The Good, Unexpected And Raiders

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - May 06, 2009
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Andre Smith: typical Bengals

After months of research, interviews, prodding, testing, questioning, reading tea leaves, watching miles of game film and pretending not to care what Mel Kiper thinks, the most over-hyped two-day spectacle in professional sport self-indulgence fizzled to an end, leaving just the post-draft commentary about the good, the unexpected and the Oakland Raiders. Plus some late-round bargains.

The Good:

The Cincinnati Bengals did little to rehabilitate its reputation as a repository home for wayward youth with the selection of Alabama Jell-O body and combine escapee Andre Smith. But they did get a lot better drafting the ultimate wide body and USC wrecking ball Rey Maualuga. Maualuga slides in as an immediate starter next to 10-year vet Dhani Jones where his job will be to close the sieve that was the Bengals 21st ranked run defense. The jury remains sequestered regarding Smith’s fitness to play on the quarterback’s blind side, but he should have no problem playing on the right and opening up running lanes that became quite rare a year ago. Michael Johnson, a 6-foot, 7-inch physical freak who ran a 4.75 40 at the combine, is a borderline first-round selection who could help the league’s second-worst pass rush.


With needs at nearly every position, it would seem that Lions brass had the easiest job in the league. Not that such opportunities have helped them in the past. The success of the draft hinges on the Lions’ $41.7 million quarterback. Matt Stafford has supporters and detractors, but the front office loved him and the owner wanted him, so that’s that. The team didn’t get the lineman it desperately needed, but it did shore up the blocking and give Stafford another hot target in tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Louis Delmon is a missile on defense and will help a pathetic secondary. Detroit may have been better served going for Maualuga with the Delmon pick, but they’ll fill a hole if Pittsburgh cannot find a trade for Motown native Larry Foote. Derrick Williams will add depth to the receiving corps.

The Unexpected:

While not the most bizarre thing to happen in the draft, Tampa’s selection of Josh Freeman was a reach they didn’t have to make. Freeman is a monster with a huge arm and accuracy problems. Completing 52 percent of his passes and tossing eight TDs to six picks in the closing half of his final season has to mean availability several spots later even in a draft featuring a weak quarterback class.

The size versus speed questions dogged Solomon Elimimian and Adam Leonard for their entire senior seasons and guaranteed their relegation into the second tier of possible Sunday selections. Even with these concerns, performance has to count for something and few have ever done better over their UH careers. Jordon Dizon’s production was enough for at least one team to ignore his measurables. Solly and Leonard deserved just such consideration.

The Oakland Raiders:

Far be it for anyone to actually pray for the demise of another human being, but Raiders fans have to be looking forward to the time when Al Davis is no longer in charge of this once well-run organization. The pick of Darrius Heyward-Bey had Davis’ fingerprints all over it. Under the delusion that Ken Stabler can still fit into a Raider uniform, the former AFL commissioner grabbed the wide out under the notion that straight line speed is still effective in the NFL.

By picking him so high, he also assured Heyward-Bey a place on the all-time bust list should he not live up to his unwarranted draft position. The madness didn’t end there. Perhaps getting his Buckeye state schools confused and thinking he had selected the services of corner back Malcolm Jenkins from Ohio State, Davis took lightly regarded Michael Mitchell from Ohio with the 47th pick. Scouts Inc. gave him a grade of 20. The next lowest scored in the second round was a 67.

Good Late Picks:

At one time, Rhett Bomar was supposed to the next great Sooner QB. Taking money for a job he never worked resulted in his banishment to Sam Houston State. All will be forgiven of the Giant’s fifth-round pickup if he can make good on his early Norman success.

James Casey is a question mark as an NFL tight end, but anyone who played seven positions in college is easily worth a fifth-round pick even if he was the second player Houston took at that position. Casey is a former minor league pitcher who caught 111 passes as a true sophomore in his last season on campus.

Tom Brandstater was a big-armed battler at Fresno State with a chance to become a career backup. Which is all the Denver Broncos can expect out of a sixth-round pick.

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