Eagles Shine, Raiders Confuse on NFL Draft's First Day

The Raiders continue their tradition of strange draft choices

The first two rounds of the NFL Draft are in the books, and the two biggest stories revolve around quarterbacks. Matthew Stafford got more than $41 million in guaranteed salary from the Lions as the first overall pick, and Mark Sanchez is headed to the Jets after a blockbuster trade with the Browns. None of those teams top our list of winners from the first day, though. They will be glad to know that they don't wind up on the bottom, either.

We'll get the bad news out of the way first. The Oakland Raiders have long left football fans scratching their heads with their bizarre draft choices, but 2009 may have been their craziest year yet. With the seventh pick of the first round, the Raiders selected Darrius Heyward-Bey, a wide receiver from Maryland. Heyward-Bey has his charms, not the least of which is the kind of blazing speed that Raiders owner Al Davis has long found irresistable.

The problem is that he was terrible value at the seventh pick, especially with Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin still on the board. The Raiders should have traded down if they wanted Heyward-Bey, but that was still their best pick of the day. In the second round they chose Ohio University safety Michael Mitchell, a player so beloved that neither ESPN nor the NFL Network had video to show from his college career. He was a fourth or fifth round player picked much too early, a specialty of Davis' that would be endearing if the Raiders put together winning seasons a little more frequently.

On the happier side of the ledger are the Packers and the Eagles. Both teams came into the draft with clear needs, and they met them by making smart choices of players who provided tremendous value. The Packers needed defensive help, and landed the best defensive tackle on the board when they nabbed Boston College's B.J. Raji with the ninth pick. Then they traded up to the 26th pick to draft USC outside linebacker Clay Matthews, a smart move that was mitigated by the hefty ransom (a second-round pick and two third rounders) that it cost to get there. 

That trade is why the Eagles ultimately claim the top spot. They also traded up to grab a player, but only added a sixth-round pick to their 21st overall selection to move into the 19th spot. They moved up to take Maclin, the multi-talented Missouri receiver who is sure to put a smile on Donovan McNabb's face. Maclin has explosive speed and nimble feet, two things that should serve the Eagles well on offense and in the return game. The Eagles will be a more dangerous team every time Maclin touches the ball.

In the second round, the Eagles stayed in state and drafted Pittsburgh running back LeSean McCoy. Although he isn't of massive build, McCoy was very good in short-yardage situations while at Pitt and he also flashed enough speed to get around the corner and reel off big gainers. That should make him an ideal complement to Brian Westbrook in the Eagles running game, which means a healthier Westbrook and a more potent offense. 

The Eagles were lacking punch offensively last season, something that should be much less of a problem with Maclin and McCoy in the fold. That's why they're on top of the heap after the draft's first day. 

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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