Winners and Losers From the NFL Draft
But demand it does, and so here we are, in the hours after South Carolina kicker Ryan Succop was crowned "Mr. Irrelevant" (in a bizarre pageant that found NFL employees boogieing on front of the stage to Donna Summer's "Last Dance"), trying to make it all make sense.
The 256 picks included a stunning 55 defensive backs to go with 39 offensive linemen, 37 defensive linemen 34 wide receivers, 31 linebackers, 23 running backs, 20 tight ends, 11 quarterbacks, three punters, two place kickers and one long snapper -- Hawaii's Jake Ingram, picked in the sixth round by New England.
There were 11 players drafted from USC, the most in the draft from any one school. USC also led the way in 2008, with 10 players taken, and in 2006, with 11. There were also, to the delight of a cluster of local fans in the balcony, five players drafted from Rutgers, which had never before had more than three.
The Patriots and Cowboys each picked 12 players, which was the highest total. Impressive from the Cowboys because they didn't pick any on Saturday. Impressive from the Patriots because they also managed to collect two 2010 second-round picks in trades with Jacksonville and Tennessee.
The Jets made the fewest picks, just three, but claim to really, really like the guys they got.
But who did the best? And who did the worst? Who went from pretender to contender as a result of the moves made on this April weekend, and who's likely to be picking early in 2010?
Unless you have a time machine and can go forward five years, come back and let us know who the good players turned out to be, we can't know for sure. But we'll take a stab at it.
THREE TEAMS THAT HELPED THEMSELVES
1. The Bengals. No, not a typo. We love the Bengals' draft. Love Andre Smith at No. 6. Love Rey Maualuga in the second round, Michael Johnson and Chase Coffman in the third. In the fourth round they got Jonathan Luigs, who could be their starting center. And their fifth- and sixth-round picks, Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber and Michigan cornerback Morgan Trent, were well-researched: Both were on the North team for which the Bengals served as the coaching staff in the Senior Bowl in January.
Now, you can point out that Smith would have fallen if not for the Bengals taking him, and that Maualuga and Johnson did fall because of character/work ethic questions. And you could do a whole post on the problems of sixth-rounder Bernard Scott. But the Bengals got a whole lot of talent in this draft, and if a couple of these "questionable" guys pay off, they've made themselves better in several areas.
2. The Bears. Like the Cowboys, they didn't have a pick until Day Two, but they did some real good second-day work. Jarron Gilbert is a massive and explosive interior defensive lineman who can get into the backfield in an eye blink and could develop into the best DT of this draft. Joaquin Iglesias was a routinely reliable receiver at college football's highest levels. And Vanderbilt cornerback D.J. Moore fell into the fourth round because of questions about his speed, but he's got great on-field instincts and technique. All three are good, solid football players whose skills mitigate any perceived physical drawbacks.
3. The Patriots. At times, it seemed as if they were engaging in higher math than any of us could contemplate. The dizzying fourth-round minute in which they traded Ellis Hobbs for two of Philadelphia's fifth-round picks, then immediately dealt them to Baltimore for a fourth-rounder and a sixth-rounder and then immediately picked Rich Ohrnberger with the fourth-rounder symbolized the whole thing. Bill Belichick never tires of seeking out the best possible value for his pick, and he came away with those two 2010 second-rounders, which could turn into goodness-knows-how-many picks this time next year.
The more pessimistic Pats fans could point out that they needed (and could have found) some youth at linebacker. But New England has very few, if any, immediate needs. Second-rounders Ron Brace and Daruis Butler are good picks that could help soon, Brandon Tate is a fun long-term bet and Ingram ... well, he must be one heck of a long snapper. It's hard to watch the draft and not get the idea that the Patriots know what they're doing.
THREE TEAMS THAT PROBABLY HELPED THEMSELVES, BUT SHOULD WATCH OUT
1. The Jets. Mark Sanchez is the star of the show, a crowd-pleaser for all time among the hard-to-please Jet fans who make this annual pilgrimage. And Shonn Greene gives them a ton of depth at running back (assuming Thomas Jones comes to camp). You have to give the Jets credit for identifying the players they really liked and making the bold plays to get them. But you also have to wonder if trading away so many picks will eventually catch up with them from an organizational depth standpoint.
2. The Bills. They did a lot of good in terms of bulking up on the offensive line, adding center Eric Wood and guard Andy Levitre. And Shawn Nelson was a sleeper tight end they were thrilled to get in the fourth round. But they did not add a left tackle to replace the recently traded Jason Peters, and so they're going to have to do some juggling. There's some speculation that Buffalo has its eye on Cincinnati's Levi Jones, who could be available (or cut) now that the Bengals have Andre Smith. But they could regret not snagging a Michael Oher, Eben Britton or Will Beatty when they had a chance.
3. The Chargers. They beefed up the interior of their offensive line nicely with Louis Vasquez and Tyronne Green. Elsewhere ... they took some chances. On upside and raw potential, they have a collection that could be looked back on as one of the best of this whole draft. But Larry English was a reach at No. 16 overall. Vaughn Martin could take a long time to develop. Gartrell Johnson probably isn't an every-down NFL back, and they might need one depending on what happens with LaDanian Tomlinson. Demetrius Byrd was just in a car accident. If they can keep everybody healthy and coach them up, this is a big-time draft class. But right now it's a lot of "if's."
THREE TEAMS THAT SHOULD EXPECT REAL NICE PICKS IN 2010
1. The Raiders. It's become a joke, really. The Raiders do goofy things. Nobody understands the way they operate. It's like they're dreaming about Gorgonzola cheese when it's clearly Brie time, baby. They overdrafted Darrius Heyward-Bey in the first round and Mike Mitchell in the second and Matt Shaughnessy in the third. People seemed to like fourth-rounder Slade Norris, but otherwise the Raiders loaded up on head-scratchers, and it's hard to see how they made themselves better for 2009.
2. The Broncos. By the end, when they packed up and went home with 10 new players, it looked as if they'd put together a decent collection of talent. But they traded one of their 2010 first-rounders to pick cornerback Alphonso Smith in the second round. And while Smith is a top talent, the way things are looking for the Broncos this coming season, that could be one of the top five picks next year. They still need a quarterback, in case everybody forgot, but they waited until the sixth round to take one, and when they did it was Fresno State's Tom Brandstater, who's a long-range project at best.
3. The Cowboys. They made 12 picks, all on the draft's second day, but too many of them looked like reaches, including their first. Third-rounder Jason Williams has the makings of a nice NFL linebacker, but he probably wasn't a third-rounder. One very intriguing pick is Texas A&M quarterback Stephen McGee, who dropped into the fourth-round because of durability issues and limited playing time as a senior but has had his share of success at a high collegiate level and could be a real sleeper star of the future. But the Cowboys didn't do anything to make themselves better in 2009.