Round 1, Pick 9: B.J. Raji


With the ninth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College.

The Packers kicked off the 2009 NFL Draft by addressing their most pressing need: their defense.  By drafting the 6-foot, 2-inch, 337-pound Raji, the Packers have found an anchor at nose tackle that will take up space and free up their linebacking corps for years to come.

Many mock drafts had the Packers nabbing Raji at No. 9, so when the Packers came up to pick at No. 9 with Raji on the board, it was no surprise when they picked him.

What was surprising was the build-up to the pick.

With the Oakland Raiders picking Darrius Heyward-Bey out of Maryland at No. 7, it left talents such as Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Brian Orakpo, and Michael Jenkins still on the board, all or most of which many “experts” thought would be gone by then.  This led to a burning question: Does Ted Thompson stick to his “best player available” draft strategy and add another offensive weapon such as Crabtree or Maclin, or does he go defense, where the need is?

Keeping a short story short, he went need.

The pick lacked much of the drama I thought it would have.  I guaranteed a friend the pick would be Orakpo or Crabtree as soon as the Jacksonville Jaguars grabbed Virginia offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, but it became apparent minutes in to the Packers ten-minute allotment that Raji was the pick, as ESPN’s camera at the Raji draft party showed multiple family members dancing around and Raji smiling and talking on his cell phone.  I knew Raji was the one.

And I’m happy with this pick.

People can say what they want about “character issues” and such, but the Packers have found the cornerstone, or more like a “centerstone,” of Dom Capers‘ new 3-4 defense.  Raji will eat space and blockers, freeing up defensive ends and linebackers to make plays.  He fits the scheme and has been described as an unselfish player, something you have to be to play line in the 3-4.

Defensive first round picks for the Packers have not always worked out in the past, in Justin Harrell, Ahmad Carroll, and Jamal Reynolds, but they have been able to get solid starters in A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett.  Thompson knew the defense needed major help, and that is what he did for Mike McCarthy, picking B.J. Raji.