The League

Jim McCormick
Blitz Magazine Publisher

Jim McCormick

The editor and publisher of Blitz Magazine

Leaders of the Pack

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"They are who we thought they were."

As the wise sage Dennis Green reminded us many times during that famously caustic post-game rant, whether it be on the field, in free agency or during the NFL Draft, most teams have a distinct personality that we've come to know with behaviors and tendencies we've grown to expect.

While Green's infamous speech now ranks in the YouTube pantheon with Allen Iverson's ever-watchable "Practice" theorem and Jim Mora Sr.'s "Playoffs?" soliloquy, he had a good point in the midst of the unintentional humor. Most NFL teams that really are who we thought they were. If this makes any sense, let me know.

Take the Raiders. No really, take them. With Al "Mr. Burns" Davis at the helm, salivating over elite 40-times like a Pavlov experiment, it was a no-brainer that Oakland would take Maryland speedster Darrius Heyward-Bey with the 7th pick over more established commodities Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin. Even if the kid turns out to be a solid player, they completely ignored value on this one and should have traded down and netted some picks. It made too little sense therefore it made perfect sense. Troy Williamson just sent Heyward-Bey a congratulatory text. They are who we thought they were.

Bill Belichick's savvy phone work netted him yet another bumper crop of 2nd and 3rd round picks for both this and next year's draft. The Patriots simply don't place significant value on 1st round picks, particularly late-round spots (where they often sit), and this year was no exception. We leave another draft marveling at their ability to implement the same blue print on an annual basis. Again, they are who we thought they were.

To be fair, though, the draft also allows for teams to reinvent themselves and change public perception. Sometimes the best part of the process is when teams simply aren't what we thought, and they don't act as we predict. Witnessing a down franchise overhaul their identity in the course of a weekend can be just as entertaining and rewarding as watching the Raiders continue to be the Raiders.

Some teams that broke from their previously Heyward, I mean, wayward tendencies?

With a solid and varied crop of players in addition to top pick Matthew Stafford, Detroit seems to be on the right path for the first time since a long, long time ago.

The Bengals actually made some really nice moves in a strange turn of competence. Although, by picking offensive tackle Andre Smith there is an inherent risk over his weight issues. While at the draft this weekend, a writer sitting near-by on press row from the Bronx News asked me what I thought Cincinnati's biggest concern over Smith should be, and I told him that they should worry that he'll eat Carson Palmer. Like actually eat him. Smith's issues aside, he's an incredible talent and they satisfied several needs in the early rounds and got particularly solid value out of defensive end Michael Johnson in the 3rd.

The Bills drafted shrewdly and should boast one of the more underrated defenses in the league if their young secondary is healthy. And now they clearly boast the best pairing of defensive ends in the league named Aaron with Penn State's Aaron Maybin joining Pro Bowl end Aaron Schobel in Orchard Park.

While the Bengals, Bills and Lions had some feel-good moments, what team ultimately "won" the draft?

While it was difficult to dismiss what the Eagles accomplished with their offensive haul, and possibly even tougher to look past the fact that the Jets walked away with their future franchise QB and tailback, the team who stands to net the most impact both short and long term from this draft is the Green Bay Packers. Never one to agree with Mel Kiper and his legendary coif, but he has it right when he says the Pack walked out of the weekend looking the best.

Despite the Packers' dismal 2008 season, there is potential for this team to rise to the top of the NFC class this season. The absence of Brett Favre isn't what did them in last season, considering that Aaron Rodgers had a much better year in green and yellow than Favre did in green and white.

Green Bay's real problems stemmed from their sieve of an interior defensive line and the rash of injuries that hit the linebackers and secondary throughout the season. With the drafting of Boston College's mammoth defensive tackle B.J. Raji, or BC's BJ as I call him, and the dramatic move to acquire USC linebacker Clay Matthews in the late-first, the team plugged two of their most glaring holes within a few hours and also fielded a nice crop of depth and developmental players in the later rounds.

With Matthews' range and athleticism joining an already talented group of 'backers as the team shifts to a 3-4 scheme and Raji's potential to clog the middle lanes we could see a defensive improvement along the lines of what the Jets accomplished last season.

By Jim McCormick  |  April 27, 2009; 12:16 PM ET  | Category:  Draft , Green Bay Packers , NFL , New York Jets , Oakland Raiders , Philadelphia Eagles Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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