The headlining quarterback during the 2009 draft has been inconsistent at best, and the draft overall wasn’t nearly as strong as the two years that followed. But it did give us a long-haired man now beloved in frosty Wisconsin, and another linebacker who disregards normal football conventions. Like wearing a helmet.

Our draft nostalgia journey continues…

The BIG story

If he could ever develop something that resembles a consistent throwing motion, maybe in future 2009 draft nostalgia pieces Matthew Stafford — the first overall pick that year– will occupy this space. Instead, much like 2011, 2009 was all about the front seven beef and its various forms.

The presence of just two names in the first round made it a premier year for edge rushers: Brian Orakpo (13th overall) and Clay Matthews (26th overall). They’ve now combined for five double-digit sack seasons, and 89.5 sacks in total, all despite each missing time with significant injuries (Matthews has played only one full season, and Orakpo tore his pectoral muscle during Week 2 of the 2012 season). Matthews has also shown his versatility with 23 passes defensed, including a career high seven in his rookie year.

Elsewhere in opening-night girth there was B.J. Raji, who was selected by the Packers with their ninth overall pick before they traded back into the round to grab Matthews. The ideal scheme fit with surprising speed which allowed him to shift between nose tackle and defensive end, Raji had 6.5 sacks during Green Bay’s 2010 championship season. He’s since fallen off, but those Super Bowl rings shine forever.

Then there’s Brian Cushing. Horrible injury luck aside (Cushing tore his ACL in 2012, and broke his fibula this past season), the Texans’ pick at 15th overall followed the Patrick Willis path to help spearhead the modern linebacker movement. For his size (6’3″, 249 pounds) Cushing has blazing lateral mobility, which has led to 401 tackles over 56 career games.

He also cares so very little about what wins in the battle between facemask and forehead.

Between Cushing, Matthews, and Rey Maualuga (to the Bengals at 36th overall), USC linebackers were in high demand early.

The Best Nickname

When the nickname “Beanie” sticks at a young age, you best be really good at something. Chris “Beanie” Wells is/was(?) a talented running back, and a powerful runner at 229 pounds. Sadly, the wicked hand of lady luck has never been on his side.

After being selected by the Cardinals with their 31st overall pick, Wells wasn’t given a heavy workload until 2011 after the departure of Tim Hightower. He showed promise quickly, finishing the year with 1,099 total yards and 10 touchdowns. Then the following season he missed eight games with severe turf toe. When he wasn’t re-signed as a free agent, the man known as Beanie was left to do the weekly in-season workout circuit, and that’s when he ripped his ACL during a private workout with the Ravens.

For your daily reminder that football isn’t fair, at the ripe age of 25 Wells is already pursuing post-football plans, though he still hopes to catch on somewhere for 2014.

The Best Actual Name

There are great, great names among the draft eligible players each spring. But when there’s a guy whose actual first name is “Captain”, he becomes an all-time great in the name hall of fame.

The floor is yours, Captain Munnerlyn (Panthers seven-round pick). Please explain your glorious name

“My momma promised my grandmomma that she could name the last child. I was the boy of the family, and she named me Captain. Her great grandfather was named Captain, so I got named after my great-great grandfather. My sisters and brothers have normal names. I got the odd name. In the beginning it was kind of rough. Kids used to tease me a little, but it fits my personality, because I feel like I’m a leader.”

The Busts

Aaron Curry, the linebacker and Seahawks’ fourth overall pick who lasted only two seasons in Seattle, was jettisoned to Oakland for the proverbial bag of jock straps (a seventh-round pick). After flaming out there while being wholly incompetent in coverage, Curry was signed by the Giants last offseason but then didn’t survive the first round of roster cuts.

A top five pick has already retired from football. No worries, because Curry’s rookie contract paid him $34 million guaranteed, a deal reached during the wild west days before the rookie wage scale.

Aaron Maybin is the oh so close runner up here. Taken by the Bills with their 11th overall pick, the defensive end recorded just six sacks over four seasons. There’s also Mark Sanchez, who ranged from OK, to meh, to awful with the Jets in New York. A general manager isn’t looking for any of those things when he spends the fifth overall pick on a quarterback.

The Best Paratrooper

Glen Coffee had a decent little rookie season after being the 49ers’ third-round pick, and he was thought to be the ideal running mate alongside Frank Gore. Then during his first offseason Coffee had a religious epiphany of sorts and decided that football just wasn’t for him. Here he is explaining his decision to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee:

“It was a struggle for a long time. Actually when I look back I feel I never should have entered the draft in the first place. Football was no longer my dream. I found Christ in college. It changed my views on everything. But I still was a football player because it was expected of me, it was something I did all my life. I was basically wasting the (49ers’) time.”

Coffee then bounced around for a bit before finding his true calling: paratrooper.

Glen coffee

The Tebow before Tebow

In the first of his very Jeff Ireland moves, the now former Dolphins general manager used a second-round pick on Pat White, the West Virginia quarterback who ran for days while setting records, but over four collegiate seasons he threw for just 6,049 yards. Removed from the spread and therefore any comfort whatsoever, White fizzled while trying to effectively run the wildcat, and lasted just one season in Miami.

The Best Chest Pancakes

Andre Smith has since dropped weight after realizing being lazy isn’t fruitful in the NFL. But there was a time when the eventual Bengals sixth overall pick had dangerous flying objects on his chest while trying to run the 40-yard dash.

smith pancakes2

Smith doubles as the ugliest man in this draft, a well-earned distinction.

The Tale of Tears

Though Wells also follows the classic NFL sob story (highly talented football man cut down far before his prime), the end for Johnny Knox creates far more tear puddles. Knox was the scrappy late-round pick, tabbed by the Bears in the fifth round way down at 140th overall. His speed was immediately utilized in the return game, and he averaged 29.0 yards per return during his rookie season, with 927 yards overall. That included a 102-yard touchdown, and his return abilities earned Knox a Pro Bowl invite as an alternate.

During his second season that same speed was used more often in the passing game, with Knox turning into a far greater vertical threat. He led all Bears pass catchers in receiving yards with 960, which came at a booming 18.8 yards per catch.

Then this happened…

Knox needed immediate surgery to stabilize his vertebra, with team doctors first giving him a “positive prognosis for his career and quality of life“.  The former ended last February when he retired.

The Bargains

  • LeSean McCoy (Eagles, 53rd overall): The Eagles called McCoy’s name 22 slots after Arizona picked Wells, and with that patience they purchased a running back who’s been a first-team All Pro twice, he scored 20 touchdowns in 2010, and during his first year under Chip Kelly he finished with 2,146 yards from scrimmage.
  • Mike Wallace (Steelers, 84th overall): It’s not his fault the Dolphins dramatically overpaid and aren’t using him properly. Wallace came off the board 55 picks later than Hakeem Nicks, yet still five years later he has more receiving yards (4,972 to 4,622).
  • Henry Melton (Bears, 105th overall): Now a bargain of another kind through free agency after the Cowboys capitalized on his lowered price following an ACL tear, Melton has 15.5 sacks over 48 career games, a mighty total for a 295-pound pass rusher who plays primarily on the inside.