshirt draft for them with the exception of Nicks.
NEW YORK JETS: Yahoo Dave, I loved it. They went quality over quantity and now have a quarterback who gives them a chance to win. RB Shonn Greene is a big-time player who will help right away. I have never met a more impressive person than Mark Sanchez; he’s going to be great. GM Mike Tannenbaum did a great job.
OAKLAND: What can I say? I’d love to say I told you so, but I’m not that kind of guy — and to everyone who thinks I bash the Raiders because I’m bitter, go get a clue. I am not bitter, I am like many former players and employees (I received over 150 texts and e-mails from players and former employees after the pick) who wanted to help the owner win — but he only wants to win his way. Someone once said, “It’s not just win baby, it’s win my way baby,” and this draft is his way. Enjoy it, Raiders fans.
PHILADELPHIA: I love Jason Peters, and my man Waddle has a man crush on Jeremy Maclin, but how many nickel backs can Andy Reid collect? Who’s going to convert third and one? Lorenzo Booker is available now, I bet. Getting Peters is the Eagles’ biggest move yet, and if he plays at a high level, he can make all the difference.
PITTSBURGH: Mike Tomlin is my favorite coach, for sure. We had him on the Network, and he had me pumped up to play. What was more impressive than his motivational talks were his understanding of player development and what his coaching staff must do to make these players help the Steelers. No matter who the Steelers picked, they had a great draft because Tomlin will demand it from the players.
SAN DIEGO: The Chargers wanted Larry English all the way and needed a rusher. So for all my thinking they might take a back, it was never the case. They wanted English, and he’s a good fit for them. The first four picks were offensive and defensive linemen, and that is a great start to any draft.
SAN FRANCISCO: It’s all about toughness here, and this draft reflects it. How lucky are they that they got the best receiver in the draft? If I were the 49ers, I’d bring in Jerry Rice and make sure Michael Crabtree spends some time with him and understands the meaning of being a 49er wideout.
SEATTLE: The Seahawks went with a very good player in Aaron Curry, and the hope here is that he can bring some heat as a blitzer. GM Tim Ruskell must have seen Derrick Brooks with this pick.
ST. LOUIS: Another team that needs to get good before it can get great. I like Jason Smith, and they needed a left tackle. Alex Barron has to be the happiest guy in the NFL now.
TAMPA BAY: The Bucs wanted a new face for the franchise, and this is the third new coach getting a new quarterback, which is a nice way to begin your head coaching career. Besides QB Josh Freeman, they added some nice pieces, as they’re a team in a slight transition of schemes. Add Kellen Winslow to their draft and it looks great.
TENNESSEE: Another sneaky good one, and for me, Sen’Derrick Marks in the second is a huge pick for the Titans. He’ll be a star, and Jared Cook in the third allows them to keep using Bo Scaife as the move man. They know how to pick good players in Tennessee. This might not be a sexy draft, but for a good team, it’s a good draft.
WASHINGTON: I’m not a Brian Orakpo fan, and I’ll be watching all season to see if my evaluation is right. He better get five sacks playing next to Albert Haynesworth.
Ross Tucker, SI:
Baltimore Ravens: The Wizard of Oz, GM Ozzie Newsome, does it again by entering the draft with no glaring needs and getting tremendous value at every selection. Mississippi tackle Michael Oher has all the physical tools to be a good starter in the NFL and they got him relatively late in the first round while Utah’s Paul Kruger (an all-day sucker, which is football terminology for playing hard every snap) will quickly fit in on the Ravens’ intimidating defense. The rest of Newsome’s haul will provide depth and help on special teams.
Cincinnati Bengals: Marvin Lewis is tired of trying to play finesse football in the black and blue division. Instead of running from the bullies in the schoolyard in Baltimore and Pittsburgh, the Bengals are going to hit them in the mouth with Alabama tackle Andre Smith and USC linebacker Rey Maualuga. Smith is the best run-blocking offensive lineman by far and Maualuga is a vicious tackler, so they will both fit in well in the AFC North. Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson and Missouri tight end Chase Coffman could be steals. Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs may start as a rookie.
Philadelphia Eagles: They got arguably the best receiver in the draft, Jeremy Maclin, at No. 19 and the most elusive and pure runner, LeSean McCoy, at No. 53. The Eagles also got another receiving threat in sleeper tight end Cornelius Ingram from Florida. Oh, and did I mention they got the most talented left tackle in the league in Jason Peters via trade and a guy nicknamed “Macho” (Victor Harris)? You gotta love it.
Green Bay Packers: The Packers got the best defensive tackle in the draft in B.J. Raji, who is stout enough to play nose guard and athletic enough to line up over the offensive tackle in Dom Capers’ new defense. Speaking of positional versatility, the Packers also got the best combo pass rusher-pass defender available at the outside backer position in Clay Matthews. Eastern Michigan’s T.J. Lang and South Carolina’s Jamon Meredith will provide further competition to an offensive line that took a step back last year.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys traded down and drafted a bunch of players who won’t even make their roster. What is the point of that? Out of their 12 picks, maybe two of them will contribute in 2009. Not good.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs traded up two spots for Josh Freeman, but who else wanted him? I highly doubt Denver would have taken him at 18. The Bucs probably could have traded down and still landed him. Freeman will take at least a year or two to develop, so new head coach Raheem Morris had better have some job security for a team that is in full-blown rebuilding mode. The Bucs still need a defensive tackle, though I am sure they hope Roy Miller from Texas can fill that role.
Didn’t Love It Or Hate It
Miami Dolphins: Bill Parcells likes big people at every position and believes might makes right in the NFL. He got the biggest corner in the draft in Utah’s Sean Smith and just about the biggest wideout in USC’s Patrick Turner. Those picks came after the Dolphins got the most talented cornerback available in the draft in Illinois’ Vontae Davis, who needs to overcome maturity issues. The Dolphins also got the ideal Wildcat candidate in West Virginia’s Pat White and a solid but not spectacular receiver in Ohio State’s Brian Hartline.
Houston Texans: The Texans needed to get better and more versatile on the defensive side of the ball and USC’s Brian Cushing and Cincinnati’s Connor Barwin certainly fill the bill as almost mirror image players that can do a lot of things flanking DeMeco Ryans. Alabama interior lineman Antoine Caldwell was a value pick and provides depth which was needed up front. Local product James Casey drives down the street from Rice to start his pro career and can play a number of positions for the dynamic Texans offense.
Minnesota Vikings: Percy Harvin will make a ton of plays for the Vikings as long as he can stay on the field. Phil Loadholt is the big hammer the Vikes wanted to get at right tackle. Asher Allen from Georgia is the corner they sorely needed.
Carolina Panthers: The Panthers give up next year’s first rounder for the second year in a row, but it doesn’t matter because they got the pass-rusher they desperately needed opposite Julius Peppers in Everette Brown, a guy who many people thought could have gone in the top 15. Georgia defensive tackle Corvey Irvin will contribute in the rotation as a rookie. Oklahoma offensive guard Duke Robinson is a big boy who needs to play with better technique and consistency. Sounds a lot like Jeff Otah last year, and that worked out pretty well for John Fox and company.
New Orleans Saints: The Saints got the best player at their biggest position of need over the past couple of years in Ohio State defensive back Malcolm Jenkins. They would have liked to have gotten an outside linebacker or a power running back, but they would rather have Jeremy Shockey and Jonathan Vilma, the players they traded for the picks.
You’re Gonna Do What?
Oakland Raiders: I would pay money to get a copy of the Raiders draft board. Seriously. First-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey is fast but has trouble catching the ball at times, which is kind of a problem when you are trying to make your living as an NFL receiver. Mike Mitchell had a good pro day, which, of course, makes him a second-round pick. Then the Raiders reached (what else is new) for Wisconsin defensive end Matt Shaughnessy. Sorry, Raiders fans, but it does not look like there is any light at the end of the black tunnel.
New York Jets: Everyone else loves what the Jets did. Not me. It is hard for me to imagine USC quarterback Mark Sanchez being better as a rookie than fourth-year vet Kellen Clemens. The move had as much to do with sparking excitement among the fanbase and making a big splash as it did with football. The pressure on Sanchez will be huge for a team whose roster is ready to win now. Drafting only three players means the team is looking to get into the postseason. Having one of them be a quarterback makes that unlikely, despite what Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan did last year. Moving up to get Iowa running back Shonn Greene gives the Jets some insurance in case Thomas Jones continues to hold out, but where is the receiver that they so desperately need opposite Jerricho Cotchery?
Need More Information
Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks elected to pass on a quarterback and a left tackle in order to take the best defensive player and quite possibly the best overall player in the draft in Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry. He will be a difference maker immediately. Versatile offensive lineman Max Unger from Oregon and former walk-on turned all-time leading receiver Deon Butler from Penn State should have roles to fill as well for new head coach Jim Mora.
Chicago Bears: If quarterback Jay Cutler lives up to expectations, the rest of this draft is meaningless for Chicago. Still, Jerry Angelo gathered up several solid players that will help the Bears in 2009. San Jose State defensive end Jarron Gilbert can jump out of a pool — even though I have no idea what that means in terms of football. Ohio State linebacker Marcus Freeman and Vanderbilt defensive back D.J. Moore are solid players from power conferences who could see the field early. The Bears still need a receiver who can help them this year.
Buffalo Bills: The Bills batted .500 in this draft, which is good in baseball but bad in football. They needed a pass rusher and a left tackle in this draft but got only one by taking the player with the best first step in this year’s class, Penn State’s Aaron Maybin. Maybin will be a situational pass rusher as a rookie and give Buffalo an option opposite Aaron Schobel. Louisville’s Eric Wood and Oregon State’s Andy Levitre were two of the top rated interior offensive linemen available and can help fortify the inside, but it remains to be seen whether veterans Kirk Chambers, Langston Walker and Demetrius Bell can protect Trent Edwards on the flanks in some combination. Southern Mississippi tight end Shawn Nelson gives them the speed threat at tight end they were sorely lacking.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Jack Del Rio was tired of drafting guys who didn’t pan out. That, and he wanted to get back to his meat and potatoes philosophy. That meant getting more physical up front. The Jags got amazing value in picking offensive tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton much lower than most people anticipated. Terrance Knighton is the big body that was needed next to John Henderson, and Jacksonville waited until later to get receivers like Mike Thomas and Jarrett Dillard after their negative experiences with Matt Jones and Reggie Williams early in previous drafts.
Denver Broncos: The Broncos defense was horrible last year, so, of course, their first pick would be a … running back? Fortunately for Josh McDaniels, they rallied with the next two picks of Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers and Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith, both of whom will play as rookies. Then the Broncos took Texas Tech defensive back Darcel McBath and North Carolina tight end Richard Quinn way earlier than most people would have anticipated, so it was back to the head-scratching for the new regime.
New York Giants: The G-men got a lot of value in players like Virginia’s Clint Sintim and UConn’s William Beatty, but if they lose in the playoffs again because Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden aren’t able to contribute as rookies this will be a draft that is forever known as the trade that didn’t happen. You can’t tell me Nicks and Barden will be better than Anquan Boldin or Braylon Edwards the next two years. By the time the rookies develop, the window on the Giants’ title hopes might be closed.
Detroit Lions: This draft will always hinge on whether Matthew Stafford earns the exorbitant money he is receiving. To his credit, he has handled the process fantastically up to this point. Now he just needs to play well. Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew and Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas are the most physical players at their position and fit what Jim Schwartz is trying to do in the Motor City.
Steady As She Goes
New England Patriots: I feel like I have seen this draft before because it seems eerily similar to what the Patriots did last year, and every other year that I can remember for that matter. They fortified the back end with Oregon’s Patrick Chung and UConn’s Darius Butler. They continued to draft for depth and competition on the offensive line by collecting a bunch of blue collar-types in Houston’s Sebastian Vollmer, Penn State’s Rich Ohrnberger and Louisville’s George Bussey. Boston College’s Ron Brace was the best pure nose guard available and North Carolina receiver Brandon Tate could end up being a steal if he can overcome injury and off-field issues.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The fans in the Steel City like ‘em strong and tough and that is exactly what they got with their first two picks in Missouri defensive tackle Ziggy Hood and Wisconsin guard Kraig Urbik. They needed some depth up front and they got that in Hood and Urbik. The Steelers also landed the fastest wide receiver in the draft, Mississippi’s Mike Wallace. Cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett will compete for the nickel spot and fill the void left by Bryant McFadden’s departure to Arizona.
Indianapolis Colts: Bill Polian really can’t help himself when it comes to getting talented skill players in round one, but he got a prototypical Colt in intelligent do-it-all running back Donald Brown from UConn. Polian then addressed their most glaring need by getting big space eaters in USC defensive tackle Fili Moala and Michigan nose guard Terrance Taylor. BYU wide receiver Austin Collie has Colt written all over him and could be running routes from the slot as a rookie if he can grasp the complicated scheme that Indy runs.
Tennessee Titans: Wide receiver Kenny Britt and tight end Jared Cook give the Titans more speed and options for Kerry Collins on the outside. The Titans got another young body on the defensive line in Sen’Derrick Marks, who they will need to get to play hard on every snap. Javon Ringer, Troy Kopog and the rest of the Titans picks will be counted on to provide depth on a team disappointed by its early playoff exit.
Atlanta Falcons: Thomas Dimitroff knows exactly what he is doing. He traded for Tony Gonzalez and filled the only real need on offense before sinking his teeth into the other side of the ball. Peria Jerry is a rolling bucket of butcher knives and plays his tail off every play, which fits what Mike Smith and the Falcons are trying to do. William Moore injects some youth and physicality into the secondary, and look out for sleeper defensive end Lawrence Sidbury, who dominated at the FCS level for the Richmond Spiders.
Arizona Cardinals: Ken Whisenhunt had a solid draft again, getting power running back Chris “Beanie” Wells from Ohio State in the first round. Cody Brown from Connecticut fits the mold of the Steelers outside linebackers that Whisenhunt remembers from his time in Pittsburgh. Rashad Johnson from Alabama and small-school prospect Gregory Toler will fight for playing time in the secondary as rookie.
Shrug Of The Shoulders
St. Louis Rams: The Rams let the draft come to them and it worked out well as they filled three needs in the first three rounds. Baylor tackle Jason Smith was number one at his position on most boards because he is a more physical finisher than Eugene Monroe. James Laurinaitis was a three-time All-American at Ohio State and noted student of the game. He’ll be a team leader in the NFL. Iowa cornerback Bradley Fletcher had the size-speed combo that Rams GM Billy Devaney was looking for at that position.
Cleveland Browns: Eric Mangini and George Kokinis did a ton of business in stockpiling players that fit what they are looking to do in Cleveland, starting by trading down and getting a trio of former Jets. Georgia’s Mohammed Massaquoi and Ohio State’s Brian Robiskie are the anti-divas at wide receiver who could both become solid pros. Cal center Alex Mack was the best interior lineman in the draft, and his passion for the game will wear off on his fellow linemates.
Washington Redskins: The Skins swung and missed on Mark Sanchez, but that may be a blessing in disguise. Brian Orakpo looks like Tarzan but too often plays like Jane, and Washington defensive coordinator Greg Blache will be all over him in order to get maximum effort. Maryland corner Kevin Barnes should help too, but I certainly hope they don’t picture former top-five pick Mike Williams being the answer at right tackle after signing him Friday night.
San Diego Chargers: It is hard to question A.J. Smith when it comes to outside linebackers, so I won’t with his decision to take the super-productive Larry English from Northern Illinois. Texas Tech’s Louis Vasquez is a mauler who benched 225 pounds 39 times at the combine and will compete for the starting right guard spot vacated when Mike Goff was not re-signed. Sleeper alert is in effect with defensive tackle Vaughn Martin from Canadian powerhouse Western Ontario.
Kansas City Chiefs: New Chiefs GM Scott Pioli cares only about good football players, thank you, and doesn’t care if they lack the flash that some fans might be seeking. Tyson Jackson is a big defensive end with great hands in the Richard Seymour mold and will be a force right away and will be joined on the defensive line by Purdue’s Alex Magee. Donald Washington probably should have stayed at Ohio State but his physical ability is unquestioned and he will compete in an already youthful Chiefs defensive backfield.
San Francisco 49ers: Mike Singletary had to be smiling from ear to ear when Michael Crabtree fell into his lap at No. 10, giving the Niners the elite playmaker they have been seeking for a long time. Alabama running back Glen Coffee will lessen the load for Frank Gore as they run behind the second-best blocking tight end in the draft in Fresno State’s Bear Pascoe. Pitt linebacker Scott McKillop is a throwback who makes tackles all over the field. Ball State quarterback Nate Davis gives San Francisco a physically gifted quarterback who has some obstacles to overcome to become an NFL caliber passer.
Pete Brisco, SI again:
Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com/CBS SportsLine
Buffalo Bills: B
The Bills struck gold with the selection of former Penn State star Paul Posluszny two years ago and went to the well again with pass rusher Aaron Maybin in the first round. He, versatile offensive linemen Eric Wood and Andy Levitre and fourth-round tight end Shawn Nelson round should provide immediate help. The Bills cornered the market on tough defensive backs on the second day, selecting Nic Harris, Cary Harris and Ellis Lankster — each of whom could surprise in the NFL, despite less than preferred speed. Considering the loss of Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jason Peters, however, it was a surprise to see the Bills not take advantage of a strong offensive tackle class.
Miami Dolphins: B-
First-round pick Vontae Davis improves the physicality of the defensive backfield, and third-rounder Patrick Turner gives the team the size Bill Parcells loves at receiver. Perhaps the most immediate impact, however, will come from second-round pick Patrick White, whose running and passing ability will give the Dolphins infinitely more options out of their version of the Wildcat offense. The Dolphins had hoped to improve the depth behind pass rushers Joey Porter and Matt Roth, but with higher-ranked players at other positions on the board, the Dolphins went elsewhere, leaving them potentially vulnerable should injuries occur to their best pass rushers.
New England Patriots: B+
No one gets better value on draft day than the Patriots, as they masterfully slip down the board, pick up extra picks and then add players who should have been taken earlier. The most immediate impact players for the Patriots from this draft will be back-seven defenders Patrick Chung, Darius Butler and linebacker Tyrone McKenzie. Butler might be the best cover corner in this draft, and Chung and McKenzie are among the year’s surest open-field tacklers.
New York Jets: B
The Jets made the boldest move of the draft with their aggressive trade up for Mark Sanchez. Don’t be surprised if the 16-game collegiate starter is on the field opening day for the Jets; Sanchez certainly offers more talent than the Jets’ current options at the position. And coach Rex Ryan is likely particularly comfortable with the idea of a rookie quarterback considering the success Joe Flacco had with Baltimore last season. Former Iowa runner Shonn Greene also could provide an immediate impact, especially if the Jets and their incumbent starter, Thomas Jones, continue to bicker over his contract. While neither brings real tangible concerns, the Jets are banking on essentially two one-year-wonders in Sanchez and Greene. That, in itself, is a concern.
Baltimore Ravens: B
The Ravens’ 2009 draft class was far from flashy, but in selecting offensive tackle Michael Oher, a potential top 10 talent, with the 23rd pick, general manager Ozzie Newsome once again demonstrated his ability to capitalize on talented prospects slipping on draft day. Utah pass rusher Paul Kruger is a Jarrett Johnson clone. The Ravens got another falling talent in the fifth with the selection of Jason Phillips, who dropped to this point due only to a torn meniscus. While the Ravens might have become even more stout via the draft, they failed to address the need for speed and playmaking ability at receiver — a decision that could hinder quarterback Joe Flacco’s development.
Cincinnati Bengals: A
While the Bengals might ultimately question their decision to ignore receiver and running back early, in terms of value and specific needs filled, no team is a bigger winner in this draft. To compete in the ultra-physical AFC North, the Bengals had to get tougher and certainly did so in this draft, adding the most physical offensive lineman in Andre Smith in the first round, the most physical inside linebacker in Rey Maualuga in the second and starting caliber talents at tight end (Chase Coffman), center (Jon Luigs) and punter (Kevin Huber) on the second day. Considering they waited until the third round to gamble on Michael Johnson — who could end up being the best pass rusher from this draft — the Bengals deserve lofty praise for this draft class. Only the character concerns of their top two picks lowers their grade from an A+ to an A.
Cleveland Browns: B
The Browns created plenty of intrigue, as well as a collection of middle-round picks, by trading down three times in the first round before selecting Cal center Alex Mack with the 21st selection. Mack’s toughness and versatility will come in handy in the ultra-physical AFC North, and the team was wise to add depth — and perhaps open the door for the departure of Braylon Edwards — with the selection of Brian Robiskie and Mohammed Massaquoi in the second round. The Browns could get immediate impact out of underrated linebackers David Veikune and Kaluka Maiava, but watch out for a pair of sixth-rounders — San Jose State cornerback Coye Francies and Clemson running back James Davis — to surprise.
Pittsburgh Steelers: B
The Steelers won the Super Bowl despite allowing 49 sacks last season — a total topped only by Detroit, San Francisco and Cincinnati. The focus of the Steelers’ draft was understandably on the lines, with the selection of interior blockers Kraig Urbik and underrated center A.Q. Shipley late. The focus by most will be first-round pick Evander “Ziggy” Hood, who certainly gives the Steelers some much-needed youth along a veteran defensive line, but he could struggle for playing time as a rookie. Third-round picks Mike Wallace and Keenan Lewis could see playing time as rookies.
Houston Texas: B-
The Texans focused on pass rushers, safeties and tight ends in the 2009 draft, devoting multiple selections to each over the weekend. Versatility was also key, as the Texans selected two of the more adaptable athletes of the draft in Connor Barwin and James Casey. Outside linebacker Brian Cushing should make the most immediate impact, though the athletic Barwin could take advantage of the blocking devoted to Houston’s front four. New Mexico cornerback Glover Quinn could make the transition to free safety for the Texans. Considering the presence of Owen Daniels, it was a surprise to see the Texans take Casey, as well as Anthony Hill. With much of their pre-draft focus on adding a bigger running back to complement Steve Slaton, the lack of any help at this position could come back to haunt the Texans should the diminutive back struggle through a sophomore slump.
Indianapolis Colts: B
If Colts general manager Bill Polian was worried about the defense with the retirement of coach Tony Dungy, he certainly didn’t appear so during draft weekend, devoting most of his attention to the offensive side of the ball. First-round running back Donald Brown will push Joseph Addai, and fourth-round wideout Austin Collie is a Brandon Stokley clone. The Colts did address their need for cornerback and defensive line depth with middle-rounders Jerraud Powers and Terrance Taylor, but otherwise elected to put their success in the reliable hands of Peyton Manning.
Jacksonville Jaguars: B
Injuries ravaged the Jaguars offensive line in 2008, but the team did a great deal to fix the problem on the first day of the draft, adding tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton. Each has the size, strength and versatility to plug in at the four exterior positions and provides the club with a lot of flexibility. Pessimists will argue that Jacksonville waited too long to address its need for youth at receiver, but in middle-round prospects Mike Thomas and Jarrett Dillard, the team added talents capable of surprising.
Tennessee Titans: B
The Titans struck gold last year with the selection of the multi-dimensional Chris Johnson in the first round, and are hopeful that wide receiver Kenny Britt can have a similar immediate impact in 2009. Britt is one of the few Tennessee rookies likely to compete for a starting position next year, though the Titans did a nice job of adding depth along both lines, tight end, linebacker and cornerback throughout the rest of the draft. The athletic Sen’Derrick Marks could help fill the hole left by Albert Haynesworth inside. Fourth-round picks Gerald McRath and Troy Kropog might not help much as rookies but will prove valuable additions in time.
Denver Broncos: D
Without Mike Shanahan’s magic touch for finding late-round running backs or a certain franchise quarterback in which to build their offense around, the Broncos shifted their attention to a new star runner with Knowshon Moreno in the first round. Selecting pass rusher Robert Ayers a few picks later gave the team a rush linebacker to build their 3-4 defense around. From there, however, a series of solid defensive backs (Alphonso Smith, Darcel McBath, David Bruton) was lost a bit in a shuffle of trades with Seattle that essentially gave the Broncos third- and fourth-round picks in a weak 2009 draft for a first-round pick in next year’s draft. The decision is one of several in a mystifying offseason in Denver.
Kansas City Chiefs: C-
General manager Scott Pioli began the laborious process of turning around a franchise that finished 2-14 in 2008 and using a 4-3 defense with defensive end Tyson Jackson with the third overall pick. The pick wasn’t flashy, but Jackson, along with Alex Magee, should help the Chiefs in their transition to the new scheme. With questions surrounding the ability of their current linebackers to function well in the new scheme, it was surprising Pioli didn’t use a single draft selection on the position. Many of the Chiefs’ picks were, instead, developmental prospects. In fact, Mr. Irrelevant, kicker Ryan Succop, could be one of the few new Chiefs to have a significant immediate impact as a rookie.
Oakland Raiders: D
The 2009 draft provided ample ammunition for those who argue the game has passed Al Davis by. The Raiders consistently reached on draft day, spending the seventh overall pick on a size/speed project in Darrius Heyward-Bey and the 47th overall pick on relative unknown safety Michael Mitchell, who was not among the 300-plus players invited to the combine. Oakland’s best value pick might be former Florida wideout Louis Murphy, who himself is more of a track star than football player. The Raiders’ struggles defending the run is unlikely to improve in 2009 with the addition of a trio of defensive ends in Matt Shaughnessy, Slade Norton and Stryker Sulak who average less than 250 pounds.
San Diego Chargers: C+
With their vaunted pass rush all but disappearing with the injury to Shawne Merriman last year, the Chargers were wise to add one of the more productive sack-artists in the draft in Larry English early, even if they did reach for him a bit with the 16th overall pick. The Chargers also filled needs along the interior of the offensive line with Louis Vasquez and Tyronne Green and took one of the more intriguing developmental prospects of the draft in Western Ontario’s Vaughn Martin, a Canadian prospect who at 330 pounds ran a 4.96 40-yard dash and lifted 225 pounds 44 times. Late-rounders Brandon Hughes, Kevin Ellison and Demetrius Byrd are legit NFL talents who could surprise.
Dallas Cowboys: C
With their first-round pick already invested in wide receiver Roy Williams, the Cowboys weren’t scheduled to be part of the action until late in the second round — and then elected to trade out of that spot. With their first pick the 69th overall, the Cowboys focused on the defensive side of the ball, adding pass-rushing specialists Victor Butler and Brandon Williams and one of the top non-Combine prospects in the draft, Western Illinois linebacker Jason Williams, in the middle rounds. The Cowboys kept the most intriguing developmental quarterback in the draft in-state with the selection of Texas A&M’s Stephen McGee, and got exceptional value in the seventh round with cornerback Mike Mickens.
New York Giants: A+
The Giants’ 2009 class ranks right there with the Cincinnati Bengals’ for the year’s top draft. Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden give the club size and physicality at wide receiver to replace Plaxico Buress, and the Giants also successfully addressed concerns at offensive tackle with William Beatty and linebacker with Clint Sintim. With raw talent to work with in skill position players Rhett Bomar, Travis Beckum and Andre Brown in the middle rounds, it is hard to find a fault in the Giants’ work this past weekend.
Philadelphia Eagles: A-
Despite the presence of dynamic playmakers Brian Westbrook and DeSean Jackson, the Eagles clearly made adding weapons a focus on draft day. It could pay off beautifully with Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, Cornelius Ingram and Brandon Gibson all capable of being NFL standouts. The trade for left tackle Jason Peters earlier in the week makes Philadelphia’s draft as impressive as any — though the Eagles had an early advantage having entered the process with two first-round picks because due to a trade with Carolina last year.
Washington Redskins: C
With only two picks within the first 157 overall, the Redskins didn’t have much ammunition, so they were diligent in not squandering their opportunities. Brian Orakpo was more decorated than a wedding cake while with the Texas Longhorns and will provide an outside rush to go along with big free-agent addition Albert Haynesworth. Cornerback Kevin Barnes has the physical tools to be a starter early in his career. Seventh-round pick Marko Mitchell could surprise.
Chicago Bears: B
With the trade for franchise quarterback Jay Cutler, the Bears could have taken a pass on this entire draft and still earned a passing grade. As it stands, the Bears did a fine job, adding versatile defenders Jarron Gilbert, D.J. Moore and Marcus Freeman, among others. The Bears also added plenty of receivers to take advantage of Cutler’s great arm. The decision not to fortify their offensive line and instead rely on Orlando Pace remaining healthy could be a gamble Chicago ultimately loses.
Detroit Lions: B
With his monster arm, sparkling 3-0 record in bowl games and experience in a pro-style offense, Matt Stafford was the right pick for the Lions to begin the 2009 draft. The addition of Brandon Pettigrew adds a degree of physicality to the offense and provides the young passer with a security blanket in the middle. Safety Louis Delmas also filled a huge area of need for the Lions, providing the club with an instinctive, physical playmaker in the defensive backfield. Unfortunately, the Lions seemed to put all of their emphasis on the first day, ending the weekend with a bit of whimper with a series of ho-hum selections.
Green Bay Packers: B+
To make the transition to a 3-4 defense the Packers needed significant help, and they got in the form of nose guard B.J. Raji and outside linebacker Clay Matthews Jr. Each should be immediate starters for the Packers. Green Bay also improved the overall athleticism and versatility of its offensive line with the selections of T.J. Lang and Jamon Meredith in the middle rounds. Outside linebacker Brad Jones could surprise as a seventh-round pick if given time.
Minnesota Vikings: A-
The Vikings had only five picks, but no team did better with less. The selection of wideout Percy Harvin is not without obvious risk, but his speed and agility give the Vikings a versatile and dynamic weapon. Phil Loadholt makes the team stouter immediately at right tackle and was viewed as a first-round talent by many clubs. A trio of SEC defenders in Asher Allen, Jasper Brinkley and Jamarca Sanford could all make the final roster and contribute — at least on special teams — as rookies.
Atlanta Falcons: B
The Falcons informed the media their philosophy was to draft for need rather than best player available, and in selecting defenders with seven of their eight picks, it was clear they felt their defense needed the emphasis. Few clubs can boast a more productive trio of defensive linemen drafted than Peria Jerry, Lawrence Sidbury Jr. and Vance Walker. Watch for defensive backs William Moore and Christopher Owens to provide a much-needed degree of physicality to the Falcons secondary early in their careers.
Carolina Panthers: B
The Panthers proved that a good draft can be had despite not having a first-round pick — you just have to trade next year’s again — with a focus on the lines throughout the early, middle and late portions of the 2009 draft. Carolina needed to protect itself against a possible holdout from Julius Peppers and did so, adding the explosive Everette Brown in the second round — an athlete many teams had projected as a first-round prospect. Versatile defensive back Sherrod Martin can line up anywhere in the secondary, and the club continued its penchant for adding young, athletic defensive backs late in the draft with Captain Munnerlyn in the seventh. Watch out for fifth-rounder Duke Robinson to make an impact as a dominating drive blocker after a stunning fall on draft weekend.
New Orleans Saints: C+
With only four picks to work with, the Saints got the safest defensive back in the draft in the first round with Malcolm Jenkins. Capable of playing cornerback or safety, Jenkins instantly improves New Orleans’ secondary. The Saints added two Wake Forest standouts in Chip Vaughn and Stanley Arnoux in the middle rounds, though each could struggle to find roles with questions about their ability in coverage.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: C
New coach Raheem Morris is familiar with quarterback Josh Freeman from their time together at Kansas State, and made like his predecessor Jon Gruden in adding yet another quarterback to the roster. Freeman’s rare combination of size and arm strength has led some to compare him to Daunte Culpepper. The Bucs will likely get more immediate impact out of defensive linemen Roy Miller and Kyle Moore, but this draft will ultimately be graded on how well Freeman is able to acclimate to the speed of the NFL.
Arizona Cardinals: C
Beanie Wells has the combination of size, power and speed to be the best back of this draft, but he could struggle in an offense based more on passing the ball than lining up in the I-formation and pounding it down the defense’s throat. The Cardinals might be shifting to more of that style of offense, however, considering the physical offensive linemen they added in Herman Johnson and Trevor Canfield. Pass rushers Cody Brown and Will Davis give the club much needed youth on the outside. Safety Rashad Johnson might be the most cerebral defender in the draft, but is limited athletically.
St. Louis Rams: B-
Like the Detroit Lions, the Rams started off strong, gaining talent at the critical left tackle, middle linebacker and safety positions early with Jason Smith, James Laurinaitis and Bradley Fletcher. As the draft went on, however, the Rams’ choices were increasingly odd. Dorell Scott could be a versatile swingman on the defensive line, but there were better options at the skill positions late than the Rams received with Brooks Foster, Keith Null and Chris Ogbonnaya.
San Francisco 49ers: A+
While everyone will rightfully focus on the selection of wideout Michael Crabtree with their first selection, the 49ers’ ability to add a first-round pick in next year’s draft (from Carolina), as well as fill holes at essentially every position, was the key to their draft. For a young team like this, depth is often the critical missing element toward turning a struggling team into a division winner. The 49ers added many of the pieces in 2009 to accomplish that goal with underrated talents at running back (Glen Coffee), linebacker (Scott McKillop), safety (Curtis Taylor) and defensive line (Ricky Jean-Francois). A young quarterback with legitimate talent in Nate Davis and a blocking specialist to pair with Vernon Davis in Bear Pascoe only made this draft that much more impressive.
Seattle Seahawks: A
Like their divisional neighbors to the south, the Seahawks were able to wrestle away a future first-round pick (from Denver) and still fulfill their greatest areas of concern. The headlining pick is outside linebacker Aaron Curry, who fills a huge area of need following the trade of Julian Peterson and the draft-weekend decision to take the franchise tag off linebacker Leroy Hill. The addition of the versatile Max Unger and speedy receiver/returner Deon Butler filled Seattle’s three biggest needs seamlessly. Don’t be surprised if at least one of the club’s seventh-round picks (safety Courtney Greene, defensive end/linebacker Nick Reed and tight end Cameron Morrah) makes this club.