Reviewing NFL Draft classes five years down the road allows one to thoroughly examine which picks were hits and which were misses. Rookie contracts for players selected have expired, which means that those athletes have cashed in on deals either with the clubs that selected them or via free agency, or they have had to move on in order to remain NFL players.
Three things have to be considered when ranking draft picks: What that player provided to the team that selected him, when he was taken in the draft, and if he is still with that team or if he has since signed a massive contract with a different side.
Sit back and follow along as we look back five years and break down the best draft picks from 2009.
10. Ryan Succop – K – 256th Overall – Kansas City Chiefs
Succop was the “Mr. Irrelevant” of the ’09 NFL Draft, the final player chosen in the seventh round. He went on to win the starting gig the following summer, and he had a very good rookie season, during which he converted 25 of 29 field goal attempts and all 29 extra points that he attempted.
Succop has had an up-and-down career, but he has proven himself to be a solid kicker who can hit from 50+ yards out. One of the more famous moments of his career was a miss from last December, a kick that should have been retaken. If only it had been, both the Chiefs and the Pittsburgh Steelers could have benefited from it.
9. Rashad Jennings – RB – 250th Overall – Jacksonville Jaguars
The jury is still out on Jennings. After averaging 5.35 yards per carry in his first two seasons, Jennings missed all of the 2011 season because of injuries. His yards per carry average has since decreased by nearly two full yards, but that is largely because of his 2012 numbers.
Jennings rebounded and in a big way in 2013. He had 733 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground for the Raiders. He also contributed 36 catches and 292 receiving yards. Jennings will have the starting job with the new York Giants next season.
8. Matthew Stafford – QB – 1st Overall – Detroit Lions
It was only a few years ago that people were reaching for the “bust” label for Stafford. He played in just 13 games in his first two seasons, and there were serious and real concerns that he would never be able to survive through a full campaign.
He has since played in every one of Detroit’s regular season games.
Stafford has not yet made his way into the tier of the top quarterbacks in the league, but that doesn’t at all mean that he hasn’t proven himself to have been worth a No. 1 pick. He has all of the makings of a franchise quarterback, one who does need to throw fewer interceptions (he threw 52 picks from 2011-13), but you better believe that there are plenty of NFL teams out there that would love to have Stafford chucking the rock for them on Sundays.
7. James Laurinaitis – LB – 35th Overall – St. Louis Rams
Laurinaitis hasn’t been named to a Pro Bowl squad in five NFL seasons. He hasn’t won any significant hardware since being drafted. Other defensive players taken in this draft have, on paper, had better five-year careers. But wait.
Laurinaitis has given the Rams the following production since 2009: He has played in every one of the Rams’ regular season games in five years. He has 634 career combined tackles. He is averaging over one fumble recovery per season.
Teams have certainly done worse with higher picks.
Dependability. Durability. Very good numbers. Laurinaitis is a great get with a pick like that.
6. Jairus Byrd – S – 42nd Overall – Buffalo Bills
Byrd was a hit right from the start of his pro career. He tied for first in the NFL in interceptions (9) in his first season, and his play in ’09 resulted in his getting named to the Pro Bowl and All-Rookie teams. The 27-year-old has 22 NFL interceptions to his name, and he entered March 2014 as one of the big-name available free agents.
Byrd was, by numerous reporters, linked with a potential move to the Cleveland Browns last March. He played under current Cleveland head coach Mike Pettine when Pettine was Buffalo’s defensive coordinator. It wasn’t meant to be in the end, and Byrd eventually inked a six-year deal with the New Orleans Saints. $28 million of the $54 million included in the contract is guaranteed.
Good money if you can get it.
5. Clay Matthews – LB – 26th Overall – Green Bay Packers
Think about this: In the past decade, the Packers have found both Clay Matthews and quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the second halves of first rounds of draft. It boggles the mind that some teams (looking at you, Cleveland Browns) can get so many drafts so wrong.
Matthews was named to Pro Bowl squads in his first four seasons in the NFL. He was a first-team All-Pro in 2010. He was named to All-NFL squad every year from 2010-12. Matthews is also one of the faces of the NFL. And just look at that hair.
Matthews earned multiple Defensive Player of the Year honors for his play in 2010. He is a Super Bowl champion, and viewed as one of the best in the business at his position. That’s great value for just about any pick in the draft.
4. Lardarius Webb – CB – 88th Overall – Baltimore Ravens
There are teams that truly understand how to win NFL Drafts, and then there are the Ravens. Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome has a long history of finding gems, and Webb is on the list. The third-round pick had two decent seasons to begin his career, and he then picked off five passes during the 2011 regular season.
He started 2012 out strong before he tore his ACL six games into the campaign. While he did only have two interceptions in his return from injury last season, Webb did post a career-high 22 passes defended. He and teammate Jimmy Smith make for one of the top NFL secondary duos.
3. Mike Wallace – WR – 84th Overall – Pittsburgh Steelers
Wallace is as interesting a case as any player mentioned in this piece. The talent is undeniably there. Three of four of his seasons with the Steelers were tremendous, and Wallace is regarded to be one of the fastest players in the NFL.
And yet, the Steelers let him go to the Miami Dolphins last offseason. Wallace, in 16 games with his hew club, caught 73 passes, and he had 930 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Those aren’t necessarily elite numbers, but the combination of Wallace and the next player on this list makes for quite the passing attack.
And yet, rumors emerged in February 2014 that Wallace could be traded by Miami if the right offer were to come in.
2. Brian Hartline – WR – 108th Overall – Miami Dolphins
Hartline, like the guy before him and also the No. 1 player on this list, serves as an example that teams don’t need to reach with high picks in order to find good wide receivers. He wasn’t a hit right out of the gates, never catching more than 43 passes in one season. Hartline also averaged only one receiving touchdown per season from 2010-2012.
He has more than proven his worth in the past two years. Hartline had 74 grabs and 1,083 receiving yards in 2012. He followed that with another impressive season, catching 76 passes and finishing the year off with 1,016 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Hartline’s 2013 did not end to his liking, as he suffered a torn PCL in the season finale.
1. Julian Edelman – WR – 232nd Overall – New England Patriots
Edelman largely looked like a seventh-round pick in his first four seasons in the league. He failed to play in all 16 regular season games every year. He even went two full campaigns without scoring a touchdown.
Then came 2013. Edelman put up monster numbers last year, reeling in 105 of 151 passes and going for 1,056 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He was then rewarded with a four-year contract that could net him as much as $19 million. Not too shabby for a guy drafted when most of us had stopped paying attention.
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