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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Top 10 Favorite Moments From The 2009 Draft

As you would expect, I am still enjoying my draft buzz from this past weekend. The NFL Draft is not only a time that teams select incoming rookies to fill their rosters. It is also a welcome reprieve from the so-called "off season" and provides a time where, once again, football dominates the airwaves. I love the hype leading into the draft, the trades before and during the draft, and the analyzing when the picks are done. This year's draft provided plenty of excitement and memorable moments and I count them down here in this Tuesday's Top Ten.

10) The Announcement of Mr. Irrelevant
The term "Mr. Irrelevant" refers to the final player taken in the draft. The Chiefs put some thought into this pick and the player taken 256th overall was a kicker. Which is quite fitting. Ryan Succop from the University of South Carolina (the other USC) was given the title on Sunday and it comes with perks.

The kicker will be the main attraction for "Irrelevant Week" in Newport Beach, California. He will be given gifts, awards, and even a parade. Last year's winner even spent time at the Playboy Mansion with Hugh Hefner himself. Maybe he's not so irrelevant after all. As Rich Eisen of the NFL Network stated "That just goes to show you that Mr. Irrelevant is people too. "

9) Eric Mangini Trades Down, Down, Down.....
Mangini's strategy: trade away the higher picks and stock pile late rounders. Why? Well, for two main reasons. Number one, the talent in the first round was good; but not outstanding. The "bust-o-meter" was definitely in play for certain teams and General Managers. Even the highly coveted QB Mark Sanchez from USC had only one full season as starter under his belt. The thought process was that you could get some good value in the latter rounds.

The other reason for trading down: the economy. The top pick Matthew Stafford walked away with over $40 million in guaranteed money. He will receive that money, without ever taking a snap in the NFL. The team that paid him; Detroit one of the worst economic cities in the country. Stafford will end up being one of the wealthiest individuals in Southeast Michigan, while plants have been closing and foreclosures are on the rise.

Mangini's plan was right on the money and many teams followed suit including Dallas, San Francisco, New England, and Seattle.

8) Lions Get Their Guy
Speaking of Stafford, I actually like the pick for the Lions. I think it would have been safer to go with Aaron Curry, linebacker from Wake Forest. Curry was definitely my favorite player in the first round. But, what the Lions did was huge for their organization. Stafford appears ready for the next level of play.

He had an outstanding pro day and an impressive workout in Detroit. He has a powerful arm and the accuracy is there. When he makes mistakes, its mostly due to over confidence in his ability to make any throw (similar to Brett Favre). I was born, raised, and still live in Michigan. I can never remember Detroit having a legitimate franchise quarterback. Maybe, this is their chance.

7) Aaron Curry's Emotional Draft Day
Speaking of Aaron Curry, what's not to like? He's an outstanding linebacker (the best in this year's draft), he'll play right away, and he was even willing to take less money if picked number 1 overall. I really like this guy and most fans were rooting for him to have a big day on Saturday.

He didn't get drafted number 1 or even in the top 3 for that matter. But, Seattle took him with the 4th overall pick and Aaron Curry couldn't have been happier. Tears of joy welled up in his eyes and you could see the appreciation and pride he had at the moment his name was called. He didn't down right sob like Vernon Davis did in 2006, but it was touching.

6) Ode To The Commish
When Paul Tagliabue stepped down as the Commissioner of the NFL in 2006, it was the end of an era. But as a fan, you were comforted by the fact that the new guy seemed to have everything in order. Roger Goodell, our current NFL Commish, is the man with the plan.

He seemed to be groomed for this position and he handles it with cool, confident style. He loves the sport of football and the former Jets intern obviously has a fondness for the NFL draft. Despite being known as a hard-nosed disciplinarian, Goodell looked almost giddy as he announced the first overall pick on Saturday. That's the kind of Commish we need.

5) NFL Network's coverage
Its no surprise that the NFL would have the best draft coverage on NFL network. But it was still enjoyable to watch. The analysis team of Rich Eisen, Marshall Faulk, Jon Gruden, Steve "Mooch" Mariucci, and draft guru Mike Mayock proved to be stellar.

Faulk was able to lend his perspective as a former first round pick (2nd overall). Former coaches Gruden and Mariucci were able to give details on what it is like in the war room on draft day. And, Mike Mayock is, in my opinion, the best draft expert in the business. NFL network provided the viewer with a sense of actually being in Radio City Music Hall and seeing all of the action from every angle. When you add their bonus, on the stage coverage from the legendary Deion Sanders, you really had a sense of being apart of their team.

4) B.J. Raji Watching The Draft With Family and Friends
It appeared that B.J. Raji had an inkling that he would be chosen with the 9th overall pick by the Packers. The defensive tackle out of Boston College was wearing a bright yellow t-shirt while watching the draft at home with his family and close friends. Viewing the draft in anticipation as the Packers were on the clock, Raji was deep in conversation on the telephone; presumably talking with the Packers organization or his agent.

Witnessing Raji quiet the room down to listen to the Commissioner call his name as the 9th pick was purely entertaining. Especially with there being a time lapse from the viewer hearing the pick and Raji seeing it on television. With his loved ones erupting in celebration, Raji and the world witnessed his dream coming true.

3) Michael Crabtree's Warm Welcome From The 49ers
Michael Crabtree said he wanted to go to a team that wanted and needed him. Well, he definitely felt both wanted and needed when the San Francisco 49ers selected him with the 10th overall pick. There were plenty of 49er fans waiting with anticipation and hoping to hear Crabtree's name when it came time for selection.

Once the pick was made, the Radio City Music Hall erupted in cheers and Otis Redding's "Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay" blaring through the loud speakers. And although former 49er legend Merton Hanks passes out the jerseys to all incoming rookies, he stopped before handing out Crabtree's and said a few words. I don't know what he said to the young receiver, but I'm sure he quickly schooled the Texas Tech standout on the responsibilities of being part of the 49ers and the expectations that he must now live up to. As a 49er fan, it was our feel good moment in the 2009 draft.

2) Al Davis Picks The Fastest Player
There are two reasons that 49er fans were ecstatic about drafting Michael Crabtree. Number one, Crabtree was never expected to be available at the number 10th pick. He was, by far, the best wideout in the draft and most agree he was also the biggest playmaker. The other reason 49er fans were excited about the pick? The Oakland Raiders passed up Crabtree for.... wait for it.... Darrius Heyward-Bey out of Maryland.

Al Davis, the owner of the Raiders, loves speed. Heyward-Bey had the fastest 40 yard dash time at the combine. That's all Davis needed as motivation to pass up Crabtree and pick Heyward-Bey instead. With the Bay area rival giving them a much needed gift in Crabtree, Niner fans had double the reason to celebrate the pick. Analysts, commentators, and Raider fans everywhere are baffled once again.

1) Mark Sanchez Putting On The Jets Hat
The 4th pick of the 2009 NFL Draft was definitely the most exciting selection. As I mentioned before, Eric Mangini was determined to trade down all day. He started with his former team the New York Jets, who in turn picked Mark Sanchez, quarterback from USC. Sanchez's draft stock had been rising all month and several teams were ready to pounce on the former Trojan.

Draft coverage showed Sanchez at home in California, with his family, talking on the telephone. When the trade was announced, Jets fans went nuts at Radio City Music Hall. Before the Commissioner could announce the pick, cameras showed Sanchez placing a Jets cap on his head. Most Jets fans went wild and were thrilled with the pick. Of course, some Jets fans weren't too happy. In any case, showing Sanchez receiving the call and putting on the cap before Roger Goodell could announce his name, was the main highlight of the day.

The 2009 NFL Draft did not disappoint this year. Sure, some fans are unhappy with their teams' picks. While others believe that their newly drafted player will be a difference maker for their team in the upcoming season. Whatever your take, you have to admit that it was just awesome to have excitement from the NFL in the middle of April.

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