It’s been nearly four months since the 2009 National Football League draft – so which selections are primed to make the biggest impact for their respective teams this season? Here’s a quick breakdown of the most likely candidates:
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
When Detroit drafted Georgia signal caller Matthew Stafford with the first overall selection, many believed he’d be the No. 1 QB of the future…and this season, too. As of July, that thought seems to be holding true. Soon after drafting him, the Lions signed Stafford to a contract with the most guaranteed money ($41.7 million) in NFL history. That deal got Stafford into uniform quickly, allowing him to get comfortable with receivers and learn the playbook. While incumbent starter Daunte Culpepper insists he’s in the best shape he’s been since 2004 and primed to make a push for the gig, the Lions job is really Stafford’s to lose.
Aaron Curry, LB, Seattle Seahawks
Regarded by many draft gurus as the best player of the 2009 Draft, Curry is expected to do big things on a Seahawks defense (30th ranked, 2008) that was roasted for most of last season. At Wake Forest, Curry was something of a tackling machine; in 13 games he recorded 105 total tackles, 66 unassisted tackles, 16 tackles-for-loss, and 2.5 sacks. Along with Leroy Hill and Lofa Tatupu, Curry makes Seattle’s linebacking crew one of the most athletic and relentless in the league. He should be an early candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year and should be used in a myriad of positions and packages by defensive coordinator Casey Bradley.
Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets
When the Jets traded up to the No. 5 spot to select former USC standout Mark Sanchez, it became apparent that they didn’t just have their QB of the future – but the present as well. With Brett Favre long gone and Kellen Clemens the only other candidate for the starting gig, Sanchez looks primed to be behind center for the Jets this fall. While he doesn’t have a ton of experience (only 16 college starts), New York brass is thrilled with the quickness and speed of his release, thought to be one of the best in this year’s draft class. That makes for an easier transition to the pro game, where hanging onto the ball too long can end in disaster for young quaterbacks.
Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers
After inexplicably falling to 10th overall in a draft where he was widely considered the second- or third-best prospect, Crabtree landed in a good situation in San Francisco. He instantly becomes the team’s most dangerous receiving target, but will not be without help at WR. Veteran Isaac Bruce is there to guide Crabtree through rookie rigors while a running game featuring Frank Gore and DeShaun Foster will lessen the need for Crabtree to carry the load. Still, though, all signs point to this being a great situation for Crabtree the Niners, who haven’t had a marquee receiver since the days of Terrell Owens.