NFL Draft Series 2014: Grading the 2009 draft
APR 21, 2014 3:00p ET
It's common practice for media (and fans) to analyze each NFL team's draft selections just moments after the picks are made. Was this the best available player? Did it fill a need on the roster? Was it perhaps a reach to take that player at that spot? Was there a player who fit a more pressing need still on the board who got passed over?
While those are fair questions to ask, it can take years to find out the answers to some of them. No, it didn't take long to realize that Eddie Lacy was a steal with the 61st overall pick in 2013 or that Justin Harrell was highly unlikely to ever live up to his first-round pick status in 2007, but those are exceptions to the rule.
To begin this year's 14-part series leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft, we'll first look back five years at the 2009 draft. With that much time having passed, it's quite evident which picks made by general manager Ted Thompson worked well and which didn't.
Round 1, No. 9 overall:
B.J. Raji -- After a fairly quiet rookie season, Raji had a breakout year in 2010 with 39 tackles and 6.5 sacks (both of which remain career-highs for him) while starting all 16 games and playing 85 percent of the snaps. It seemed like the Packers had found themselves a star for their defensive line for many years to come. However, he's yet to come close to getting back to that level. To take Raji, Green Bay passed on players like wide receiver Michael Crabtree, linebackers Brian Orakpo and Brian Cushing, and center Alex Mack.
Grade 5 years later: B-minus
Round 1, No. 26 overall:
Clay Matthews -- When Matthews was still on the board late in the first round, Thompson traded the Packers' second-round pick (No. 41 overall) and two third-rounders (Nos. 73 and 83) to the New England Patriots. It was a lot of draft picks to give up, but it has been well worth it for Green Bay. Matthews had 10 sacks as a rookie and 13.5 sacks in his second year -- even making a key play in Super Bowl XLV that season to help bring the Lombardi Trophy back to the Packers. Matthews has since earned the richest contract for a linebacker in NFL history, but he is now dealing with recurring hamstring injuries and a twice-broken right thumb. The question going forward for Matthews, who will turn 28 in May 2014, is: are his best years behind him?
Grade 5 years later: A-plus
Round 4, No. 109 overall:
T.J. Lang -- After an extended break due to all the picks traded away in the Matthews deal, Thompson drafted Lang, who had just started playing guard after spending his college career at offensive tackle. Lang wasn't impressive in his first two NFL seasons, only starting a total of three games while fulfilling his role as a reserve. But in 2011, Lang won the left guard job and performed at a very high level. He's been a starter for three consecutive seasons now and, at age 26, is locked into a long-term deal with Green Bay. It'd be difficult to find a better guard with pick No. 109 than Lang.
Grade 5 years later: A-minus
Round 5, No. 145 overall:
Quinn Johnson -- The fullback out of LSU had two seasons with the Packers, playing slightly more than a combined 400 snaps in a Green Bay uniform. Johnson was then traded to the Tennessee Titans in 2011 for a draft pick. He is still in the NFL playing for Tennessee.
Grade 5 years later: C-minus
Round 5, No. 162 overall:
Jamon Meredith -- After playing multiple offensive line positions at the University of South Carolina, Meredith failed to make the Packers' active roster as a rookie. He was placed on the practice squad but was signed after just three weeks by the Buffalo Bills. Meredith never appeared in a game with Green Bay. He's currently a backup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Grade 5 years later: F
Round 6, No. 182 overall:
Jarius Wynn -- The defensive end out of the University of Georgia played three seasons with the Packers, totaling 4.5 sacks and starting four games. He's since played with the Titans, San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills, during which time he's added four sacks to his career totals.
Grade 5 years later: C
Round 6, No. 187 overall:
Brandon Underwood -- The 6-foot-1, 190-pound cornerback was with Green Bay for two seasons, but he only played a total of 63 defensive snaps in that time. The Packers released Underwood before the 2011 season. He's now in the Canadian Football League.
Grade 5 years later: D
Round 7, No. 218 overall:
Brad Jones -- Originally slated as an outside linebacker, Jones played 400 snaps as a rookie and nearly 300 snaps in 2010. After failing to progress in Year 3, the Packers moved Jones to inside linebacker. In his first season as a starter on the inside (2012), Jones was much improved compared to his years outside. Green Bay gave him a three-year contract worth nearly $12 million during the 2013 offseason. Jones didn't live up to that new contract in 2013, but injuries were a factor in that. He's projected to start for the Packers in 2014, and it's rare that a team converts a seventh-round pick into a multiple-year starter.
Grade 5 years later: B-plus
Overall 2009 draft grade: A-minus
Trading up for Matthews was one of Thompson's best draft moments, coming away with one of the league's best pass-rushers late in the first round. The list of high-quality players passed up at No. 9 is troublesome, but it's not as if Raji was a bust. Also, drafting Lang in the fourth round and Jones in the seventh round turned out to be great value. This was clearly a very strong draft for Thompson and the Packers.
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