A look at the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
1. Detroit — QB Matt Stafford, Georgia
Stafford has all the physical tools to develop into an elite quarterback, but what sold him most to Lions head coach Jim Schwartz was what is between his ears.
Despite making some bad decisions on the field and struggling with his accuracy throughout his career, Stafford is very competitive, extremely smart and should learn quickly. Most of his flaws are correctable with good coaching, and he walks into an excellent situation to be groomed under offensive coordinator and QB specialist Scott Linehan.
With Daunte Culpepper in the best shape of his life, Stafford should be able to develop at his own pace, but he is capable of becoming a Day One starter, especially if the Lions can improve their offensive line. The key for the Lions now will be upgrading their blind-side protection, with OLT Jeff Backus struggling last season and best suited to move inside. The Lions have expressed some interest in moving up from their 20th pick, with their eyes on a left tackle.
2. St. Louis — OLT Jason Smith, Baylor
Rams OLT Alex Barron has been a complete disappointment for the Rams and is a big part of the reason Marc Bulger has been unable to stay healthy. The Rams tried shopping Barron last season and if they could find an interested suitor today, he could be shipped out of town.
In Jason Smith, the Rams now have the cornerstone of their offensive line. He is still raw, having spent his early years in the program as a tight end and not having the experience some of the other elite tackles in this draft have at the OLT position, but in three years, he is the most likely to be playing in the Pro Bowl. He is strong, tough, physical and possesses the nasty football temperament that head coach Steve Spagnuolo is looking to establish in the trenches.
3. Kansas City — DE Tyson Jackson, LSU
The Chiefs would have liked to have traded down to avoid paying the monumental price that unproven rookies now command in the first seven lottery picks. However, with no interested suitors, Jackson best fits the 3-4 defense that the Chiefs would like to run. He is big, strong, durable and comes without any character questions.
It may not be a great pick, but it is a safe pick. He does not have great instincts and he is not in the same class of talent as Richard Seymour and Ty Warren, but in a weak draft, he is the only proven five-technique and will be key to establishing a strong run defense.
4. Seattle — OLB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest
The Seahawks identified Curry as their selection months ago, having shipped the less passionate, underachieving Julian Peterson to the Lions for Cory Redding, creating a perfect void on the roster for the safest pick in the draft.
Curry has some tightness in his hips and will miss some open-field tackles, but he does not have many deficiencies. He plays the game with strength, ragdolling blockers and should establish a physical presence for Jim Mora's new defense. He has great speed and balance and will once again position the Seahawks LB unit atop the league.
5. New York Jets (from Cleveland) — QB Mark Sanchez, USC
Mike Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini are no longer together, but they are still doing business and were able to orchestrate the first major splash of Draft Day, with Mangini acquiring three of his former players (DE Kenyon Coleman, QB Brett Ratliff and S Abram Elam).
Coleman will make more of an impact than the immature B.J. Raji and Elam should upgrade the secondary. Tannenbaum aggressively pursued Brett Favre last offseason and has established a reputation as one of the NFL's most diligent go-getters. In Mark Sanchez, he lands what the Jets perceive to be their new franchise quarterback. He will be expected to take over immediately behind a strong offensive line. He has the moxie and charisma to charm the critical New York media and will be well-suited to handle the huge expectations now placed on his shoulders.
6. Cincinnati — OLT Andre Smith, Alabama
Andre Smith was the highest-rated offensive tackle on the Bengals' draft board and fills the Bengals most pressing need. He is still very young and immature, but his overall combination of athletic ability, arm length, strength and power is difficult to find.
OL coach Paul Alexander has done an excellent job developing raw talent, and he will have his work cut out managing Smith on a day-to-day basis. However, if Smith can stay focused and control his weight, he could be a regular in Honolulu.
7. Oakland — WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland
Al Davis loves rolling the dice on big-time talent, and Heyward-Bey has the best overall package of size and speed. He gives JaMarcus Russell the vertical threat to open up the offense. Heyward-Bey's hands were a bit shaky as a junior, but he was largely underutilized in the Terps' offense and flashed big-play capabilities when given opportunities.
This pick may seem like a bit of a reach, with most teams regarding Heyward-Bey as no better than the third-best receiver in the draft, behind Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin and even Percy Harvin on some boards, but Heyward-Bey has a lot of upside.
8. Jacksonville — OLT Eugene Monroe, Virginia
The Jaguars let Khalif Barnes walk in free agency and signed aging veteran Tre' Thomas, but Thomas really struggled to make it through the season last year and still left a pressing need at the left tackle position. Monroe will be slated to start immediately.
Many teams were concerned about how well his knees would hold up and how mentally tough he is to play through pain, which is why he slid as far as he did. However, he is excellent in pass protection and will provide a clean pocket for David Garrard, which he did not have a year ago. With his protection upgraded, the Jagaurs now need to find some more weapons for Garrard.
9. Green Bay — NT B.J. Raji, Boston College
The key to a 3-4 front is the nosetackle position, and Raji will be expected to anchor Dom Capers' new defense. He has the size and mass desired to clog the middle and stuff the run. However, he does not have a great work ethic or passion for the game and could always struggle to ever be great.
10. San Francisco — WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
Questions about Crabtree's work ethic, injury status and overall character are what forced him into the hands of the Niners, a team desperately in need of playmakers. Crabtree is the most competitive receiver in this draft. He has excellent run-after-the-catch ability and should make an average group of quarterbacks look a lot better than they are.
If he could stay focused under the direction of Mike Singletary, he could turn out to be a steal at this pick. However, if he buys into his own hype, gets too distracted and does not keep working at his craft, he could struggle to maintain his success. Given the situation he is entering and the opportunity he will have, he could compete for Rookie of the Year honors.
11. Buffalo — DE Aaron Maybin, Penn State
Maybin played much faster than he timed at the Combine after bulking up, and once he grows into his body and matures, he could be an elite pass rusher. He needs to get stronger, but he understands leverage, is naturally instinctive and has elite first-step quickness coming off the edge. He instantly upgrades a pass rush that struggled to reach the quarterback and lost CB Jabari Greer in free agency.
12. Denver — RB Knowshon Moreno, Georgia
With the Broncos moving away from Mike Shanahan's zone-running game, head coach Josh McDaniels needed to find a workhorse back who could pound the ball more aggressively inside and take some pressure off QB Kyle Orton.
Moreno is the draft's most competitive runner, and should be able to rush for 1,200-plus yards in a featured role as a rookie. His passion for the game was what caught the attention of McDaniels and new GM Brian Xanders.
13. Washington — DE Brian Orakpo, Texas
With Jason Taylor being released, the Redskins needed to upgrade their pass rush. Orakpo not only possesses the first-step explosiveness to become a factor terrorizing the quarterback, he has the strength defensive coordinator Greg Blache desires to play physical and leverage the run. With Albert Haynesworth and Orakpo getting after the quarterback, the Redskins are creating a pass rush to compete with the Giants' feared front.
14. New Orleans — CB Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State
In a division that faces big receivers such as Roddy White, Muhsin Muhammad and Antonio Bryant twice a year, the Saints have struggled to match up. Jenkins brings the size and physicality that has been lacking in the secondary. He allows Jabari Greer to kick to the nickel role in which he excelled in Buffalo.
15. Houston — OLB Brian Cushing, USC
The Texans' run defense was its Achilles' heel last year and really fell apart late last season after Zach Diles' suffered a career-threatening injury, creating a major void at the strong-side linebacker position. Cushing is versatile enough to interchange between all three LB positions, which was attractive to Texans' defensive coordinator Frank Bush, and should improve the run defense.
16. San Diego — OLB Larry English, Northern Illinois
A.J. Smith could have moved back to the end of the first round and still landed English, but Smith is a bold decision-maker who never second-guesses himself and could feel comfortable selecting English with this pick because of his toughness, work ethic and competitiveness. With Shawne Merriman coming off injury and not expected to be back beyond next season, the Chargers clearly have a long-term vision to build for the future.
17. Tampa Bay (from N.Y. Jets via Cleveland) — QB Josh Freeman, Kansas St.
With questions about whether the Broncos feel comfortable with Kyle Orton as their starter, the Buccaneers clearly did not take any chances missing on their quarterback and traded up two spots, reuniting former Kansas State defensive coordinator Raheem Morris with the strong-armed pocket passer. Freeman has really impressed teams with his intelligence and should get a chance to play right away. Byron Leftwich did not impress in the Buccaneers' first mini-camp and questions remain about whether Luke McCown can be a full-time starter.
18. Denver (from Chicago) — OLB Robert Ayers, Tennessee
The Broncos badly needed help at the rush linebacker position, with Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder having struggled to develop, and Ayers brings the motor, energy and toughness Josh McDaniels is seeking to establish a physical defensive identity. Despite being highly criticized throughout the Jay Cutler fiasco, McDaniels and GM Brian Xanders have shown a penchant for drafting the first time around, coming away with two very energetic players who leave everything on the field.
19. Philadelphia (from Tampa Bay via Cleveland) — WR Jeremy Maclin, Missouri
The Eagles clearly recognized great value, as Maclin surprisingly slipped to the 19th slot and likely would have been scooped up by a team in need of a big-time receiver with Braylon Edwards on the trading blocks. The Browns could regret trading this pick in the long run, but clearly have another receiver targetted and continue to execute their strategy of accumulating additional picks, having started the day with only five and now having 10, with three veterans included. Maclin could turn out to be a steal at this slot for the Eagles and has to make Donovan McNabb very happy.
20. Detroit (from Dallas) — TE Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State
Michael Oher was available and would have filled a need, but the Lions instead decided to bolster their protection by adding a physical, blocking tight end, which should greatly help OLT Jeff Backus and provide the extra help a rookie quarterback needs both in the short passing game and in protection.
21. Cleveland (from Philadelphia) — C Alex Mack, California
When Eric Mangini arrived in New York, he spent his first two picks on D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, the latter of which turned out to be a more valuable contributor. Mack fills a pressing area of need, with center struggles having troubled the Browns for years. Hank Fraley does not possess the girth or power to establish a strong running game. Mack is big, smart and physical and should start immediately.
22. Minnesota — WR Percy Harvin, Florida
This pick smacks of desperation. If Brad Childress does not win this year, his time could will be up, and he clearly knows it. He should be able to use Harvin the same way that he used Bryant Westbrook in Philadelphia. Harvin is a dynamic talent, but major character questions eliminated him from many draft boards. Nonetheless, if the Vikings had not pulled the trigger, there was a good chance Bill Belichick or Bill Parcells would have done so with the next two picks. Harvin is super competitive and could be an impact player if he can stay out of trouble.
23. Baltimore (from New England) — OT Michael Oher, Mississippi
Character and coachability questions clearly forced Oher to slide in this draft, as many teams had removed him from their draft boards. Ozzie Newsome has had success with Jared Gaither at left tackle after finding him still available late in the supplemental draft because of similar character concerns. In the Ravens' strong locker room, Oher could be kept in line and figures to compete with Willie Anderson for a job at right tackle. The pick is more risky than Newsome tends to be, but there is clearly value in the pick, and with a very nurturing coaching staff, Oher should have a chance to blossom. Falling to the Ravens could be a huge blessing in disguise.
24. Atlanta — DT Perry Jerry, Mississippi
The Falcons decided to pass on Glenn Dorsey last year, but it did not take long for GM Thomas Dimitroff to fall back to his New England roots, where a premium is placed on defensive linemen. Jerry possesses the toughness, motor and inside pass-rush ability to make his presence felt in a rotation immediately.
25. Miami — CB Vontae Davis, Illinois
The Dolphins lost nickel cornerback Andre Goodman to the Broncos in free agency and needed to upgrade the position. They rolled the dice with Davis, who is extremely gifted physically, but too often found his way into the doghouse at Illinois and could be difficult to coach. The risk could be worth the reward if Tony Sparano can keep Davis in line, but it is a big if.
26. Green Bay (from New England through Baltimore) — OLB Clay Matthews, USC
Transitioning to a 3-4 front has been the focus for Ted Thompson, and he has not a solid job of acquiring key pieces for Dom Capers, with B.J. Raji plugging the middle and Matthews bringing heat off the edge.
Some teams employing 30 fronts questioned whether Matthews was naturally big-boned enough to thrive rushing the passer from the rush linebacker position, but he has excellent length and take-off speed and terrific bloodlines to be molded. He could be expected to contribute readily. Bill Belichick, acquiring extra picks, could become a player in the trade market, where he has had more success finding receivers than through the draft.
27. Indianapolis — CB Donald Brown, Connecticut
Joseph Addai has not been able to stay healthy and Dominic Rhodes departed in free agency, creating a bigger need for another runner. Brown is considered a more complete all-around back than Beanie Wells, better suited to contribute on all three downs. It is somewhat surprising Wells is still available, but questions about his durability and toughness concerned many teams.
28. Buffalo (from Carolina through Philadelphia) — C Eric Wood, Louisville
With Kirk Chamers expected to kick outside to help replace Jason Peters, the Bills needed help inside. Wood is big, strong, smart and physical and should be a 10-year starter in the league. He will likely begin his career at guard for the Bills and should provide great versatility.
29. New York Giants — WR Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina
The Giants needed a big, strong target to replace Plaxico Burress, whose absence noticeably affected the Giants in the playoffs last season, and they found one in Nicks. He has huge hands, competes hard for the ball and and plays hard. Questions about his work ethic and weight fluctuations in the postseason concerned some teams enough to remove him from consideration, but Tom Coughlin is a disciplined taskmaster who should be able to keep him focused.
30. Tennessee — WR Kenny Britt, Rutgers
The Titans' lack of playmaking talent cost them in the playoffs last year, when they struggled to produce points against the Ravens. Adding a big target for Kerry Collins should make defenses better respect the passing game. Britt dropped a lot of balls in college and needs to improve his concentration, but he is big, physical and should create mismatch problems.
31. Arizona — RB Chris Wells, Ohio State
Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm won in Pittsburgh with a smashmouth running game, and Wells fits their style well, capable of pounding the ball inside. Tim Hightower struggled down the stretch as Edgerrin James returned to the pole position late in the season. Wells should get a chance to be featured. He needs to prove he could stay healthy.
32. Pittsburgh — DL Evander Hood, Missouri
With Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel aging, the Steelers needed some youth in the trenches. Hood is likely to play a role in nickel packages rushing the passer and be groomed as a five-technique, where he has the size and length to play outside. Dick LeBeau has a way of maximizing talent, and Hood's speed should allow him to be more creative packaging zone blitzes.
For more NFL and draft news, go to ProFootballWeekly.com.