2009 NFL Draft 2.0 (pt. 2)
11) Buffalo Bills – In the first half of the season, the Bills looked like the surprise team of the AFC, but QB Trent Edwards’ mid-season concussion caused Buffalo to go into a tailspin, and they ended up dropping eight of their last ten. Injuries certainly played a part, but the collapse can be traced back to two main issues: the inability of the offense to score points, and the total lack of a pass rush (only 24 sacks this season).
The Pick – Some people (like Mel Kiper) are saying that Oklahoma St. TE Brandon Pettigrew is the best choice, and I see the logic; with his size and speed, Pettigrew could be the shot in the arm that an anemic offense could certainly use. But how often does a rookie TE really come in and become a big-time playmaker? I see Edwards’ improving going from his rookie season to his second year, and RB Marshawn Lynch building on a solid ’08 season (1,036 yards, 8 TD’s), so there should be some improvement already. The unit that needs help is the defense, specifically the line, and with Texas DE Brian Orokpo and FSU DE Everette Brown already gone, the Bills reach for Georgia Tech DE Michael Robinson. It’s a dangerous pick; Robinson could easily become this year’s Vernon Gholston, a high pick with the physical skills who seems unable to display those talents on the field.
12) Denver Broncos – Another team that was considered extremely dangerous, the Broncos were actually able to sustain that fear almost throughout the entire season; at least, on the offensive side of the ball. The defense, however, was consistently terrible, with rankings of 29th defense overall, 27th rushing defense and 26th passing defense. It got worse as the season progressed, and was eventually the main reason for Denver’s total collapse with three games left in the season, and the shocking release of coach Mike Shanahan.
The Pick – Denver doesn’t have anyone from the Detroit Lions’ front office working for their scouting staff or anything, so expect them to do what everyone expects and take a defensive player. USC LB Ray Maualuga is an absolute beast; not only is he capable of putting up the stats, but he has the look of somebody who can step up and be the leader that this defense needs.
13) Washington Redskins – What is there to say about the Redskins? They were the last team in the NFC East. They have an average offense, and an average defense…that’s about it. The issue in Washington isn’t lack of talent, it’s underachievement. QB Jason Campbell is essentially in a do-or-die year, which more often than not translates to improved play, and his receiving core is stacked with big names all the way down the roster.
The Pick – One thing that keeps coming up concerning Washington is their susceptivity to pass-rushers coming off the edge. Current OT Jon Jansen is making his way towards the elephants’ graveyard, and while this may seem like a high spot for a team like the Redskins to be looking towards improving its offensive line, sealing off that right side could go a long way towards allowing Campbell to mature into the player the Redskins thought he would be. Virginia OT Eugene Monroe would be an excellent pick here.
14) New Orleans Saints – If you asked a 100 average NFL fans what they thought of New Orleans, they would probably all give a similar answer: “Fun to watch.” Headed by QB Drew Brees, the first QB since Dan Marino to throw for over 5,000 yards in a season, the Saints fielded the league’s most potent offense, gaining 400+ ypg., and 28.9 ppg. But weapons like RB Reggie Bush and WR Marques Colston can’t help on the other side of the ball, and it was the defense that let New Orleans down repeatedly, crumbling in the second half of games time and time again.
The Pick – In my 1.0 version draft, I said that LB Jonathan Vilma was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal defense, but that the Saints would never be able to afford re-signing him. Well, Mr. Vilma went out and got himself arrested for reckless driving; however, reports say alcohol was not a factor, so it’s impossible to say whether or not this will affect any possible deals. Either way, this slot looks right for Ohio State LB James Laurenitis, a guy whose stock has dropped a little after coming back for his senior year. Much like Maualuga, Laurenitis has the potential to be the missing piece this abused defense has been looking for the last few seasons.
15) Houston Texans – The more I look at the Texans, the more I see next season’s “Overpaid sports journalist’s sleeper team.” Admittedly, the weapons are there. QB Matt Schaub has been sidelined on-and-off with various injuries, but when he’s in there he’s been the steady hand that Houston was hoping for. Behind him, 1,200-yard RB Steve Slatton has helped to take the pressure off All-World WR Andre Johnson, who posted insane numbers throughout the season (115 catches, 1,547 yards, 8 TD’s). But I’ve seen this happen with people and Arizona every year, and just because the Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl this year doesn’t mean I’m going to forget all those other times they collapsed. My point is, I’m getting that same vibe from the Texans.
The Pick – Houston’s secondary is awful. I could bring up some stats, but trust me, it’s an embarassment and every Texans fan knows it. Missouri S William Moore may not be a national name, and he’s still a little raw around the edges, but he has the potential to quickly mature, and he could become the ball-hawking defensive back that the Texans have been waiting for.
16) San Diego Chargers – When the season started, the Chargers were the trendy pick for the Super Bowl, with a team that some people claimed was the most talented in the NFL. The next few months were one of the most captivating storylines in the league, as San Diego seemed to succumb to the sudden drop-off in production from All-Pro RB LaDanian Tomlinson, the seeming lack of top-down control from head coach Norv Turner’s staff and the glut of injuries highlighted by LB Shawne Merriman going on the IR list in the preseason. But at the last second, QB Phillip Rivers put the team on his back, and the Chargers took advantage of Denver’s late-season swoon to win the AFC West.
The Pick – San Diego is in an enviable position, seemingly stacked at almost every spot on the roster. One of the lingering question marks, however, is the defensive line. DT Igor Olshanky is expected to leave as a free agent after the season is over, and there isn’t really anyone of note to pick up the slack. LSU DT Tyson Jackson has been slightly inconsistent, but he’s capable of moving a pile in the trenches, and that might be what pushes the Chargers over the top in their quest to make it to the championship.
17) New York Jets – One story that I think sums up the Jets’ season pretty well: the smaller Mike on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning” was looking way ahead late in the season to the conference championship games. Noting that the Jets and Giants share a stadium, he wondered what would be done if both teams were hosting a conference championship game on the same day. Naturally, the Jets crapped the bed in epic fashion, dropping game after game late in the season until they finally conceded a postseason appearance to the Miami Dolphins. You know, it’s weird: the Packers weren’t able to maintain their hot start, but their prospects are looking up. Meanwhile, the Jets went through that same situation, but Gang Green faithful seem inconsolable. Guess being stuck waiting to find out if you have a QB or not, on top of a coaching change and a relative lack of notable talent on either side of the ball (except for eternally underrated RB Thomas Jones) tends to depress actual fans.
The Pick – When the Jets were in the middle of their season-ending swoon, it seemed painfully obvious that a big part of the reason was a lack of talent at the cornerback position. Time after time, the Jets secondary gave up big-time passing afternoons to decent-at-best QB’s. Don’t get me wrong, problems could easily be listed on both sides of the ball, but it’s really hard to win when the opposing team can essentially score at will. Illinois CB Vontae Davis is another player that may need a season or two to mature before the dividends start to pay off, but with his physical gifts and nose for the ball he could step in as a rookie as a nickelback, just to get a feel for the game.
18) Chicago Bears – It seems like the Bears have always been defined by an overwhelming defense and a powerful running game. You would think that would mean that it would be easier to replenish your roster, because it means that you already know what you’re looking for. Chicago always seems to prove that particular train of thought wrong, however, as head coach Lovie Smith finds his Bears saddled with an injury-prone, overrated defense riding mostly on reputation, and an offense inconsistent at the most important position (QB) and lacking enough playmakers to compete. After years as the de-facto power in the NFC North, the Bears suddenly find themselves looking up at the Packers and Vikings, and they’re not in a favorable position to reverse their slide anytime soon. On the plus side, at least Bears’ fans can always look down at the Lions.
The Pick – WR/KR Devin Hester was one of the most dangerous gamebreakers in the league last season, shattering return records left and right. Many onlookers’ worst suspicions were confirmed, though, when Chicago’s attempt to turn him into an equally dangerous offensive weapon backfired, rendering him less effective in both the offensive and special-teams aspects of the game. If the Bears decide to get veteran help for their defense, which would probably be the smart thing to do, they could look for a burner to act as a deep threat for QB GET NAME. In all the hubbub over the worthy Crabtree, Maryland WR Darius Heyward-Bey has been forgotten; pretty amazing for a guy who may very well be the fastest man in this year’s draft, reportedly capable of running a 4.3 40.
19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The last of the teams that had a late-season lead in wins, only to lose out on their positions as the final weeks approached, the Bucs had possibly the most abrupt fall of all. Losing to struggling teams like San Diego and Oakland, Tampa Bay sent legendary defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin off to the Tennessee Volunteers on a sour note, going from “bend but don’t break” to “shatter at the most inopportune moments”. With head coach Jon Gruden being dismissed, don’t expect new coach Raheem Morris to make too many changes, save for possibly throwing downfield more often. But this offseason is crucial to the Bucs’ hopes; QB Jeff Garcia is a free agent, and at 38 he’s asking for a multi-year deal that Tampa Bay’s front office has been loathe to hand out to someone at his age. Other crucial starters like WR Joey Galloway (35), LB Derrick Brooks (36) and CB Ronde Barber (33) are only getting older as well, and with Atlanta and New Orleans rising swiftly, the Bucs may find themselves spending the next few years on the outside of the postseason looking in.
The Pick – Speedster Joey Galloway was nicknamed “White Tiger” by Gruden’s coaching staff, due to his “exotic” speed, and how rarely he played. But it is indicative of a need of an offensive playmaker that’s haunted Tampa Bay for years. Even during their Super Bowl run in 2001, they lived off of their historically good defense, and the steady offensive play of QB Brad Johnson as he connected with WR’s Joe Jurevicious and Keenan McCardell. Florida WR Percy Harvin is a special player, standing out in three superb years on the college level. He has had some injury questions, but in the right system (a la Miami WR Ted Ginn in the Wildcat) he could flourish.
20) Detroit Lions (The Pick) – Having already addressed their QB situation with the first pick in the draft, the Lions use the first of the picks they received from Dallas in the Roy Williams trade to shore up the offensive line, the same way that Atlanta did last year. For a position as important as left tackle, you would think that it would be easier to discern who’s really got the talent to make it in the NFL and who doesn’t, but whenever I try to watch highlight films of offensive lineman it just looks like almsot everyone’s doing the exact thing same, and it’s really hard for people to stand out unless they’re ridiculously good. In terms of gossip, though, I hear good things about Connecticut OT William Beatty. This feels like it might be kind of high for a lineman that hasn’t really attracted that much information, but people said the same thing about Falcons OT Sam Baker last year, and he was a huge success. Beatty could very well be the same, and either way the Lions gave up 52 sacks last season; Detroit desparately needs to address their issues on the line.