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 | Overvalued
| Undervalued | Market Performers
| Speculative | Underperformers
| Penny Stocks | Undrafted Free Agents
Three players jump out as having the best combination of elite
talent, NFL measurables, and opportunity. They are as close as
you can get to locks to put up great fantasy numbers from Week
1 of 2006 through long careers.
Mario Williams (DE, Texans)
Absurd measurables and ability to dominate a game. Inconsistency
and propensity to take plays off. The next Bruce Smith or Aundray
Bruce? From a fantasy perspective, I see it like this. A potential
elite DE is usually the only IDP position worth reaching for in
a dynasty rookie draft. At every other defensive position in the
early rounds it is usually a better to take a harder look at offense.
At LB and S, especially SS, you are counting on most of the value
coming from tackles. At other positions, you are looking for playmakers
because tackle numbers won't typically be as high or as consistent.
So that means sacks and turnovers. Interceptions are a crapshoot
to project, too many other variables, and pretty much the same
for fumble recoveries. That leaves sacks and forced fumbles, which
generally your elite DE’s are going to be leaders in. So
that is the one position on defense it is worth gambling on to
land a stud. This brings us back to Williams. The scarce potential
he offers insulates the risk in taking him in the second round
of rookie drafts.
A.J. Hawk (LB, Packers)
Prototype MIKE size with RB speed and terrific instincts, Hawk
can play any LB position and should start at WLB on Week One.
The only thing not to like about Hawk is some of the physical
characteristics common to steroid users.
Jimmy Williams (DB, Atlanta)
His arrogance and flamboyance may have cost him a first round
pick as much as any other character concerns, but that swagger
is part of the reason he seems a lock to be a success. In most
leagues, I would rarely recommend drafting a CB, you can usually
find a serviceable starter on the waiver wire, but I expect Williams
to be a real and fantasy star. He can play anywhere in the secondary
and has the combination of size, speed, and tackling to succeed
at all of them. I also like the fact he’ll play opposite
former teammate DeAngelo Hall. Not only should there be an instant
rapport there, but Hall is proving to be a capable ball hawk,
which will lead teams to test the rookie, giving him an opportunity
to produce immediately.
There's no greater buyer's remorse than remembering the defensive
player you selected early to pass on a Domanick Davis or Antuan
Boldin. The following players 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 and be productive
fantasy 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 further.
Michael Huff (DB, Raiders)
My outlook on his is relative to how he is used, as well as based
on much better value available in the secondary if you wait. Talent-wise,
he is already the best DB on the roster. However, if the Raiders
plan to use him as a SS, where they probably have the biggest
need, I have concerns about his tackling ability. He tackles high
and that won’t fly at the next level. He has to develop
fundamentally as a tackler to be a standout SS. If they use him
as a CB, it is probably where he can have the most immediate impact.
As a rookie, he’ll be tested, and he has the speed and playmaking
ability to put up good fantasy numbers there immediately, even
if he still has to improve in real NFL terms. Of course, if he
does become an elite corner as the years go on, the fantasy numbers
will be sporadic as teams will throw away from him and he’s
unlike to develop as fast as a tackler focusing on coverage. FS
would probably be the best fantasy position for him, at least
the first year or two. His tackling deficiencies won’t be
as important, while his closing speed should contribute to a decent
number of big plays. With all the picks recently invested at CB,
it makes sense for the team to try Huff at S until a more pressing
Ernie Sims (LB, Lions)
Every year I strike out badly on one of my predictions for overvalued,
and this easily could be this year’s. I’m not as concerned
as much about his size (although under 6’ and used to a
playing weight under 230 are noteworthy) or character questions
as I am with his injury history and situation. The Lions have
a roster full of WILL LB’s, but someone needs to play MIKE
and SAM. It shouldn’t be Sims at either of the latter two,
but if it is, I am even more conservative on his outlook. Then
there are all the concussions, not a good thing when the primary
function of your job is to run as fast as you can, head first,
in to other big men running as fast as they can.
Tamba Hali (DE, Chiefs)
Likely to be the second true DE taken in most rookie drafts, Hali
has a decent short term outlook, but the Chiefs appear to have
reached to fill a need. He doesn’t appear to be a guy who
will put up huge sack totals and his athleticism was not impressive
across the board in physical test. The Chiefs have struggled to
make their front four work, so he immediately could push Jared
Allen to a pass rush specialist role or will make Hicks expendable
on the left side. However, I don’t think he has great fantasy
potential even if he quickly lands a starting role.
D’Qwell Jackson (ILB, Browns)
A better football player than physical specimen, Jackson has a
chance to start immediately next to Andra Davis in the Browns
revamped 3-4. Although he has good quickness, great instincts
and should be a steady source of tackles, his potential for big
plays is limited by his position and speed. I believe Jackson
will be a very good football player, but I would like him a lot
more next to a lesser player than Davis or in the middle of a
4-3. As it stands, he is being drafted earlier than he should
for a guy who will be the second most productive ILB for the foreseeable
Roman Harper (S, Saints)
A completely confounding pick on a number of levels. Safety is
one of the few deep positions on the team, yet they burn a second
rounder on Harper where it was considered a bit of a reach. Unless
Dwight Smith is traded or released and if Jay Bellamy isn’t
expected to regain his form, the middle is very crowded in New
Orleans. Even if those two are out of the picture, Josh Bullocks
seems to have more upside than Harper and the team traded for
Bryan Scott, a talented player who fell out of favor in Atlanta.
There is no way I see Harper starting any time soon and even once
he does, he is a solid player but doesn’t give any indication
of being one who could develop in to a top fantasy performer.
Haloti Ngata (DT, Ravens)
As the first DT drafted, someone will likely grab him in leagues
that segregated DL positions. However, he is a space-eater and
his purpose in the defense isn’t conducive to fantasy production.
Antonio Cromartie (CB, Chargers)
His draft status was based purely on upside, as he started only
one career game and was a workout wonder at the Combine. Success
at CB is very instinctual and he simply needs time to develop.
Not worth a roster spot in a rookie draft, but his high actual
draft status seem to have people taking him in rookie drafts.
Kelly Jennings (CB, Seahawks)
Fluid and fundamentally sound with top speed, lack of size and
bulk is the only concern. A true cover corner, he may be a liability
in run support, so his fantasy value will be tied to picks, which
makes him a risky fantasy proposition.
It's hard to be a "sleeper" when you're taken early
in the NFL draft, but even some Day One picks carry question marks
or come into situations that may have other owners skittish about
their outlook. 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. Others are players who
fell in the draft and provide excellent upside despite where they
Mathias Kiwanuka (DE, Giants)
One of the highest rated defensive players coming in to 2005,
a knee injury contributed to a relatively disappointing final
collegiate season. His status took another hit at the Senior Bowl,
largely due to having to face D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who
made plenty of college DE’s look bad. The result was he
was falling out of the first round until the Giants traded up
to grab him. Now he enters one of the worst short-term situations
for a DE. Michael Strahan is yet to slow down, while Osi Umenyiora
has emerged as one of the elite ends in the league, and Justin
Tuck impressed as a rookie last year. However, this will benefit
Kiwanuka for the long-term. He needs to add some weight, strength,
and improve his technical skills. Now he has the time to do it
and you couldn’t ask for better mentors. Situations like
this often resolve themselves faster than expected. Injuries,
free agency/cap issues, and the fact Strahan can’t play
forever, even if it seems he can, will sort this situation within
two seasons. At that time, people will regret passing on him and
the fantasy owner who had the patience to sit on him will be rewarded.
Manny Lawson (OLB, 49ers)
I’m not sure why Lawson is undervalued, or that I should
really be including him here, but there seems to be apprehensiveness
about him when I read fantasy opinions of him or see where he
is going in early rookie drafts. Perhaps it is because not everyone
in the stacked front four he played in at NC State (Mario Williams
and John McCargo were fellow first round picks, while Stephen
Tulloch went in the fourth) is likely to be great or that he is
on a 49er defense lacking in talent. However, the fact is he has
great measurables and fell in to the perfect situation. He doesn’t
have the weight or play with the leverage to succeed as an every
down DE at this level, but his speed makes him perfect for a 3-4
OLB. He’ll be moved around a bit, but should be over the
LT with his hand on the ground and ears pinned back on third down.
He presents the athleticism to be used in a variety of ways similar
to the departed Julian Peterson. He should start at WLB and line
up as RDE on third downs.
Thomas Howard (LB, Raiders)
Forcing a square peg in to a round hole is a good analogy for
the failed attempt by Oakland to employ a 3-4. The defensive ends
they converted to OLB were not accomplished pass rushers and proved
completely inept in pass coverage. Danny Clark and Kirk Morrison
were the only two true LB’s on their roster heading in to
the draft. The addition of Howard gave them not just a true third
LB, but one with the speed and playmaking ability Clark and Morrison
lack. He should quickly win the weak-side job, pushing Morrison
to the SLB (and eventually likely to replace Clark in the middle).
Jason Allen (S, Dolphins)
Up the middle, Miami’s secondary is full of journeymen and
career back-ups. Allen’s path to a starting job looks as
easy as any rookie, IDP or otherwise. While still an injury concern,
he seems to be overlooked in dynasty drafts, going well after
Huff and Whitner, and in some cases Bullocks, despite being the
third DB drafted and having a ton of upside.
Mark Anderson (DE, Bears)
With Michael Haynes a bust, one weakness in the Bears strong defense
is lack of third end in the rotation that can pressure the QB.
Anderson’s stock appeared to be rising after a strong showing
at the Senior Bowl and Combine, but he managed to slip to the
fifth round. Lacking the bulk to play every down if there was
an opportunity, he has a frame that can support more weight, but
his speed and technical strength make give him the upside to immediately
be a third down specialist. However, that is likely the limit
of his upside.
Daniel Bullocks (S, Lions)
DC Donnie Henderson already has him penciled in as the starting
FS. Despite top speed, his coverage skills need some work, so
he might ultimately be best suited for SS. Either way, he is an
elite athlete with good footballs skills who projects as a long
term starter on a team with huge needs in the secondary. One of
the safest IDP picks for a dynasty league in this class who will
be there at least a round or two after Huff and probably Whitner.
Bernard Pollard (S, Chiefs)
A devastating hitter, he is the kind of boom or bust safety that
can make the highlight reel on Sportscenter, but be graded poorly
in the same game by coaches for missed assignments. If he can
focus his talent, he will be an exciting player and solid fantasy
performer. It might take a year for him to push Sammy Knight out,
but Herm Edwards, a former DB, has never been shy about starting
rookie safeties either.
Richard Marshall (CB, Panthers)
Graded as first round talent by some, Marshall enters a great
situation with tremendous upside. With the loss of two corners
to free agency, the nickel spot is wide open for him to win. This
would enable solid performance immediately, as he’ll be
asked to guard the third or fourth receiver and will have the
chance to make plays on desperation throws thanks to the pressure
Carolina should bring up front. Eventually he should be a full-time
starter opposite Chris Gamble, which should benefit Marshall again
as Gamble is one of the up-and-coming corners in the league. His
ranking as undervalued is relative to leagues that segregate DB
between CB and S. For leagues that don’t, I’d play
it safe with some of the nice potential at safety in this draft
Brodrick Bunkley (DT, Eagles)
The most appealing DT from a fantasy perspective heading in to
the draft fell in to the ideal situation. Philadelphia, with all
DC Jim Johnson’s stunts and complex blitz schemes, has been
unusually successful at producing interior linemen capable of
contributing decent fantasy numbers. With the team moving Hollis
Thomas in a trade and Paul Grasmanis retiring, there is an immediate
opening in the primary three-man rotation for Bunkley. His ranking
as undervalued is relative to leagues that segregate DL between
DT and S. For all but the deepest of those dynasty leagues, he
is the only DT worth taking in rookie drafts this year.
David Pittman (CB, Ravens)
Small school prospect who is raw and needs to add bulk, but has
the frame to do so. Otherwise, he has good measurables and the
right attitude for the Ravens defense, in that he can be aggressive
to a fault. He has impressed early and in a thin Baltimore secondary,
should already be penciled in as the nickel corner, which could
be very productive if the front seven can get back to menacing
the QB. Excellent upside, sleeper who could be the next breakout
small school star.
Talented players whose value should be commensurate with where
they are drafted. They have a strong outlook, even those whose
situation immediately falls short of ideal and/or who need time
Chad Greenway (LB, Vikings)
He is too smart and instinctive to be devalued based on some disappointing
physical tests. Obviously the Vikings agree, and the group of
LB’s the new staff inherited have disappointed, so Greenway
should be able to assume a starting job. There is not much to
dislike about him on film, but he does not have top speed and
needs to get stronger. Players like Zach Thomas and Lofa Tatupu
have more than answered similar questions once on the field. Dynasty
owners don’t appear concerned either, which is why I don’t
consider him undervalued, as he is on the LB short list after
Hawk in most rookie drafts I’ve observed.
Kamerion Wimbley (OLB, Browns)
Escapes the aversion to tweeners as there appears to be no question
about his role. Willie McGinest was reunited with Romeo Crennel
to be a disruptive rusher from the edges, like he was for him
in New England. Wimbley will be his protégée and
eventual replacement. Like McGinest, Wimbley is undersized to
play with his hand on the ground every down, but is a natural
fit as pass rush specialist and has the athleticism to become
a fine all-around OLB. He will likely start out as weak-side OLB
on rushing downs and be a fourth down lineman on the right edge
on passing downs. Even if he struggles with the transition to
LB in the run game, he’ll see plenty of time as a rookie
in pass packages and on special teams, where he was terrific as
a youngster at FSU.
DeMeco Ryans (LB, Texans)
A major part of a reconstructed Houston defense, Ryans is likely
to start from Week One. While his measurables are a bit lacking,
he makes up for it with football intelligence and strong fundamentals,
especially as a tackler and in coverage. He has the intangibles
and make-up to quickly become the leader on defense the team is
Donte Whitner (S, Bills)
Although considered a reach by some pundits in the actual draft,
he is should be available in a decent middle round spot in rookie
drafts, making him a better value than reaching for Huff. He is
likely to win the starting SS spot and looks to be the next fixture
at DB in the NFL from a fine legacy of recent Ohio State players
in the secondary.
Bobby Carpenter (OLB, Cowboys)
While he’ll have a lot of competition and faces the short
leash Parcells has for all young players, there is no doubt he
is expected to be the final missing piece of the Cowboys 3-4.
A natural LB, he comes in with more instincts for the position
than Ware, so Carpenter is likely to work the strong-side and
assume coverage responsibilities. This will limit his overall
productivity, but he’ll get chances to get after the QB
and just how fast he becomes a relevant pass rush threat will
dictate his fantasy value.
Darryl Tapp (DE, Seahawks)
Measurables could be better, but skills and intangibles are strong,
while situation is perfect. Tapp should immediately see action
as a situational pass rusher and eventually replace Grant Wistrom,
who has struggled with injuries recently and is aging.
Clint Ingram (OLB, Jaguars)
A late riser who built on a strong Combine with a good Pro Day,
he could end up being one of the steals of the draft. He brings
good size and better than average speed, as well as an unusually
strong, for a collegiate LB, capability in pass coverage. This
means he’s likely to play SAM, which tempers expectations
of his fantasy production, otherwise I’d consider him undervalued.
Daryl Smith likely moves to MIKE leaving an unspectacular Pat
Thomas and the injury-prone Jorge Cordova the only things standing
in Ingram’s way of a starting job.
Abdul Hodge (LB, Packers)
The future appears distant as he starts off his career backing
up Pro Bowl MLB Nick Barnett. However, things change fast and
the team seems committed to getting their best ‘backers
on the field. Despite lacking in measurables, he presents a comprehensive
package of skills and could be the strong-side starter before
the end of the season, although free agent addition Ben Taylor
is likely to begin there on Week One.
Roger “Rocky” McIntosh
Washington paid a steep price to trade up 18 spots to acquire
McIntosh. A bit of a reach, but McIntosh brings solid measurables,
impressive athleticism, and comes from a fine lineage of recent
‘backers from the U. With the loss of Arrington, the only
thing standing in the way of a starting job is unimpressive journeymen
Chris Clemons and Warrick Holdman.
Tye Hill (CB, Rams)
I’m not sure what to make of Hill from a fantasy perspective.
While he can stick a receiver like glue and has great pure and
recovery speed, his hands aren’t the greatest and size is
a liability. While he isn’t afraid to stick his nose in,
he is more of a cover corner, so I don’t project him to
be tremendous in run support. He will be great in coverage, but
that frequently doesn’t translate to good fantasy numbers.
I definitely see him be a starter sooner rather than later, hence
my ranking that he should at least be relatively productive, but
until he shows he can be a ball hawk or contribute significantly
with tackles, I don’t see him as being an elite fantasy
Johnathan Joseph (CB, Bengals)
The corners in Cinci have been extremely productive in HC Marvin
Lewis’ system. Joseph brings decent size, elite speed, and
top athleticism to the position, however he is still very raw.
A JUCO transfer, he missed all of 2004 with a foot injury, so
2005 was his first full season against top competition. With the
rotation of the Bengals top three corners set, he shouldn’t
see much action this season, but can develop and be ready for
a starting job as soon as 2007.
Ashton Youboty (CB, Bills)
Rated as a first round talent by some, Youboty fell in a deep
class. Possibly could win the nickel role this year, but won’t
have a chance to start for a year or two. Then he should join
the legion of stellar corners out of OSU.
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 could
be late round picks or, in most cases, waiver wire material. However,
they have nice upside, or are in a situation to have value as
rookie, or both.
Ahmad Brooks (LB, undrafted as of
It appears increasingly likely Brooks will be declaring for the
supplemental draft on July 13th. He is currently out of the program
at Virginia, working with a trainer, and has scheduled an individual
workout for scouts on June 22nd. At his peak, potential first
round talent with freakish athleticism, but he has had both off-field
problems (drug allegations) and on-field problems (out of shape)
recently that led to his dismissal from the team. Projections
vary widely for where he will go, but he is a player to keep an
eye on. Check your league rules regarding if he is eligible. Leagues
in existence for a few years probably established treating the
supplemental draft after the Tony Hollings incident a few years
Victor Adeyanju (DE, Rams)
If nothing else, the lineage of recent Nigerian DE’s gives
us a reason to keep an eye on him. Among his countrymen are Osi
Umenyiora and fellow Indiana alum Adewale Ogunleye. Furthermore,
he steps in to a tremendous situation. Tony Hargrove has failed
to impress and Leonard Little appears to be on the decline, as
age and personal problems have taken their toll on the former
elite pass rusher. Little is also an UFA after 2006, so Adeyanju’s
road to a starting job could be short if he can develop over the
next year. He started playing football late, so he still has a
lot to learn, but he is definitely one of the deep sleepers in
this class that could emerge as a mid-round stud.
Chris Gocong (OLB/DE, Eagles)
Philly reached for a small school pass rushing threat over an
assortment of established DE prospects from big name programs.
Gocong led the nation in sacks with 23.5 for I-AA Cal Poly last
season and looks to be a third down specialist at the next level.
The departure of N.D. Kalu leaves a spot in the rotation, but
Trent Cole looks to be the primary situational pass rusher at
end. Early indications were he would move to LB and back up Dhani
Jones on the strong-side, likely to replace him in passing situations.
However, he has impressed early with his hand on the ground, giving
him potential to be used in more situations.
Elvis Dumervil (DE/OLB, Broncos)
Despite leading I-A in sacks (20) and setting a single-season
record in forced fumbles (11), Dumervil slid due to his measurables.
Just shy of both 6 feet and 260 pounds, he won’t be an every
down player. Far from elite speed to compensate, there is no reason
to project him with Dwight Freeney potential either. However,
he has nice explosion, very good strength, and his short term
outlook in Denver is promising. An impotent pass rush is a glaring
weakness in the Bronco defense that they did little in the off
season to address. While Dumervil doesn’t have the measurables
to project as securing a regular role, he has the skills to find
success in a situational role. A surprise of the 2006 season and
James Anderson (LB, Panthers)
Third round pick is a player who made significant strides from
his junior to senior year. He needs to add some bulk, but with
Thomas Davis likely locked in at WLB for a long time and a slew
of vets competing for SLB, Anderson has time to excel on special
teams before getting his shot. Good speed and nice athleticism,
he needs to improve as a tackler, but has the upside to eventually
be a starter.
Gerris Wilkinson (OLB, Giants)
The Giants are looking to win now, and brought in a few veterans,
notably LaVar Arrington, to shore up a LB group that was a problem
the last few years. That being the case, the immediate outlook
is special teams for Wilkinson, but he can play any LB position
(he played all three in college). Although he is probably best
suited for the middle after he bulks up, he’ll begin at
WLB. GM Ernie Accorsi has been effusive in his praise of Wilkinson.
Nice long term outlook, but shouldn’t have any value the
next year or two.
Ko Simpson (S, Bills)
Another bad decision to declare early, Simpson fell, but has plenty
of talent and nice measurables. Should make Troy Vincent expendable
Darnell Bing (OLB, Raiders)
An explosive hitter and playmaker, his lack of timed speed and
coverage deficiencies are erased by the planned move to OLB. I
was still surprised he fell to Day Two and think the Raiders got
a bargain. He needs to find a position, though, and Kirk Morrison
and Thomas Howard look to be the better immediate options at OLB.
Anthony Smith (S, Steelers)
The assumption was Ryan Clark was brought in to replace Chris
Hope at FS, but undersized journeyman Tyrone Carter and Smith
are in the running, as well. Smith has the most long term potential,
so while he might not win the job immediately, he could be a starter
by next year. He doesn’t project to be an outstanding individual
player, but the Steelers always have a strong defense and if a
starter, his numbers would benefit by default.
Cedric Griffin (CB, Vikings)
I think he is a solid player, but I really love his situation.
He doesn’t have much competition in front of him to be the
nickel corner as a rookie and he will play between two solid starters.
Both mean he should get opportunities to see some balls and make
some plays as opposing teams test the rookie. His solid tackling
skills and versatility to play safety, with aging and recently
injury-prone Darren Sharper currently in centerfield for Minny,
add to his appeal.
Danieal Manning (DB, Bears)
GM Jerry Angelo struggles overall with the first round, but has
done a great job of finding defensive talent after that. Manning
seems to have the physical tools and opportunity to follow in
the footsteps of Charles Tillman as another small school secondary
standout. His versatility give him the opportunity to immediately
unseat FS Chris Harris, step in for an increasingly fragile Mike
Brown at SS if he is injured again, or contribute at their thin
CB position. It looks like he’ll start as a back-up S, but
things can change quickly, so be ready to swoop him off the waiver
Ray Edwards (DE, Vikings)
After looking like a star in 2004, Edwards struggled through a
2005 season that saw him lose his starting job and make a decision
to declare early that he was unprepared for. Minnesota stopped
his freefall early on Day Two, but he has a lot to prove to show
he can be an every down player. While not promising on the surface,
his situation is intriguing. The Vikings have spent first round
picks on a DE the last two seasons, but Kenechi Udeze did not
dominate as rookie and missed most of last year. He returns from
risky microfracture surgery on his knee and will get another shot
to anchor the left side. Erasmus James was lost in the shuffle
as the Minnesota defense didn’t find an identity until mid-season,
but sporadically flashed talent in the second half of the season.
Darrion Scott, a 2004 third round choice, was their most steady
performer throughout the year at DE. Gone is pass rush specialist
Lance Johnstone, who led the team in sacks last year. While Edwards
is not a speed rusher, Johnstone’s absence opens a spot
in the rotation and if Udeze and James can’t get to the
QB regularly, Edwards will get a chance sooner than later.
Dawan Landry (S, Ravens)
After failing to install the 46 defense last year, the Ravens
appear likely to still pursue a hybrid base scheme along the lines
of a 4-4-3 to hide their weakness at SS. Unless they convert a
corner, Ed Reed is currently the only thing resembling talent
at S on the roster, so Landry could get a change to start as a
Marcus Maxey (CB, Chiefs)
Could end up being a steal for a team that ignored their weakness
at corner on Day One and so far in free agency. Opportunity is
there, but Maxey is raw and at least a year away from having the
mental and Limited starting experience, just last season after
beating out Devin Hester at the U. However, he brings great size
and decent speed, physically he is ideal. A player whose development
is still in progress and could be a big surprise in the future.
Devin Hester (CB, Bears)
Only if your league counts return stats, where he could be an
instant top performer. HC Lovie Smith says he will start as a
CB and just learn that position, where he should be buried on
the depth chart for the foreseeable future. Eventually he could
get some work on offense, which would make him a more intriguing.
Claude Wroten (DT, Rams)
Graded as a first round talent, a January drug arrest (possession
of marijuana, later dropped) and reports of a failed drug test
(accuracy unknown, the NFL does not publicize the status of a
player in their substance abuse program) dropped him to the third
round. He brings potential as a pass rusher, a rare commodity
for a DT, which makes him appealing. DC Jim Haslett will have
a short leash on Jimmy Kennedy, the chronic disappointment he
inherited, while FA La’Roi Glover is nearing the end of
his great career. Potential is there to be the next Warren Sapp,
if he keeps his nose clean.
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 long term outlooks.
Parys Haralson (OLB, 49ers)
Undersized college DE will get a shot playing standing up in San
Francisco’s 3-4. He has some appeal because, thanks to all
the holes in the 49er defense, he could start immediately, but
he doesn’t have the speed or athleticism to be very promising
as an every down player.
A.J. Nicholson (LB, Bengals)
Serious character issues and behind one of the brightest young
MLB’s in the league. Pass.
Jon Alston (OLB, Rams)
Off the Day One radar until becoming a workout wonder at the Combine,
he is more of an athlete than football player. Undersized with
elite speed, he could be better off following the path of the
recently departed Adam Archuleta. The competition ahead of him
for WLB is unimpressive (again Dexter Coakley, who could be a
cap casualty, and Brandon Chillar, who failed to hold a starting
role last season), but I don’t see him as more of a special
teams ace and part-time player.
Jason Hatcher (DE, Cowboys)
Considered a reach when he went on Day One, the Grambling State
product has reportedly impressed in rookie camp and OTAs. He has
the size for a 3-4 end and the flexibility to see some time at
DT when the Cowboys show a different front. His fantasy value
is limited even if he lives up to the promise he has shown early.
Frostee Rucker (DE, Bengals)
Former first round pick Justin Smith has never established himself
as a premier pass rusher and Robert Geathers was unimpressive
in his debut as a starter last year. Both are free agents after
2006 and Rucker should see work as a situational pass rusher this
year. In other words, he enters an ideal situation. Unfortunately,
that is where his appeal ends. He lacks ideal size to be an every
down end and doesn’t have the quickness or speed to compensate.
He also brings some character questions that make this even more
of a baffling pick for Marvin Lewis.
Stephen Tulloch (LB, Titans)
An excellent collegiate performer, he benefited tremendously playing
behind three future first round picks at NC State. At the next
level, he is a slow and undersized prospect who has short term
opportunity, but won’t have staying power. Even if he wins
the starting MLB job, the Titans run a lot of nickel and Keith
Bullucks is traditionally the only LB in on almost every package.
Freddie Keiaho (LB, Colts)
Another undersized defender joins a non-descript group of ‘backers
in Indianapolis. He doesn’t have the speed to compensate
for his lack of size and bulk, so he appears more likely to be
a third round special teams player than a future starter.
Anthony Schlegel (ILB, Jets)
Lack of quickness and speed limits his range, making his upside
a two-down run-stopper. As a MIKE in a 4-3 you can do that and
still produce fantasy-wise, but it is more rare in a 3-4. Unless
the Jets change their base scheme or until he moves to another
team, I’m bearish on his outlook.
Tim Jennings (CB, Colts)
I’d include him as overvalued, being a second round pick,
but I correctly don’t see teams paying any attention to
him in rookie drafts. Extremely undersized, it is hard to see
how his speed and skills can compensate at this level as anything
other than a nickel back. Another questionable project for a Colts
defense taken by president Bill Polian instead of finding a more
proven and safer option.
John McCargo (DT, Bills)
Productive collegiate player helped at NC State by the attention
paid to fellow first round picks Manny Lawson and Mario Williams.
Has not shown, and doesn’t have the quickness, to project
as being much of a pass rush threat, so not much reason to think
he’ll be a productive fantasy player.
Guys with no draft value right now, but with the chance to surprise
down the road.
Leon Williams (LB, Browns)
One of the more impressive physical packages at LB in the draft,
but he hasn’t shown the football intelligence or dedication
to be promising. Having started only six games in his collegiate
career at Miami, he is very raw. Likely to be primarily a special
teams player and reserve LB.
Omar Gaither (LB, Eagles)
Received notice when he replaced an injury-prone Kevin Simon (see
below) and excelled at Tennessee. Measurables are a concern across
the board, but he is a smart player with a non-stop motor. Philadelphia
has a track record of success in developing defenders regardless
of where a player was drafted (or if they were at all), so he
is worth keeping an eye on. They appear to be moving him to MIKE
where depth is thinnest and Jeremiah Trotter was seen as dispensable
by the team last time he wanted too much money.
Stanley McClover (DE, Panthers)
Another bad decision to leave early, McClover is an undersized
end with potential as a pass rush specialist who could have gone
earlier than the seventh round if he stayed in school. He will
battle former high school teammate Jovan Haye for the fourth DE
spot. He has already impressed in OTAs with his quickness and
Derrick Martin (CB, Ravens)
Surprisingly declared early after his level of play slipped in
2005 from the previous season. A potential top prospect if he
waited another year, the Ravens stopped his freefall late Day
Two. An outstanding cover corner, he’ll need to bulk up
and be more physical to contribute sufficiently in run support,
but he has future potential on a team thin in the secondary.
Demetrice (Dee) Webb (CB, Jaguars)
Possesses top physical skills and speed, but plummeted in a top-heavy
CB class. A recent legal incident and being a bit short hurt the
value of this underclassman who unwisely declared early. He is
a project who will now have to develop in practice instead of
another year of college, but the talent is there if he puts in
the work and stays out of trouble.
Jamar Williams (LB, Bears)
Undersized and not considered a top prospect, but a productive
long term starter in college. Same background that produced success
for GM Jerry Angelo with defensive players like Lance Briggs.
The tenuous situation with an extension for Briggs and the lack
of an impressive player at SAM make the situation Williams is
in very appealing. Probably not a long term solution as a starter,
but could see opportunity sooner rather than later and be a surprise
source of fantasy production for part of a year.
Jeremy Mincey (OLB/DE, Patriots)
A tweener whose stock value plummeted with disappointing Combine
workouts, but he allegedly looked much better in an individual
workout for the Patriots. Despite having just 3.5 sacks, he will
be looked at as a pass rush specialist at an OLB position where
the depth is full of rookies or players with no starting experience.
Gabe Watson (DT, Cardinals)
Potential to be a disruptive force, his inconsistency and questions
about his commitment led to a fall on draft day. He looked completely
dominant at times against elite competition at the Senior Bowl,
but on film occasionally disappeared in games. Boom or bust player
with upside to be the next Shaun Rogers, downside to be out of
the league in a few years.
Tim Dobbins (ILB, Chargers)
A deep sleeper to definitely keep track of. More of an athlete
than football player at this time, he was a JUCO transfer who
still needs a lot of development, as he got by on physical skills
at Iowa State. In addition to being an impressive specimen, he
is a big hitter and hard worker. Even if the instincts aren’t
there, he could put up some tackles as a two-down player in a
3-4. Rumors of Donnie Edwards possibly departure and an aging
Randall Godfrey could create opportunity as early as 2007.
Kevin Simon (LB, Redskins)
Tremendous football player with great instincts for the position,
but undersized, slow, and has had major durability issues. Could
surprise if he ever gets a chance and is healthy at the same time.
Dusty Dvoracek (DT, Bears)
Character issues dropped him, but this is a guy who can be a disruptive
force. The attacking scheme and complimentary talent in the Bears
front four offer fantasy potential for interior lineman that is
Rodrique Wright (DT, Dolphins)
After looking like an potential elite prospect early in his career,
questions about his dedication and durability, including a torn
rotator cuff that could cost him this season, led to him plummeting
in the draft. Still, the talent is there and for leagues that
segregate DL, a name to remember in a year or two.
Tim McGarigle (MLB, Rams)
All-time NCAA leading tackler has more instincts and determination
than physical talent. Still, a grinder who could catch the eye
of blue collar DC Jim Haslett.
Top Undrafted Free
Keep an eye on teams like the Colts, Eagles, Ravens, Steelers,
and Cowboys who are good at finding and using low/no round guys.
For individuals, Kai Parham was highly regarded until poor workouts.
Charles Gordon is versatile and an excellent collegiate returner,
but undersized and slow for the next level. Freddie Roach is physically
limited to being a two-down player, but he can stuff the middle.
Mike Kudla drew attention with 45 reps on the bench at the Combine,
but is undersized for DE and slow for OLB. Anwar Phillips had
been considered a comparable pro prospect to former teammate Alan
Zemaitis (TB fourth round pick), but his timed speed was slow.
Dion Byrum is raw, but has speed and upside. Eric Henderson has
shown flashes of being a force, but is short for the position
and has been injury-prone.
DE: Eric Henderson, Bengals;
Mike Kudla, Steelers; Devan Long, Panthers; Ryan Neill, Bills;
Charlton Keith, Browns; Copeland Bryan, Titans
DT: T.J. Jackson, Falcons;
Tony McDaniel, Jaguars
LB: Freddie Roach, Patriots;
Dale Robinson, Colts; Sam McGrew, Dolphins; Corey Mays, Patriots;
Spencer Havner, Redskins; Brian Iwuh, Jaguars; Travis Williams,
Falcons; Kai Parham, Cowboys; Nick Reid, Chiefs; Pierre Woods
(DE), Patriots; Robert Iwuchukwu, Saints; Brandon Guillory (DE),
Chiefs; Cameron Vaughn, Broncos
S: Jahmile Addae, Buccaneers;
Donnie McCleskey, Bears; Dwayne Slay, Bears; Greg Threat, Falcons;
Darrell Brooks, unsigned
CB: Charles Gordon, Vikings;
Anwar Phillips, Saints; Dion Byrum, Bears; Darrell Hunter, Cardinals;
Chijioke Onyenegecha, Redskins