2009 NFL Draft: Grading the Graders

Every year, the media love to give instant grades to the professionals for their performance in the draft—long before a single game is played which might demonstrate in real-world terms whether those professionals indeed know what they're doing (and conversely, what the experts are likely full of).

They do it...because it's fun. So, we're going to do it too. But we're going to grade the graders.

There's too much data to go through on a work day to try to figure this out...so, since I'm a blogger and I don't need to be objective, I devised a shorter test. Just their opinions on four drafts: Detroit, Oakland, Tampa Bay, and our own.

Here's my take on those drafts, giving most of the weight to the top of each draft. This is important: I'm not trying to predict hidden gems here, just trying to analyze draft strategy.

OAKLAND. Grade: F
Al Davis is atrocious. He should be institutionalized. The fans of Oakland should petition the appropriate court. Darrius Heyward-Bey is an unproven commodity who may actually have a decent career...but this was like drafting Devery Henderson 7th overall based on what we know of his career to date. Heyward-Bey is raw, and has hands of...well, not stone, but some reasonably stiff substance, perhaps silicone rubber. But the real atrocity came in the second round, when Davis wasted a high draft pick on a free agent. Either he's senile, or he uses a Ouija board.

DETROIT. Grade: D
Detroit got some good players, like Matt Stafford and Brandon Pettigrew and Louis Delmas. Problem is, they got them at the expense of what they truly, desperately needed: an offensive line. With such deep tackle and center classes, new GM Martin Mayhew entirely ignored the very foundation of all great teams—despite having three picks in the first 33. This is a perfect illustration of why Detroit continually picks in the top quarter of the draft, year-in, year-out.

TAMPA BAY. Grade: C
First of all: Josh Freeman ain't the guy. He's going to placed in the same discard pile as John Beck, David Klingler, and Andre Ware. But the Bucs didn't just fall for Freeman: they traded up to get him. And they didn't just trade up: they traded up to get past Denver: a team that had no sane or rational reason to want Freeman. Tampa didn't just waste their first pick: they invested more in it before wasting it.

The rest of Tampa's draft, unfortunately for us, went pretty well—on the defensive side. But we can take heart that their offense is going to be behind the rest of the division's for some time to come, because they did nothing to help it.

By contrast, here's my take on the Saints' draft:

NEW ORLEANS. Grade: A
The Saints had little room to maneuver, with only four choices. But you have to factor in that three of their picks were already used to put Jeremy Shockey and Jonathan Vilma in black and gold. Shockey had a solid season, for a tight end—it just wasn't spectacular, so he would seem to be overpriced as things stand now. Vilma, on the other hand, was spectacular: every bit the player he was when the Jets took him with the 12th overall pick in 2004. Getting that kind of value for a third-round pick alone elevates the Saints draft nearly to the top.

In addition, New Orleans got Malcolm Jenkins—who may be the next Rod Woodson at cornerback, or bust at cornerback and be the next Rod Woodson at safety. Plus, the Saints added a solid safety prospect in Chip Vaughn, an intriguing linebacker prospect in Stanley Arnoux (both in the fourth), and punter/kicker Thomas Morland. Every real need the Saints had was addressed in some way, and with quality players.

(Today's Kool-Aid is Purplesaurus Rex.)

Now...with that out of the way, let's see what everyone had to say about the Saints' draft, and then Grade the Graders.

 

John Czarnecki, Fox Sports

Grade: C

The Saints didn't have much firepower, but they did land the draft's best cornerback in Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins. He's a very physical player with great ball skills. The Saints spent 90 minutes late Saturday on trying to get back into the first round in order to draft Ohio State running back Beanie Wells, but failed.

Sticking with defense, the Saints selected two Wake Forest players in the fourth round in safety Chip Vaughn and linebacker Stanley Amoux.

Grading the Grader: C-. Czarnecki gave way too much love to both Oakland and (especially) Detroit, but he had a lower opinion of Tampa's draft than even I did.

 

Charles Robinson, Yahoo

Grade: B

Positive: A starting caliber cornerback in Jenkins.

Negative: Only one pick in the first three rounds.

Jeremy Shockey and Jonathan Vilma factor into this class as part of previous deals. None of the five picks were wasted, but Jenkins looks like the only immediate defensive starter out of this draft. New Orleans reportedly targeted Ohio State’s Beanie Wells later in the first round but couldn’t make the deal happen.

Grading the Grader: B. Robinson only rated NFC teams, so his grade for Oakland isn't available. But he gets it: he factors in Vilma and Shockey, and gives the Saints pretty high marks. What pulls him down is his high grade for Detroit.

 

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports

Grade: C

Best pick: Their first one was their best. They filled a major need in the secondary taking Ohio State safety/corner Malcolm Jenkins in the first round.

Questionable move: Having only four draft picks and using one on a punter, trading up to get him.

Second-day gem: Stanley Arnoux, a fourth-round pick out of Wake Forest, is a linebacker who could help on special teams.

Grade: C. They just didn't have enough picks for a better grade.

Grading the Grader: C. Again, way too much love for Detroit, and not enough for New Orleans. These guys just follow the herd, apparently.

 

Rob Rang, CBS Sports

Grade: C+

With only four picks to work with, the Saints got the safest defensive back in the draft in the first round with Malcolm Jenkins. Capable of playing cornerback or safety, Jenkins instantly improves New Orleans' secondary. The Saints added two Wake Forest standouts in Chip Vaughn and Stanley Arnoux in the middle rounds, though each could struggle to find roles with questions about their ability in coverage.

Grading the Grader: C. I could just keep writing the same evaluation...

 

Mel Kiper, ESPN

Grade: C

First-round selection Malcolm Jenkins is a good player. Fourth-round safety Chip Vaughn is a solid player and had some great workouts. He looks great on paper, as does fellow fourth-rounder Stanley Arnoux, the inside linebacker from Wake Forest. The only player out of the four the Saints selected who will be a difference-maker is Jenkins.

Grading the Grader: C. Yawn. Ditto.

 

Gregg Rosenthal and Evan Silva, NBC Sports

Grade: C-

Details: GM Mickey Loomis wisely used his only Day 1 pick on the draft’s best defensive back, though Malcolm Jenkins' position is unclear. Early indications are that Jenkins will play corner, but his 4.5 wheels could be exposed by intra-division speed receivers Steve Smith, Antonio Bryant, and Roddy White.

New Orleans's bigger need is at free safety. Oversized Wake Forest DB Chip Vaughn has poor ball skills and is only a special teamer. Stanley Arnoux can hit, but lacks the range replace outside linebacker Scott Shanle, who is a liability in New Orleans' defense. Drafting Thomas Morstead all but forces him into the lineup. The Saints didn't have many picks to start out, but they could've used them better.

Grading the Grader: B. Not bad. Little respect for Oakland, less than usual for Detroit, and just about right for Tampa. All that pulls them down is their assessment of the Saints.

 

Clifton Brown, Sporting News

Grade: D-minus

Whether he plays corner or safety, Malcolm Jenkins will help the secondary. But they surrendered their second-round pick to get tight end Jeremy Shockey last year, a move that has not paid dividends.

Grading the Grader: D. A solid C, based on good evaluations of Tampa and Oakland, and absurd opinions regarding New Orleans and Detroit. But just for being so clueless on the Saints, we're dropping him a letter grade.

 

Larry Weisman, USA TODAY

Grade: C-

Just not enough picks to bolster this roster. Did fine with what they had. CB/S Malcolm Jenkins will bring a toughness to a weak back end. He and Tracy Porter could make an interesting CB tandem. Chip Vaughn probably fits better at SS than FS and there are questions about his tackling though he gets involved in a lot of plays. LB Stanley Arnoux is a little on the lean side (240 pounds) but should have time to grow before the Saints need him.

Grading the Grader: B. The first grader to give Oakland a flat "F," his analysis of Tampa is good too.

 

Walter Cherepinsky, WalterFootball.com

Grade: A-

The Saints didn't have much to work with, but three of the four players they drafted could make big contributions in 2009.

Malcolm Jenkins was a no-brainer selection in an absolutely crazy first round. Chip Vaughn was great value. Stanley Arnoux is an underrated prospect who may improve a mediocre linebacking corps. And Thomas Morstead, obviously will really help on special teams.

Grading the Grader: B+. Walter loved the Bucs' draft solely because they took a face-of-the-franchise quarterback and because of "positional value" (meaning, I suppose, that if you need a quarterback, and you draft a quarterback, you did great—despite how much you paid for him or whether he's likely to be any good. By that logic, Oakland's picks were fantastic). But he loved the Saints, hated the Raiders, and gave scant respect to the Lions.

 

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