NFL Draft: 5 Day 1 Winners

It’s absolutely ridiculous to claim that a team “won” on draft day when none of the players have even played one down in the NFL yet. But it is fair to debate which teams made quality decisions on draft day (i.e. trades, overall maneuvering, etc.), and below are five franchises that I thought made out well after the first two rounds.

1. Cleveland Browns
Alex Mack, C (21); Brian Robiskie, WR (36); Mohamed Massaquoi, WR (50); David Veikune, DE (52)
The Browns became one of the day one draft winners the moment they were able to trade out of the No. 5 pick, because there wasn’t a prospect at that spot that Cleveland loved and they saved a ton of money getting out of the top 5. So they were able to make a deal with the Jets and landed the 17th and 52nd picks, as well as three players (Kenyon Coleman, Brett Ratliff and Abram Elam) that used to play for Eric Mangini in New York. The underrated Elam is the best of the group and should start at strong safety after the team decided to not re-sign Sean Jones. After the deal with the Jets, the Browns made yet another move, trading the 17th overall pick to Tampa Bay for the 19th and 191st selections. Still not satisfied, the Browns again traded back, this time dealing the 19th pick to Philadelphia for the 21st and 195th selections. When they finally did select a player at No. 21, they got the best center prospect in the draft in Mack, who joins a solid offensive line that already features Eric Steinbach and Joe Thomas. Although I was surprised that they passed on OLB Everrette Brown early in the second, they got a polished receiver in Brian Robiskie and then eventually filled their linebacker need with Veikune, who is raw but has good upside. Massaquoi was a bit of a surprise, especially considering the Robiskie selection earlier in the round, but it’s hard to criticize what Mangini and new GM George Kokinis did on the first day. It also must be noted how well the Browns played everything before the draft, keeping things close to the vest and not tipping their hand. Obviously that trade with the Jets for the No. 5 pick had to be in the works for a while given the players involved.

2. New England Patriots
Patrick Chung, S (34); Ron Brace, DT (40); Darius Butler, CB (41); Sebastian Vollmer, OT (58)
I thought they reached on Chung at the top of the second round, but it’s hard to question Bill Belichick on draft day and it was interesting that safeties started flying off the board once Detroit took Louis Delmas at No. 33 and New England followed with Chung with the next pick. So maybe Belichick knew that Chung would fly off the board if he didn’t reach at 34. The Pats got two players in Brace and Butler who many pundits thought were first round prospects and Vollmer gives them nice depth at the tackle position. But New England did its most damage in the first round, when they acquired the 26th and 162nd picks from Baltimore in exchange for the 23rd pick, then turned around and absolutely fleeced Green Bay for the 41st, 73rd and 83rd picks in exchange for the two picks they acquired from the Ravens. Belichick and the Patriots have long mastered the art of the draft day trade.

3. New York Giants
Hakeem Nicks, WR (29); Clint Sintim, LB (45); William Beatty, OT (60)
The Giants had a solid first day by filling needs and also drafting some of the best players on the board at their selections. The G-Men had an obvious need at wideout after releasing Plaxico Burress and while Nicks isn’t a burner, he was a productive player at UNC and should make an impact right away. I absolutely love the Sintim pick because I felt as though he should have went in the first round, although I wonder how he fits into the Giants’ plans with Danny Clark and Michael Boley already filling the starting outside linebacker spots. Still, Sintim was a beast at Virginia and the Giants will definitely game plan ways to get him on the field in special situations. Beatty adds depth at tackle and could develop into a starter if he shows more mental toughness.

4. Seattle Seahawks
Aaron Curry, LB (4); Max Unger, C (49)
The Seahawks got tremendous value with the fourth overall pick when the Chiefs passed on Curry at No. 3. They landed arguably the best player in the entire draft and didn’t upset the applecart by selecting quarterback Mark Sanchez. Then with their second pick, they landed a player in Unger that could possibly fill in at guard this season. The only debate will be whether or not they gave up too much to land Unger after trading the 68th and 105th overall picks to Chicago for the 49th. They probably did, but this team should rebound next year and compete in a garbage division, plus they wound up with the best prospect in the draft. Not to mention, they landed a first round pick in next year’s draft after trading their second round (37th overall) pick to Denver.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars
Eugene Monroe, OT (8); Eben Britton, OT (39)
Some might scoff at the fact that the Jags took two offensive tackles, but they were decimated with injuries along their O-line last year and the entire offense fell apart. The team also parted with Khalif Barnes in the offseason, so Monroe (who was considered one of the safest picks in the draft) fills their left tackle need and Britton is slated to play on the right side. It’s not too often that a team lands two starting offensive tackles in the first two rounds and while this wasn’t a flashy draft, it was solid nonetheless.

Honorable Mention Section:

San Francisco 49ers: Michael Crabtree, WR (10)
Crabtree shockingly slipped to San Fran at No. 10, who finally landed a true No. 1 receiver since trading Terrell Owens away years ago. The Niners also traded their second round pick (43rd overall) to Carolina for their first round pick in 2010. That’s an outstanding first day and definitely worth a mention.

Other 2009 NFL Draft Coverage:

NFL Draft: 5 Second Day Steals
NFL Draft: 5 First Round Values
NFL Draft: 5 Questionable Day 1 Decisions
NFL Draft: 5 Day 1 Winners
Official 2009 NFL Draft Post & Rumor Mill

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