2009 NFL Draft – The Day After Day 1

Winners and Losers?

Philosophically, I believe that the team which drafts the BEST player in the draft must always be listed among the winners.  The strange psychology of the NFL draft and its salary structure is such that an elite super star player may not be drafted first simply based on the position he plays.  This year, the consensus pick for best player in the draft is Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry.  (Watch how he plays this reverse and beats two blockers in a tight game…2:35)

Curry was selected 4th by the Seattle Seahawks.  I like the Max Unger (T, Oregon) pick.  The ‘Hawks got value out of that pick.  Some people had Unger going in the first round.

Other winners:

New York Jets. I like Mark Sanchez a great deal more than I like Matthew Stafford.  Stafford had seven 300-yard games this season.  He had none in 2007.  He didn’t even throw for 250 yards in an offense that was stacked with wide receivers, running backs and a Mark Richt playbook.  Georgia lost some big games in which the offense was routinely shut down.  When the running game was bottled up, Stafford rarely used his arm to open up the field and ease the burden on the team.  It was usually the other way around.

Sanchez might be a system quarterback.  That’s not the worst thing for a USC player.  Even the guys who can’t get playing time have turned out to be very good (Matt Cassel).

Baltimore Ravens. I always like the way the Ravens draft.  Like the Steelers, they know who they are.  They draft players that fit the make-up of their team.  They don’t waste time drafting players who will be eaten up and spit out by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs.  The Ravens can safely expect big things from Michael Oher.  Well done.

Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars are like the Ravens in that their offensive philosophy is all about having size in the trenches.  Two years ago, when that size was healthy, the Jaguars won 10 games and won twice on the road in Pittsburgh late in the season.  That’s unprecedented.  Last year, when that size was injured, they struggled out of the gate.  The Jags were lucky that Roger Goodell has situational ethics and didn’t suspend Matt “Where’s the Cocaine?” Jones until the season was over.  The Jags picked a tackle from UVa who has one of the highest draft grades of any player (Eugene Monroe).  They went large again in the 2nd round.  This could be a foundation draft for the Jags that changes the fortunes of the team.  If this team begins to win out in the AFC South, it may because of these two picks.

St. Louis Rams. The Rams did work in the trenches.  Jason Smith has big shoes to fill.  Orlando Pace was one of the best left tackles in the history of the NFL.  He was a powerhouse who played with great technique.  He was also extremely fast.

Losers:

Oakland Raiders. I get it.  I really do.  I understand that the Raiders have a QB with a big arm; that they have big running backs and speed to keep DBs honest; and that they have an accomplished wide out in Javon Walker.  I also understand that Darrious Heyward-Bey can flat out fly.  I just don’t get him with the 7th pick.  It’s the same way I didn’t get Ted Ginn with the 9th pick.  I saw Ginn play several times at Ohio State.  I wouldn’t have gone down that road.  Next year is his year to show and prove.  We’ll see.  I never saw Maryland play this season…because they sucked and I didn’t have the time.  If Heyward-Bey was all that, I would have seen him the same way I saw Hakeem Nicks.  In my book, Willie Gault and Renaldo Nehemiah forever ended the discussion on the value of speed at the WR position in the NFL.  It’s overrated, period.  Quickness, precision and strength (of hands) are the hall marks of the elite players at this position.  The Raiders would have been better off inviting Usain Bolt to mini-camp.

I don’t know that anyone on this team knows exactly what they’re doing.  The conventional wisdom is that teams simply aren’t able to protect the passer long enough for receivers to consistently get deep; that effective offense requires more plays and more effort to work the ball down the field.  The Raiders are not to change.  Perhaps they believe the liberal passing rules (enforcement of 5yd. chuck rule, etc.) will create time where there was none.  Al may just be 15 years ahead of the curve.

Detroit Lions. I wouldn’t have done it.  No way.  If you’ve seen Stafford against teams like Florida, Auburn, LSU and Tennessee, you know he’s not the second coming of a franchise saving QB.  He might be the second coming of Scott Mitchell, but that’s not going to help the Lions.  If the Lions have learned nothing from the Atlanta Falcons and Matt Ryan, it should be that the key to his success in 2008 was three-fold: Michael Turner provided a rock solid running game; Roddy White provided a go-to-guy in the passing game that required double coverage.  The Lions, with Kevin Smith and Calvin Johnson should have that covered.

Calvin Johnson makes the game look easy.  Matthew Stafford makes the game look hard.  The Lions make the game look hard.

Cincinnati Bengals. Why do they put their fans through this every single season?  Why do their fans put up with this every single season?  After next season, I suspect that Marvin Lewis will be looking for work; Chad Johnson will be have found a new team; and Carson Palmer will be looking for a psychologist.  Sometimes, when I go to one of my favorite watering holes, I can see Bengal fans murmuring to themselves, “Is it me?  Is it something I said?”

What else can they say when management is committed to signing players that can be had on a Discipline Discount.  The Bengals do not want players who are rock solid on and off the field.  They want drama.  In 2009, they got it.  If the players that the Bengals drafted had discipline commensurate with their talent, each one could have been a Top 10 pick.  I knew they’d take Andre Smith.  I hope, for all the world, that he gets it together.

The fundamental problem with the Bengals is that they lack integrity.  It’s not that they’re cheap.  The Steelers are cheap.  The Giants and Bears pinch pennies.  There are many franchises that will not break the bank, but the most successful of those teams have a vision for who they are and what they want to do.  In previous years, if the Bengals wanted to be Team Rehab and draft players with tremendous talent and limited will, they needed to go all the way — and build a culture of family and community that supports authentic player development.  As it stands, they’ve done little of that.  It’s why they are a perennial loser and everyone with real talent wants out.  This year, they have players who may not have rap sheets, but they’re not rock solid, no brainers.  There are question marks.  Cincinnati needs to grow up.


6 comments

  1. You might be right about Curry, at least as an initial impact player. By the way, I’m trying to find out if more fans prefer ESPN or NFL Network for coverage. Click educlaytion if you want to weigh in on the debate.

  2. I don’t have the NFL Network and I don’t love Rich Eisen (especially after his gratuitous endorsement of Ed Werder’s Cowboys coverage. ESPN’s fatal flaw is that they’re all ambulance chasers: Patriots, Cowboys, Patriots, Cowboys, Patriots — and repeat. Boring, boring, boring.

  3. “If you’ve seen Stafford against teams like Florida, Auburn, LSU and Tennessee. Two out of four ain’t bad”

    True Stafford went 1-2 vs Florida and Tennessee. He was 3-0 vs Auburn( They’re happy to see him go http://twurl.nl/0cjz12 ) And he Methodically picked apart LSU.

  4. Everyone was great against LSU this past season. I can’t argue with that. As for Auburn, I think the issue there isn’t so much W/L’s because they’ve been down for lack of an effective offense. I think the issue is that overall, in UGa’s biggest games, it seems like the running game was the key to Georgia’s dominance — not Stafford. He throws a pretty deep ball, but his circumstances have usually been ideal. When looks back on his career at Georgia, he might say his biggest win was over Florida in 2007. That day, Moreno ran for 188 yards on 33 carries.

    It’s hard to justify his selection as the #1 except that we’re talking about the Lions. He’s not a scrub by any means, but the jury is still out on how well he is going to perform. He’ll have a lot of weapons at his disposal — but I don’t love the pick.

  5. T3,

    I said it in the post about the Steelers, I’m going to re-iterate it here. Having a high draft pick is a formula for disaster as Mel Kiper and a bunch of other “experts” are going to tell teams who they should pick and call you crazy for not picking who they think who is the best. They punk whoever doesn’t pick who they think should be picked where they think they should be picked. Mario Williams and the Houston Texans are still waiting for their apologies from Mr. Kiper.

    Stafford is merely the “safer” qb. Sanchez clearly has more talent, played better in the big games he’s in, and has more of an upside. If I was the Lions, I’d have ran away from Stafford. The problem is, I’m not sure they would have found anyone who wanted to trade with them and guarantee that they would leave Sanchez on the board. No one (at least openly), would say that they wanted to make Sanchez the number one pick, but the way his stock rose in the past couple of weeks, it was pretty clear that folks liked what they saw about Sanchez.

    Now, if only the Dolphins would prepare Pat White to transition as their future starting QB instead of trying to use him in the Wildcat like everyone is suggesting. He proved he could make the throws that they wanted in combines and they still doubted him. He by all accounts that I heard, had better workouts than any other quarterback. He even eased some folks fear about his lack of height (he’s still taller than Drew Brees, I might add). The biggest mark against him though, he was running the dreaded spread offense in college.

  6. kos:

    To be fair, I think there is a bit of an inherent selection bias that makes drafting high particularly hazardous. By definition, teams that pick high have needs in multiple positions. They usually have weaknesses on both sides of the ball — in the trenches and at skill positions. This means that a team with a high draft pick MUST snag a can’t miss SKILL position player OR trade down to build depth. The Lions have NEVER traded down to build depth.

    Under Matt Millen, they took 3 WRs in a row…unbelievable. Now, they’re taking a QB who never dominated the SEC. He was never even the featured player by CBS in advertising Georgia games. He could be an incredible pro. The problem for the Lions is that he’ll have to be in order to justify the pick. The Lions would have better off passing up on a QB this draft and doing what Baltimore or St. Louis did.

    As for Kiper’s influence…I think it’s overstated. I think that’s why he’s always going off on teams — because they don’t do what he says. Frankly, this isn’t rocket science. The best teams tend to draft the foundation players from the highest performing collegiate programs AND superstars from lesser programs. The Patriots are going to draft guys from winning programs. The Steelers do it. The Giants do it.

    Who drafted the Miami, Florida and Florida State players when they were at their height? Dallas did. It paid off. Baltimore did. It paid off. Tampa Bay did. Who drafted the LSU guys? New England. The Giants. Ohio State? The Giants, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, etc.

    It’s simply not rocket science. By now, folks should know to stay away from Michigan State football. Derrick Mason has been great, but there is a reason why that team is 5-6 every season. We all know you can great nice d-linemen at Tennessee and nice o-linemen at Michigan and Wisconsin. It’s not the school or the uniform — its the recruiting/coaching pipeline. Some teams trust that, some don’t. There are hits and misses — but the teams that hit have formulas…the teams that miss most often do things too randomly to have sustainable success.

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