NFL Draft Grades: 2009 Class

The leading sackmaster from the 2009 NFL Draft, Matthews has been a great pick for the Packers.

The leading sackmaster from the 2009 NFL Draft, Matthews has been a great pick for the Packers.

By Jon Meerdink

As is our custom, The Packer Perspective does not hand out draft grades. At least, not based on the results of draft weekend alone. We only hand out grades based on production on the field, and that evaluation only comes five years after a class is drafted.

That means it’s time to take a look at the 2009 class, but I want to change things up a little bit this year. Pro Football Reference provides a metric called Approximate Value, which attempts to provide a standardized number by which to evaluate players. The calculation of the number is very complicated, but I’ve looked into it and I think I trust it, so we’re going to use it to evaluate players drafted by the Packers based on their time in Green Bay. Nothing that a player does once they leave Green Bay will be factored in, although if they turn into a star, that would reflect poorly on the Packers.

We’re also going to ignore the Pro Football Reference Career Approximate Value rating, since it calculates slightly differently, weighting seasons based on production.

In addition, we’ll also take a look at the next player off the board at each position and compare the Approximate Values. Finally, we’ll compare the player selected to all of the players from that position picked in that draft to see if any other players might have been better.

The 2009 Draft Class

B.J. Raji ( total AV of 30)

As the ninth overall pick, Raji has faced some pretty lofty expectations throughout his career, and early on it looked like he’d meet them. Unfortunately, his play has tailed a little bit in recent seasons. He hasn’t recorded a sack since November 24, 2011 and made the questionable decision this year to turn down an extension midseason that would have earned him some serious money. Now he’s back on a one year deal with a chance to prove himself for anybody who needs a big body. A solid pick, but there’s a sense of some unrealized expectations.

Next defensive tackle off the board – Peria Jerry (24th overall to Atlanta; total AV of 16) - While Jerry went just 17 picks later, he hasn’t been nearly the player Raji has. He posted his best season last year with 3.5 sacks, but overall probably hasn’t been worthy of the 24th pick.

Possible better pick – Terrance Knighton (72nd overall to Jacksonville; total AV of 30) – Knighton’s career statistics are almost identical to Raji’s and he went two rounds later. He’s smaller and probably wouldn’t have been a good 3-4 fit, but his production has been almost the same. Perhaps a slight edge to Raji.

Clay Matthews (total AV of 54)

Though he cost the Packers a couple picks to trade up, Matthews has almost assuredly been worth it. Injuries have hampered him the last couple years, but he is still a pass rushing threat. 2013 was the first season in which he did not post a double digit AV rating, and that’s again mostly due to injury. This was an excellent pick.

Next linebacker off the board – James Laurinaitas (35th overall to St. Louis; total AV of 42) – Laurinaitas is an inside linebacker while Matthews plays outside, so these are really two dissimilar players. While he is a stout defender and has been nothing but durable (starting all 80 possible games), Laurinaitas hasn’t had quite the impact Matthews has had.

Possible better pick – None – Matthews has been easily the best pass rusher from this draft class with 50 total sacks. Brian Orakpo is at least a full season’s worth of sacks behind with 39.5. The Bloodline is the best pick.

T.J. Lang (total AV of 35)

Evaluating linemen without intensive film study is difficult, but Lang seems to have been a solid performer during his time in Green Bay. He has started all but one game over the past three seasons and handled last year’s flip-flop on the line with ease. PFR groups him with the tackles in his draft class (since that’s where he was drafted), but he has really only played as a guard and has been solid there since making the switch.

Next tackle off the board – Troy Kropog  (135th overall to Tennessee; total AV of 0) - Kropog has played in seven career games. He was not a good pick.

Possible better pick – None - No tackle taken after Lang has approached his longevity or productivity. Matt Slauson is a comparable guard, but even he doesn’t quite match Lang.

Quinn Johnson (total AV of 0)

I am puzzled by this pick. I’ve completely forgotten any reasoning for picking a fullback, even one so hard headed as Quinn Johnson, particularly in the fifth round. He only lasted two seasons in Green Bay and didn’t notch a single AV point in his time there.

Next fullback off the board – Frank Summers (169th overall to Pittsburg; total AV of 1) – Summers has been slightly better than Johnson, but he’s a fullback. What does it really matter?

Possible better pick – Frank Summers – Again, what does it really matter? A true better pick would have been going in a different direction entirely.

Jamon Meredith (total AV is N/A)

Jamon Meredith never played a game in Green Bay, but has carved out a nice niche for himself as a backup tackle around the league and even starting 20 games for Tampa Bay over the last two season. This is a bust of a pick any way you slice it for the Packers.

Next tackle off the board – Herman Johnson (167th overall to Arizona; total AV is N/A) – Despite possessing mammoth size (6’7″, 364 pounds), Johnson never played a down in the NFL.

Possible better pick – Andrew Gardner (181st overall to Miami, total AV of 0) – Gardner is a comparable lineman to Meredith, but the better idea would have been for the Packers to stick with their pick and see if Meredith developed as a backup tackle.

Jarius Wynn (total AV of 5)

Wynn played three pretty good years in Green Bay before moving on to greener pastures. He played in 36 games, started four, and was the only Packers player other than Clay Matthews to have a multi-sack game in 2011. He has played for three teams (San Diego, Dallas, and Tennessee) since leaving the Packers, totaling four sacks. The Packers seem to have gotten his most productive years.

Next defensive end off the board – Stryker Sulak (199th overall to Oakland; total AV is N/A) – Sulak, despite his Star Trek-ish last name, never played a down in the NFL.

Possible better pick – None – All of the defensive ends selected after Jarius Wynn are out of the league. Will Davis recorded three sacks for the Cardinals, but hasn’t played since 2010.

Brandon Underwood (total AV of 2)

Underwood lasted just two seasons in Green Bay before he committed one too many off the field infractions for such a low round pick. He made five solo tackles and assisted on six more in his Packers career. Underwood had nearly ideal size for a corner (6’1″, 192 pounds), but was otherwise forgettable.

Next defensive back off the board – Brice McCain (188th to Houston; AV of 9) – The fact that McCain went just one pick later amplifies this mistake, but he’s been a much more successful player than Underwood by his longevity alone. McCain has intercepted five passes and contributed 92 tackles during his time in Houston.

Possible better pick – Jason McCourty (203rd to Tennessee; AV of 24) - I don’t know if he’s really 12 times the player Underwood was, but McCourty has been productive and solid in his time in Tennessee.

Brad Jones (total AV of 19)

On the one hand, Jones has been nothing more than “solid” as an NFL player. He’s not spectacular in any specific way. He doesn’t do anything exceptionally well. None of his stats are eye popping. But on the other hand, Jones was the 218th player picked, and any time you can get 35 starts and 10 sacks from the 218th overall player, you’re probably playing with house money at that point.

Next linebacker off the board – Moise Fokou (230th to Philadelphia; total AV of 19) – Fokou has very similar numbers to Jones, and probably gets a slight AV boost just because he’s played a few more games. It’s probably a wash between the two, but Jones is slightly bigger so maybe that gives him an edge.

Possible better pick – None – Jones and Fokou were two of the last three linebackers taken in the 2009 draft. The third (Zack Follett at 235 to Detroit) is no longer in the league. If the Packers wanted a linebacker late, Jones was the best choice.

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