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
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).
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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