Football Outsiders
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2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

by Tom Gower

One of our annual traditions at Football Outsiders come the time leading up to the draft is to look back at the draft that was. Not last year, as is the custom, but six years ago. That gives us sufficient time to form a reasonably decent evaluation of most players selected.

The 2009 NFL draft was notable for a few things. There were three consensus first-round quarterbacks, and virtually no passers behind them outside of gimmicks and late-round picks. There were speedy edge rushers galore, plus offensive tackles to prevent them from turning the corner. There were a couple non-rush linebackers, but this was maybe not the year to find a cornerback to cover all the receivers who would go in the first round.

For a look at the best rookie years, see Mike Tanier's 2009 All-Rookie Team. For a reminder of who went where, here is a list of all the picks in the draft.

Quarterbacks

Conventional Wisdom: There was a consensus top two, both of whom were considered likely to be very high picks. Matt Stafford had a phenomenal arm, but did not always display pinpoint accuracy and his team was not outstandingly successful given its overall talent. The other high pick was a minority quarterback who was arrested, but never charged on a sexual assault allegation. Mark Sanchez did not have Stafford's arm and only had 16 starts in college, but he was coming out of Southern California with a high degree of polish and fresh off a dominating performance against Penn State in the Rose Bowl. The consensus third quarterback, though possibly a distant third, was Kansas State's Josh Freeman, another big, strong-armed passer who came out early and needed further polishing to become a successful NFL quarterback.

Here at Football Outsiders, our Lewin Career Forecast projection system did not love any of the quarterbacks. Despite being the top overall pick, Stafford had an underwhelming 57 percent completion rate in three years at Georgia. Freeman's completion rate was a little higher, at 59 percent. And the LCF was extremely skeptical of Mark Sanchez because he only started 16 games. Dave Lewin himself was somewhat optimistic about Sanchez if he could sit on the bench and learn, but believed if Sanchez had to play right away, there was a strong chance he would fail.

Highest pick: Stafford, Georgia, first overall to the Lions.

Best player: If you believe in the absolute supremacy of postseason wins as a determinant of player quality, Sanchez (fifth to the Jets). Otherwise, Stafford by a significant margin. His 2,882 career DYAR to date is 2,613 more than any other quarterback in the class.

The more interesting question is whether Freeman (16th to the Buccaneers) or Sanchez is second-best. Freeman has 269 DYAR, far ahead of Sanchez's minus-585 DYAR total. Freeman's 2010 is the best non-Stafford season of the class. His overall conventional statistics are better -- higher completion percentage, yards per attempt, and touchdown rate, plus lower sack rate and lower interception rate. On the other hand, Freeman was unceremoniously jettisoned by his team in 2013 and was out of the NFL until the Dolphins recently signed him. On the other other hand, Sanchez might not have made it with the Jets until 2013 had he not gotten a financial apology after their failed pursuit of Peyton Manning. My heart says Freeman, and if he is in the right space, this will not even be a question if we do a 12-year retrospective.

Biggest bust: Back in the 2005 draft retrospective, I covered the amazing NFL career of David Greene, a Seahawks third-round pick who was never allowed to attempt an NFL pass. The 2009 draft brought us another amazing example -- a player chosen even higher than Greene who never completed an NFL pass. The previous season, the Miami Dolphins had introduced the Wildcat formation to the NFL and maximized how far a team with an extraordinarily limited passing game could go. Perhaps with the Wildcat in mind, the Dolphins spent their second-round pick, 44th overall, on Pat White out of West Virginia. White and the Mountaineers nearly made the BCS championship game running Rich Rodriguez's spread-and-shred in a topsy-turvy 2007 season, and White's mobility and apparently his team's 2008 success caused the Dolphins to overlook his conventional size and arm-strength limitations. Then, they found those limitations, and learned that White was not a supreme athlete, which meant he did not help them win. Miami cut him before 2010, and though he resurfaced with Washington in 2013, he seems poised to end his career as the highest-drafted quarterback with no NFL completions since the Bills spent the 37th pick in 1980 on Gene Bradley.

Best value: Quarterbacks selected after Freeman to start an NFL game:

McGee won more games as a starter than Null and Painter combined. If you needed a quarterback and did not have the first pick, you were not going to be happy. Even at No. 1 overall, Matt Stafford was the best value at quarterback in the draft.

Running Backs

Conventional Wisdom: Like at quarterback, there was a top class of two. Knowshon Moreno did not have top-end speed but showed tremendous lateral agility and was a highly productive runner in the same backfield as Stafford. Chris "Beanie" Wells out of Ohio State was a power back, but one with a good burst to and through the hole. The next tier included Donald Brown, a very patient runner, and LeSean McCoy, a naturally elusive runner who lacked ideal bulk.

Here at Football Outsiders, Speed Score was much less impressed by the running back class of 2009 than it was by the exceptional class of 2008, and particularly by Moreno's pedestrian 4.6 40, while it like North Carolina State's Andre Brown and Virginia's Cedric Peerman best.

Highest pick: Moreno, Georgia, 12th overall to the Broncos.

Best player: The Eagles made Shady McCoy the 53rd pick and got one of the league's most dynamic space players. He has more than 4,000 more yards from scrimmage than any other back in the class. Lurking in the shadows of the undrafted free agents is Arian Foster.

Biggest bust: Brown (27th, Colts), Moreno, and Wells (31st, Cardinals) were all disappointments to their drafting teams, but each was at least moderately productive. To get a true bust, you have to go to the San Francisco 49ers using the 74th pick on Glen Coffee out of Alabama.

Best value: He was never more than a backup for the Jaguars team that drafted him, but Rashad Jennings has done about as much over his career as Donald Brown has, and Jennings went 250th out of Liberty, just 223 slots after Brown.

Wide Receivers

Conventional Wisdom: Texas Tech stud Michael Crabtree was pretty much everybody's favorite wideout, even if a foot injury prevented him from going through offseason workouts. If you were looking for more of a burner and an explosive returner, Mizzou's Jeremy Maclin was probably more to your liking, or Percy Harvin if you were open to potential character and injury issues and a receiver who played in an unconventional offense. If you wanted even more pure speed and were less concerned about ability to catch the ball and route-running, Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey was more to your liking.

Here at Football Outsiders, we had just introduced Playmaker Score, v. 1.0. As outlined in Football Outsiders Almanac 2009, like everyone else it liked Michael Crabtree an awful lot. He had the highest score of anyone in the draft by a significant margin. The next tier of receivers, which consisted of Maclin, Nicks, Kenny Britt, and Brian Robiskie, had a middling projection. By Vince Verhei's own admission in the essay that introduced the metric, Playmaker Score was better at identifying likely busts than it was at picking out superstars. The players Playmaker Score pegged at least likely to live up to their status as high picks included Harvin, Heyward-Bey, and Mohamed Massaquoi.

Highest pick: Heyward-Bey, seventh overall to the Raiders.

Best player: By receptions and receiving yards, it is Mike Wallace (Ole Miss, 84th, Steelers), followed by Nicks (North Carolina, 29th, Giants). Judging by this offseason's free agency activity, the NFL says it is Maclin (19th, Eagles), perhaps followed by Britt (30th, Titans), Harvin (22nd, Vikings), and Brian Hartline (Ohio State, 108th, Dolphins), with Crabtree (10th, 49ers) and Nicks still waiting in limbo, and judgment of Wallace being an exercise for the eye of the beholder.

By receiving DYAR, Wallace is the clear No. 1, and it is not very close. He has 1,270 DYAR (non-weighted). Maclin is second with 947 DYAR, with Nicks third at 880. Wallace has had four seasons with at least 200 DYAR. No other receiver in the class has more than two. His 2010 season, when he ranked first in DYAR and DVOA, is the best by any receiver in the class. His 2011 season is the second best by any receiver. The third best is actually Crabtree's 2012 when he had 334 DYAR.

Specifying receiving DYAR was an important caveat, because Percy Harvin has added significant rushing value to his work as a receiver. Even with his significantly limited work the past two seasons, for reasons injury-related and otherwise, he has 1,142 total career DYAR. His 627 receiving DYAR ranks sixth in the class, just behind Crabtree's 630, but he adds 515 rushing DYAR to boost his total past Maclin.

My guess is the consensus would be Maclin is the best receiver. Even if you prorate his per-season work to account for his lost 2013, he is still behind Wallace by DYAR and, unlike Harvin, adding in rushing DYAR hurts rather than helps him. Outside 2013, though, he has been consistently productive. Given this class's cast of players with yo-yo production (Britt, Crabtree, Nicks, Wallace), that sets him apart.

Biggest bust: Heyward-Bey was a serious overdraft and has been an extreme disappointment for where he was picked, but he is at least currently on an NFL team and has been each of the past six seasons. The Browns went local and familial with the 36th pick. They reached for Brian Robiskie, who played collegiately at Ohio State and was the son of receivers coach Terry Robiskie. He caught 39 passes in three seasons before he was released and has bounced around the fringes of the NFL since then.

Best value: The Patriots took a chance on a collegiate quarterback making a position change in the seventh round, and all Julian Edelman (Kent State, 232nd) did was catch the winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLIX.

Tight Ends

Conventional Wisdom: Oklahoma State's Brandon Pettigrew was the best tight end in the class by a significant margin. He was not a field-stretcher, but instead a complete player who was a quality blocker as well as a reliable receiver. The next rough tier was a quartet of field-stretchers: Wisconsin's Travis Beckum, South Carolina's Jared Cook, Florida's Cornelius Ingram, and Shawn Nelson from Southern Miss.

Highest pick: Pettigrew, 20th overall to the Lions.

Best player: Pettigrew leads in catches (by 60), while Cook (89th, Titans) leads in receiving yards (by 124). They are tied in touchdowns. By DYAR, it is Cook, 189 to minus-195 (Pettigrew has had negative DYAR in five of six career seasons). By contract and role going forward, Cook.

Biggest bust: With no Matt Millen to kick around this time, Six Years Later needs a new draft whipping boy. Enter Josh McDaniels, then-brand new head coach of the Denver Broncos. A full recounting of McDaniels' follies in draft management would take a whole separate column. For right now, though, we will look solely at Denver's pick at the end of the second round. Denver traded a pair of third-round picks to the Steelers for their second- and fourth-round picks. They then used that second rounder, 64th overall, on tight end Richard Quinn, a blocking tight end whose character McDaniels praised at the draft. It took until August to learn he was not a good blocker, September for him to get arrested on domestic violence charges, and the 2011 preseason for him to get waived. The Steelers got Mike Wallace with one of those two picks they acquired from the Broncos.

Best value: It was not a great year for tight ends. Beyond Cook and Pettigrew, Oakland sixth-rounder Brandon Myers (Iowa, 202nd) has 180 catches, followed by Houston fifth-rounder James Casey (Rice, 152nd) with 72, and Jacksonville's The Other Zach Miller (Nebraska-Omaha, 180th) with 45. Myers is an easy choice.

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Offensive Linemen

Conventional Wisdom: For perhaps the only time in modern NFL history, the most famous player in the draft was an offensive tackle. The movie The Blind Side would not come out until November, but by draft day the tale of Michael Oher's journey from the streets of Memphis to the groves of Ole Miss and eventually to the first round was known even by people who only occasionally watched the Super Bowl.

Beyond Oher, the football cognoscenti loved the athleticism of Baylor's Jason Smith, who had the physical potential to turn into an elite left tackle. Consensus No. 2 was Virginia's Eugene Monroe, perhaps a more polished player than Smith but one who did not have the same theoretical ceiling. If you could overlook some obvious body flabbiness, Andre Smith had been a standout run blocker for Alabama.

Going to the interior of the line, the top three players by most estimates were all centers -- Cal's Alex Mack, Oregon's Max Unger, and Louisville's Eric Wood. No guard was expected to be chosen in the first round; the top two prospects were tackle conversion project Andy Levitre from Oregon State and Oklahoma mauler Duke Robinson.

Highest pick: Smith, second overall to the Rams.

Best player: An interesting question, with again no clear answer. All three centers chosen in the first two rounds (Mack 21st to the Browns, Wood 28th to the Bills, and Unger 49th to the Seahawks) are quality players. At guard, Levitre earned a rich free-agent contract from Tennessee, where he has been a disappointment. Louis Vasquez (Texas Tech, 78th, Chargers) has been a better player at least the last two seasons. There has been no standout tackle. Monroe would be my pick for his consistent production. If you like right tackles, you have your pick of Phil Loadholt (54th, Vikings) or Sebastian Vollmer (58th, Patriots). Loadholt has 22 more starts over six seasons and is 18 months younger, if you want two indicators of where my thinking goes.

Biggest bust: Jason Smith, easily. Perhaps we should have paid more attention to Joe Posnanski's lack of recognition, or perhaps it is a lesson that certain traits beyond the physical are needed to be a quality starter in the NFL and some players, despite being fine people, do not necessarily have them.

Best value: It was not a good year to find an offensive lineman late in the draft. The best of the bunch has been fourth-round pick T.J. Lang (Eastern Michigan, 109th, Packers), who found his way to the field in his fourth season as a tackle and has since kicked inside to right guard. The other late-round pick who seems set to start in 2015 is sixth-round selection Matt Slauson (Nebraska, 193rd, Jets).

Of course, at Football Outsiders we know the best value of this draft (to our website, anyway) was San Diego practice-squad tackle Ben Muth (Stanford, undrafted).

Defensive Linemen

Conventional Wisdom: A player for most every flavor. LSU's Tyson Jackson might have had limited pass rush chops, but he was an elite run-stuffer and ideal 5-tech end who could be great for the right team. Boston College's B.J. Raji was that rare specimen, the quality two-gap nose tackle who could also have an impact on passing downs. If you wanted a one-gap penetrator, Ole Miss' Peria Jerry could be more to your liking.

With the 3-4 trend starting to sweep across the league, edge rushers were starting to be mixed between 3-4 outside linebackers and 4-3 defensive ends. Without splitting front-seven players into defensive linemen, edge rushers, and off-the-ball linebackers, I stuck to my past practice and considered players based on their initial NFL position. Thus, among, say, Scouts Inc.'s list (ESPN Insider) of best players by position, Jackson, Aaron Maybin and Everette Brown are considered defensive ends, while Robert Ayers and Brian Orakpo are considered outside linebackers. Brown and Maybin both had the first step and closing burst to be elite NFL rushers.

Highest pick: Jackson, third overall to the Chiefs.

Best player: Looking at the non-edge rushers, a mostly underwhelming class. Second-round pick Sen'Derrick Marks (Auburn, 62nd, Titans) had perhaps the best 2014, but was only a minor contributor for the Titans team that drafted him.

Among the edge rushers who began their career as defensive linemen, Connor Barwin (Cincinnati, 46th, Texans) has the most sacks at 38.5. He got 4.5 of those as a rookie defensive end, while the rest came as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Among full-time defensive ends, Michael Johnson (Georgia Tech, 70th, Bengals) has been the most impactful rusher by a sizable margin. He has 30.5 sacks, and among players who never primarily stood up, Ziggy Hood (Mizzou, 32nd, Steelers) is second with 12.5. (Raji, who went ninth to the Packers, is a fine player, but he only has 10.5 career sacks.)

Biggest bust: Jackson was a disappointment, but he is still around. The Bills chose Maybin with the 11th pick, and he had 6.0 career sacks, or three fewer than Jackson has.

Best value: There were some productive players picked later. The seventh round produced Ricky Jean-Francois (LSU, 244th, 49ers); Clinton McDonald (Memphis, 249th), who found a home in Seattle after the Bengals chose him; and Vance Walker (Georgia Tech, 210th), mostly a solid rotational player with the Falcons, Raiders, and Chiefs who joined the Broncos this offseason. The best defensive lineman in the fourth round or later, though, was fourth-rounder Henry Melton (Texas, 105th, Bears).

Linebackers

Conventional Wisdom: Aaron Curry was the greatest thing since sliced bread and everything you could want in a linebacker, a playmaking machine with great instincts whose highlight reels mostly consisted of unblocked sacks. He was a lock to have a long career, though if you were a cynical jerk you might add "just like Aundray Bruce" to any such statement. Among off-the-ball linebackers, USC's Brian Cushing was the consensus second-best prospect as a powerful player who could cover tight ends and be a force in the run game. Among pure inside/middle linebackers, Cushing's teammate Rey Maualuga and Ohio State's James Laurinaitis were the consensus top two picks.

Among edge rushers who began their career as 3-4 outside linebackers, everybody liked Texas' Brian Orakpo for his combination of speed off the edge and ability to play the run. Yet another USC player, Clay Matthews was widely regarded as worthy of a late first-round pick. Tennessee's Robert Ayers was not a pure speed rusher, but had more bulk and power than most of the top edge rushers.

Highest pick: Curry, Wake Forest, fourth overall to the Seahawks.

Best player: Among the edge rushers, the answer is obvious: Clay Matthews (26th) has 61.0 sacks, more than 20 ahead of every other player in the class, and has been an impact player every season for the Green Bay Packers. When healthy, Brian Orakpo (11th, Redskins) has been nearly his equal, but Orakpo has missed 24 games over the past three seasons.

Looking solely at off-the-ball linebackers, the best 2014 clearly belonged to DeAndre Levy (Wisconsin, 76th), who drew some All-Pro consideration for his work in the Lions defense. In the past, when healthy, it has been Cushing (15th, Texans). In 2014, though, he looked like a shell of the player he was before injuries robbed him of most of both 2012 and 2013. The impact he has made when healthy tells me I should pick him as the best player at his position in the class over the last six seasons. In another four years, though, Levy may pass him.

Biggest bust: Curry, whose instincts never adapted to the NFL game. Seattle traded him to Oakland at midseason 2011, and he retired before the 2013 season began.

Best value: For seventh-round picks, Brad Jones (Colorado, 218th, Packers) and Moise Fokou (Maryland, 230th, Eagles) both had solid careers. Ditto Jasper Brinkley (South Carolina, 150th), chosen by Minnesota in the fifth round. If you want to say Levy, for his third-round selection, or even Matthews for going 26th and outperforming higher-selected players, well, I will not disagree with you too strongly.

Defensive Backs

Conventional Wisdom: There was no safety worthy of being selected in the first round, unless you felt the consensus top corner in the draft, Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins, would be a better fit away from the boundary due to his questionable long speed. Vontae Davis from Illinois flashed dominance as a cover corner, but inconsistency and a habit of underachieving pushed him out of the top ten toward the bottom of the first round.

The consensus top safeties in the draft, all expected to go off the board between the late-first and early-third rounds, included Western Michigan's Louis Delmas, Oregon's Patrick Chung, and Mizzou's William Moore.

Highest pick: Jenkins, Ohio State, 14th overall to the Saints.

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Best player: Defensive backs with highly productive seasons include Davis (25th, Dolphins), Delmas (33rd, Lions), Jairus Byrd (Oregon, 42nd, Bills), Jenkins, Moore (Missouri, 55th, Falcons), Sean Smith (Utah, 61st, Dolphins), Lardarius Webb (Nicholls St., 88th, Ravens), and Glover Quin (New Mexico, 112th, Texans). Picking the best six-year career to date is virtually impossible. Davis and Webb have probably had the best single seasons in coverage; Delmas, the biggest in-the-box impact. Quin became the free safety the Texans needed and has continued his solid play in Detroit, Byrd has the big interception total, and Smith may have been the most consistent player among the group. I'm open to argument in any direction, or at least I like to think I am.

Biggest bust: Of the 12 defensive backs chosen in the first two rounds, ten of them played in the NFL in 2014. The other two were chosen by the Matt Millen of the 2009 draft, boy genius Josh McDaniels. He traded a 2010 first-round selection to the Seattle Seahawks for the 37th overall pick and used it on undersized cover corner Alphonso Smith. The Broncos used the 48th pick on free safety Darcel McBath. McBath stuck around in Denver twice as long as Smith did, an entire two seasons instead of just one. His flameout left the Broncos with a need at free safety. The Broncos could have filled that hole by spending the 2010 first-round pick they shipped to Seattle on the player the Seahawks actually chose: Earl Thomas.

Best value: Some teams find value throughout the draft. Some teams are more like the Tennessee Titans and treat picks in the fifth round of the draft or later as virtual afterthoughts. The one exception for Tennessee from 2007 to 2013 came in this draft. As a rookie, sixth-round pick Jason McCourty was part of the group lost and confused on the field in Foxborough as the Patriots annihilated the Titans 59-0. He steadily improved, though, and eventually earned a five-year, $40 million contract as a hometown success, and if you doubt how good he is, just look at the contract.

Special Teamers

Conventional Wisdom: Football Outsiders writers wrote about the folly of spending draft picks on kickers and punters, since they mostly go undrafted, and if you choose a long snapper at all, well, I guess there is really not that much difference between the late sixth and seventh rounds and undrafted free agency. USC's strong-legged David Buehler was the consensus top kicker, but there was no Mike Nugent-esque standout.

Highest pick: Punter Kevin Huber, Cincinnati, 142nd overall to the Bengals.

Best player: Colts seventh-rounder Pat McAfee (West Virginia, 222nd) has been a fine punter, and like New Orleans fifth-rounder Thomas Morstead (SMU, 164th), he has also been a good kickoff man who allows his team to employ a broader range of potential placekickers. (The Colts, unlike the Saints, actually use this freedom to employ a good placekicker.)

Biggest bust: Shockingly, all six of the specialists drafted actually contributed to their teams, and four of them are still in the NFL. As far as exceptionally productive drafts go, this is up there with the 2004 quarterback class, with the top three passing prospects of that year all still productive players a decade after they were drafted. The shortest-lived of the sextet were Patriots long-snapper Jake Ingram (Hawaii, 198th), a sixth-round pick, and Buehler (172nd, Cowboys), a fine kickoff specialist whose struggles on place kicks led to his departure from the NFL. Don't draft kickoff specialists in the fifth round.

Best value: McAfee.

(Ed. Note: I wanted to share some thoughts about the entire 2009 draft as a whole, rather than position by position. There's a sense of disappointment about Matthew Stafford, who has never established himself as a top-ten NFL quarterback despite his prestigious physical gifts. But 2009 is one of the worst drafts in NFL history, especially at the top, and it's clear that Detroit absolutely made the correct pick. As you may have noticed, two of the top four picks in the entire draft (Jason Smith and Aaron Curry) aren't even in the league anymore. Brian Orakpo is the only player out of the top 20 who has been chosen for the Pro Bowl more than once. By P-F-R's Career Approximate Value, Stafford is actually the No. 3 player in the entire draft, trailing only Clay Matthews and LeSean McCoy. And there weren't really great late-draft breakout stars other than Edelman and McCourty. Other than special teams, no player chosen after the fourth round of this draft has made a Pro Bowl. It was just a terrible draft year. -- Aaron Schatz)

Previous articles in this series:

Comments

92 comments, Last at 19 Apr 2015, 1:12pm

1 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

What an inconceivably awful draft, and that's without me falling into my usual Official Josh Freeman-Related Depression(tm). I thought 2005 might give it a run for its money, but even that one has Aaron Rodgers, Demarcus Ware, Roddy White, and some others to go with the Cadillac/Cedric Benson/Troy Williamson/Braylon Edwards top 10 regrets.

3 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

The 2005 NFL Draft 1st round breaks down nicely into (more or less) quarters:

1-7: Smith, Brown, Edwards, Benson, Cadillac, Pacman, Williamson

That's not good at all.

8-15: Antrel, Carlos Rogers, Mike Williams, Ware, Merriman, Jamaal Brown, Thomas Davis, Derrick Johnson

Outside of Mike Williams, that's a lot of really good players. Even the flameouts like Merriman and Brown were really good in their day.

16-24: Travis Johnson, Pollak, Erasmus James, Alex Barron, Marcus Spears, Matt Jones, Mark Clayton, Fabian Washington

Only Marcus Spears was valuable for 3+ years.

25-32: Rodgers, Campbell, Chris Spencer, Roddy White, Luis Castillo, Marlin Jackson, Heath Miller, Mike Patterson, Logan Mankins

Another really good set of 8 players.

49 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

True, but Smith's came way after his rookie deal, and I just like the hilarity of three RBs in the first 5 picks.

The overall point was the '05 draft, which has probably the worst Top-10 I've seen, breaks nicely into four little quarters.

2 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

The overall draft assessment does seem to shine a little light on where the Lions are today. Without dart-thrower Millen in charge (for as crappy as his drafts usually were, in 2008 he'd managed to pick up Cliff Avril and Gosder Cherilus), for a change, Detroit could expect to get decent return on their selections, and they did ... but there just wasn't enough there to completely fix their problems, and as mentioned before, the rookie wage scale in place locked them into a spot they still haven't escaped. (I've been playing FOF 7, and in 2017, I'm still trying to get out from under the last big contract.)

Mayhew ended up with 3 picks in the top 33 and got Stafford, Pettigrew, and Delmas. Each wasn't quite where I'd want them to be, but there weren't clearly better options in any category. Levy's been solid at LB, and while Derrick Williams was a flop and also went two picks before Wallace, the Lions got rotation depth in Sammie Lee Hill in the fourth round.

Unfortunately, the next few drafts sucked for the Lions. They did pick up Willie Young in the 7th in 2010, but aside from that, from 2010-12, so far it's looking like they did well with their first pick and none of the others.

5 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

I'd say they actually did amazingly well with that draft, considering what a bare cupboard they were pulling from. It's always important to take into account that almost no one had a great draft in 2009 - even the Eagles who somehow landed Maclin AND McCoy ended up with almost no one else (saving guy mentioned in the article: Fokou, a traditional Andy Reid passable, low-impact linebacker.) If you can get a starting QB, TE and S out of that draft class, you've done pretty darn good. It's tough to see how they could have done better, truthfully...

36 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Looking back at the Lions' non-first round picks from 2010-2012 makes me double over in pain. Mayhew appears to have knocked it out of the park in 2013, however. He got potential stars in rounds 1-3, and solid contributors the 4 picks after that. Did Mayhew learn from his previous mistakes, or just get lucky? (I'm sure Will Allen and ChemicalBurn can debate about that some more).

I'll reserve judgement on 2014 for now. I know TE has a steep learning curve, but Eric Ebron will have to be near Jimmy Graham level going forward to justify #10 overall. Travis Swanson had a competent debut at center when Knucklehead Raiola got suspended, and Caraun Reid looks like solid value as a rotational DT. The rest of the picks were injured as rookies and barely played. Nate Freese, though...ugh...no more needs to be said about that.

38 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Im willing to chalk that up to the randomness of drafting. With a couple possible exceptions on each end, I think the vast majority of GMs/organizations are roughly equivalent at drafting - there's a lot of luck and randomness involved.

43 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

I think where certain franchises have advantages might be more in the system of the organization. I'm fairly certain that the Packers dedicate more resources than most teams to late round pikcs and UDFAs, and they get players out of it.

On the other end of the spectrum, I fully believe that it's possible for a GM to be worse than the average at drafting - late-period Al Davis is a good example of that imo.

44 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

You make a good point about institutional processes vs. individual accumen. 1990s Mike Brown would have been thrown in with the Matt Millens, Josh McDaniels's, and 2000s Al Davis's of the world. Then he finally loosened the death grip on his wallet and invested in an NFL-level scouting department...and voila, he suddenly became a good drafter.

4 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

"Aaron Curry was the greatest thing since sliced bread and everything you could want in a linebacker, a playmaking machine with great instincts whose highlight reels mostly consisted of unblocked sacks."
When you being compared to sliced bread, you are never gong to meet expectations as sliced bread is one of the all time greats at any level. Sliced bread is just awesome - Aaron Curry, not so much.

6 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

I feel like if a clone of Jason Smith and Aaron Curry, or Ryan Leaf for that matter, were to enter this draft - they'd still be taken high(even with all the recent evidences). The revisionist history on why those players busted out seems to be an empty exercise.

When a player is successful, we never go back and remember the pre-draft chatter about his questionable personality traits or lack of moxie/motivation.

In the end, there is a steep jump in learning curves for college and the nfl. I happen to think the scouts do an overall good job, but its still an incredibly noisy exercise and trying to come up with ex post explanations is merely storytelling.

7 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Of the 12 defensive backs chosen in the first two rounds, ten of them played in the NFL in 2014.

Amazingly, this includes Mike Mitchell, drafted 47th overall by the Raiders despite not being invited to the combine.

8 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

I remember the Donald Brown draft being the last straw for me. I already hated the silly trade for Tony Ugoh, but this one just made no sense. It reminded me how wedded Polian was to the philosophy that offensive linemen were fungible because of PM, but somehow running backs were not.

12 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

It is amazing to me now that Polian is considered to be an authority on anything. In retrospect, by 2011, let alone now, it should be obvious that 97% of the credit for Indianapolis' run should be given to some combination of Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy, with the remainder mostly going to a few draft hits on the defensive side of the ball (Mathis).

The Colts essentially muffed every draft between 2005 and 2010. By 2010, the offense was basically a practice squad with Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne.

20 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

I have enormous respect for Polian, but I had a few issues with him on specific philosophical issues. I can't say for sure if the marginalizing of special teams and soft defenders was his fault or just the way Dungy wanted the team built, but the o line issues and the running back decisions were things that kept coming back over and over.

Even after the Steelers mauled the Colts, Dungy really didn't do much to specifically address it. He also drafted 3 running backs during Manning's career - despite entering an era when the running back was fast becoming an afterthought.

46 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Three first rounders on running backs over that time frame. I'm trying to think of another team that committed so many resources to a running back position when they had a hall of fame player at qb. the pats never did. Nor did the Packers, Broncos, or really anyone else.

50 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Yeah, the problem was not the number of running backs they drafted, but that they drafted some really mediocre running backs in the first round (Addai, Brown). What they needed to do was draft a couple of D tackles and linemen, and then spend every year's seventh round pick on a major-college RB who can pass protect, regardless of their other skills or lack thereof.

Or even just sign over the hill veterans of offenses that required the right skills (Ahmad Bradshaw has been the best Colts RB at least since Addai if not James, and you could sign three of him every year).

53 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

To me Addai was fine, a reasonably amount of production from a late 1st round pick, and he worked really well in teh Colts offense.

What hurt him was injury issues later on, and the Colts o-line turning to dog-s**t.

It is odd that Poilian drafted three RBs in teh 1st round, but James was definitely worth it, and Addai, given his draft position, wasn't too bad either.

And for the guy that brought up the Pats, it hasn't been three first rounders, but they have done a 2nd rounder (Vereen), and a 1st rounder (Maroney) who happened to be picked 9 spots ahead of Addai in the '06 draft.

86 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Maroney was a bust for a 1st rounder, and was taken while superior RBs were still available. That's still a head-scratcher, since he wasn't even the best RB at Minnesota.

Vereen was worth it, as was Ridley, I'd say. BB is wholly embracing the notion of plug-and-play RB production. Bring in new guys every three years and never give any RB a 7-figure contract.

54 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

That was kind of the Colts' theory of personnel when Manning was at the helm, though--since offense is likely more repeatable than defense, draft lots of offensive players to surround Manning with targets, and hope the defense comes together when it can. They were criticized for drafting Wayne when they had Harrison (which really worked out), and then they drafted Anthony Gonzalez later (which didn't). Likewise Edgerrin to Addai to Brown was a progressive set of drop-offs, but still pretty much fit into their plan. Throw in Dallas Clark as well; it's pretty much "give Peyton weapons and hope for the best".

Sure, they picked some questionable players, but there's a bit of expectation there as they were consistently good enough to be picking late in the first round anyways, meaning things were far less of a given.

56 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

To me, if Polian's view was to build offense since its more consistent than defense, then he's clearly falling into the correlation=causation trap. Its likely that offensive consistency is the result of the qb and then it becomes a real question mark about how important is to surround elite qbs with elite receivers. Obviously it helps, but I think any hall of fame qb with average receivers can make an offense pretty good. No quarterback is going to will his defense to play great.

Edge was fine. Addai was ok, but I'm trying to judge it ex ante: Its still a first round pick on a position you can find good value in much later. Thus, it has to be looked at in the prism of opportunity costs.

59 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

I mean I could model it.

The other issue is gradients of qb play. Differences in qb play are not really linear. The difference between gabbert and say Fitzpatrick is enormous. The gap from fitz to romo is probably not as large for instance. And the gap between Romo to the all time elites I think is enormous again, but how to model that is really hard.

60 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

You could probably intuit it logically - I don't have the knowledge to do the stats. It just makes sense that the side of the ball that is far more dependent on one player is likely to be more consistent.

A team with a good quarterback is likely to retain that quarterback (unless you're Josh McDaniels, since we're all making fun of him), and thus continue to have a good offense. A team with a bad quarterback is likely to replace that quarterback, but by the law of probability the quarterback they replace him with will probably also be bad, thus they will continue to have a bad offense. A team with an average quarterback likely won't replace him unless they feel that they can get equivalent or better play at the position, so that offense will continue to be average.

It makes sense to me anyway. The best way to prove it would likely be to find instances where a team's offensive DVOA changed drastically year to year, then look at that team's quarterback situation between those years (you could also find the impact of injuries and coaching changes this way).

Alternatively, couldn't one just look at the coorelation between a quarterback's personal DVOA or DYAR and the team's offensive DVOA, if that hasn't been done already.

62 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

To your last point - no because dvoa essentially mirrors qb dvoa. If a qb makes a great pass or a lousy pass but the result is a first down, dvoa credits them the same. The finer nuances of qb play aren't broken down by a stat like dvoa.

This goes back to where I started. I think passing consistency begins probably when you have a really strong qb. You probably need a qb whos just about elite to have that sustained consistency. PM, Brady, Rodgers, and Brees always have consistently good seasons. Sure, they have their high swings and a few lows, but are generally always fielding top 10 offenses. Rivers and big ben probably should also be included along with Matt Ryan. After that, I'm not sure any other qb can be consistent year to year.

61 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Weird - I think the exact opposite. There's almost no difference between a Gabbert and a Fitzpatrick as far as helping your team win consistently. Whereas what Romo (or even a more clear step down like Flacco/Eli) provides for your team is enormous and probably can't be overstated. The difference between Romo and Brady I just don't think matters nearly as much as going from a journeyman nothing like Orton or Dalton to a QB like Romo. (Although, again, Romo is such a touchy player and his value so controversial I'd rather go with someone like Eli Manning for this discussion - undoubtedly very good with an inarguable ceiling to his talent below Brees/Rodgers/etc. I personally think Romo is more like Rodgers than Eli/Flacco.)

63 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

I should be clearer. Fitz on a the Texans can get you about 8 wins. Gabbert on any team I feel like maxes out at 4 wins. I refer to such qbs as red line qbs, like when your car runs into the red line rpm and just malfunctions. Other such notables include players like Clausen, Locker, and Russell.

Once we leave the red line qbs and start comparing average qbs to above, really good, and hall of fame, the key metric becomes long term consistency - ie - how do they do over a 5 year period with changing circumstances like offensive line injuries, defense, etc.

To me - Andy Dalton and Romo are closer together than Romo and Brady. Brady and the other elites consistently have top offensive dvoas. They are often ranked number 1 through 5, sometimes even featuring all time record shattering offenses. Romo maxes out as a top 3 offense, but most often hovers around top 10, with a lot of weird week to week inconsistencies. Dalton can't go quite that far, but again, hes to me closer to Romo than Brady.

70 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Hmm... I always think of Romo as closer to Brady than Dalton is to Romo. Romo is at the edge of the top tier I'd think, where Dalton is solidly in the middle tier. I wanted to check some numbers, so I grabbed both the three years of DVOA I can see (2011,2012,2013), and ANY/A for the last 4 years :

Brady...Romo....Dalton
10.9....11.5....2.3
35.1....14.8....-5.9
35.4....26.8....5.6

Brady...Romo....Dalton
7.01....8.11....5.75
6.13....6.54....6.29
7.48....6.35....5.68
8.25....7.40....5.65

Sort of inconclusive, but Romo is clearly in between the other two. Whether he's closer to one or the other... it's kind of a toss up I think.

64 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

The problem with that approach is that prism didn't get used when Addai was drafted. That was 2006, the same year Reggie Bush, Laurence Maroney, and DeAngelo Williams went earlier than Addai in the first round. 2005 saw three RBs in the top five. Even 2010 had Spiller, Mathews, and Best in the first. "Don't bother on RBs in the first round" is a relatively new concept. I mean, 2007 had Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch in the first, which is clearly a pretty solid pair. Drafting an RB at the 27th overall spot doesn't seem particular nuts compared to the drafting decisions made in those days.

65 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

But its sort of telling that none of the other hall of fame led regimes did the same thing. How many other teams spend 3 first rounders on running backs? We can go through the list and invariably, will find almost none. I think at some point, those teams realized that having a great rb and a great qb had less payoff than a great defense or even an offensive line.

66 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Eh, I just don't think it's that unusual to have three backs drafted in the first round over the course of 11 drafts. The Saints took McCallister, Bush, and Ingram over an 11-year span (oh my GOD how did I now know PFR's draft table was sortable by team?), and go back two years earlier you throw in Ricky Williams for a fourth. Carolina and Chicago have three in that same incredibly-convenient 11-year span.

I mean, it's clearly not optimal these days, but I don't think it's unusually bad in any way. Sure, those teams aren't renowned for being draft geniuses like Polian, but I don't think Polian was hugely out of base by taking three different backs, one of whom was great, one of whom was quite good until injuries took over, and one was a definite bust.

68 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

I'd change that to consistently good teams don't usually spend first round picks on RBs. The Pats drafted one RB in the first round in the Belichick/Brady era. The Steelers have drafted one RB (Mendenhall) in the last 20 years or so as have the Ravens (Jamal Lewis). The Packers have drafted no first round RBs since before Holmgren. The Broncos haven't in 25 years. Yes, there are several second and third round picks in this group, but teams with good QBs rarely seem to draft a RB first. They also expect their RBs to block and very few top drafted RBs are also good blockers since that's not what got them their high draft status.

I get the idea that Polian's MO was to surround PM with talent. I agree Edge was great and don't even think Addai was a bad pick. But I think a mediocre back behind a very good line is usually more effective than a very good RB behind a mediocre line as long as you have a top QB. (Greatness is transcendent. Very good is just very good.) I'd have gone for the very good line - especially in front of PM - and a mediocre (but decent blocking) RB.

BTW, drafthistory.com also has decent sort options.

71 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Pretty much this. Its not whether the pick was successful or not - It was whether idea made sense at the time. Ok, so edge was fine given the era. Addai I suppose was justifiable, but really, you couldn't find an addai somewhere in the 2nd/3rd/4th round?

And finally, brown was drafted despite the fact that it was very clear the colts were getting old at some important spots and were incredibly thin in the secondary(they ended up starting two rookies at corner and a second year player in melvin bullet).

82 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

I think that if Polian had drafted anyone else but Godammit Donald, this discussion wouldn't be taking place. Edge was a star, Addai was a solid and versatile back. Had the third edition been at least as good as Addai, there's nothing to talk about. Drafting RBs high was the norm for the era -- especially when they were supposed to plug in as key playmakers on a "greatest show on turf" style offenses.

//AJMQB

83 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

In the single-back era, where bunches of RBs are being picked in the 1st and 2nd rounds, no, you don't find an Addai in the fourth round. The dual-threat workhorse/receiving back was highly valued, guys like Addai were consensus 1st rounders every year.

It was a different time.

//AJMQB

9 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Wow. I kept reading, thinking that there must be some good players coming up, but that was quite the desert so far as talent is concerned. Compare just 2009's first round to 2010 . . . oof.

11 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Every offseason when Josh McDaniels gets mentioned (non-ironically) as a possible head coaching candidate, I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or curl up into a fetal position.

13 Re: 2009 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Surely Donald Brown deserves extra points for giving us "Goddammit Donald!!!", which was absolutely robbed of the "Funniest Moment" prize in the 2009 FO Awards.