Maurice Jones-Drew could be a top-five overall pick in 2009.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Last week I took a look at ten NFC players who will look back on the 2009 NFL Draft weekend and smile. Now it's time for the AFC side.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville - The Jags said goodbye to Fred Taylor, but didn't draft a running back until the seventh round when they selected Rashard Jennings. It's possible that Jennings could be used in short yardage and goal-line situations, but I'm betting that in 2009 it will be all up to Jones-Drew. Without Taylor stealing 600+ yards in offense, Jones-Drew could be a top-five overall pick.
Kerry Collins, QB, Tennessee - The team had a great running game with Chris Johnson and LenDale White, but the passing game was simply ugly. Justin Gage led the receivers with 651 yards and six scores while Bo Scaife caught a team- high 58 balls. The addition of wideout Kenny Britt from Rutgers and tight end Jared Cook from South Carolina can help Collins improve on his 12 TD passes, though they'll still be a run-first team.
Mark Bradley, WR, Kansas City - The Chiefs lost 96 receptions for 1,058 yards and 10 scores from the tight end position, yet didn't draft a TE or WR in the first five rounds. If Bradley can stay healthy he should have a shot at 65-70 catches.
Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati - Although the team didn't draft any of the top wide receivers to groom for the future, they did select a pass-catching tight end in Chase Coffman of Missouri. The Bengals also picked a franchise left tackle in first-round selection Andre Smith to protect Palmer's blind side.
Derek Anderson, QB, Cleveland - The Browns have Braylon Edwards on their roster, at least for now, and still selected two wide receivers in the second round - Brian Robiskie and Mohammed Massaquoi. That should help make up for the loss of Kellen Winslow.
Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis - Just what their opponents were hoping for - Manning getting more weapons for his offense. Donald Brown is just the "home run hitter" to replace an oft-injured Joseph Addai and Austin Collie could step in to become the No.3 receiver behind Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez.
JaMarcus Russell, QB, Oakland - The team's two leading receivers in 2008 were a tight end (Zach Miller - 56 receptions) and a running back (Darren McFadden - 29 receptions). It makes sense that the Raiders went after wide receiver help and took the fastest guy on the board in Darrius Heyward-Bey. I'm not sure he was the right receiver, but he'll still help.
Mark Clayton, WR, Baltimore - Derrick Mason is thinking about retirement, yet the Ravens didn't draft a receiver on either day. Should Mason take his 80 catches and 1,037 yards and ride into the sunset, Clayton would be the de facto No.1 receiver. Yes, Baltimore loves to run the ball, but they still threw for over 3,000 yards with a rookie quarterback and someone is going to get all those receptions.
Kevin Walter, WR, Houston - The only skill position players the Texans drafted were at tight end where they already have a good one in Owen Daniels. With Andre Johnson getting all the attention, Walters racked up 899 yards and eight scores on 60 receptions last year. If quarterback Matt Schaub can stay healthy for a full season, those numbers could increase to make him a solid No.2 fantasy receiver.
Steve Slaton, RB, Houston - The Texans didn't look or at least didn't find a backup running back for Slaton. With Ahman Green released and Chris Brown always hurt, the team is very thin at the position with just Ryan Moats as a reliable backup. That bodes well for Slaton to see more than the 318 touches he got in 2008. He's a top-10 overall selection.