2009 NFL Draft: 2nd Round Dollars, 1st Round Talent
Total Pro Sports – Over the last decade or so, NFL drafts have become increasingly more predictable. Technology has certainly been a factor in the evolution of the “draft science”, as the wireless revolution and the Internet has made information easier to assimilate, and much more available. By and large, NFL scouts and other talent evaluators use this information to fine tune their selection processes, and have become much more successful as a result. There are far fewer “busts” now than there were just over a decade ago (taking the Lions out of the equation), far fewer “reaches”, and far fewer diamonds in the rough. The way most teams gauge a player’s value is still somewhat subjective and heavily based upon that team’s specific needs, coupled with the offensive and defensive philosophies that they adhere to.
Teams are becoming ever more frugal with their draft choices, and major college programs are being coached now, more than ever, by men with NFL ties or experience. These and other factors have spawned the conditions which exist today: college football players are better prepared to enter the draft, and teams have the increased luxury of being very selective, due to the large number of high quality players available. It’s a buyer’s market without a doubt!
Of course, the very top end talent (top 5 picks) will always be heavily coveted and fought over, thus the obscene signing bonuses that they command. The rest of the “NFL ready” players inevitably make up the remainder of the first round, primarily drafted in round one because of their tremendous size, strength, speed, quickness, and potential. Obviously those standards vary, depending on positional requirements but, regardless of position, the history of the draft as well as the league itself has shown that “size matters” and “speed kills”. Players are also frequently drafted early when they are perceived to be polished, and ready to compete for a starting job immediately. Conversely, rounds two and three are typically high talent guys that have one or more holes in their game and need some polishing. In rounds four through seven you will likely find developmental projects, special teams, and backups. Those expectations are changing, and changing quickly!
The current draft climate has moistened the soil in the second and third rounds which has yielded, and will continue to yield, some of the sweetest fruit of the annual harvest. Last year, there were too many immediate impact players selected in the second round to mention even half of them in one article, but Bears RB Matt Forte and Eagles WR DeSean Jackson lead the pack. More of the same in round three, with Lions RB Kevin Smith, Falcons WR Harry Douglas, and Panthers FS Charles Godfrey leading an outstanding group. If you’re looking for maximum value in the draft these days, look no further than the second and third rounds.
This year’s draft promises more overall talent and depth than last year’s—and that’s saying something! Who will be the steal of the draft come April 25th? I offer two possibilities. In the second round, there should be a running back available from the University of Iowa named Shonn Greene. All you have to do is look at the film, and you’ll see a player that has all the tools to be a FEATURED back in the NFL. At 235 lbs, he runs between the tackles better than most current pros, has excellent power, great vision, and AWESOME balance. Can you say YAC (yards after contact)? How about consistency? All he did was gain over 100 yards rushing in EVERY GAME this season (13 total), including a 121 yard, three TD, performance in the Outback Bowl vs. South Carolina, a top rated run defense.
Greene will likely not be drafted in the first round because of his perceived weakness as a receiver and lack of break-neck speed. For my money, I don’t care if he runs a 4.6 at the combine, which he might. He will be a more productive back right away than guys that, undoubtedly, will take home much larger game checks. Despite the wealth of information available to talent evaluators, straight line speed remains the most overrated attribute in a running back. Reggie Bush is extremely fast, and was taken with the second overall pick in 2006, but won’t be making a Pro Bowl roster as a running back any time soon. On the other hand, I seem to remember a 4.55-4.60 back taken late in round one nearly 20 years ago. What was his name? Oh yeah, Emmitt Smith ring any bells?
To make a comparison, there really isn’t a back in the league, currently, that reminds me of Greene. I’d best describe him as a hybrid between the Titans’ LenDale White and the Jaguars’ Maurice Jones-Drew, if you can imagine what that looks like—a bowling ball made of heavy rubber traveling down a rocky hill, or something like that. In the right system, Greene could put up Pro Bowl numbers as a rookie. The New Orleans Saints, who will probably say goodbye to Deuce McAllister before the draft, or the Denver Broncos, who run a zone-blocking system similar to the run scheme Iowa uses, both need a durable “power” back, and should take a hard look at Greene in the second round—IF he is still on the board.
Shifting the focus to receivers, yet another wide out will emerge as a future star from the second, or possibly, the third round this year. Juaquin Iglesias, Oklahoma’s 6’1”, 200lb senior, is clearly one of the most polished receivers in this draft. He is a disciplined route-runner with quickness in and out of his breaks, consistently displaying excellent body control in all situations. He is blessed with great hands and above average speed, and has shown outstanding RAC (run after the catch) ability. He has also returned punts and kicks for OU, so he comes with the added benefit of return experience. Iglesias is a smooth operator in zone coverage, and reminds me of the Cardinals’ Steve Breaston, and a little of the Colts’ Anthony Gonzales. He would make an immediate impact as a slot receiver for a pass-first team like Indy, Arizona, New England, New Orleans, or San Diego in round two. The knock on Iglesias is that he doesn’t make the tough catch in traffic consistently, and doesn’t have top end speed to stretch the field. I’ve seen much game film of Iglesias this year, and both knocks are warranted. He is not likely to become a primary target in the NFL. Having said that, neither is Reggie Wayne or Anquan Boldin. Boldin was also a second round pick, by the way. Iglesias will be an excellent slot receiver from jump, and will develop into a solid secondary receiver for a team such as Detroit. He will not slide past them with the first pick of the third round, but I seriously doubt he has to wait that long.
Without question, this draft, like those past, will have its surprises, head scratcher’s, and maybe even a “you gotta be kiddin’ me” or two. Even in an exact science, which the draft is clearly not, there are bad scientists that make it look tougher than it is. Now that Matt Millen has been forcibly removed from his dark, damp laboratory, at least there won’t be any mad scientists to ruin it for any team, or any fan. In fact, on this occasion, the 0-16 Detroit Lions are heavily favored to win! What an event! Oh yes, the draft will have its cheers, and lots of them, resonating from the anxious crowds of loyal fanatics as well as other finger-crossed onlookers. It is truly an event like no other in football—a day where all teams compete at once, and no one has to walk away defeated.