Monday, April 27, 2009

NFL Draft In Review: Winners, Losers & Those In Between

New Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford meets and greets NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being announced as the first overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft Saturday afternoon at Radio City Music Hall in New York. (Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated)
It's been less than 24 hours since the announcement of this year's Mr. Irrelevant, (Kicker Ryan Succop, who was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs) which means that it is now time to attempt to make some sense of this latest two=day extravaganza by analyzing who was the best and/or worst, as well as figure out who was right in the middle.
After the remaining five rounds went into the books during Day 2 yesterday, the Cincinnati Bengals emerged as the biggest winners with the third-round selections of Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson (a mid-to-late first-round pick in most mock drafts that gives Cincinnati its replacement for Justin Smith, who signed with the 49ers last year) and Missouri tight end Chase Coffman, who was one of the best available at his position and gives Carson Palmer another weapon that will help offset the loss of T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Tennessee also came away winners, as the Titans grabbed another potential first-rounder in Auburn's Sen'Derrick Marks at the end of the second round, as well as Michigan State's Javon Ringer in the fifth round, a running back that can be compared to Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook given his all-purpose potential.
Considering that two of their three picks were used to take a player that could have gone in the second round, (Iowa running back Shonn Greene) and the latest player to assume the title of franchise quarterback, (USC's Mark Sanchez) it would be hard to categorize the New York Jets as losers in this year's draft. However, since Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum nearly gave up his whole draft to take Sanchez in the fifth overall spot and Greene in the first pick of Day 2, (65th overall in the third round) Gang Green lost in the long run, just like the New Orleans Saints did a decade ago when they traded their whole draft to the Washington Redskins to take Ricky Williams in 1999. Ironically, Williams was drafted fifth overall, just like Mark Sanchez was two days ago.
Other winners included the San Francisco 49ers, who in addition to having Michael Crabtree fall into their lap at the No. 10 spot, walked away with Ball State's Nate Davis in the fifth round. (Davis was a first-round pick before the combine) Even though their Day 2 was average at best, the Philadelphia Eagles emerged as a winner thanks to their stellar first day, stealing Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin at No. 19 and Pittsburgh running back LeSean McCoy, considered to be a fringe first-rounder to some, at No. 51 overall in the second round.
With great success comes great failure, and even though no one failed miserably in this year's draft, there were notable reaches throughout the weekend. Take the Kansas City Chiefs as Exhibit A in this category, passing on Aaron Curry to pick up LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson at No. 3. Even though Jackson is a need pick for the Chiefs, who will now plug him into the hole Jared Allen left last year when he was traded to the Vikings, Curry was the best player available and would have meshed well with new arrivals Mike Vrabel and Zach Thomas in Kansas City's linebacking corps. Denver's selection of Knowshon Moreno at No. 12 is probably an even bigger reach, considering Mike Shanahan is no longer the head coach and new Bronco head man Josh McDaniels has yet to prove that any running back can have a 1,000 yard season in his system. Apparently, Correll Buckhalter will not be given a chance to be the every-down back in the Rocky Mountain City with this selection. Denver atoned for this by taking Tennessee's Robert Ayers with the 18th pick, which Chicago yielded to Denver in the Jay Cutler trade.
Finally, one cannot mention the NFL draft without acknowledging the Oakland Raiders, for better or worse. In typical Raider fashion, legendary owner Al Davis validated his many critics who expected him to take flash and style over substance with the No. 7 overall pick, which he did with the selection of Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey, the receiver who ran a 4.3 40-yard dash at the combine, with the aforementioned Crabtree and Maclin still on the board.

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