2009 NFL Draft 2.0 (pt. 1)
Now that the deadline for college underclassmen to declare for the NFL Draft has come and gone, and the Super Bowl participants have been decided, I figured now would be a good time to take another look at who’s probably going where.
1) Detroit Lions – The Lions would probably do unspeakable things for the opportunity to trade the #1 overall pick for a stable of lower picks, even though they have those two extra picks from Dallas because of the Roy Williams trade, because they have holes everywhere. Big, gaping bloody holes. But with so many sophmores and juniors opting to stay in college, this year has the look of a weak draft, which means that with a new coach, new GM and no chance to get rid of the top pick, the Lions are probably gonna go with a QB. Granted, they do have Jon Kitna, but the simple truth is that Detroit just went 0-16. Translation: nobody’s job is safe.
The Pick – Originally I had Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford here, but he’s staying in college, so I’m torn between USC’s Mark Sanchez and Matt Stafford of Georgia. Both have their upsides and downsides: Sanchez is ostensibly more polished, but Stafford arguably has the bigger arm and more upside. Personally, I’m going with Sanchez. Stafford seems like he would be a project initially, and the Lions need someone capable of coming in ASAP. To me, that sounds like Sanchez.
Season Lowlight – This local sports talk radio show providing a forum for self-loathing not seen since the 2002 “Bulimic Emo Cutters of the Arctic Circle” Conference. You know it’s bad when the first thing played after your season is over is “Hallelujah”.
2) St. Louis Rams – This draft is different for a couple of reasons; one of those reasons is that traditionally, while the first team is obviously the worst, they’re only marginally worse than the #2 team, who’s only marginally worse than the #3 team, and so on and so on. However, Detroit was so terrible this year that they’re essentially in their own weight class, making the Rams look better than they were by comparison. But don’t get it twisted; yeah, St. Louis suffered injuries to key players like OT Orlando Pace and QB Marc Bulger. But every NFL team has to deal with injuries at some point. What really didn’t help was their ridiculous coaching situation, where coach Scott Linehan was fired after an 0-4 start to the season and D-Coordinator Jim Haslett was made interim coach, letting him go at the end of the season and hiring NY Giants D-Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo (a great hire, in my opinion).
The Pick – Another team with hopes of trading down for more draft picks. Too bad it ain’t happening. Since they’re stuck here, the Rams might as well let fortune favor them, taking stud OT Andre Smith from Alabama. Smith missed the Sugar Bowl, and his absence showed as the Crimson Tide fell to the Utah Utes 31-17, but his suspension for improper contact with an agent doesn’t seem indicative of any larger character problems. The Rams openly lusted after OT Jake Long in last year’s draft, and there are two factors working in Smith’s favor; Bulger was sacked 38 times this season, and Pace is 34 and apparently incapable of staying on the field.
Season Lowlight – It’s Week 1 of the NFL season, and you’ve got a squad that theoretically looks like it could compete. You’re going up against the Eagles, a team considered by many at the time to be 3rd or 4th in its division. So of course you get crushed, to the tune of a 38-3 anal reaming.
3) Kansas City Chiefs – See, the problem with these crappy teams is they suck. They suck so hard, in fact, that nobody except die-hard fans want to talk about them. So when someone wants to do a mock draft, they have to sift through all this bullshit “woe is me” garbage to get the info they need. Take KC, for example. After they knocked NE QB Tom Brady out for the season, I hardly heard anything about them; just reports about their deteriorating QB situation and jokes about Herm Edwards. After some time spent on various Chiefs message boards (my advice: stay away from any team’s message boards unless they’re .500 or better, unless you enjoy seeing grown men say things like “our D-line suckz bitch nutz”), I learned the only thing anyone knows is that former NE executive Scott Pioli is the new KC GM. Beyond that, nobody’s sure of anything. Which is always a recipe for greatness.
The Pick – Let me throw a stat at you; the Chiefs only had 10 sacks this season. 10. To put that into perspective, 12 players had 10 sacks or more this season. Hell, Cowboys LB Demarcus Ware had 20! So it’s pretty obvious that KC is in desperate need of a competent pass rush. Enter Texas DE Brian “O-Sack-O” Orakpo. At 6’3 and 255 lbs., Orakpo has the physical tools necessary to be a force in the NFL, and his presence could allow DE Tamba Hali to move back the left end, where he was a beast in 2007.
Season Lowlight – This loss to the Raiders pretty much summed up the Chiefs entire season: “Hey we’re doing good! Oh wait, we suck. Wait, are we gonna make a comeback? No, no, never mind.”
4) Seattle Seahawks – In coach Mike Holmgren’s last season with Seattle, the Seahawks imploded under a cavalcade of issues. QB Matt Hasselbeck’s back injury. An O-line that couldn’t protect the quarterback or open up running lanes. A defense that 260 passing yards per game, the worst in the NFL. But the situation that arguably caused the most trouble, and inarguably received the most media attention, was the Biblical plague that struck the receiving core. Deion Branch, Bobby Engram, Nate Burleson, Logan Payne, Billy McMullen; it seemed like everytime the ‘Hawks would sign a receiver to shore up the injury-depleted WR unit…that person would get injured immediately.
The Pick After the WR apocolapyse this season, nearly everyone has assumed that Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree is at the top of Seattle’s board – and nearly everyone would be right. Crabtree was a man amongst boys this year, and adds an instant big-play capability to a team that was hamstrung by a lack of ball-catchers (giggity).
Season Lowlight – In their first meeting since Cowboys QB Tony Romo fumbled the snap against the ‘Hawks in the ’07 playoffs, the ‘Boys busted out the turkey baster on Thanksgiving, working Seattle over to the tune of 34-9.
5) Cleveland Browns – Bar none, the biggest disapointment in the NFL this season, and by a fairly wide margin. After a breakout year in ’07, the Browns took a huge step backwards on all levels; offensive (ranked 31st overall), defensive (26th overall) and on special teams (only 18 points after touchdown all season). Is Cleveland going to move former Pro Bowl QB Derek Anderson? What about struggling WR Braylon Edwards, who had 12 dropped passes this season (tied for most in the NFL with TE Dallas Clark)? Or embittered TE Kellen Winslow Jr., who’s staph infection led to a public dispute over Browns management’s treatment of the players? The talent is there, for once, but the chemistry is a nightmare.
The Pick – Former NY Jets coach Eric “Mangenius” Mangini was recently hired to be the new head coach, after Cleveland let go of Romeo Crennel, and with so many well-known names lining up on the offensive side of the ball, Mangini should be aware of the fact that the defense needs a serious upgrade immediately if the Browns want to hang with the likes of Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Mangini will most likely retain the Browns’ 3-4 defense, which means that he could easily move towards grabbing a DE. But the most glaring issue, in my personal opinion, has been the absolute lack of top-level players in the secondary. Hometown wonder Ohio State CB Malcolm Jenkins would be an inspired pick here, as a local star who can raise interest in the team and a talented athlete who can improve them drastically as well.
Season Lowlight – Not exactly a lowlight, but certainly a painful blow, this last second loss to the Denver Broncos summed up the season for the Browns; even on a night when everything was clicking and the other team was struggling to move the ball, Cleveland couldn’t close it out.
6) Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals were neck-and-neck with the Lions in the race for “Biggest embarassment to a group of sports fans”, going winless until week 9, when they edged the Jacksonville Jaguars 21-19. During that 8-week stretch, they lost QB Carson Palmer to an elbow injury, LB Keith Rivers to a broken jaw, and WR Chad Johnson to general don’t-give-a-fuckery. They somehow managed to gather up 4 wins and a tie, but seeing as how those wins came against teams that averaged 5 wins a piece, it doesn’t exactly bode well for the future.
The Pick – What does bode well for the future is that all reports say that Palmer is expected to return for the 2009 season. But, if the Bengals O-line doesn’t make some serious improvements before then, he shouldn’t be out there too long. Fact: in 2008 the Bengals gave up 50 sacks. I don’t care who you got back there, they’re not going to last long against that type of punishment. Add to that the fact that the Bengals’ running backs only averaged 3.5 yards per carry, and the O-line suddenly becomes a glaring hole that needs to be filled (giggity). This would be a great time to grab someone like Michael Oher, a beast (6’6, 320 lbs.) with a lot of agility who could upgrade the line immediately.
Season Lowlight Remember when I mentioned that Rivers ended his season early with a broken jaw? Yeah, here’s how it happened. Steelers WR Hines Ward is a baaaaad man.
7) Oakland Raiders – What a godawful mess. This team has enough talent to at least compete with most teams out there, but instead it seems like every year they completely implode. It’s not like the reason for that is rocket science or something. Owner Al Davis is essentially the lunatic running the asylum; firing coaches just as soon as he’ll look at them, calling the sidelines from his luxury box and advising plays like he was Richard Nixon, throwing huge amounts of money at names rather than talent. Mark my words, the Raiders will not be truly relevant until Davis either gives up the reins or dies; whichever comes first.
The Pick – Now Davis’ constant interference is throwing a monkey wrench into my shit. If I was thinking merely in terms of “What would a competent GM and coach do with this pick”, than I would be tempted to say that Oakland would most likely take someone like Virginia OT Michael Oher to lock down the left side of the line. But Davis is crazy, and what’s more, he’s been enamored with the idea of creating a speedy, Florida Gator-esque receiving core, and with Florida WR Percy Harvin declaring for the draft and having an impressive game during the BCS Championship, I think the Silver and Black post the first surprise of the season, taking Harvin.
Season Lowlight – This absolutely surreal press conference where Davis introduced interim replacement head coach Tom Cable. Any explanation I gave of the situation couldn’t do it proper justice; just watch.
8) Jacksonville Jaguars – When OT Richard Collier was shot before the regular season started, it cast a long shadow on the entire year. QB David Garrard, who only threw three interceptions last season, threw all of 13 this year, and was knocked down more than any other QB this season. At the same time, the running game was completely stuffed, with the two-headed beast of RB’s Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew held to 110 y.p.g., well below their usual average.
The Pick – As much as the Jags would love to pick a WR like Harvin or Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin to act as a deep threat that Jacksonville has never really had, or even a stud LB like Ray Maualuga of USC to replace Mike Peterson after he leaves during the off-season, it’s patently clear to everyone that the left tackle position is in desparate need of an upgrade. Baylor T Jason Smith is relatively new to the position, having only played it for two seasons, but as a former tight end he has an impressive wingspan, and extremely agile feet, which allow him to slide more easily than many lineman.
Season Lowlight – First play of the game against Minnesota, the Jags screw up the handoff, and Vikings LB Napoleon Harris scoops up the ball and scores. Whoops.
9) Green Bay Packers – Those poor, poor cheeseheads. When the season started, they looked like a playoff team, but they seemed to get worse and worse as the season went on, and they finished the season by going 1-5 in their last six games, with their lone win barely coming over the 0-16 Detroit Lions. No matter how you feel about the whole Brett Favre situation, GM Ted Thompson has done some of his best work on draft day, putting together a nice collection of young talent on either side of the ball.
The Pick – One serious area of concern for the Packers, one that very well may have directly contributed to a number of this season’s losses, is the total lack of a pass rush. The Pack ranked 25th in sacks, with 27 total this season. The remedy? Hopefully FSU DE Everette Brown, arguably the second-best defensive lineman on the board.
Season Lowlight – Brett Favre press conference; ’nuff said.
10) San Francisco 49ers – The Niners had a crazy year, one in which they saw their head coach change (from Mike Nolan to Mike Singletary), their QB change (from Alex Smith to Shan Hill), and their fortunes change (from a 2-6 start to a 6-2 finish). With everything that’s occured since the last draft, it seems as though San Fran could go in almost any direction without fault.
The Pick – Every struggling team can use help in the trenches; in the Niners’ case, it happens to be on the defensive side of the ball, where a lack of pressure on the QB leads to big pass plays. Enter B.J. Raji, a monster DT out of Boston College who can come in right away and produce.
Season Lowlight – Since we’re moving away from the dregs of the NFL, and towards the not-quite-ripe heart of the league, this “Ultimate Highlight” of the 49ers isn’t as embarassing as the other videos may have been.