Matthew Stafford was the first pick in what has turned out to be a disappointing draft
Evaluating any sport's draft is a tricky science of sorts, but when it comes to the 2009 NFL Draft a decade's worth of results basically leads to an opinion shared by many — it wasn't a great draft. While No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford has had a fine career, he has a losing record overall (66-75), has made just one Pro Bowl, and is still looking for his first playoff victory (0-3).
Not to single out Stafford, but if he's considered one of the "hits" of the 1999 draft that should tell you plenty when it comes to the number of misses. Only 11 players taken in the first round have made it to the Pro Bowl and just 27 of the entire draft class (256 players). This draft was historic in one respect, however. It was the first one since 1983 that had two centers (Alex Mack, Eric Wood) taken in the first round.
Stafford and Mack aren't the only ones still playing 10 years after they were drafted, but it's not a lengthy list either. Malcolm Jenkins, Clay Matthews, and Ziggy Hood are the only other first-round picks currently on an NFL roster. Other notable active players from this draft include LeSean McCoy, Julian Edelman, Jared Cook, Jason McCourty, and Thomas Morstead. Yes, Morstead may be a punter but he and two others (Kevin Huber, Pat McAfee) are three of the 27 Pro Bowlers from this entire draft class.
Here's a recap of the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft and how each player's career turned out, along with the best pick from each of the subsequent rounds. As you can guess, being taken early was certainly no precursor to success for this draft class.
1. Detroit: Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
Statistically speaking, Stafford’s 10-year career in Detroit has been a success. He’s been durable (he’s started all 16 games in each of the last eight seasons) and productive (he’s thrown for 38,526 yards and 237 touchdowns). But fairly or not, QBs are measured largely by wins and losses, and it is there that Stafford falls short — 66–75 as a starter, and 0–3 in the playoffs.
2. St. Louis: Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
St. Louis (2009-11), New York Jets (2012)
Baylor’s first first-round pick in more than a decade, Smith parlayed an impressive Scouting Combine performance into a six-year, $61 million contract and expectations that he would anchor the left side of the Rams line for years to come. A severe concussion late in his rookie season put an end to those plans. He lost his starting job in his second season and was out of the league by the end of the 2013 preseason.
3. Kansas City: Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU
Kansas City (2009-13), Atlanta (2014-16)
Drafted as a 3-4 defensive end, Jackson never developed into the consistent pass-rushing threat the Chiefs envisioned, posting only nine total sacks in five seasons in K.C. He then had three nondescript seasons in Atlanta, recording one tackle in the Falcons’ Super Bowl loss to New England — Jackson’s last game in pro football.
4. Seattle: Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
Seattle (2009-11), Oakland (2011-12)
Projected to be the best linebacker in the 2009 NFL Draft, Curry was a first-team All-American and Butkus Award winner at Wake Forest who looked like one of the safer picks at the top of the board. But like many other members of this class, he’s remembered as a bust. He would start only 39 games for his NFL career.
5. New York Jets: Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
New York Jets (2009-13), Philadelphia (2014-15), Dallas (2016), Chicago (2017), Washington (2018)
Best known today for the “Butt Fumble” of Internet infamy, Sanchez at one time was a playoff wunderkind and matinee idol who led the Jets to two unexpected AFC Championship Game appearances in his first two seasons in the league. That early success turned out to be fool’s gold, and Sanchez turned out to be little more than a journeyman, with an 86-to-89 TD-to-interception ratio for his career.
6. Cincinnati: Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
Cincinnati (2009-15), Minnesota (2016), Cincinnati (2017), Arizona (2018), Cincinnati (2018-present)
Smith’s flabby 40-yard dash at the Combine threatened to overshadow a legendary career as a decorated tackle for Alabama that had some calling him the best prospect at the position since Orlando Pace. Smith overcame the shame to forge a solid career as a reliable O-line bookend — although much of that career has come in the relative anonymity of Cincinnati.
7. Oakland: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
Oakland (2009-12), Indianapolis (2013), Pittsburgh (2014-18)
Heyward-Bey was tagged as a reach from the moment the Raiders selected him at No. 7, and the “bust” label was soon to follow. A decade later, he’s still in the league, but while he’s continued to collect paychecks, the label has stuck. Heyward-Bey has 202 career receptions and 16 touchdowns in 144 games.
8. Jacksonville: Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
Jacksonville (2009-13), Baltimore (2013-15)
A one-time backup to D’Brickashaw Ferguson at Virginia, Monroe entered the league facing similar expectations, and he did become a reliable bookend for five seasons in Jacksonville. After starting 90 games, Monroe retired at age 29, citing concern for his health due to repeated head trauma. He has since become an outspoken advocate for medical cannabis.
9. Green Bay: B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
Green Bay (2009-15)
A squat but agile nose tackle, Raji became one of the more popular Packers during his tenure in Green Bay, due in part to a memorable playoff pick-6 against the Bears in the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 23, 2011, a decisive moment in the Packers’ march to a Super Bowl win. After missing the 2014 season with a torn biceps, Raji came back for the 2015 season before retiring (though he called it a “hiatus”).
10. San Francisco: Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
San Francisco (2009-14), Oakland (2015-17), Baltimore (2018), Arizona (2019)
Two stunningly productive seasons at Texas Tech, during which he set multiple NCAA records, led Crabtree to declare for the 2009 NFL Draft. After a holdout-shortened rookie season, Crabtree has forged a career as an effective possession receiver for three teams, catching 80-plus passes three times.
11. Buffalo: Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State
Buffalo (2009-10), New York Jets (2011-12)
After two disappointing seasons for Buffalo that included zero sacks, Maybin was released and signed with the Jets. His first two sacks in green were strip sacks, but he was unable to maintain that level of play and was released in 2012. After a brief stint in Canada, Maybin retired from football and has since become a successful artist.
12. Denver: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
Denver (2009-13), Miami (2014)
The top running back prospect in this draft class, Moreno never quite lived up to the promise of his two outstanding seasons at Georgia. After an All-Rookie season in which he rushed for 947 yards, Moreno’s production languished until a 1,038-yard comeback campaign in 2013, a year in which he became the first Bronco with 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in the same season. The breakout earned him a one-year deal with the Dolphins, but injuries destroyed his sole season in Miami, and he’s been out of football since.
13. Washington: Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas
Washington (2009-14), Tennessee (2015-18)
Despite some suspicions that Orakpo was more physical specimen than productive player, the Redskins made him their top pick, and he rewarded their faith by becoming a reliable, effective pro, earning Pro Bowl trips in 2009, 2010 and 2013. In 2015, he signed a four-year deal with Tennessee and made another Pro Bowl in 2016. He retired following the 2018 season.
14. New Orleans: Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
New Orleans (2009-13), Philadelphia (2014-present)
The 2008 Jim Thorpe Award winner, Jenkins saw his stock fall a bit with a slow 40 time at the Combine, but he has largely lived up to his college promise, contributing to two Super Bowl-winning teams and earning a pair of Pro Bowl trips. Jenkins has intercepted at least one pass in nine of his 10 seasons and has scored seven defensive touchdowns, including a 99-yard interception return in 2015.
15. Houston: Brian Cushing, LB, USC
Cushing’s career was tainted by allegations of PED use, including multiple suspensions following positive tests (four games in 2010, 10 games in 2017), but he is the leading tackler in Texans history with 664 despite the suspensions, as well as injuries that cost him a couple dozen more games.
16. San Diego: Larry English, DE, Northern Illinois
San Diego (2009-13), Tampa Bay (2014)
English had as many sacks as a sophomore at Northern Illinois as did in his entire NFL career (12). After a promising rookie season, English suffered a foot fracture in training camp before the 2010 season and never again approached the status of reliable contributor.
17. Tampa Bay: Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State
Tampa Bay (2009-13), Minnesota (2013), Indianapolis (2015)
Freeman seemed to possess the physical gifts — size, arm strength — to justify a first-round pick. And he showed flashes of competence during the first four seasons of his pro career, posting a career-best 95.9 passer rating in 2010 and passing for better than 3,400 yards in three straight seasons. A slow start in 2013 doomed him in Tampa, though, and, after a one-game stint with Indianapolis in 2015, he retired with a 25–36 record as a starter and a TD-to-interception ratio of 81-to-68.
18. Denver: Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee
Denver (2009-13), N.Y. Giants (2014-15), Tampa Bay (2016-17)
Ayers was a full-time starter for only one season in college, and he never could establish a foothold as a full-time player at the next level, either, starting 59 games in nine NFL seasons. His best season came in 2015 with the Giants, when he posted a career-high nine sacks in 12 games.
19. Philadelphia: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
Philadelphia (2009-14), Kansas City (2015-16), Baltimore (2017)
Never a superstar at the NFL level, Maclin was nonetheless a more-than-serviceable receiver for Philadelphia and Kansas City, amassing a career-best 1,318 receiving yards with 10 TDs for the Eagles in 2014 and catching a career-high 87 passes for the Chiefs in 2015. Released by the Ravens in March 2018 after one nondescript season, Maclin retired in March.
20. Detroit: Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State
The sole tight end taken in the first round, Pettigrew provided Matthew Stafford with an attractive, sizable target for a few seasons before declining production and a torn ACL ushered him out of the league. His peak came in 2011, when he posted career highs in catches (83), yards (777) and touchdowns (five) for a Lions team that set a franchise scoring record.
21. Cleveland: Alex Mack, C, California
Cleveland (2009-15), Atlanta (2016-present)
Mack has proved to be one of the better picks of the first round, becoming one of the league’s most reliable players at a critical position. He played every offensive snap for Cleveland — even playing through a bout of appendicitis — until a broken leg in 2014 ended his season after Week 6. He signed a free agent deal with Atlanta in 2016 and has made the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons with the Falcons. For his career, Mack is a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time second-team All-Pro.
22. Minnesota: Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
Minnesota (2009-12), Seattle (2013-14), N.Y. Jets (2014), Buffalo (2015-16)
The electrifying Harvin is one of the few players to have won a state title in high school, a national title in college and a Super Bowl ring in the NFL. Sadly, a combination of injuries, severe migraine headaches and questionable professionalism hampered what could have been a truly stellar career. He finished his NFL tenure with 22 touchdowns receiving, five rushing and five on kick returns.
23. Baltimore: Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss
Baltimore (2009-13), Tennessee (2014), Carolina (2015-16)
Immortalized in print and on celluloid, Oher was never much more than serviceable, spending almost as much time at right tackle as at his namesake “blind side” left tackle spot and never making a Pro Bowl. He did finally live up to some of the hype during Carolina’s Super Bowl season of 2015, allowing a career-low four sacks in protecting Cam Newton’s — yep — blind side, but injuries essentially ended his career a year later.
24. Atlanta: Peria Jerry, DT, Ole Miss
A knee injury early in Jerry’s rookie season derailed his career just as it was beginning. One of the more notable busts of this draft, Jerry finished his career having started only 29 games. He’s probably best remembered for retiring from football unexpectedly on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” series prior to the 2014 season.
25. Miami: Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
Miami (2009-11), Indianapolis (2012-17), Buffalo (2018)
A solid career that included two Pro Bowl appearances came to a bizarre and abrupt end when Davis retired at halftime of his first game in a Bills uniform after having removed himself from the game in the first half. That unusual coda shouldn’t overshadow a career in which Davis intercepted 22 passes.
26. Green Bay: Clay Matthews, LB, USC
Green Bay (2009-18), Los Angeles Rams (2019)
Matthews became almost as identifiable with the green and gold as Aaron Rodgers, and like Rodgers, he lasted surprisingly late into the first round before rewarding the Pack with years of productivity. Matthews announced his presence with a “Monday Night Football” strip-and-score of Adrian Peterson early in his rookie season and never looked back. A first-team All-Pro in 2010, Matthews has been to six Pro Bowls and forced a decisive fumble in Super Bowl XLV. He signed with the Rams in the offseason.
27. Indianapolis: Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut
Indianapolis (2009-13), San Diego (2014-15)
After a 2,000-yard junior season at UConn, Brown entered the NFL Draft and was the second running back chosen, but he never became much more than a secondary option in either Indy or San Diego. Brown finished his career with two 100-yard rushing games, with a single-season high of 645 rushing yards (2011).
28. Buffalo: Eric Wood, C, Louisville
Wood was a sturdy and reliable anchor for his nine seasons with the Bills and also a popular member of the Buffalo community. A failed physical (due to a neck injury) following the 2017 season led to his retirement. He has since become a contributing columnist to The Athletic website.
29. N.Y. Giants: Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina
New York Giants (2009-13), Indianapolis (2014), New York Giants (2015)
Nicks enjoyed some productive seasons in New York but is best remembered for his prolific postseason performance during the Giants’ march to a Super Bowl XLVI win. During that 4–0 run, Hicks caught 28 passes for 444 yards and four TDs, grabbing 10 catches for 109 yards in the 21–17 Super Bowl win over New England. He finished his career with 356 catches for 5,081 yards and 31 TDs.
30. Tennessee: Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers
Tennessee (2009-13), St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams (2014-16), Cleveland (2017), New England (2017)
Remembered as a bust in Tennessee, Britt enjoyed his best season as a Ram, catching 68 passes for 1,002 yards and five TDs in 2016. Multiple run-ins with the law did little to endear him to fans at any stop.
31. Arizona: Beanie Wells, RB, Ohio State
The former OSU sensation was never able to gain a foothold in Phoenix and retired after a torn Achilles suffered during a workout for the Ravens. Since then, Wells has been a radio personality in Columbus and has sought treatment for a brain injury that he blames on football.
32. Pittsburgh: Ziggy Hood, DT, Missouri
Pittsburgh (2009-13), Jacksonville (2014-15), Chicago (2015), Washington (2016-18), Miami (2018), New Orleans (2019)
The well-traveled Hood had his best seasons in Pittsburgh, where he posted 11.5 sacks and four fumble recoveries in five seasons.
Best Picks by Round
Round 2 – LeSean McCoy, RB, Pittsburgh (Eagles)
The reigning Big East Offensive Player of the Year, “Shady” was the fourth running back drafted — behind notable disappointments Knowshon Moreno, Donald Brown and Beanie Wells. Over 10 seasons with the Eagles and Bills, the versatile McCoy has 10,606 yards (on 4.5 ypc) and 69 TDs as a runner, along with 475 catches for 3,616 yards (7.6 ypc) and 15 TDs as a receiver. A six-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro, McCoy led the NFL in rushing in 2013.
Round 3 – Mike Wallace, WR, Ole Miss (Steelers)
Wallace was the Steelers’ go-to wideout between the decline of Hines Ward and rise of Antonio Brown. But he has been unable to establish himself as anything more than a rental for teams with a need for speed, playing for five clubs (Steelers, Dolphins, Vikings, Ravens, Eagles) in 10 years. Wallace has 538 catches for 8,072 yards (15.0 ypc) and 57 TDs in his career.
Round 4 – Glover Quin, DB, New Mexico (Texans)
Underrated as a cornerback, nickel back and safety in Houston during his first four seasons, Quin established himself as a team leader at safety after signing with Detroit in 2013. Quin was the NFL’s interceptions leader, a Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro in 2014. Extremely durable, Quin has played in 159 of 160 career games en route to posting 24 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles and 85 passes defended.
Round 5 – Thomas Morstead, P, SMU (Saints)
In the fifth round, both the Saints and Bengals found their punter for the next decade, with Morstead landing in the Big Easy and local Cincinnati product Kevin Huber staying in the Queen City. Of the two, Morstead has had the better career, enjoying a second-team All-Pro season in 2012.
Round 6 – Jason McCourty, CB, Rutgers (Titans)
The less heralded of the McCourty identical twins — brother, Devin, was a first-round pick in 2010 — Jason was not invited to the NFL Draft Combine. But McCourty opened eyes with his speed, running a 4.30 in the 40-yard dash at Rutgers Pro Day. After eight productive years in Tennessee and one season in Cleveland, Jason was reunited with his brother in New England in 2018.
Round 7 – Julian Edelman, WR, Kent State (Patriots)
A three-year starter at QB for Kent State, Edelman has done it all during his career in New England — as a special teams ace, spot-starting slot receiver and emergency defensive back early on, before becoming the heir apparent to Wes Welker and an iconic three-time Super Bowl champion (and one-time Super Bowl MVP). Edelman’s miraculous, tipped, diving, shoestring catch on the game-tying drive of New England’s 25-point comeback in Super Bowl LI is one of the most memorable plays of the Brady-Belichick era.