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IDP Rookie Preview

Every rookie pick is an investment in your dynasty team. Due to supply (limited pool of starters) and demand (better scoring in most leagues), offensive players are where you have to devote most of your resources. So picking defensive players typically assumes more risk, no matter where you draft them. No one wants to miss out on the next supposedly undersized RB that rushes for 1,000 yards or the too slow rookie WR that doesn't wait for his third year to break out. So from that investment perspective, here's how this year's crop of rookie defensive players can be viewed.

Blue Chips | Most Undervalued | Most Overvalued | Market Performers | Speculative | Penny Stocks | Underperformers | DTs & CBs | Undrafted Free Agents

Blue Chips
Two players jump out as having the best combination of elite talent, NFL measurables, and opportunity. They are as close as you can get to stone cold locks to put up great fantasy numbers from Week 1 of 2004 through long, productive careers.

Sean Taylor (S, Redskins)
The first defensive player taken in the draft, he brings linebacker size and hitting ability with speed and cover skills of a corner. Like his former college teammate, Ed Reed, Taylor should be a playmaker at safety from day one. If you reach for one IDP in your dynasty rookie draft, this should be the guy.

D.J. Williams (LB, Broncos)
He landed in a terrific situation, facing little competition in winning the weak-side job. Williams should be the first LB off the board in dynasty rookie drafts and projects as the highest scoring rookie defensive player (in most systems).

Most Undervalued
It's hard to be a "sleeper" when you're taken early in the NFL draft, but these four Day One picks carry question marks or come into situations that may have other owners skittish about their outlook. They may also simply fall due to all the offensive rookie talent this year. However, they are talented players with great upside that will leave you with bargains falling farther than they should and outperforming their draft position. This doesn't mean reach for them early, but keep an eye out for them as potential bargains where they fall relative to your league.

Kenechi Udeze (DE, Vikings)
It's unusual for a potential franchise end to slide as far as he did in the first round, but the deep WR class and concerns about his shoulder resulted in just that. How does a guy with shoulder problems put up 25 reps in the bench press? Regardless, he didn't slide far enough (e.g. Lee Suggs in 2002) to believe it is a threat to his season. Normally top rushing DE is one of the first IDPs taken in dynasty rookie drafts, but for the same reasons he slid in the real NFL draft, expect him to fall, a bit, and plan to take advantage of it. The Vikings have a deep rotation of defensive linemen, but he's already lining up as the starting right end and offers the complete package. New DC Ted Cotrell has employed a 3-4 scheme before, where the DEs are typically much less productive fantasy-wise, but the Vikings are likely to continue with a base 4-3.

Dontarrious Thomas (LB, Vikings)
An intelligent hard worker, he also offers very appealing measurables. Thomas struggled through a transition to MLB last year, not demonstrating the instincts for the position. However, in Minnesota, he'll return to the outside, where he'll have more freedom to just react and utilize his physical talents. The Vikings plan to move Chris Claiborne (assuming he's healthy) to the strong-side and Thomas is already working with the first team defense as the weak-side LB.

Antwan Odom (DE, Titans)
After deciding to let Jevon Kearse walk, the Titans theory to addressing DE in the draft appeared to be "throw enough crap at the wall and something will stick". Out of three DEs they added, Odom has the highest upside. He combines ideal size and great athleticism with sufficient speed to succeed on the right side. With his wingspan and leaping ability, he should be tremendous at deflecting passes and coming up the middle on field goals. Another year of college would have benefit him, so he might need a year to develop, but he's the guy I'd want out of the crowded young DE situation in Tennessee. He'll likely start out replacing Kevin Carter, who'll move in on passing downs, at LDE, but could end up at RDE shortly.

Michael Boulware (S, Seahawks)
College LB who lacks the bulk and frame for the position at the next level, but has the speed and cover skills to excel at SS. Many teams avoid "tweeners", concerned about their ability to make a position change, but Seattle reportedly thought enough of him to try to consider moving for him in the first round. He played well in space at FSU, and spent time practicing at S, so he should not only make the adjustment, but also provide sufficient coverage and superior run support on a team with an average LB group.

Most Overvalued
There's no greater buyer's remorse than remembering the defensive player you selected early to pass on a Domanick Davis or Anquan Boldin. These six may go higher than they should in dynasty rookie drafts due to name recognition or their real NFL draft position. They may be talented players, but relative to their potential and/or the situation they landed in, you might be better taking a flyer on another offensive player and seeing if they fall another round.

Jonathan Vilma (LB, Jets)
Drafted 1.12 (Fourth defensive player taken overall and first LB taken)

I don't discredit Vilma's talent, but as the fourth defensive player overall, and top linebacker, taken, he'll be going too early, when you consider the negatives. He's undersized for a MLB and either will have a tremendous player in front of him on the depth chart or his team is moving to a 3-4. If the Jets had left Sam Cowart on the outside, I might like Vilma's prospects better, but if they think he's best suited to the middle, Vilma won't be taking that job from him. If the Jets convert to a 3-4, it's a less desirable situation, fantasy-wise, even if Vilma is a starter.

Jason Babin (LB, Texans)
Drafted 1.27 (Third DE taken)

After climbing draft charts this post-season, Babin helped himself into the first round, but fell into a bad fantasy situation. While he proved himself a strong pass rusher at DE with his hand on the ground against inferior collegiate competition, he'll now need to adjust to doing it standing up, against the best players in the world, while learning the additional responsibilities of being a LB. To complicate things, he now carries the pressure of being a first round pick, expected to earn a starting job. If he can overcome all this, he's still likely to start this year lining up at the left outside position, which means he'll be coming in the line of vision of most QBs, who are right-handed.

Daryl Smith (LB, Jaguars)
Drafted 2.7 (Fifth LB taken)

Probably too small to play inside, and the Jaguars have a young stud there already in Mike Peterson. He was a great college player, but he lacks the speed and suddenness to thrive outside. If he wins a job outside, it will likely be at strong-side LB, so his potential scoring appears limited even if he's a starter.

Travis LaBoy (DE, Titans)
Drafted 2.10 (Fourth DE taken)

Well, since I went with Odom as "Undervalued", I feel cornered into ranking LaBoy as Overvalued, since he was drafted first. However, the two were drafted just 15 picks apart, and it's not because LaBoy doesn't have potential. However, he's probably better suited to being a pass rush specialist in a 3-4.

Bob Sanders (S, Colts)
Drafted 2.12 (Second S taken)

Tremendous hitter with top speed, but saying he's undersized is an understatement (he was one of the shortest players drafted at 5'8"). His height will make it challenging for him to ever have sufficient coverage skills to thrive as an every down player. As the IDP gods way of emphasizing "Stay Away", we also find out he has a stress fracture in his foot that will prevent him from participating in football activities until at least training camp. That's a short time to earn a starting position, and it is the type of injury that often seems to linger with a player over the years.

Marquise Hill (DE, Patriots)
Drafted 2.31 (Sixth DE taken)

Hill is space-eater that is a great fit for a 3-4 and some interior work, which means he's unlikely to produce good fantasy numbers. He lacks the speed to ever be a premier edge rush threat and will be asked to draw the double teams and collapse the pocket to allow others to make plays. Textbook example of a player likely to be a successful NFL player, but have significantly less fantasy value.

Market Performers
Talented players likely to be drafted in most dynasty leagues, whose value should be commensurate with where they are drafted (early to middle rounds). They have a strong outlook, but a situation that immediately falls short of ideal and/or who need time to develop. Their potential is great, but they might not fully display it as rookies.

Will Smith (DE, Saints)
The Saints taking Smith was a move of value over need, which leaves Smith in a crowded DE situation. Smith has the talent and measurables to be a franchise RDE, but not the opportunity. He'll be a high pick, but likely to offer little if your team needs immediate help. Charles Grant is a fixture and Darren Howard just signed a one-year deal, so Smith's ETA is 2005. However, the Saints defensive line was plagued with injuries last season, so there's still hope for this year. Great developmental prospect, for those who can afford to wait. He was picked higher than Udeze, so for the guy(s) in your league who will simply go off a list of defensive players in order they will drafted, don't count on him falling far.

Karlos Dansby (LB, Cardinals)
A high school WR, Dansby started as a safety at Auburn, but kept growing, figuratively and literally, into a LB. Now he has the size of a linebacker, but retained the speed and cover skills of a safety. He should be a top cover LB, but in the running game and as a pass rusher, he is still learning how to play the position. Now his learning curve increases, as he'll no longer be able to get buy on physically dominating most opponents. Injury-prone Levar Fisher and Gerald Hayes, who is better suited for the middle, are his competition this year for an OLB job. If he can't win it right away, he has tremendous promise as a playmaking OLB in the Julian Peterson mold.

Teddy Lehman (LB, Lions)
A successful OLB, he moved inside last year after a season-ending injury to Lance Mitchell, and didn't miss a beat. The Lions seem tentatively committed to James Davis on the weak-side, and Boss Bailey's future may be there too, however Lehman is stout enough to man the inside. He has the speed and coverage ability to be an every down MLB, and Detroit experimented with him there in rookie camp. The only negative is dreaded "product of the system" cliché. Oklahoma has had a string of well-decorated LBs recently that have failed to translate their success at the next level. However, Lehman seems to have a better combination of sufficient measurables, instincts, and football acumen than the others did.

Sean Jones (S, Browns)
Great physical specimen and solid all-around skills. Although a few others went between him and Sean Taylor, this 2004 safety draft class will be remembered for the Two Seans. In line to replace Robert Griffith when injury or retirement ends his career soon, he also has more upside than Earl Little. Should see time this season and start at one of the safety spots by next season.

Due to the limited starting lineup requirements and lack of scarcity at IDP positions (in most leagues), taking a flyer on defensive players in a dynasty rookie draft is uncommon. These guys will be, and should be, late round picks or, in many cases, waiver wire material. However, they have nice upside, or are in a situation to have value as rookie, or both. Some of the first few mentioned are likely to be drafted, but dropped, if they don't start, so they may be valuable FA pick-ups in the future.

Demorrio Williams (LB, Falcons)
Great college player, he was undersized for a LB, but showed up to the Combine at 232 pounds and still ran the 40 with RB speed (4.45). Could be moved to safety, but if he can maintain that weight, he has the instincts and explosiveness to succeed as a weak-side LB. Despite converting to a 4-3, the Falcons had plenty of injury and off-field problems at LB last year, so he could earn a spot sooner rather than later.

Reggie Tobor (LB, Giants)
Moved to DE in college due to development of teammates Karlos Dansby and Dontarrious Thomas. Led team with those guys in sacks and hurries. Great opportunity as edge rushing LB with turnover on Giants.

Courtney Watson (LB, Saints)
Added weight to move to the middle last season and didn't compromise any of his speed. He joins a crowded competition to start in the middle, but has the versatility to play outside. While he has limited upside to be special, his consistency and effort could make him a solid starter.

Tony Hargrove (DE, Rams)
If you don't recognize the name, it's because he's been out of football for a year. Academic ineligibility led him to miss the 2003 season at GaTech. The most appealing aspect here is situation. With Grant Wistrom gone and Leonard Little facing serious legal problems (again), the opportunity here is better than most rookie defensive players. He also has solid measurables for the position, including good speed. In a DE class that lacks a lot of promising edge rushers, he at least appears to have the physical potential.

Shaun Phillips (LB, Chargers)
Phillips will follow in the footsteps of fellow Purdue alums Rosevelt Colvin and Akin Ayodele as an undersized, strong edge rushing DE converting to OLB. He has the skills and measurables to make the outlook promising for him to find similar success. With the Chargers converting to a 3-4 defense, he could see work immediately on third downs. They are crowded in the interior, but with apparently moving Donnie Edwards inside, lacking on the exterior. He'll have to develop coverage skills to have the opportunity to be a starter, so it could be a year or two before he's in a position to be a major contributor, but a successful start as a pass rusher will be a good sign he's on his way.

Will Allen (S, Buccaneers)
Grew into a starting role last season, so he didn't have as much exposure as players from schools with less depth, but he demonstrated the skills and provides good measurables to be a promising prospect. The track record of Ohio State DBs in the NFL is an excellent one, as well. Free agency has left Dwight Smith and Jermaine Phillips as the relatively new, and so far unspectacular, starters. With the versatility to play either role, Allen could win a starting role by next year. Great character, no off-field issues, add to his appeal.

Keyaron Fox (LB, Chiefs)
An explosive player in college, including the ability to provide a strong pass rush from the edge, he is a bit undersized for the next level. However, he's a good fit for the Chiefs system that is predicated on speed and disruption from their outside backers. The Chiefs had no depth at LB last year, so he immediately looks like their best option if Fujita or Barber goes down, and the likely replacement if either leave.

Stuart Schweigert (S, Raiders)
After heading into last season being viewed as one of the top safeties, off-field problems, as well as a building reputation as a poor tackler, dropped him. He's a top athlete, reminiscent of Derrick Gibson, in being more of an outstanding physical specimen than football player. However, they didn't reach as high for Stu, and now he could replace Gibson. In addition, with Rod Woodson potentially retiring and a new coaching staff with no allegiance to current starters, he has a tremendous opportunity.

Madieu Williams (S, Bengals)
Tweener who brings CB coverage skills with S run support. He joins a crowded situation in the middle of the Bengals defensive backfield. However, it's mostly a variety of has beens and never wases, so he could find a starting job before the end of the season.

Marquis Cooper (LB, Buccaneers)
Classic system pick. Undersized for teams with other schemes or preconceived notions, Cooper has the speed, skills, and coverage ability to pan out as an understudy to Derrick Brooks. The addition of Ian Gold eliminates a starting opportunity, but with at least a year to add bulk (he has a frame that should support it) and absorb knowledge, Cooper will be well positioned for a future starting job.

Richard Seigler (LB, 49ers)
Good measurables and great instincts for an ILB. It's currently a crowded situation, but filled with a lot of journeymen vets. Upside to be a quality starter down the road, but his fantasy value is limited in a 3-4.

Darrion Scott (DE, Vikings)
Like his new teammate Kenechi Udeze, Scott fell due to some shoulder concerns. Intriguing tweener who lacks the top end speed to be a premier pass rusher and is likely destined for less fantasy-friendly work as an anchor end. His athleticism and explosive first step could make him a very productive DT, if he spends more time there as is considered one for fantasy purposes. The Vikings were very successful moving Kevin Williams around, and while Scott does not have the same upside, he gives them similar versatility.

Niko Koutouvides (LB, Seahawks)
Strong form tackler, not just a "hitter", which is important at the next level, where you can't physically dominate running backs and receivers like you could in college. That skill, combined with his size, make him at least a prototypical two-down MLB. He has limited upside, but there is reason to believe he could have a productive career piling up tackles in the middle. It could start as soon as this year, where the departure of Randall Godfrey leaves the MLB job an open competition in Seattle.

Kendyll Pope (LB, Colts)
Lacks size for LB, but unlike FSU teammate Michael Boulware, does not have the top speed to convert to safety. However, he comes to a good system for undersized LBs. His speed could compensate in a weak-side role, if David Thornton moves to the hole left by Marcus Washington's departure on the strong-side.

Guss Scott (S, Patriots)
Bill Belichick always seems to land players on Day One he evaluated differently than 31 other teams and countless "experts". I don't know if he's necessarily right every time, but the guys he gets succeed in his system, and that's what make him great at what he does and the guys he picks to do it worth looking at. Eugene Wilson's conversion from CB to S was prompted by BB's dissatisfaction with his other options. That would line up Scott to be the current heir to Rodney Harrison's SS spot. Harrison's age and vicious approach to the game make him a higher than average risk to miss significant time. While a bit undersized and lacking in coverage, Scott brings the right attitude, hitting, and speed to succeed as a SS.

Landon Johnson (LB, Bengals)
Sufficient speed for an outside backer, he needs to put on some weight, but appears to have a frame that could support it. If he does, he provides flexibility to back-up all LB positions and could shape up to take over one of the outside spots, eventually.

Leon Joe (LB, Bears)
The physical ability is there, he's one of the strongest and fastest draftees at LB, but it remains to be seen if he can master the technique and mental side to become more than a special teams player. He has the speed Lovie craves and plays a position of need, so he's likely to make the roster. With the departure of Warrick Holdman, the Bears are left with two second-year players as the bookends to Urlacher Lance Briggs is likely to hold the strong-side job, but Joe could compete with Odom for the weak-side. However, I expect the team to bring in a veteran after June 1st. Could be a SS too.

Dexter Reid (S, Patriots)
Unlike Gus Scott, Reid's draft position was more on par with the consensus. Like Scott, he comes into a potentially good situation for the similar reasons. If Wilson heads back to CB, opening up FS, Reid is better suited for it than Scott.

Rod Davis (LB, Vikings)
A very highly regarded player after the 2002 season, he failed to build on it last season and didn't show much potential to be special in workouts. An intense player, he has the upside to be a solid two-down MLB. With Greg Biekert retired, E.J. Henderson inherits the middle job and has great upside, but already experienced some concerning off-field and injury issues. If Henderson is out, moving Dontarrious Thomas there might be the first option. If not, and Davis gets the shot, he could be a solid waiver wire find.

Penny Stocks
Guys with little to no value right now, but with the chance to surprise down the road.

Jason Shivers (S, Rams)
Surprised how far he fell, but he brings good talent and measurables to a good situation. Learning behind Aeneas Williams will benefit his development and allow him to develop physically. Best shot at being a solid starter of any of the defensive players selected from the fifth round on.

Etric Pruitt (S, Falcons)
Solid college player with decent measurables who does everything well, but nothing exceptional. Between injury and disappointing play, the Falcons secondary was a mess last year. He comes into an excellent situation to see playing time right away and potential to be an interim starter until someone better is found.

Nathaniel Adibi (LB, Steelers)
Like Baltimore, the Steelers are a good place for DE/LB tweeners to land. Unlike Baltimore, the Steelers don't reach early for these guys, but have had fantastic success at targeting undersized DEs and converting them to productive LBs in their 3-4 scheme. For that reason alone, Adibi is worth tracking. Despite Jason Gildon expected to be a June 1st cut, the Steelers have Clark Haggans and last year's conversion project, Alonzo Jackson, waiting in the wings. He'll have to earn a roster spot first, and then it will probably be a couple years before you hear from him, but he fits the mold of guys who've been successful in Pittsburgh.

Isaac Hilton (LB, NYG)
He dominated Division I-AA and displayed fantastic athleticism in his workouts, including the fastest 40 time of all defensive linemen (4.59). However, two NFL stigmas - tweener and small school player - had him plummet on draft day. Despite his speed, he's not looked at as big enough to play with his hand down in the NFL. If not in New York, he'll be looked at as a pass rush specialist somewhere down the road.

Roderick Green (LB, Ravens)
Tremendous Division II DE landed in a good situation in Baltimore. He's a great fit for their scheme where a speed pass rush is delivered from the edges by their OLBs, both of whom are currently converted college DEs. He's definitely not in the class of Peter Boulware or Terrell Suggs out of college, but is a similar type player and could be groomed for a similar role, but doesn't have the same kind of upside.

Bobby McCray (DE, Jaguars)
Classic underachiever, measurables and skills rate him much higher, but questions about his attitude, work ethic, and off-field issues had him free fall. With the financial investment involved, teams have become much more cautious about the intangibles. He's a complete boom or bust pick, but carries no risk as a seventh round pick. The opportunity is there with age on the edges of Jacksonville's defensive line.

Claude Harriott (DE, Bears)
Viewed as one of the top collegiate DEs heading into last season, he descended on draft boards through a year of injuries and underachievement. He is a bit on the small side to play the run, but has decent speed and displayed great pass rush skills in the past. Similar player to Alex Brown, who found himself in a very similar situation when he came out. The front four is definitely in flux, so a strong showing from Harriot could fast track him into at least a third-down specialist role.

Rashard Washington (S, Jets)
Fits in the classic cliché of being more an athlete than football player. Measurables are very good for a FS, but his instincts and cover skills are poor. He can hit though, so he should find work on special teams and fall at the end of the line on the SS depth chart.

Alex Lewis (LB, Lions)
People have said in selecting Teddy Lehman, Matt Millen was picking a player like himself. However, Lehman comes into the league with much better credentials and much more speed than Millen had. If any Detroit pick looks like a poor man's Millen to me, it's Lewis. Undersized for a LB, but is a high motor guy who should excel on special teams and could earn a bigger role in a Detroit LB group lean on depth.

Jorge Cordova (LB, Jaguars)
Unusually combination of ILB and DE in college. Undersized, but also fast, for either position. A project who offers versatility, which could speed his development in multiple situational roles.

Glenn Earl (S, Texans)
A big time hitter with the ideal size and intensity for SS. However, with speed already a concern, he blew his knee last season and his draft stock fell. He's unlikely to even be ready to contribute until late in season.

Cody Spencer (LB, Raiders)
Great small school performer who impressed in workouts. Good measurables and skills for a two-down inside LB. More opportunity if they move to a 3-4.

Darrell McClover (LB, Jets)
Spent most of his career as a back-up with the Hurricanes, but he got on the radar with a tremendous showing at Miami's Pro Day. Obviously a project, but you have to consider a back-up on the Hurricanes probably would have been a starter at many other schools, so there could be untapped potential.

Jammal Lord (?, Texans)
Latest in a long line of scrambling QBs, particularly from Nebraska, who will try to catch on at another position. Many "experts" expected a shot as a RB or WR, but he worked as a LB and S prior to the draft. The track record of successfully converting these types of players is not good, so he's a long shot to ever become useful from a fantasy perspective. However, GM Charley Casserly has already demonstrated some good thinking out of the box with a late round pick last year, in his move with Drew Henson.

Some middle round picks that were solid collegiate performers, generally where you find quality sleepers, but due to situation and/or potential, don't have promising short or long term outlooks.

Gilbert Gardner (LB, Colts)
First selection from a Purdue LB group that was arguably the best in the country. Bad combination of poor speed and lack of size dim his upside at this level. The departure of Marcus Washington leaves a hole, but Kendyll Pope, despite being selected after Gardner, appears to have better upside to be a starter.

Bo Schobel (DE, Tennessee Titans)
Landed in a tough situation as the Titans added a lot of ends to find a way to replace Jevon Kearse. As the last of three selected, he'll have more to prove. While tall, he lacks bulk and doesn't appear to have the frame to carry much more weight. Without tremendous athleticism, posted a TCU-record 17 sacks last season, succeeding as a hard worker and high motor guy. That won't be enough to get by at the next level.

Caleb Miller (LB, Bengals)
I thought Miller went high for a guy who appears to lack the talent to succeed anywhere but the interior, but lacks the size for the interior. The only thing worth watching is Nate Webster, recently signed to start at MLB, is undersized and was never achieved more than a back-up role in Tampa Bay. Kevin Hardy did not succeed at converting to the middle last year, so the Bengals options are limited if Webster is hurt or fails.

Brandon Chillar (LB, Rams)
The Rams have three young and promising LBs. He doesn't bring any special skills that, barring injury, make him appear to be fit for anything more than a back-up role.

Dave Ball (DE, Chargers)
Well-decorated collegiate player, but lacks the quickness and speed to be a successful pass rusher at the next level. Upside limited to unfriendly statistical roles as a two-down anchor end or DT in NFL.

Robert Reynolds (LB, Titans)
Ideal size, but slow and in crowded situation. Upside is two-down MLB, but most likely career back-up.

Defensive Tackles and Cornerbacks
As most leagues play with DL (either DE or DT) and DB (either S or CB), I excluded DT and CB up to this point. As experienced IDP'ers know, overall, DE and S are typically the more valuable positions in each group. However, some leagues segregate the positions, so some, for positive or negative reasons, are worth spending some time discussing.

Darnell Dockett (DT, Cardinals)
Dockett can be an absolutely disruptive force in the middle and is quick enough to work from the edges on running downs. He reminds me of John Randle, and I imagine Denny Green saw some of that too, making him the coach finally willing to look past his baggage. If he can keep his head on straight, Dockett has the potential to be the best fantasy producer at DT in this class, and you'll be able to land him in the later rounds.

Tommie Harris (DT, Bears)
Any DT the Bears drafted on Day One could have been written into the starting lineup in pen, but with Harris they landed one with the skills, athleticism, and quickness to be the rare interior lineman that can post decent fantasy stats. Playing for a strong Oklahoma team that frequently rotated down linemen limited his stats, but in Chicago, they'll need him in there on passing downs.

DeAngelo Hall (CB, Falcons)
Good chance he's a starter out of the block, but the Falcons lack talent opposite him, so it's possible QBs test him less than your typical rookie. Not as technically strong or with the size to be a shut-down corner and post big tackle numbers as some other players in the draft, but he's a tremendous playmaker, and that's what you want if your league segregates S and CB. Even if he only sees a few interceptions a year, he's likely to take one or two back and find other ways to turn in big plays. Great return skills, as well. If your league scores for kickoff and punt returns, bump him up.

Dunta Robinson (CB, Texans)
Playmaking corner still learning the position after starting as a safety, a position from which he brought his run support ability with him. Best aspect is he's starting immediately, and QBs tend to test rookie CBs, so he should have an opportunity to contribute fantasy-wise.

Matt Ware (CB/S, Eagles)
Fell a bit due to injury problems last season and because he's not refined as either a corner or safety yet, but he has the skills and measurables to succeed at either position. With the departure of the tremendously successfully tandem of Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, the corners are wide open in Philly this year. Third year players Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard had extended auditions due to injuries last year, and neither player has shown promise of being anything particularly special. They will get first shot at the job, but Ware could be the guy to eventually move into a full-time role. His versatility had to make him appealing, as Brian Dawkins faced a potential career-ending foot injury, as well, so his best chance to make an immediate impact (and offer more fantasy value) may be if Dawkins has any relapses.

Vince Wilfork (DT, Patriots)
As the second DT taken, Wilfork will probably be high on the DT draft list of many people in leagues who require a DT, but he's not worth reaching for. While he has the skills and athleticism to make more plays than your standard 300-pounder, he didn't land in a good situation. The Pats have a base 3-4, where the nose tackle is simply a space eater. They also have a deep rotation on the defensive line. Not someone you want to reach for, even if you're desperate at DT.

Chris Gamble (CB, Panthers)
Knock on him is he is not technically sound, fluid in coverage and sufficient in tackling, as a CB after only playing it part-time in college. I think his double duty in college bodes well for his future, as he obviously has supreme conditioning and will have the legs to make plays in the fourth quarter. Measurables to be a great CB and has a knack for turning in big plays. The Panthers put great pressure on the QB, and it has been a boon to the fantasy production of their unspectacular corners the last few years. A versatile athlete, may see time in the return game and could become a talented punt blocker, as well.

Keith Smith (CB, Lions)
Detroit's secondary was ravaged by injuries as much as any positional group I've ever seen. If he finds a starting job opposite Pro Bowler Dré Bly, he'll have the fantasy-friendly scenario of a rookie CB who sees a lot of plays his way, and the historically conservative NFC North looks to be airing it out this year.

Ahmad Carroll (CB, Packers)
Depth is a problem in the Green Bay secondary, so I'm not certain how the McKenzie Situation is resolved means much to his value. He might actually be in a better situation if McKenzie returns, and he's the nickel corner, where he might see less balls, but have a chance to make more plays on less talented receivers.

Will Poole (CB, Dolphins)
Big time skills, but lots of baggage. Boom or bust guy who will either get his head screwed on straight and thrive, or disappear. Seems beneficial that he'll have some time to develop behind two premier corners, but this could also cause him to lose focus without immediate responsibility and he didn't land in a good situation with a coach who only has a tenuous grip on his locker room.

Igor Olshansky (DT, Chargers)
Very raw prospect who is still learning the game of football on his way to being the first Russian-born NFL player. Skyrocketed after impressive workouts. Extremely strong, but he's very tall and lacks bulk, so until he learns to play with leverage, he's going to get pushed around. Intriguing aspect is he played some DE. He lacks the speed to be a premier pass rusher, but offers more value if he sees some time there.

Christian Morton (CB, Patriots)
Morton undoubtedly came to Belichick's attention on tape of Eugene Wilson, as the two formed the starting tandem at Illinois in Wilson's last two college seasons. The early feedback on him is good, and despite being a seventh round pick, the Pats lack depth at the corners.

Top Undrafted Free Agents
Keep an eye on all the LBs headed to the Giants. They turned over their entire LB group without spending a high pick or adding a premier FA. Also, teams like the Colts, Eagles, Ravens, and Cowboys are good at finding and using low/no round guys. For individuals, Tommy Kelly is a boom or bust guy who some people projected as a Day One pick. Maurice Jones, Jonathan Harrell, Ty Meyers, and Andrew Shull are guys with some skills who enter situations lacking depth. All four safeties below are appealing long shots.

DE: Tommy Kelly, Raiders (DT); Andrew Shull, Lions; Oyi Osunde, Browns (LB); Gabe Nyenhuis, Seahawks; Kevin Emanuel, Cowboys; Greg Taplin, unsigned

DT: Darrell Campbell, Bears; Brandon Kennedy, Broncos; Mondre Dickerson, Bengals; Cedric Hilliard, Cowboys; Jon Bradley, Eagles; Ahmad Childress, Lions; DeMarco McNeill, unsigned

LB: Bryan Hickman, Browns; Grant Wiley, Vikings; T.J. Hollowell, Giants; Maurice Jones, Packers; Greg Richmond, Eagles; Pasha Jackson, 49ers; Lewis Moore, Giants; Jonathan Harrell, Panthers; Rich Scanlon, Chiefs; Billy Strother, Redskins; Renauld Williams, 49ers; Cols Colas, Ravens; Ryan Fowler, Cowboys; Roderick Royal, Falcons; Rob Peace, Giants; Ty Meyers, Chargers; D.D. Acholonu, Bills; Josh Buhl, Browns (S); Carl Diggs, unsigned; Vegas Robinson, unsigned

S: Arnold Parker, Seahawks; Kentrell Curry, Browns; Rashad Baker, Bills; Brandon Everage, unsigned

CB: Roc Alexander, Broncos; Jabari Greer, Bills; Lawrence Richardson, Bills; Marcell Almond, Ravens; Randy Jordan, Chargers; Rufus Brown, Redskins; Stanford Samuels, Colts; Johnny Lamar, Bills