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NEWS | May 8, 2009

NFL Draft: Winners and losers

By Airman 1st Class Patrick McKenna Capital Flyer sports writer


Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles had this year's best draft. After seeing what supposed heir apparent Kevin Kolb did in his limited playing time last season (17-34, 144 yards, 0 TD 4 INT), the Eagles realized pretty quickly that not only do they need to retain Donovan McNabb, but they need to give him some more weapons. They certainly took care of the latter at the draft.

The Eagles solid offseason actually began when they traded a first round pick (#28 acquired from Carolina the previous year) to Buffalo for two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters. To acquire an elite talent like Peters with a late first round pick, a fourth round pick and an undisclosed next year is a coup in its own right, but the Eagles weren't done there.

They also added wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, running back LeSean McCoy and tight end Cornelius Ingram to their offensive stable. Maclin provides Andy Reid another dynamic receiver who can contribute immediately on special teams. McCoy will hopefully be able to spell Brian Westbrook enough to keep him fresh for the postseason.
Somewhere, McNabb is smiling right now.

Green Bay Packers
Offense certainly wasn't the problem for the 2008 Packers. The team finished fifth in the NFL in points per game (26.2) and has a solid young core in quarterback Aaron Rodgers, wide receiver Greg Jennings and running back Ryan Grant. The team's major weakness was defense, where it finished 22nd in points allowed (23.8) and 26th in rushing yards per game (131.6). In a division that features elite talents like Adrian Peterson, Jay Cutler and Calvin Johnson, the Packers realized if they wanted any shot at winning the division they needed to shore up their defense.

The Packers are moving to a 3-4 defense this season. In order for that formation to be successful, you need two things: a nose tackle to take up blocks and allow linebackers to make plays behind him, and an outside linebacker that can both rush the passer and drop into pass coverage. The Packers filled both of these needs with their first selections - Boston College defensive lineman B.J. Raji and Southern California linebacker Clay Matthews. Both players should step in immediately and contribute.


Oakland Raiders

I'm not one to pile on when a team is down. To be blunt, the Oakland Raiders did not have a good draft. Darrius Heyward-Bey, while an incredibly gifted athlete, isn't enough of a polished product to have been worth the seventh overall pick. He played in the ACC, which is not exactly the cream of the crop as far as college football goes. So one would think against lesser competition, he would shine. There were two games where Heyward-Bey didn't even register a catch and in the last game of his career, the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl, he caught four passes for 48 yards. If the Raiders were trying to get Jamarcus Russell a weapon at wide receiver, they should have taken Michael Crabtree.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I think the Bucs made a big mistake trading up in the first round to select quarterback Josh Freeman, who is a huge project.

The Buccaneers share the division with three solid offensive teams (New Orleans, Atlanta and Carolina) and I have to say that a quarterback shouldn't have been their number one priority.

The Bucs already have quarterbacks Byron Leftwich, Brian Griese, Luke McCown and Josh Johnson on the roster, and after trading for tight end Kellen Winslow and signing running back Derrick Ward, they really needed to shift their focus to improving the defensive side of the ball.

Freeman has loads of talent, but he's at least a few years away from helping the team. If Tampa felt getting a young quarterback was so important, why didn't they kick the tires on trading for Jay Cutler?

Look, these teams are "winners and losers" only on paper. Once these kids put on the pads, it's a clean slate. Drafts can't truly be judged until three years down the line and only then will we know who were the true steals and busts of the 2009 NFL draft.