2009 NFL Draft: Packers Made the Best of an Disappointing Draft Class

Jonathan Daniel

We examine the Packers' success in the 2009 draft and compare it to the struggles of most NFL teams to find productive players that offseason.

In an article posted Wednesday morning, SB Nation's Dan Kadar broke down the 2009 NFL Draft, which is proving to be the worst draft in recent memory. Over the past five years, the 256 players selected that year have made a grand total of 21 Pro Bowl appearances and earned just five first-team All-Pro honors.

However, through all this dreck, the Green Bay Packers' general manager, Ted Thompson, found a way to put together a very solid draft class, thanks to either great inspiration and a willingness to bet on a young, raw pass-rusher or dumb luck (depending on what color lenses you're seeing through). With that in mind, we decided to examine the 2009 draft further in objective terms, and we eventually find that by some measures, the Packers had the best draft in this abysmal class.

For this analysis, we looked at a few different factors for each player, as reported by Pro Football Reference: postseason awards, number of years spent as a primary starter for his team, and Pro Football Reference's "Career Average Value" number, which is an attempt to quantify one player's objective value to another.

Note that we are only taking into account each player's contributions towards the team that originally drafted him - if a player changed teams, we have removed the numbers from his new team(s). In some cases, this affects the player's value drastically.

NFC North

Team # of Draft Picks All-Pro Awards Pro Bowls Years Started Total Career AV Top Players
Green Bay Packers 8 1 5* 15 135* Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, T.J. Lang, Brad Jones
Chicago Bears 9 0 2 8 63 Henry Melton, Johnny Knox
Detroit Lions 10 0 0 20* 134 Matthew Stafford, Brandon Pettigrew, Louis Delmas, Deandre Levy
Minnesota Vikings 5 0 1 14 109 Percy Harvin, Phil Loadholt
TOTAL 32 1 8 57 441

* Most of any team in 2009 draft

As you can see, the Packers (by virtue of Clay Matthews' four appearances) have the most Pro Bowlers of any team from this draft. In fact, only one other division in the entire league matches or exceeds Matthews' four appearances (that being the NFC East).

Green Bay also lands first in the entire draft in total career AV, with the Lions a close second (despite the fact that Detroit had the top overall pick and two additional picks overall). Again, Matthews leads the way with a CAV of 50, the most of any player in this draft. One main reason for this is that the Packers' four key players from the draft all remain on the team, with Matthews, Lang, and Jones each earning contract extensions in the past few seasons while Raji returned to Green Bay on a one-year deal for 2014.

NFC East

Team # of Draft Picks All-Pro Awards Pro Bowls Years Started Total Career AV Top Players
Dallas Cowboys 12* 0 0 2 13 None
Philadelphia Eagles 8 2* 2 9 88 LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin
New York Giants 9 0 0 7 75 Hakeem Nicks, William Beatty
Washington Redskins 6 0 3 4 35 Brian Orakpo
TOTAL 35 2 5 22 211

* Most of any team in 2009 Draft

McCoy's two All-Pros make him the only player in this draft class with more than one, and one of only three (Clay Matthews and Seattle's Max Unger) to make one at all as a member of the team that drafted him. McCoy's CAV of 48 is second only to Matthews.

The fact that the Cowboys had 12 picks might make you think that they should have hit on at least one major contributor, but their first selection was pick #69 overall in round three. As it turned out, their top player in Career AV is linebacker Victor Butler, who has played in 63 games for Dallas but started only two of them.

Washington had Orakpo (CAV: 32) and basically nothing else.

NFC West

Team # of Draft Picks All-Pro Awards Pro Bowls Years Started Total Career AV Top Players
Arizona Cardinals 8 0 0 4 46 Beanie Wells
San Francisco 49ers 7 0 0 4 40 Michael Crabtree
St. Louis Rams 7 0 0 7 66 James Laurinaitis
Seattle Seahawks 7 1 2 7 56 Max Unger
TOTAL 29 1 2 22 208

The NFC West ranks dead last in total Career AV from its draft picks, and only Max Unger has been named to a Pro Bowl.

NFC South

Team # of Draft Picks All-Pro Awards Pro Bowls Years Started Total Career AV Top Players
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6 0 0 8 73 Josh Freeman
Atlanta Falcons 8 0 1 8 75 William Moore, Vance Walker
Carolina Panthers 7 0 0 8 45 Captain Munnerlyn
New Orleans Saints 4 0 1 6 43 Malcolm Jenkins
TOTAL 20 0 2 30 236

There's not much to write home about here in the NFC North. Carolina's best pick was a 7th-rounder, the Saints' Pro Bowler was punter Tom Morstead, and Tampa Bay ended up with the Josh Freeman experiment.

AFC North

Team # of Draft Picks All-Pro Awards Pro Bowls Years Started Total Career AV Top Players
Cincinnati Bengals 11 0 0 13 110 Andre Smith, Rey Maualuga, Michael Johnson
Cleveland Browns 8 0 2 11 59 Alex Mack
Baltimore Ravens 6 0 0 7 62 Michael Oher, Lardarius Webb
Pittsburgh Steelers 9 0 1 9 72 Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis
TOTAL 31 0 3 40 303

There were actually a few really good players in these drafts, and I'm surprised there aren't more Pro Bowls among the group. The drop-off from the top players was steep, though.

AFC East

Team # of Draft Picks All-Pro Awards Pro Bowls Years Started Total Career AV Top Players
Buffalo Bills 8 0 3 15 86 Jairus Byrd, Eric Wood, Andy Levitre
Miami Dolphins 9 0 0 12 83 Vontae Davis, Sean Smith, Brian Hartline
New York Jets 3 0 0 9 63 Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene, Matt Slauson
New England Patriots 12* 0 0 8 92 Sebastian Vollmer, Julian Edelman
TOTAL 32 0 3 44 324

The Jets bet the farm on Mark Sanchez, but all three players were at least contributing. The Bills actually had a pretty decent haul, with Byrd being a perennial Pro Bowler in recent years and

AFC West

Team # of Draft Picks All-Pro Awards Pro Bowls Years Started Total Career AV Top Players
Denver Broncos 10 0 0 6 59 Knowshon Moreno, Robert Ayers
San Diego Chargers 8 0 0 8 66 Louis Vasquez
Kansas City Chiefs 8 0 0 7 44 Tyson Jackson
Oakland Raiders 7 0 0 7 53 Darrius Heyward-Bey
TOTAL 33 0 0 28 222

Guard Louis Vasquez made first-team All-Pro in 2013, but that was with the Broncos, and he was drafted by the Chargers.

With that, this division is the only one in the entire league to not have a draft pick named to a Pro Bowl team with his original team, and they rank third-to-last in Career AV behind the NFC West and NFC East.

AFC South

Team # of Draft Picks All-Pro Awards Pro Bowls Years Started Total Career AV Top Players
Indianapolis Colts 8 0 0 8 85 Donald Brown
Jacksonville Jaguars 9 0 0 15 115 Eugene Monroe, Terrance Knighton
Houston Texans 8 0 1 9 101 Brian Cushing, Connor Barwin, Glover Quin
Tennessee Titans 11 0 0 8 86 Jason McCourty
TOTAL 36 0 1 40 387

The solid drafts by the Jaguars and Texans bring this division's haul up into the respectable range, and it actually ranks second to the NFC North in Career AV. There really weren't many superstars here, but the class found a solid group of role players who all spent substantial time with their original teams.

Overall Impressions

If you've made it past that mass of numbers, let me first say thank you for sticking with us. The big winners in this draft were indeed the Packers, who led the league in most Pro Bowls and highest Career AV. The NFC North as a whole had a pretty good draft, with the Bears as the only team below 100 in AV.

The NFC West, on the other hand, got Max Unger, Michael Crabtree, and little else. The same goes for the NFC East - it was top-heavy with LeSean McCoy, Brian Orakpo, and Hakeem Nicks, but there was very little else going for that division, and the Cowboys basically got nothing out of 12 draft picks.

In the future, comparing the 2009 draft to other years will likely prove to be a strange aberration - one in which so many teams struggled to find role players, let alone stars. The draft was so bad that even if Ted Thompson had not moved up to take a chance on Clay Matthews, the Packers likely would have had an acceptable-to-good draft by 2009 standards, since they would have still found two core starters in Raji and Lang and a third contributor in Jones. With Matthews, it becomes the best draft class of the year, at least at this point in time five years later.

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