NFL Nation: Mohamad Massaquoi
The 2009 draft began early in the NFC North. The arrival of new Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler raised the stakes in the Black and Blue, and in some ways the rest of the division spent the weekend trying to catch up.
Detroit drafted Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, a strong-armed passer whose physical skills have been compared to Cutler. Minnesota attempted to improve the players around its own shaky quarterback situation, drafting receiver Percy Harvin and offensive tackle Phil Loadholt. And Green Bay devoted a pair of first-round draft picks to improving a defense that will face three improved offenses in division play.
The Cutler trade left the Bears with a shallow class, but they had a four-week head start. Let's take a look at the highs and lows of the weekend from a Black and Blue perspective.
In a rare marriage of need and talent level, Green Bay managed to select the best defensive lineman in the draft when it took Boston College nose tackle B.J. Raji with the No. 9 overall pick.
|Cliff Welch/Icon SMI|
|B.J. Raji gives the Packers some flexibility along the defensive line.|
Need-based fanatics could point out that the Packers already had a starting nose tackle in Ryan Pickett. They could also document greater needs at defensive end, linebacker and offensive tackle. Fantasy football players, meanwhile, were probably drooling at the possibility of receiver Michael Crabtree joining an offense that already includes quarterback Aaron Rodgers and receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.
But you don't pass over a player of Raji's caliber because you have Ryan Pickett on your roster. You don't grab the fourth-best offensive tackle ahead of the top defensive lineman. And you don't turn greedy with your offense when it was your defense that largely put you in a 6-10 hole last season.
And so Thompson pounced on Raji, who figures to start immediately. Pickett could move to end, or defensive coordinator Dom Capers could find other innovative ways to keep both players on the field. If you're the Packers, it's a great problem to have.
The Vikings might have drafted the NFL's 2009 rookie of the year, or they could have the league's latest embarrassment. The spectrum is that wide for Harvin, whose resume of questionable behavior dates far beyond a reported positive drug test at the annual scouting combine.
Harvin's competitiveness has sometimes gotten the best of him, resulting in multiple suspensions during high school competition in Virginia. Harvin attributed most of his mistakes to "growing up," but it's pretty clear the Vikings have a live wire on their hands.
Should he keep himself in check, Harvin will get an opportunity to excel against defenses that will be focused on tailback Adrian Peterson. Harvin's open-field running ability is unparalleled for receivers, and he could also help in the short term as a kick returner.
The Vikings, however, aren't that far removed from an era of relative lawlessness highlighted by the exploits of receiver Randy Moss and a 2005 sex party aboard a cruise ship on Lake Minnetonka. They have made a great public showing of their internal crackdown on misbehavior, and as a result they have a lot riding on Harvin's future.
Most surprising move
In his first four drafts as the Packers' general manager, Ted Thompson executed 14 draft-day trades. All but one of them were to move down. It was a volume approach to roster-building: The more players you draft, the better your chances are of building quality depth. So I'm sure a few people fell out of their seats Saturday when Thompson gave up a second-round choice and a pair of third-round picks to move up from No. 41 overall to No. 26 in order to grab USC linebacker Clay Matthews III.
Matthews intrigues the Packers on a number of levels, but let's be honest: They faced urgency to start addressing the transitional holes revealed by their shift to the 3-4 defense. The team has been vague about who might start at outside linebacker opposite Aaron Kampman, and in retrospect it seems clear Thompson has planned to address the issue during the draft. When you target a position, and especially when you extend it to one particular player, you must be willing to wheel and deal. Surprisingly, Thompson was.
File it away
In a few years, we'll all be able to look back and determine whether Chicago general manager Jerry Angelo was right to trade himself out of the second round of this draft. The Bears had the No. 49 overall pick and were in position to draft Georgia receiver Mohamed Massaquoi or Alabama safety Rashad Johnson, but Angelo instead gave up the spot to acquire picks in the third and fourth rounds.
Reportedly, that d
ecision came after Angelo was unable to trade for Arizona receiver Anquan Boldin. The Bears also were hoping that Ohio safety Michael Mitchell would be available at No. 49, but Oakland grabbed him at No. 47.
In the end, Angelo addressed his defensive line with those choices -- selecting San Jose State defensive end Jarron Gilbert and Texas defensive end Henry Melton, respectively. Will Gilbert and Melton prove a better grab than anyone the Bears might have selected at No. 49? We'll file that one away for a later.
Pretty uneventful day in Chicago, huh? The Bears gave up their first-round pick in the Jay Cutler trade, and moments ago they traded out of the first day of the draft altogether.
General manager Jerry Angelo sent the 49th overall pick to Seattle for third- and fifth-round picks on Sunday. (They are the Nos. 68 and 105 overall.) At least one of the receivers that have been linked to the Bears, Georgia's Mohamad Massaquoi, was available at the time of the trade.
The truth is that it's not easy to get an impact player in the middle of the second round. Angelo opted to accumulate more mid-range picks instead. So we'll talk to you tomorrow, Chicago.
How did Minnesota miss its pick in the first round of the 2003 draft? For some reason, former Vikings owner Red McCombs re-visited that issue Friday with Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
As you might recall, the Vikings believed they had made a deal with Baltimore to move from No. 7 to No. 9, but the trade was never fully reported to the NFL before time expired. The Vikings ended up selecting defensive tackle Kevin Williams with the No. 9 pick after Baltimore and Jacksonville leapfrogged them in positioning.
McCombs told Alonzo that the mistake occurred "because Mike [Tice] and the guys didn't have their damn signals straight. That was like junior high school handling of a situation. We didn't go up and get our draft pick in. That showed lack of organization."
The story that has always been told is that then-Vikings president Gary Woods, a McCombs associate from San Antonio, ordered the Vikings to trade down moments before the snafu occurred. In an e-mail to Alonzo, Tice said: "Being told MINUTES before the pick was to be made... 'TRADE THE PICK'... thanks."
McCombs, however, disputed that version and said: "That never happened."
Check out the story for Tice's full response to McCombs' finger-pointing.
I look at this exchange as an unfortunate addition to some of the bizarre chapters McCombs wrote at the end of his tenure with the team. Tice technically had veto power over draft decisions, but to blame him and his coaching staff alone for the mistake is a stretch.
Missing the pick reflected franchise-wide disorganization and confusion, starting at the very top. There was undoubtedly an error made, but to rub anyone's nose in it six years later seems totally unnecessary. I think the statute of limitations would have passed by now.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune notes that the Vikings brought Florida receiver Percy Harvin to their facility for a meeting earlier this month. Coach Brad Childress reportedly visited with Harvin again this week.
- Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports spends some time with Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, who seems the likely choice of Detroit with the draft's No. 1 overall pick. Speaking about Detroit fans who want the team to draft Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry, Stafford said: "Obviously, you want the fans to be on your side. I think you have to be yourself and play and get them on your side. I want them to know that I'm a down-to-earth guy, and I'll do what it takes, no matter what that is. If that's handing the rock off to Kevin Smith 30 times a game and letting the defense [control the game], then I'll do that. If it's chuck it around a little bit, I'll do that, too. I'm one of those guys that just wants to win, I don't care how. It doesn't have to be pretty."
- Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press on the seemingly inevitable pairing: "The Lions want Matthew Stafford. Stafford wants the Lions. This makes me question both sides' judgment -- but, hey, what do I know?"
- Curry told Alex Marvez of FOXSports.com: "In my heart, I think [the Lions] are going to get it done with Stafford. I know they have faith in both of us to become great players. They can't go wrong. They're really making their decision on a need basis. Quarterback for them is a more important need. I understand that."
- Ohio State cornerback Michael Jenkins reminds people of former Green Bay safety LeRoy Butler, writes Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Chris Jenkins of the Associated Press believes Packers general manager Ted Thompson will at least be tempted to stray from his mantra of taking the best-available player in order to address some of his defensive needs.
- Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel wouldn't blame Thompson for trading down from the No. 9 pick given the salaries due players chosen high in the draft.
- Chicago is hoping to replicate its second-round success last year with tailback Matt Forte, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Georgia receiver Mohamed Massaquoi could fit the Bears' receiving corps well, writes David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune.
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