StrategyApril 26, 2009

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Players Who Lost and Won at the 2009 NFL Draft

By Tom Docherty

The NFL Draft is one of the first indicators on how many players’ fantasy seasons will unfold. The drafting (or failure to draft) a particular player or position can positively or negatively affect many fantasy seasons. Here’s my take on players who lost and won during this year’s NFL Draft.

Since it’s more fun (and stressful) to look at the losers, let’s start there.

Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan, Denver – Buckhalter and Jordan looked to be the combo in a RBBC, until the Broncos picked Knowshon Moreno with the 12th overall pick in the draft. With the heavy investment in Moreno, Josh McDaniels will feed him the ball – plenty. In response, Buckhalter and Jordan go from possible fantasy starters to mere backups to Moreno.

Joseph Addai, Indianapolis – The drafting of Donald Brown with the 27th pick in the first round shows that Colts management was as disappointed in Addai’s 2008 numbers as fantasy owners. An immediate RBBC has been created in Indy, with Brown the favorite to emerge as the lead back in 2009.

Tim Hightower, Arizona – It seemed with Edgerrin James’ impending release that perhaps Hightower had the chance to win the starting job in the desert next season. Scratch that idea now. With Chris Wells dropping to the Cardinals at the bottom of the first round in the draft, Hightower immediately becomes second banana. Wells should become the Cards’ back on 1st and 2nd downs in 2009, and at 235 pounds he is unlikely to lose goal-line carries to Hightower.

Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia – The Eagles took Pitt’s LeSean McCoy in the second round, and let’s just say that Westbrook’s prospects in 2009 are now somewhat “shady.” Nearing age 30 and with injuries growing, Westbrook needs a breather now and then, and McCoy will be the man to give it to him. Not that Westbrook will be useless in ’09, but his numbers will take a dip. If you own Westbrook in a keeper league, watch out. I see a situation where McCoy will have a one-year apprenticeship in Philly and take over Westbrook’s starting job by 2010.

Thomas Jones, NYJ – Unhappy with his contract, Thomas Jones did not get the vote of confidence from the Jets’ new coaching staff he would have hoped for. New York traded up to get the top pick in the third round and grabbed Iowa RB Shonn Greene. Rex Ryan and his staff are clearly preparing for Jones’ departure, as Greene easily combines with slashing-style RB Leon Washington as the bruising, downhill runner that could eventually take the bulk of the Jets’ carries. Those carries have recently belonged to Jones, who had 1,312 yards and 13 rushing TDs last year. It will be difficult for Jones to approach those numbers, if he remains a Jet at all, in 2009.

Byron Leftwich, Tampa Bay – Leftwich just signed with the Bucs a week before the 2009 draft, and it seemed he had a decent chance to win the starting QB duties. But, Tampa drafted Josh Freeman with the 17th overall pick. Too bad for Leftwich. He may still begin the season as Tampa’s starting QB, but Freeman waits in the wings and makes Leftwich a fantasy risk, as he may hand over the starting duties to Freeman late in 2009.

Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown, Philadelphia – The Eagles’ pick of Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin with the 17th overall pick means there will be less targets to go around next year for these two Eagles WRs. Curtis is a capable WR, but he will likely drop down the depth chart to #3 behind Maclin and last year’s rookie wonder, DeSean Jackson. Brown’s fantasy relevance is all but over, and he’ll likely compete with Hank Baskett for a roster spot in Philly’s camp this summer.

Sidney Rice, Minnesota – Rice has had two injury-plagued seasons, and has yet to reach his sleeper potential. With the Vikings using their first round pick on WR Percy Harvin, it could mean Minnesota has grown tired of waiting on Rice. He’ll have to have a healthy and successful training camp to stay ahead of Harvin on the Vikes’ depth chart and be the #2 WR behind Bernard Berrian.

And now we’ll look at the players who are winners after this year’s draft.

Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City – Bowe’s a winner because not only did Tony Gonzalez’s exit from the Chiefs make Bowe the new #1 target in KC, but the Chiefs’ failure to go after a rookie WR in the draft means Bowe is not going to be challenged by any other WRs as well. Bowe enters his critical third year with a new QB in Matt Cassel and a new head coach in Todd Haley that got the ball plenty to his receivers with the Cardinals. Expect a big year from Bowe in 2009.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit – “Megatron” has seen his minions grow, as the Lions drafted two offensive weapons. Matthew Stafford will hopefully become a great NFL QB, but at the very least he has a rocket launcher for an arm. Johnson has put up great fantasy numbers with QBs like Jon Kitna, Daunte Culpepper and Dan Orlovsky. If Stafford reaches half his potential, he can at least connect with Johnson on deep throws. The Lions also grabbed TE Brandon Pettigrew in the first round, and while Pettigrew may steal some end-zone looks from Johnson, his overall contributions to the offense may result in less double-teaming on Johnson. More first downs means more chances for Johnson to connect for yards and TD’s.

Braylon Edwards, Cleveland – Edwards’ future is now brighter after the 2009 draft. How, you say? No, Edwards didn’t get traded out of Cleveland — yet. But, the Browns’ two second-round selections of WRs Brian Robiskie of Ohio St. and Mohamed Massaquoi of Georgia clearly indicate the Browns’ intentions. They’ll be moving Edwards somewhere this summer, before he becomes a restricted free agent in 2010 and forces his way out of town.

Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia – As noted above, the Eagles’ spent picks at WR and RB early in the draft and have effectively given McNabb more targets and youth at critical offensive positions. In addition, the Eagles traded the 28th pick to get McNabb a franchise left tackle, Jason Peters. Plus, they got OT Stacy Andrews as a free agent this spring. McNabb will be protected and have plenty of options available to him. Expect a big year from him in 2010.

David Garrard, Jacksonville – Not only did the Jags not draft QB Mark Sanchez, they went out and used their first two picks in the draft to reinforce their offensive line. Left tackle Eugene Monroe was rated highly enough to be the second pick overall, but dropped to the Jags at eighth overall. And tackle Eben Britton dropped all the way to 39th overall after being regarded by many observers as a late first rounder. After losing LT Khalif Barnes to free agency, the Jags had to address the offensive line, and they now have two bookends to anchor them into the next decade. The happiest man about this should be Garrard, who will have better protection than last year and no competition for his starting QB job in Jacksonville’s training camp.

Tom is from Toronto, Ontario, Canada and attended Ryerson University's Journalism School. After two years working for Hockey Night in Canada after graduation, he decided to go into the private sector for employment. He still has a passion for sports, and he's completely hooked on Fantasy Football.
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