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Make Or Break: Early 2009 Draftees On The Bubble

July 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Training camp is less than a month away and for the draft class of 2009, it’s now or never. The general wisdom is that draft picks get 3 years to establish themselves (though many picks get far less time, if they’re taken outside of the top 2 rounds or happen to get drafted by a team who doesn’t mind cutting high picks early). After 3 years, if a 1st or 2nd rounder hasn’t panned out, they become a training camp casualty. Sometimes a team can find a trade partner who is willing to take on a former high pick for the cost of a very low or conditional draft pick. Such was the case with 2009 4th overall pick Aaron Curry. The former “safest pick in the draft” was unloaded by Seattle after just 35 games and less than 3 full seasons.

Curry isn’t alone in being cast aside as an early 2009 draft pick. Here are some other high picks who have already been dumped:

11th overall – LB Aaron Maybin (Buffalo Bills)
36th overall – WR Brian Robiskie (Cleveland Browns)
37th overall – CB Alphonso Smith (Denver Broncos)
41st overall – CB Darius Butler (New England Patriots)
43rd overall – DE Everette Brown (Carolina Panthers)
44th overall – QB Pat White (Miami Dolphins)
48th overall – DB Darcel McBath (Denver Broncos)
52nd overall – LB David Veikune (Cleveland Browns)
63rd overall – LB Cody Brown (Arizona Cardinals)
64th overall – TE Richard Quinn (Denver Broncos)

11 of the top 64 players have already exited the league or changed teams, and chances are good that there will be at least 10 more guys in that category by the time 53 man rosters are set in early September. Here are some guys who could be joining the list:

2nd overall – OT Jason Smith (St. Louis Rams) – He hasn’t locked down a starting spot on either side of the line and has been inconsistent at best. It would be a mild surprise to see him let go, but Jeff Fisher and Les Snead have no connection to the drafting of Smith and might decide to move on.

12th overall – RB Knowshon Moreno (Denver Broncos)
– The Broncos have already jettisoned 3 Top 64 picks from 2009 and Moreno should make 4. While he has some redeeming qualities, notably his above average blitz blocking, he has shown that he’s a total dud as a feature back. At best, he’s a 3rd down back and rotational guy and one would think his time in Denver is short.

16th overall – OLB Larry English (San Diego Chargers)
– Drafted as a pass rushing specialist, he has just 7 sacks in 3 seasons. With the addition of 2012 first round pick Melvin Ingram, the Chargers are likely ready to move on from English barring a superb training camp.

23rd overall – OT Michael Oher (Baltimore Ravens) – While he is the only 2009 1st rounder to have a Hollywood feature film made about him, Oher has been a big disappointment. At times he flashes the type of talent that made him a 1st round pick. At other times, he looks either disinterested or totally lost. It’s likely he will stick in Baltimore for another year, but he might not be around much longer than that.

24th overall – DT Peria Jerry (Atlanta Falcons) – 6 games started and just 2 sacks in 3 seasons with the Falcons, Jerry faces an uphill battle to make the Atlanta roster. New Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan hasn’t committed (publicly) to either a 3-4 or a 4-3 scheme, but a 3-4 would almost certainly seal Jerry’s fate in Atlanta. Regardless of scheme, it’s a good possibility that Jerry will be playing elsewhere in 2012.

39th overall – OT Eben Britton (Jacksonville Jaguars) – He’s been hurt a lot early in his career, plying in just 10 games over the last 2 years. When he’s on the field he isn’t anything special. The Jaguars don’t have a ton of depth at the position, so it’s possible that he could stick even with a poor camp. However, he will need to get healthy and show some progress if he wants to stick in the league.

40th overall – DT Ron Brace (New England Patriots) – Brace has been hurt off and on with a number of small injuries and has found himself in coach Bill Belichick’s doghouse at several different points (including being inactive for this year’s Super Bowl). When he’s on the field, he has shown flashes of being a quality 5-technique DE but his inconsistencies and lack of durability have led to him getting passed on the depth chart. Belichick doesn’t keep guys around who don’t produce, and has already pulled the plug on Darius Butler (taken one pick after Brace). It would be a mild surprise if Brace breaks camp with the Patriots.

45th overall – LB Clint Sintim (New York Giants) – Sintim is coming off a torn ACL and has yet to establish himself in New York’s LB corps. He was almost totally nonexistent his first two seasons before tearing his knee up last summer. Some Giants fans remain high on him, but like Britton and Brace, he will need to prove he is both healthy and taking a step forward in order to secure a roster spot.

50th overall – WR Mohamed Massaquoi (Cleveland Browns) -The best thing to happen to Mohammed Massaquoi’s young career is the Browns passing on a WR in the first (or a top WR in free agency) and waiting until the 4th round to address the position. The Cleveland WR depth chart is thin enough for the underwhelming Massaquoi to have plenty of reps and get a long look in camp. While he isn’t terrible, he’s also not lived up to his status as a mid 2nd round pick. He will probably hang on for another year in Cleveland, though he might not have survived this long with a different team.

The Demise Of The “Safest Pick” Reminds Us There Is No Safe Pick

October 13, 2011 Leave a comment

During the late winter and early spring of 2009, NFL draft experts and talking heads proclaimed Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry to be the “safest pick in the draft”. As in, “he might not ever be a superstar, but he is guaranteed to be a highly productive player” or the ever-popular and “worst case, he has a high-floor, low-ceiling”. Just a little more than 2 seasons later and Curry is being shipped out to Oakland for a 7th round pick in 2012 and a conditional (on playing time) pick in 2013. It’s a stark reminder that there is no such thing as a “sure thing” in the NFL draft.

As disappointing as Curry has been, he has plenty of company in high-profile busts from the class of 2009. Let’s revisit the top half of the 1st round:

The jury is still out on the two QB’s, Sanchez has battled inconsistency (and one of the worst offensive coordinators in football) and Stafford has struggled with injuries (although he looks like he is on the way to living up to his potential). Jackson is an adequate 2-down 5-technique DE but not much more, and a prime example of the danger of drafting for need. Jason Smith was recently benched in favor of backup Adam Goldberg and could be on the outs in St. Louis.

The next five spots weren’t too much better. The perpetually out-of-shape Smith recently had his contract option declined, making him a UFA after next season, Heyward-Bey put up a meager 35 catches in his first 2 seasons before (perhaps) turning the corner a bit this year and Crabtree is floundering for the 49ers. Monroe, who was the #1 OT ahead of both Smiths on a lot of boards, has been inconsistent but easily the best of the three. Raji is easily the most accomplished in the top 10, developing into one of the game’s 3-4 NT.

Rounding out the first half of the first round, Maybin was (predictably) a huge flop in Buffalo and is trying to find a second chance with the Jets as a pass-rush specialist, Moreno and English are both duds who are probably cut before the start of 2012. Cushing, Jenkins and Orakpo are all high-quality players worthy of their 1st round status. That said, all three came with more red flags than Curry. Orakpo was thought to be inconsistent with questions about his strength, Jenkins had an unimpressive combine and was considered a safety/CB tweener making him unworthy of a high pick and Cushing was thought to be a “boom or bust” (as opposed to a “safe” pick).

In retrospect the top picks in 2009 are pretty similar to those of most years. Half are busts, a few are inconsistent players who will flash enough potential to kick around the league for awhile and a small number have lived up to (or exceeded) their potential.

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