Recently, a panel of NFL bloggers from the FanSided.com sports network was asked who they thought was the best player available in the 2009 NFL Draft class. The usual suspects — Aaron Curry, Jason Smith and Michael Crabtree — were named, but a few surprise candidates were thrown into the mix, too.
Read on to see what our panel had to say…
Kim Constantinesco, Predominantly Orange:
The best player is this year’s draft is Michael Crabtree. He has incredible body control, hand-eye coordination, and he can run after the catch. His moves on the field look effortless, and he’s the next Larry Fitzgerald in my book. He didn’t run a great 40, but some of the best receivers in the league don’t run fast 40s. He may already be coming into the league with injury problems, but based on pure talent, he’s the best this draft has.
Chris Shellcroft, Just Blog Baby:
In the humble opinion of one Raider fan, the combine has left us with a two horse race at the top of the draft. It’s between Aaron Curry and Jason Smith. Even though Curry’s time in the 40 was faster, Smith wins the race. He’s a franchise anchor at left tackle and will surely get the Mel Kiper label of the prospect with the most “tremendous upside potential”.
Dan Tevlock, The Landry Hat:
The best player in the draft is Michael Crabtree. Crabtree has amazing strength for a receiver, comparable to Terrell Owens, and can break tackles. He has a good attitude and great hands. He will immediately make in impact for the team that drafts him. He can start in the NFL immediately, and barring no injury, will likely win the Rookie of the Year award. He’s going to be a great receiver.
John Crimmins, The Pewter Plank:
The best player in the draft regardless of position is Michael Crabtree. His production at Texas Tech was nothing short of incredible, even in a pass happy scheme. His straight line speed is only adequate, but he bursts off the line and accelerates extremely well. He is extremely polished as a receiver coming out of college, he uses his hands to get off the jam well, he runs precise routes, he makes fast and precise cuts, his ability to track the ball in the air and adjust to make the catch is reminiscent of Larry Fitzgerald. He may not put up huge numbers as a rookie, as receiver is an extremely tough position to transition to in year 1, especially coming from Tech where he was asked to run a lot of short routes and sit down in open pockets of the zone, but he is talented enough to be a major contributor right away.
Chris Viola, Nice Pick, Cowher:
The first player taken in this year’s NFL Draft will not be the best player available. Then again, it didn’t happen last year either. With apologies to Matt Ryan, the best player taken last year was QB Joe Flacco. He inherited a team coming off a 5-11 season and took pretty much the same group to the AFC Championship game. Plenty of talented players will be drafted in 2009 and while running back, wide receiver, offensive tackle, or defensive lineman are all nice positions to fill, they are not the most important. In order to win in today’s NFL, you have to have a quarterback. With that in mind, the best player available this year will be QB Josh Freeman of Kansas State. He’s 6’6 and 250 pounds with a cannon arm. He proved at the combine that he‘s mobile, crucial to surviving more than three games without injury. If you want to win championships like the six time Lombardi Trophy winning Pittsburgh Steelers, you have to start by finding your own Big Ben. It worked for the Ravens and it’ll work for whatever team is smart enough to draft Josh Freeman.
This Butkus Award winning linebacker from Wake Forest has everything that you need to build a defense around. Not only does he has great size (6-foot-2, 254 pounds) but he also has great speed. His 40 yard dash time of 4.56 seconds was the fastest of any linebacker at the combine. There is a reason why the Lions had dinner with Aaron Curry last week, he’s good enough to be the first pick in the draft for a team that needs just about everything. For all of that and more, Aaron Curry is the best player available in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Scott Allen, Raising Zona:
The best player in this draft in my opinion is Wide Receiver Michael Crabtree from Texas Tech. Even with his injury, I still rank him as the best player in the draft. He has Larry Fitzgerald type skills. He can grab the ball out thin air. He has tremendous ball handling skills and although his breakaway speed won’t blow you away, he can separate himself from defenders quicker than a bank taking bailout money from the government. Any team would benefit from his skills and easily could start with an up and coming team as the #2 and maybe even a #1 receiver by the end of his rookie season.
Brian Miller, Phin Phanatic:
The best player in the draft is not the most hyped player in the draft. Oh there are names like Stafford and Crabtree and rightly so. Still, when the dust settles 3 years from now when you can really judge the rookie class, the one that will stand out the most will be Rutgers WR Kenny Britt. A combination of size, 6-4, 215 and speed 4.48, Britt is quietly making himself known. Britt doesn’t posses the big school NFL producing pedigree like Michigan, USC, and Ohio St. but his 3,000 plus college career yards and his 81 receptions last year gives him the confidence to succeed. In 3 years, the name Britt will be the one that stands towards higher than those top 15 to 20.
Kevin Ferguson, SideLion Report:
I’m going to sound like a slappy here, but I’m going to go with Matt Stafford. With Andre Smith tanking it, I like Stafford or Curry at no. 1 and I’ll just hope that with all the depth at O-line this draft, something good will fall to us at pick #20. Stafford has a rocket cannon for an arm, decent speed and most importantly, a great attitude. Look at Chad Pennington… He has a wet noodle for an arm, but when it comes to the huddle, guys will play for him. It’s an intangible that you can’t measure on a stop watch, but I’m starting to think that this kid has it.
Dan Zinski, The Viking Age:
My own personal draft guru, who I keep locked up in my closet, feeding him only Eggo waffles and melt-water, tells me Michael Crabtree is still the best player in this draft. The biggest thing Crabtree has going for him is that I’ve actually heard of him and know what position he plays (and if you give me a minute I might even be able to remember which school he went to). And he has fantastic pecs, I’m told. He also possesses many important skills like the ability to run forward and sometimes diagonally. And if the ball is above him, he does this thing where he uses his legs to push himself upward against gravity while stretching his arms. I believe it’s called jumping. It will be the next big thing in sports, mark my words.
Daniel Gallen, Lombardi Ave.:
I’m going to have to go with Aaron Curry over Michael Crabtree by a hair. Curry has the size needed to play linebacker in the NFL, but his speed blows me away the most. His time in the mid-4.5s was faster than many cornerbacks and safeties that worked out in Indianapolis. He can become a guided missle in the second level. I only saw highlights of him, and he seemed to make the right read time in and time out. I see him being a staple on an NFL defense for a long time.
Shaun Dolence, 12th Man Rising:
The best player in this year’s draft is Aaron Curry. Unfortunately for Seattle, they’re already loaded at the linebacker position (with both talent AND financial obligation), but it is likely that Curry won’t slip to them with the fourth overall selection anyways. Curry has been proclaimed the best linebacker of the 2009 class, and absolutely proved his physical prowess at the NFL combine: 4.56 40-yard dash, 25 bench reps at 225 pounds, a 37-inch vertical, and a broad jump of 10’4″. Along with his outstanding athleticism, speed, and quickness, Curry also combines a good blend of size and bulk. He stands just above 6-foot-1 and weighs over 250 pounds. Plays with great awareness, and is extremely aggressive on the football field. Quarterback and franchise tackles, arguably the two most important positions on the field, will get the most media coverage, but Curry is — without question — the best prospect in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Scott, Inside the Iggles:
The easy choice it to pick Crabtree. I like the guy, but I believe Kenny Britt will be just as productive in his NFL career. The best player is Jason Smith from Baylor. In my opinion, the next Jonathan Ogden. He’s big, physical and athletic. Franchise left tackles are a valuable commodity in the NFL. Smith will be a great one for 10-12 years. If the Lions want to start an era of winning football, they should make Smith the top pick in April.
Vince Vitale, Ramblin’ Fan:
The best player in the draft regardless of position is Matthew Stafford, QB Georgia bulldogs. I know most people will go with Aaron Curry or Michael Crabtree. However in the NFL the QB still rules and I believe the only franchise QB in the upcoming 2009 NFL draft will be Matthew Stafford. Georgia went 10-3, and Matthew threw for 25 touchdowns and completed over 61% of his passes. He is pro size at about 6-2, 220 pounds and is a solid pocket passer. Matthew has a great arm, has displayed leadership, and played 3 years in the SEC against the best competition in the country. Stafford has very good pocket awareness and can move around well to avoid the rush. Matthew reminds me of Matt Ryan a lot. I would have liked to see more late game wins but I still believe he will be a great pro. A solid 10+ year career should be in his future. At only 21 I believe he should be this year’s top selection.