In our ongoing series of expert guest interviews, Patriots Insider spoke with Scott Wright, President & Draft Analyst of DraftCountdown.com. Wright's scouting reports and player interviews have been popular with many members of the Draft forums here on Scout and other boards around the web. We thank Scott for taking the time to address our questions.
The 2009 Draft was reportedly impacted by lack of true top quality players deserving of first round grades. Were there players taken in the first round that may have ended up being taken in the second, or even late second round in a stronger Draft class?
Scott Wright: There are reaches in every NFL Draft. My lowest rated player who went in the first round was Louisville C / OG Eric Wood, who I had ranked as the #47 prospect in this class and the Buffalo Bills took 28th overall. However, even that wasn't a huge surprise as there was plenty of talk of him sneaking into round one as Draft Day neared. Overall there really weren't any monumental reaches in the first round this year and everyone who went in the Top 32 picks was generally considered to be a possibility for that range.
Which players were you surprised to see taken in the first or second round that you had a lower grade on?
SW: The biggest reach of the entire draft was when the Oakland Raiders took %%MATCH_42%% S Mike Mitchell in round two. I know there has been talk since the draft that another team was considering taking him in the second or third round as well but someone else being almost as stupid doesn't justify the move. He was a late round value and the Raiders chose him 47th overall. In fact, four the Raiders first five picks were massive reaches! I was also very surprised when the New England Patriots took %%MATCH_41%% OL Sebastian Vollmer in round two and the Jacksonville Jaguars chose William & Mary CB Derek Cox in round three.
Critics were quick to jump on the Jets for trading up to get Mark Sanchez and the Browns for trading down time and again. In your opinion, is Sanchez worth the price paid to acquire him, and the contract he subsequently signed? Who does he compare to in the league now?
SW: I think the Jets trading up for Mark Sanchez was a stroke of genius and quite possibly the best move of the entire draft. The Jets were already a solid team but they had a gaping hole at quarterback and they just couldn't go into next season depending on Kellen Clemens. The acquisition of Sanchez gives the Jets a top young player at the games most important position and he will be the face of the franchise both on and off the field. The best part is they really didn't have to give up much to get him and in my opinion they really ripped the Browns off in that deal. It should have cost more than a second rounder, a journeyman defensive end and a couple of backups to move up all the way up from #17 to #5. I think that was merely a case of new Browns Head Coach Eric Mangini overvaluing his former players.
I think Mark Sanchez compares favorably to Matt Ryan, although he isn't as polished or experienced. As far as the contract goes, no unproven rookie is worth the type of money that these Top 10 picks are getting now days but that's the system. At least for now...
New England traded out of the first round after having ample opportunity to land an impact player at linebacker. One of those targets could have been Clay Matthews, who the Packers selected with the pick they acquired from New England. What kind of impact do you expect Matthews to have in Green Bay and would he have been a good fit in Foxboro?
|"Clay Matthews would have been a great pick for New England in round one"|
SW: I think Clay Matthews would have been a great pick for New England in round one and I look for him to excel in the Packers new 3-4 defense. I was surprised to see the Patriots basically ignore the outside linebacker position in this draft but that just tells me they have a ton of confidence in Pierre Woods and Shawn Crable.
New England selected Patrick Chung with their first pick in the second round (34th overall). Does that represent good value for him, or did New England take him early because of their need at safety?
SW: Patrick Chung was projected to be an early-to-mid second rounder so he was a good value at #34, although the Patriots just missed out on a much better player when Louis Delmas was selected one spot earlier (by the Lions).
There’s a theory being floated that the Patriots want Ron Brace to grow into a starter behind Vince Wilfork if the team can’t get a deal done with their former first round pick. What type of impact will Brace have if given the opportunity to learn behind Wilfork and do you think he can be the guy in a year?
SW: Ron Brace (picture on left) is a prototypical 3-4 nose tackle but he's no Vince Wilfork. There is no doubt in my mind that Brace was selected not only to provide depth but also as an insurance policy in case they can't re-sign Wilfork. With that said I think they will do everything in their power to hold onto Wilfork because he is arguably the most important player on that defense.
Who are these offensive linemen that the Patriots drafted(Sebastian Vollmer, Rich Ohrnberger and George Bussey)? Their bios don’t say if they’ll be able to replace (OT) Nick Kazur or (OG) Stephen Neal.
SW: Well, the Patriots got a little bit of everything with those three offensive lineman. Sebastian Vollmer is a big (6-7 5/8, 312), athletic offensive tackle who could play either the right or left side. Rich Ohrnberger is an undersized guard with top intangibles while George Bussey is a hybrid who played tackle in college but will most likely kick inside to guard at the next level.
Will Matt Stafford really be able to start as a rookie? How does he compare to other rookie starters like Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco or even guys who played early out of necessity like JaMarcus Russell and Vince Young?
SW: Anyone can start as a rookie, the real question is should he. If handled properly I feel Stafford has all the tools to be a top signal caller in the NFL but it certainly wouldn't hurt him to sit and learn for a year, a la Carson Palmer, because he is still very young. However, that may be unrealistic and I think he'll be the Lions starting quarterback sooner rather than later. The biggest key is they have to be able to protect him. Nothing will destroy a young quarterback quicker than a bad offensive line.
SW: Darius Butler reminds me of Tracy Porter, who was a second round pick of the New Orleans Saints a year ago and was having a nice rookie season before he got hurt. Butler is definitely more talented than either Wheatley or Wilhite and he was a great value pick for New England at #41 overall. In fact, in my final mock draft I had him going to the Patriots in round one.
Will any of this year’s crop of rookie receivers have an impact on the league? (If so, who and why)
SW: Rookie wideouts usually take a few years to adjust to the NFL and guys like Randy Moss, Anquan Boldin and Marques Colston are the exceptions, not the rule. Of the six wide receivers taken in the first round I think Hakeem Nicks may have the best chance to make an instant impact because he's in such a good situation with the Giants. Also, Percy Harvin isn't really a true wide receiver yet and the Vikings will move him around and he could be an impact player as a runner, receiver and return man.
SW: When Bill Belichick was unable to land Pat White earlier in the draft he took a flyer on Edelman later. He is far from a lock to make the roster but his ability to play either quarterback or wide receiver should work in his favor. If he does make the team Edelman could settle in as both the #6 wideout and #3 quarterback. However, make no mistake about it he is a project.
Who is a sleeper pick from Day two we should keep our eyes on?
SW: Keep an eye on Jacksonville Jaguars RB Rashad Jennings, who was expected to be a mid-round pick but almost went undrafted. Jennings will compete for the backup job in Jacksonville and he could wind up being the Thunder to Maurice Jones-Drew's Lightning.