Skip to main content

From Stafford on, first round produced moments of triumph and tribulation

NEW YORK -- Once all of the questions seemed answered in the first round of the NFL draft, more surfaced. Quizzical looks and views followed, and some were stumped more than satisfied. Others expressed absolute joy.

That meant the draft had again delivered.

The beauty of this exercise is always the norm complemented by the extreme, the expected trumped by shock.

Pick-by-pick analysis

From Matthew Stafford to Mr. Irrelevant,'s Bucky Brooks breaks down every pick in the draft. See what type of impact each player selected will have in 2009. More ...

And from the first pick through the 32nd, this draft offered plenty to debate and remember.

At the top, Matthew Stafford became the Detroit Lions' franchise quarterback. His agent, Tom Condon, said that the Lions let him know last Monday that Stafford was the guy, that for the next three days they discussed structure and that on Thursday and late into Friday night they finalized the deal.

Condon and the CAA management group scored a draft coup when the second pick in the draft was also their client, Jason Smith, who went to St. Louis. In last year's draft, CAA gained the first (Jake Long) and third (Matt Ryan) picks.

Smith is expected to replace the huge shoes of left tackle Orlando Pace, who is now with the Chicago Bears.

"I got my own shoes," Smith said. "I give him all the credit, but I know I have to make my own way."

Linebacker Aaron Curry -- he joins the Seattle Seahawks after being selected at No. 4 -- said that Smith has impacted him for life.

"I have been around him a lot now in the last six months and he is always in a good mood," Curry said of Smith. "He is never negative about anything. He is somebody you want to be around. He is the kind of person you want your kid to sit down and talk to for three hours. I think we're both guys who were lightly recruited out of high school, so we give hope to those kids out there in that boat -- you can make it."

Little wonder the Rams leaped for Smith.

"We're in the NFL, man!" Smith yelled to Curry in the middle of Radio City Music Hall as the two passed each other. They embraced.

If you have identified a player (Alex Mack) at a position (center) that few teams would grab with their high picks and you happen to own a high pick (No. 5), why not trade down? And keep trading down. You can still get your man, be cost efficient and compile picks and players via trades.

And that is what the Cleveland Browns did not once but three times. They still got their center (Mack) and paved the way for the Jets to make quarterback Mark Sanchez a rock for the future, not to mention gaining a player who can create rock-star-like attention.

Andre Smith's immaturity before the draft did not drop him beyond the Cincinnati Bengals at pick No. 6. The Bengals, a team looking for character, got a character.

Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey ran the fastest wide receiver time at the combine.

The simple view is that was enough to make him an Oakland Raider at pick No. 7.

The Raiders say that view in part is true but is also way too simple. A Raiders executive said of passing the receiver considered No. 1, Michael Crabtree, for Heyward-Bey: "Crabtree is a heck of a player. But Heyward-Bey gets down the field faster and catches the ball better. He has not even run a pro-style offense yet and we see him flourishing in ours. He can stretch the field in ways that will help our quarterback, other wide receivers, tight ends, running backs, the line, everybody. We liked Jeremy Maclin there, too, but we've got great kick and punt returners. We think this receiver will be very special for us."

Crabtree's eyes were moist in the players' draft Green Room when the Raiders passed on him, ensuring he would not be the first receiver selected. Then, as only karma can provide, the San Francisco  49ers selected Crabtree at No. 10. Across the Bay, Heyward-Bey and Crabtree will always be compared. And the Raiders are the team that runs the risk of missing on Crabtree.

I asked Crabtree about this, about competing against Heyward-Bey.

"No, I wish him well, that he can catch all the balls he can, and that I will do the same," Crabtree said. "No hard feelings."

No way. Not buying it.

Neither did Curry.

"It was the talk of the room when that happened," Curry said. "Everyone, as far as the players were concerned, were shocked. Knowing Darrius, he is very happy that he just kind of kept quiet and slipped in there as the top receiver. Knowing Michael, he will set out to prove that was the mistake of the entire draft."

Denver took its wild shot, too, on running back Knowshon Moreno.

Selecting at No. 12, few thought Denver would use that pick on a running back after it had been active in free agency in that area. Few thought Moreno would be off the board before pick No. 20.

Sources within the Broncos say they love Moreno's versatility and the impact that he can have in both the run and pass game. He is a flexible player and the Broncos want more of them.

At the combine it was easy to see the affection that new Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris had for quarterback Josh Freeman. They had worked together at Kansas State. They will work together now with the Bucs since he was the team's pick at No. 17. Since the Bucs recently signed free agent quarterback Byron Leftwich, this was one of those head-scratching moments. Unless, of course, you dig deeper.

Freeman said afterward here in the players' draft Green Room: "We have always been able to communicate well and have a mutual respect for each other. Now we get to do it on the highest level of football. I knew they had some interest but you never know how it's going to work out. I think it worked out just right. I'm going to a place where they know me and I can compete and find a way to help us win games."

Philadelphia jumped up to pick No. 19 from No. 21 to grab receiver Jeremy Maclin. Monster tight end Brandon Pettigrew became a future target for Stafford when Detroit swiped him at No. 20.

Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress had a meeting this week with Florida receiver Percy Harvin. Harvin had failed a drug test at the combine. He is one of this draft's most explosive receivers.

It must have been a successful meeting.

Harvin was the Vikings choice at No. 22. Pairing his exceptional bursts with the football with that of running back Adrian Peterson gives the Vikings superior elements of quickness in their offense. You will now have to defend the Vikings inside out and outside in.

Another receiver spat may have surfaced at picks No. 29 and No. 30.

The Giants chose Hakeem Nicks of North Carolina. The Tennessee Titans immediately followed and grabbed Kenny Britt from Rutgers. The Giants passed on a receiver who was literally in their backyard. Britt will not forget that. Will he make the Giants regret it?

Arizona made a splash as much as a team can make one at the 31st pick by garnering Ohio State running back Chris "Beanie" Wells. A true talent who some teams regarded as injury-prone, Wells has the size and speed to give the Cardinals offense a jolt.

Seven defensive linemen flew off the first-round board and six wide receivers were nabbed. Four offensive tackles were grabbed in the first 23 picks.

As much as Detroit and Philadelphia thought offense, Green Bay went defense (defensive tackle B.J. Raji at No. 9 and linebacker Clay Matthews at No. 26).

Nearly every team nibbled. They know this draft table is set for much more, no matter how confounding or appeasing their current picks seem.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.