We'll get on to the defending AFC North and Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers soon enough, but let's first take a look across the division and assess who should be deemed this weekend's 'winners' and 'losers' in the 2009 edition of the NFL Draft.
I like this draft for Baltimore. I hate to say it, but it seems they got younger and faster at some key positions on defense, while adding an important cornerstone potentially to their offensive line.
Let's begin with Paul Kruger, who is a nice fit for what the Ravens like to do defensively - attack with their speed rushers off the edge in the 3-4 defense. With Terrell Suggs playing under the one year franchise tender in 2009, the Ravens can see what they maybe have in Kruger before making a determination on Suggs' long-term viability in Baltimore. My guess is he'll be shown the door and replaced by Kruger in 2010. Don't think that Suggs won't be extra hungry to prove the Ravens wrong though in this coming year. That could be a scary thought for the Steelers offensive line.
Speaking of offensive linemen. Michael Oher could fill an important need for years to come if he's willing to work at it and catches a break or two injury wise. Oher's stock has fallen since this time last year, but let's make no mistake about it - he has everything god-given that one wants in an NFL starting Tackle. More on him later.
If either Willis McGahee, LeRon McClain, or Ray Rice finds themselves injured this preseason or during training camp, 6th round back Cedric Pearman out of Virginia could be a sleeper pick for them that contributes more than one might imagine. That's only though if he finds himself on the field due to injury - the stable is full in Baltimore at the moment. As for Jason Phillips - I don't know much about him other than that TCU's defense is notorious for being one of the fastest in all of college football. They are notoriously undersized, but make up for it with tremendous collective team speed. I'd imagine Phillips fits that bill nicely - as he's a bit undersized at just 236 pounds to be your typical ILB in the NFL. He'll bulk up, and he'll spend some time with Ray Lewis. Give him a year and he might just be a name Steelers fans get sick of hearing about on the field in the future for Baltimore's defense.
Finally, 3rd Round CB LaDarius Webb. If you ask me, he might be the deciding factor down the line as to whether or not this Ravens draft class pans out to be anything other than just ok to pretty good. Webb will find himself fairly low on the depth chart at CB to start the year I'd imagine - certainly below Samari Rolle, who the Ravens re-signed last week after cutting previously this offseason, and Dominique Foxworth, the high priced free agent CB out of Denver. After that though, Webb could compete for some time in nickle and dime packages with guys like Fabian Washington, Frank 'I'll spit in your punter's mouth' Walker, and Chris Carr.
Grade: B+ I think Oher will be quite good, and I give Baltimore credit for pulling the trigger on moving up and getting him. As for his work ethic? You know what, I really think the spotlight he's been under has taken a tremendous toll on him since Michael Lewis followed him around for several years and wrote about him in a best selling book called 'The Blind Side'. Michael Lewis is like the Michael Jordan of non-fiction, documentary style sports writing, and I simply believe that all the attention that accompanied that book had to have been mentally and physically exhausting for Oher. So much so perhaps, that he put in a little less time to his football regiment than he might otherwise have. But that's all over with now that he's in the NFL. He's just another rookie looking to not have his lunch eaten by a grown man eager to show a young, newly rich kid how to keep his head on a swivel. And I think he'll respond just fine. As for their next three picks, I think they'll all be impact players by 2010 on defense, while getting started in '09 primarily on special teams units.
|1 (6)||Andre Smith||OT||Alabama
|3 (70)||Michael Johnson||DE||Georgia Tech
|3 (98)||Chase Coffman||TE||Missouri
|4 (104)||Jonathan Luigs||C||Arkansas
|5 (142)||Kevin Huber||P||Cincinnati||6'1"||220|
|6 (179)||Morgan Trent||CB||Michigan
|6 (209)||Bernard Scott||RB||Abilene Christian
|7 (215)||Fui Vakapuna||RB||BYU
|7 (249)||Clinton McDonald||DE||Memphis
|7 (252)||Freddie Brown||WR||Utah
This is actually a tremendous draft for the Bengals if you ask me. At least it certainly has the potential to pay off for the Bengals and make them competitive again like they were in the middle years of this decade. So Andre Smith has a little bit of baggage. It's possible that the gamble won't pay off, but there just aren't that many behemoths like that in this world who have the ability to step in right away and be a Pro Bowl caliber tackle. Put it this way - if you're the Bengals and you're thinking about James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley abusing your OTs for the next five years, do you perhaps roll the dice on a potentially marginal character guy? Probably would.
Then there's Rey Maualuga, who many regarded as a 1st round type talent. His lack of excellence in the passing game probably explains his falling to the 2nd round more so than any character issues. My take is that this guy loves football and loves to compete. The question is, are there enough of those types of players on the Bengals where they can all sort of police themselves, at least enough so where they stay out of trouble enough to take the field with a full slate of talented players? In the 3rd round, the Bengals got two more guys that could fit in and make an impact in year one. Michael Johson is a super-long armed physical specimen that could be used in some pass rushing situations. Short-armed guys like Willie Colon could have problems with a rangy pass rusher like Johnson, who certainly will have to bulk up and learn some technique to utilize the skills he does and minimize the impact of the skills he lacks before being an every down type DL in this league. Chase Coffman, a TE out of Missouri who put up just monster numbers for a guy that only started 20 games in his career at Mizzou. Coffman set NCAA records for a TE in receptions (247), yards (2,659) and TDs (30).
Finally, C Jonathan Luigis out of Arkansas will be good. How quickly? Not sure, but if Steelers fans think that A.Q. Shipley out of Penn State is going to find a niche in this league, they must surely concede that the Bengals might have found themselves a good one in Luigis. And I'd imagine that Bengals fans are pleased to have gotten some extra depth at the RB position in Bernard Scott. Sure, he's an unknown from Abilene Christian, a Division 2 school in Texas, but if all goes to plan, the Bengals will have the services of a capable Cedric Benson, Kenny Watson, and a cheap backup in Gary Russell on the roster to carry the brunt of the carries while they see if they have anything at all in this Scott kid.
|1 (21)||Alex Mack||C||Oregon||6'4"||311|
|2 (36)||Brian Robiskie||WR||Ohio State
|2 (50)||Mohamed Massaquoi||WR||Georgia||6'2"||210
|2 (52)||David Veikune||DE||Hawaii||6'0"||257|
|4 (104)||Kaluka Maiava||ILB||Southern Cal
|6 (107)||Don Carey||CB||Norfolk State
|6 (191)||Coye Francies||CB||San Jose State
|7 (195)||James Davis||RB||Clemson||5'11"||218|
Analysis: Well, it's a bit harder to assess Cleveland's draft. I'd start by saying that I don't think they got enough in return for trading down multiple times out of their fifth spot, where the New York Jets selected Mark Sanchez at. They wanted him that badly - make 'em pay. Anyway, to their picks. I suppose if Alex Mack turns out to be a multiple Pro Bowl type center, than Browns fans can look back fondly at this selection at #21. I'm not sold yet though. We'll just have to see, but the Browns probably are feeling pretty good about their foundation along the line with Joe Thomas and Alex Mack. As for the Browns next two picks, I'm again skeptical, though I do think that Robiskie can make plays sooner rather than later. Something about him and Mohammed Massaquoi screams poor men's versions of Joe Jurevicious and Amani Toomer respectively.
All four of those players are good football players, but I wonder if Robiskie will be able to stay on the field in this league - which has been a problem for Jurevicious as well. And I wonder about Massaquoi's ability to be physical. You'd think someone who couldn't post better than a 4.66 40-time at the Combine would be a few inches taller and more of a physical type WR made for the red zone, but Massaquoi seems to me to just kind of be a 'tweener in many regards. He'll have some moments though in this league. I just wonder if the Browns have not paid enough attention to the defensive side of the football with those four first day picks.