May 1, 2012

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Five 2009 NFL Draft Winners

By: Joe Williams

The NFL Draft is over so now its time for everyone to prematurely judge which teams did well and which teams blew it. That sounds like a lot of work.They say it takes three years to properly evaluate a draft, so I’ll take the easy route and look back at the 2009 NFL Draft for my winners.

Detroit Lions – When you have the first pick in the NFL Draft, you better nail it. The Lions “earned” the No. 1 pick in the draft by finishing the 2008 season at a perfect 0-16, so it’s not like they could get any worse. When they selected Matthew Stafford to be their quarterback, the team instantly got better and hasn’t stopped improving since. They only won two games in his rookie season but improved to 6-10 in 2010 and made the playoffs at 10-6 last season. Finding a franchise quarterback alone makes the Lions a winner in this draft, but they weren’t done. With their second first-round pick they added Brandon Pettigrew who has become a nice target for Stafford and De Andre Levy is a starter at linebacker.

Finding their franchise QB in the 2009 Draft makes the Lions winners.

Chicago Bears – Here’s another team that found its quarterback in 2009. The Bears didn’t have to draft a rookie to do it though. They took advantage of the problems Josh McDaniels created in Denver and turned a bunch a picks into Jay Cutler. For the first time in a long time the Bears are set for the future at the most important position on the field. Johnny Knox is a quality receiver they picked up in the 5th round.

New York Jets – Yep. You guessed it. There is a pattern here. This is the year they drafted Mark Sanchez. Whether you think Sanchez is a good quarterback or not, you can’t argue with the success the Jets have had with him on the field. Not many teams have done better than reaching two conference championship games in the last three years. In the third round New York picked up Shonn Green, who has been a big part of the running game and is now the starting running back. Sixth-rounder, Matt Slauson, is the starter at left guard. The Jets made just three picks in the 2009 NFL Draft and all three are starters.

Green Bay Packers – Anytime a team wins a Super Bowl, you can look back at its recent drafts and probably find a few key contributors. In 2009, the Packers drafted DT, B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews at linebacker, both are impact players on the defense that was part of the Packers run to their Super Bowl victory after the 2010 season. Fourth-round pick, T.J. Lang is now a starter on the offensive line as well.

Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles were about the biggest underachieving team in the NFL last season, but don’t go blaming that on the 2009 NFL Draft. Jeremy Maclin, their first round pick, led the team with 859 yards receiving and round two pick, LeSean McCoy gained more than 1,600 yards from scrimmage and led the NFL with 20 touchdowns. He was also the MVP of my fantasy team last year. Philly also found Moise Fokou in the seventh round. Never heard of him? You’re not alone, but according to philadelphiaeagles.com, Fokou “established himself as one of the Eagles top special teams performers in his rookie season before earning a starting job in his sophomore campaign.” That’s a nice find in round seven.

April 30, 2012

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Top 2012 NFL Draft Surprises

By: Anson Whaley

With this year’s NFL Draft concluded, there were, as always, plenty of surprises. Here were some of the big ones from last week’s mega event.

Browns Trade up to grab Trent Richardson: Few would argue that Richardson is a top talent in this year’s draft. He was projected by most as the top running back, so it’s difficult to lambaste Cleveland too much for this pick. But it’s what the Browns gave up that made this a bit of a head-scratcher. Cleveland was so determined to snag Richardson that they gave up 4th, 5th, and 7th round picks to move up a single spot in the trade to Minnesota. The Vikings already have Adrian Peterson, so there was little chance they would have drafted Richardson. The Browns were hedging against the possibility of another team moving up in front of them and wanted to be sure they got their man. Still, three picks was probably a bit much to move up a single spot.

Redskins Draft RGIII … and then Kirk Cousins: Talk about a fairly awkward moment. The Redskins, as expected, took Heisman winner Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 pick overall, essentially making him their franchise quarterback. Washington is without any real stability under center, so it’s safe to say that he’ll probably get his shot to start sooner rather than later. Teams are usually interested in giving a young quarterback weapons, but the Redskins did just the opposite in the third round. You could almost hear the collective ‘huh’ from fans after Washington drafted Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins in the third round. The move made little sense as the Redskins have more pressing needs and instead of giving Griffin a weapon to make the team better, they drafted another player at his position that probably won’t play much. It’s doubtful that Cousins will really push Griffin, but Washington appeared to be buying some insurance with this move. If Griffin doesn’t pan out, then it could be argued that this was a wise move. But until that happens, the Cousins pick warrants plenty of criticism.

 

RG3 will be joined by fellow QB Kirk Cousins in Washington this year.

Patriots Trade up to take Dont’a Hightower: Hightower was one of the elite linebackers in this draft and once the Steelers passed on him, New England moved up in the first round to take him fearing he wouldn’t last long. Hightower was a prime target of the Steelers, but once highly-rated guard David DeCastro fell to them, they couldn’t resist the opportunity to upgrade their offensive line. That opened the door for the Patriots to, in turn, upgrade their defense – one of the league’s worst last season.

Seahawks take Bruce Irvin at No. 15: This was perhaps the first big reach of the first round and one of the bigger ones in the whole draft. Irvin was a strong player for West Virginia, no doubt. But there are questions that he may not even be able to play every down in the NFL since he’s fairly one-dimensional, used mainly as a pass-rusher. Seattle could have probably traded down to secure an additional pick or two and still ended up with him if he was really the guy they wanted all along.

Mohamed Sanu gets Scammed: The story of the entire draft may have been when Sanu was prank-called by a fan claiming to be a Bengals representative, saying the team was taking him in the first round. An excited Sanu and company were then mortified when Cincinnati went with Kevin Zeitler and hilarity ensued in the Twittersphere. Ordinarily you might feel bad laughing about something like that, but the Bengals took him later in the draft so everything turned out fine. Still, imagine being told you were drafted only to find out you weren’t. Embarrassing.