Owning The Moment In The Big Apple

By Lloyd Vance
Updated: April 26, 2009

NFL Draft NEW YORK — The 74th rendition of the NFL Draft, titled “Own the Moment” took center stage of the sports world on April 25th.

Hope sprung eternal from Oakland to New England as the NFL’s annual “Christmas in April” event arrived.

The crowd made up of fans from every team imaginable with a large group of Jets fans packed venerable Radio City Music Hall to cheer or second-guess their teams. As in years past the anticipation of the moment was not totally as everyone already knew that Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford was the inevitable first overall pick.

Stafford, the NFL’s newest million dollar quarterback, was all smiles as he and his family strolled to center stage greeted by Commissioner Goodell. Who could blame the Stafford contingent for not letting the derisive chants of “Overrated” rain on their moment.

The Lions wanted to make a big splash and they sure did as Stafford took home a six-year, $72 million dollar contract with $41 million guaranteed. In case you were checking, that is more than Peyton Manning and practically every other passer in the NFL.

The pace of the first round of the NFL Draft was brisk taking 3 hours, 23 Minutes which was seven minutes faster than last year’s almost record 3 hours, 30 minutes mark.

Some tidbits from Day 1 included:

Receiver crazy in the first round - After zero receivers were selected in the first round in 2008, this year’s draft class was full of pass catchers with talent. The first round had six receivers taken, which was the most of any position. Here were how the receivers were selected: Oakland (7th) Darrius Heyward-Bey, San Francisco 49ers (10th) Michael Crabtree, Eagles (19th) Jeremy Maclin, Vikings (21) Percy Harvin, Giants (28th) Hakeem Nicks, and Titans (29) Kenny Britt. Here is the positional breakdown: 6 WR’s, 5 LB’s, 4 OT’s, 3 RB’s, 3 QB’s, 3 DT’s, 3 DE’s, 2 CB’s, 2 Centers, 1 TE, no Safeties and no Guards.

USC in the House – Led by New Jersey native Brian Cushing, the Trojans garnered two first round picks. Cushing went to the Texans at the 15th pick and Clay Matthew went 26th to the Packers. Missouri also had two players selected in the first round with Maclin and DT Evander Hood (#32 to Pittsburgh).

Huskies have a first rounder – After only moving to 1-A football in the last decade, UConn finally had their first round pick. The Colts grabbed RB Donald Brown with the 27th Pick.

First Surprise - Kansas City Chiefs passing on LB Aaron Curry and others to take LSU DE Tyson Jackson. The former Tiger is a little inconsistent, so I thought it was a little early for him. At least Jackson can play next to his old pal Glenn Dorsey

Biggest Reach – It had to be the Oakland Raiders at the 7th pick going for speedster Darrius Heyward-Bey over Crabtree and Maclin. Heyward-Bey was the fastest player at the combine running a 4.31, but the other two receivers were more polished. Second place has to go to the Bills for trading up to take center Eric Wood at the 28th pick.

Best Value Pick - Texas DE Brian Orakpo sat patiently in the Green Room until Redskins grabbed him at the 13th spot. Orakpo will bring a much needed speed rusher to a defense whose best pass rusher, Phillip Daniels, is a little long in the tooth.

Panic Move – This has to go to the Titans, who missed out on Hakeem Nicks one pick earlier and decided to “reach” for Rutgers WR Kenny Britt in the first round

Picks Ready to Play Day 1 – St. Louis Rams OT Jason Smith and Seattle Seahawks LB Aaron Curry

Last in the Green Room – QB Josh Freeman, who was rescued by the Bucs at the 17th pick. The Bucs had to trade up with the Browns to get in position for the former Kansas State star. Freeman joins a crowded passing group of Byron Leftwich, Brian Griese, Luke McCown, and Josh Johnson.

Largest contingent – Originally this award to Jason Smith, who had 15+ peeps in the house. But Brian Cushing from nearby Bergen, NJ had at least 30 people on stage with him including family, friends, former teammates and coaches.

Plenty of Trades - Teams were aggressive as they moved quickly to grab their guy. There were nine trades in the first round including the Browns (traded back twice) pulling the big one at #5 with the Jets. The best trade was a tie between the Jets (traded up to grab Sanchez) and the Eagles (traded up a few spots with the Browns to surprisingly grab Maclin).

Potential 1st round Boom Player – Green Bay taking NT B.J Raji at the 9th spot

Potential 1st round Bust Player – Bengals taking OT Andre Smith at the 6th spot

Best 2nd round pick – The Dolphins, the originator of the Wildcat formation in NFL, taking WVU multi-purpose quarterback Pat White with the 44th pick.

Worst 2nd round pick - The Panthers taking Troy State S Sherrod Martin at the 59th pick. This is a down year for safeties overall, so you have to think the Panthers wanted Missouri’s William Moore (Falcons – 55) or Oregon’s Patrick Chung (Patriots – 34)

Day 1 Winners — Eagles, Niners, Dolphins, and Seahawks

Day 1 Head Scratchers – Bills, Bears (no picks), Panthers, and Cowboys (passed on their 2nd round selection then traded it away, leaving no picks for the day)

NEXT: A look at rounds 3 -7.