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Posted April 28, 2009
Josh Freeman: Best Quarterback in the 2009 NFL Draft Class?
When you evaluate current NFL quarterbacks and various quarterback draft classes, a signal-caller's talent level and intangibles are only two factors in his production and win total.
You have to also consider the quarterbacks' offensive line, receiving and running back corps, defense, coaching staff, offensive scheme, level of opponents, etc.
Looking at where Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman ended up, Freeman is potentially under the best environment to succeed.
Let's break down these teams.
Detroit Lions: Passing up on Michael Oher was a huge mistake, even if Brandon Pettigrew becomes the next Jason Witten. Now that Detroit eschewed Oher and Beatty, they will now have to draft a left tackle with their first-round pick in 2010, which is a likely top-10 pick.
If Detroit drafted Oher or Beatty this year, they obviously would not have to draft a left tackle in the first round next season. However, since they passed up on those left tackles they are now sacrificing the future of their defense since they might not be able to spend a high draft pick on an elite defensive talent - maybe a Gerald McCoy, Ndamukong Suh or Carlos Dunlap.
What if Detroit doesn't come out of the 2010 NFL Draft and free agency period without a left tackle again?
Stafford isn't in the best situation to succeed. I love his weapons in Calvin Johnson and Pettigrew, but he is now behind a mediocre offensive line for the next few years, which if you read my NFL Quarterback Busts article, increases his potential to bust.
New York Jets: Rex Ryan will be one heck of a head coach with the Jets. Sanchez will have a defense that will get him back the ball and in good field position. However, D'Brickashaw Ferguson has produced like an average left tackle and Alan Faneca is 33. This offensive line is not bad by any means, but it isn't elite either.
Sanchez has decent weapons. Dustin Keller has a very high upside. Thomas Jones is getting older, but they drafted Shonn Greene in the third round. Jerricho Cothery is a reliable possession receiver, but he is not a No. 1 threat. There is not much talent or experience at receiver on the depth chart.
The Jets can continue to draft offense in 2010 and possibly upgrade the offensive line and skill positions to help Sanchez.
I think Sanchez is the Week 1 starter for the Jets. He is by far the best quarterback on this roster. However, he will probably struggle given his limited experience at USC, and I am not certain how badly his confidence will be shot (if at all). How will he handle the New York media? While Eli Manning won a Super Bowl, he had his share of struggles early in his career and many Giant fans thought he was a bust at one point or another.
Sanchez is in a good position to succeed. However, it is better than Tampa Bay?
Tampa Bay: This is why Josh Freeman could possibly end up being the best quarterback from the 2009 NFL Draft. He will not be rushed into the first string. Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich are veterans and are more ready to play than the 21-year-old Freeman. Raheem Morris knows that if he plays Freeman too early in his career, he might not be ready. Morris has a few years in Tampa to bide his time and certainly will not be fired after the 2009 season in all likelihood, even if Tampa wins three games.
Freeman can sit on the bench for 1-2 years, hold a clipboard, learn from offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski and Luke McCown, and continue to improve his progression reads, accuracy, and understanding of the offensive scheme.
Freeman also has by far the best supporting cast around him in Tampa.
Kellen Winslow is one of the most talented tight ends in the game. If he can stay healthy (big IF), he can be a very productive receiver for Tampa over the next 5-10 years. An elite threat like Winslow over the middle makes Freeman's life easier.
Tampa also has youngest and most talented offensive line of all three teams. Davin Joseph made the Pro Bowl. Jeff Faine is one of the best centers in the NFL. Aaron Sears is one of the best left guards in the NFC. Jeremy Trueblood and Donald Penn are average tackles, but they might be upgraded in the future (as with Sanchez's tackles).
And do not forget about Antonio Bryant. We will find out if he was just a one-year wonder and if Tampa will sign him to a long term extension, but between the Jets and Bucs, I would say he is the best wideout of those two teams.
Of all three teams, Tampa by far has the best running back stable. Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham are a good, but not great, 1-2 punch. Thomas Jones is under a holdout and Detroit's offensive line doesn't even compare to Tampa's for the running game to be as effective.
When you break it down, because Freeman can be worked into the starting role slowly and his strong supporting cast, he just might be the best quarterback from the 2009 NFL Draft when all is said and done. Sanchez is one heck of a quarterback and it will be tough for Freeman to beat him out as the top dog from this draft, but I wouldn't be shocked if it happened.
Freeman is not even close to being as polished as Stafford or Sanchez, but a lot can change over the next five years when we look back at the 2009 quarterback draft class.