ARI | ATL
| BAL | BUF | CAR
| CHI | CIN | CLE
| DAL | DEN | DET
So it’s time for the annual ritual of critiquing
the work of a few hundred professional football scouts and personnel
staff. I’d ask if you’ve had enough of this circle-jerk
of over-analysis otherwise known as NFL Draft Coverage, but of
course you haven’t—otherwise you wouldn’t be
reading this feature. The best time to analyze a draft is 3-5
years from now, but the fun about fantasy football is trying to
predict the future. So instead of trying to give a grade like
everyone else (especially when everyone uses the let’s wait
3-5 year caveat and then give no one under a C-, or over a B+),
I’ll give you my take on the team’s impact player,
project, sleeper, and my two cents on their overall draft.
I view myself more as an observer/analyst of football talent rather
than some sort of expert on the machinations of draft day, so
don’t expect me to do too much second-guessing of trading
picks or how teams understood the draft board. I’ll leave
that to talking heads that get 95% of their sound bites on players
from behind the scenes people but still feel their qualified to
discuss which players have better value.
Nevertheless, here is a quick team-by-team summary of a few players
that your team selected in the draft or signed as undrafted free
agents. For the most extensive analysis of the skill players your
team selected, or players you’re considering for your dynasty
drafts, buy The 2007 Rookie
Scouting Portfolio. I’ll also profile the offensive
skill position rookies in greater detail in my annual rookie impact
series beginning in June.
Best Drafts: Buffalo, Arizona,
Impact Player: OT Levi Brown,
I love this pick and it tells me that new coach Ken Whisenhunt
doesn’t over analyze his draft board or position. Edgerrin James
has at least three decent years left, barring injury and to say
the Cardinals lead back is getting old oversimplifies everything
that is wrong with Arizona’s running game. James came from a great
offensive unit to a struggling franchise. It doesn’t matter who
the Cardinals put in the backfield, he wasn’t going to produce
at a pro bowl level. Arizona got the best player not named Joe
Thomas to protect Matt Leinart and open holes for James on the
edge of the defense. Brown is a terrific fit for a coaching staff
that will emphasize a harder-nosed approach to gaining yardage
on the ground. Although draftniks like to get cute with where
it would have been best to take Brown sometimes you just have
to wonder whether you’d rather have Brown or wind up with a player
you didn’t really want and another draft pick—that’s the risk.
The Cardinals see Brown as that decade-long fixture on their offensive
line. Considering half of these first round picks don’t turn out
like the analysts project, I think it was a great choice. Look
for Arizona to plug Brown into the offense and upgrade the line
play immediately. Owners of Cardinal skill players will be thanking
Brown by season’s end.
Project: WR Steve
Breaston is small, but he’s a tough football player who is fearless
on kick returns. He’ll be projected to boost Arizona’s special
team production and I think he’ll at least be serviceable right
away in that role. Does he have a shot at the slot position? With
Bryant Johnson manning the number three spot on a stacked receiving
corps, not this year. But Breaston has the type of skills to make
it as a pass catcher in the slot at this level. He’s not as much
of a multi-purpose threat as Antwaan Randle El, but one can see
parallels between the two and how the new coaching staff will
hope to use him one day.
Sleeper: LB Buster
Davis, Florida State
Davis is the type of player one could see the Steelers drafting.
In fact, it looks like Arizona beat them to the punch 8 picks
earlier, which might explain why Pittsburgh selected a TE like
Matt Spaeth on the first day. I personally think this is an extremely
weak draft class for the tight end position, but back to Davis.
This guy is your classic overachiever in your Sam Mills-Zach Thomas
mold: “too small,” and “not fast enough” but understands angles,
reads plays very well, and is always making the play. The Cardinals
got themselves a good player and he’s a rookie sleeper for IDP
leagues. I’ll be happy to get him if I can’t get my hands on San
Francisco’s Patrick Willis.
Notable Free Agents: FB Tim
Castille is a hard-nosed football player that does the little
things well. He will probably make the team as a special teams
ace and could eventually work his way into the offense as a fullback
in a year or two, but it’s not likely.
Impact Player: DE Jamaal
The Falcons lost Patrick Kearny to free agency and Rod Coleman
to injury, leaving them in serious trouble on the defensive line.
This was recently a respectable pass rushing team. Anderson will
eventually have an impact, but with the loss of these two players,
he goes from being a player that would see decent match ups to
more of a marked man from the beginning. Look for Anderson to
become a productive player, but he could struggle out of the gate.
He’s a heck of an athlete that could have a Jason Taylor-like
impact in this league one day.
Project: WR Laurent
Robinson, Miami (OH) and FB Jason
New coaching staff, same drafting tendency (Rich McKay)—selecting
wide receivers not ready to make an NFL impact. Michael Vick needed
a receiver like Steve Smith, Jason Hill, or Dwayne Bowe—a physical
football player that can accomplish what both Vick’s current starters
can only do separately—get deep and catch the ball over the middle.
Robinson has skills, but he’s raw and lacks something that I think
is inherent in any good football player, the ability to take and
Snelling on the other hand, is a true football player. He is strictly
a straight-line runner, but he can catch the football, run with
power, and isn’t a bad blocker. He could develop into a valuable
fullback for Petrino’s offense. He’s not the second coming of
Rueben Droughns, but he does have some mildly surprising skills
with the ball in his hands.
Sleeper: CB Chris
Houston is a savvy college defensive back with the one-on-one
skills that could potentially make him a solid, if not spectacular,
NFL cover corner. This is an excellent pick for a defense that
needs to retool its secondary. Houston and 2nd year corner, Jimmy
Williams could develop into a respectable tandem.
Notable Free Agents: RB Justin
Vincent, LSU and WR Vincent Marshall, Houston. I liked what I
saw out of both players and I believe they have a chance of making
this squad. If you put the 5-8, 175-lb, Vincent Marshall in the
body of Laurent Robinson, you might have a rookie of the year
candidate. Marshall is that skilled of a receiver—he was 2nd round
pick, Kevin Kolb’s main man at Houston—but he should make his
mark as a return specialist right away. I believe he could become
a valued slot receiver in the Falcon’s offense. Don’t be surprised
if he makes the squad and finds his way onto the field quicker
than expected for a free agent acquisition.
Vincent is a bull of a runner that lost a significant amount of
speed after two knee surgeries in his college career. He still
has a decent burst, but his durability and loss of downfield speed
bottomed out his draft stock. I think the LSU back is one of those
players you hope to lump into the Jamal Lewis-Willis McGahee-Frank
Gore category of excellent back that needs more time to regain
his physical skills after injury. If so, the Falcons stole a back
that at least could become an excellent complement to Jerious
Norwood. I actually think I’d rather have Vincent than Penn State’s
Impact Player: G Ben Grubbs,
Willis McGahee and Steve McNair will be happy with this selection.
Grubbs will help solidify the Ravens line and if Baltimore can
give McNair more time in the pocket, this offense has the skill
players to score 20 points a game without a problem. It’s picks
like these that can (Grubbs or even Levi Brown in Arizona) that
can turn a pedestrian offense into a balance, high-powered attack.
Project: WR Yamon Figures,
I hate these kinds of picks: fast receivers that can’t catch.
You can go to every college tryout camp and find big, fast players
that can’t catch. Why draft one in round two? Yes, I know his
speed is extraordinary, but when you can adequately cover a receiver
by yelling just before the ball comes near his hands (yes, I’m
exaggerating—sort of), it doesn’t matter how far behind the defense
he gets. If this kid can catch punts and kick offs, he might earn
his draft status. This just seems like a luxury pick when if I
were Baltimore I’d want more RB or OL depth.
Troy Smith, Ohio State
I honestly can’t believe I’m calling the Heisman Trophy winner
a sleeper. Smith is a much better player than his reputation.
In my opinion, Brady Quinn deserved to drop but Troy Smith is
the guy that really got the raw deal. Smith has a great arm, sees
the field well and throws the ball with better accuracy in the
big game than Quinn. Everyone keeps talking about the Florida
game, but Smith looked good against Michigan and Texas—both times
and stomped Notre Dame in a bowl game.
Height and character concerns dropped Smith, but Quinn was the
“media golden boy” of this draft anyhow. They’re already trying
to mythologize Quinn’s drat day story. Honestly, I think it’s
ridiculous. Smith will get a chance to learn behind Steve McNair
and just like Drew Brees—a player many said was too small and
lacked the arm strength to be a good starter—the Ohio State starter
has the skills to be a good NFL starting quarterback. I’ll gladly
take this kid in my rookie drafts in the mid rounds if I miss
out on my first 3-4 choices at QB. Call me crazy, but I raved
about Brees, too…
Notable Free Agents: Other than the fact Ozzie Newsome signed
his former Browns teammate’s son, Gregg Pruitt. If Pruitt
has anything remotely resembling his dad’s skill set, he
Impact Player: RB Marshawn
Adrian Peterson may be the best talent at RB, but Lynch is the
best all around player at the position in this class. Does this
surprise you? It surprised me when I evaluated the two players,
but I stand behind it. Lynch is a much more disciplined runner
with a better ball control and receiving techniques, but he’s
a tough as nails football player that produced against good defenses
despite playing with an assortment of under-publicized injuries.
The Packers were projected to get this back and I have to tell
you they really missed out on a player that could have made Green
Bay a playoff quality offense from week one. This is one of the
best offensive players in the draft that no one really talks about
in these terms—but they will by the end of 2007.
Project: FB/TE Derek
Schouman, Boise State
Schouman has that Frank Wycheck-Chris Cooley quality to his game.
He’s a player that I think veteran coaches like Marv Levy and
Joe Gibbs just understand how to spot. Fantasy owners should pay
attention to Schouman if he winds up at the H-Back or TE position
where his impact could be beneficial to your team.
Sleeper: QB Trent
Before other draft analysis sites changed up their rankings to
reflect the last-minute info they mimicked from draft insiders,
I had Trent Edwards as my 2nd-ranked rookie QB prospect. The Stanford
QB has arm strength, accuracy, and pocket presence but the fact
he demonstrated these skills on an offense that did a horrible
job protecting him is even more impressive. As I mentioned in
Draft Guys Podcast, Edwards took more punishment while maintaining
the poise to make plays than any quarterback I have seen on film.
The 2007 Rookie Scouting Portfolio
has a complete breakdown of Edwards’ game for more details.
I firmly believe Edwards will become an NFL starter. Although
Dick Jauron said Losman was Buffalo’s unquestioned starting
QB, the fact he had to utter this phrase every time he talked
about Edwards at the press conference already sets the tone that
Buffalo got an excellent prospect. Losman had a nice 3rd year,
but he hasn’t set the world on fire just yet. If he regresses
in the next year or two, Edwards will be hot on his heels. In
fact, I think this is a subtle bit of pressure for Losman to keep
working hard. If your dynasty team is mainly looking at luxury
picks in a rookie draft, Edwards is the QB you need to take.
Notable Free Agents: CB Reggie Lewis, Florida. He’s a raw
prospect at corner that could develop if he shows anything in
Impact Player: WR Dwayne
If you’re going to cut a 70-reception receiver in Keyshawn Johnson
to make room for Jarrett, then you can already see the rookie
has made an impact. Whether or not this move is positive or negative
remains to be seen. Honestly, I’d rather have Keyshawn right now
than the untested bunch of players opposite superstar Steve Smith
but I think Jarrett has the skills to grow into the possession
receiver role with time. Personally, I think Jarrett is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get
player: big, good hands, and can out-muscle secondary coverage.
He should develop into good redzone receiver. With Johnson sent
packing the urgency will be greater to show his stuff this year…
Project: LB Tim
Shaw, Penn State
He flashes talents, but needs more seasoning and hasn’t stuck
at just one position during his college career. Carolina has a
good eye for linebacker talent under John Fox. You won’t be adding
him to your IDP roster, but keep an eye on this kid if you hear
Sleeper: DE Charles
Heading into the 2007 NCAA season, Quentin Moses was the UGA defensive
end of choice but the real deal was Johnson. As Quentin Moses’
stock dropped from a top 10 pick, Johnson’s steadily rose. Both
were picked in the same round, but I think Carolina got the better
player in terms of effort. I wouldn’t be surprised if Johnson
sees the field early. If paired opposite of Julius Peppers, Johnson
could at least become a steady player.
Impact Player: TE Greg Olson,
There are only 3-4 tight ends in this class that I feel even have
a chance to make a team, and two with the skills to contribute
as fantasy starter. Olson is the best of this group and the Bears
made an excellent decision to grab this under-utilized Hurricane
receiver. Olson has good speed and excellent hands. His physical
talents aren’t on par with Kellen Winslow II, but he does possess
skills similar to Dallas Clark. If Clark where in a different
offense, he could easily be a top five fantasy TE. I think Olson
arrives in a situation where he could get that chance. I’d draft
Olson late in a regular fantasy draft with a deep roster as my
#2 TE and see what happens.
Project: QB Chris Leak, Florida
The undrafted free agent has excellent skills as a short to intermediate
range passer. He throws one of the prettiest balls you’ve seen
in the last four seasons of college football and he possesses
adequate mobility. Leak is a system quarterback—a player that
could be the right match for team’s offensive system and play
a productive role as its starter at some point. Leak lost a lot
momentum with his draft stock when Urban Meyer took over as head
coach and installed an offense not conducive to Leak’s strengths
as a pro system passer. I’m not optimistic Leak will have a career
as a starter, but he’s capable of developing into a pro that puts
together a season or two on the level of Jeff Blake in his heyday
as the Bengals starter in the 90’s.
Sleeper: RB Garrett
Wolfe, Northern Illinois
Pound-for-pound he is the best runner in this draft (you’re going
to hear me say this a lot this summer), but he may not have enough
of the poundage to be an NFL impact player. Still, I’m going to
enjoy watching Wolfe try. I saw two runners during my film study
for the 2006 Rookie Scouting Portfolio that might have the skills
to be a Warrick Dunn-type of runner. One was Maurice Jones Drew,
who made an excellent case for rookie of the year and the other
was Wolfe. The fact Chicago drafted him in the third round and
already envisions him as their potential #2 RB states volumes.
I’m not as optimistic, but you can bet I’ll take a chance on this
guy in the mid-rounds of a dynasty draft while other owners are
picking linebackers and safeties I can grab off the waiver wire
Notable Free Agents: WR David
Ball. This receiver has sick hands and excellent leaping ability.
He’s a player similar to practice squad acquisition Mike Hass,
a receiver I was very high on last year but got overshadowed by
Marques Colston in New Orleans. I still believe Hass will become
a solid NFL receiver in a year or two. I have limited exposure
to Ball’s game, but I liked what I saw. I wouldn’t draft Ball,
but I’d keep tabs on the guy and at least be familiar with his
Impact Player: RB Kenny
Chris Perry was supposed to be the future to Rudi Johnson, but
injuries have sidetracked the Michigan alum’s career. There’s
still a chance Perry could have an impact, but the Bengals brass
clearly selected Irons as the depth they lacked every time Perry
went down. What Cincinnati gets is a quick, tough runner, with
a very good burst. He’s not big, but much like Cadillac Williams,
he showed he could carry the load against big, athletic and hard-hitting
defenses in the SEC. If Rudi Johnson gets hurt, Irons is capable
of becoming a steady producer. He’s not as dynamic as Clinton
Portis, but he reminds me a bit of the Redskins’ star and I think
he’ll see the field as a rookie as a change of pace option.
Project: S Nedu
Ndukwe, Notre Dame
Marvin Lewis knows his defensive players, especially in the secondary.
I think Nduwe has the athleticism and football mentality (he’s
a hitter) to become a decent defensive back with good coaching.
He should catch on as a special teams guy.
Sleeper: QB Jeff
Rowe showed me some really good tools during his bowl game versus
a highly regarded, University of Miami defense (remember it was
the offense that was the problem with this storied program): mobility,
accuracy, arm strength, and pocket presence. The Bengals need
a quality back up to Carson Palmer and Rowe has the talent and
skills to develop into a starter somewhere. This is an excellent
pick and I think he’s a player worth remembering 4-5 years from
now, ala Matt Schaub.
Notable Free Agents: TE Daniel Coats, BYU. He’s a former
receiver that is a good blocker and effort player. He lacks the
top-shelf physical skills to be strongly considered as a prospect,
but guys like this surprise with enough frequency to at least
Impact Player: OT Joe Thomas,
This may have been the best pick in the first round for any team.
When a guy is compared to Tony Boselli as the most NFL-ready left
tackle to come into the league in over a decade, the argument
is over. Cleveland has the skill player base to be pretty good
on offense. What they need is a good offensive line. This was
a definite start. Brady Quinn will be the marquee impact player,
but he’s not going to make or break the Browns season as much
Project: QB Brady
Quinn, Notre Dame
Sorry Browns’ fans, but I know you guys. I grew up in your town
and was one myself. I know you get too excited about hometown
guys, especially big-name college players that make it known they
want to play for your team. You’re going to have to calm down
a bit. Charlie Weiss’ comments notwithstanding, I think Quinn
will need a lot of seasoning to play to the level of expectation
heaped upon him. Yes, he’s big, strong, and athletic. Yes, he
has the requisite arm and played under an NFL coach in an NFL
system. Yes, he’s played on the big stage. But no, he hasn’t made
the kind of plays that one would link to a clutch QB.
Sorry, but I was more impressed with the players he threw the
ball to and made things happen—Jeff Samardzija for instance—than
the actual quality of his passes. I think he’ll turn into
a solid player, but not one worth getting back into the first
round to take. Especially when I like Edwards, Beck, and Smith
more. Quinn’s accuracy and decision-making is a bit more
suspect that many lead you to believe.
Sleeper: CB Eric
Wright, Fresno State
One of the toughest positions to evaluate is corner. Wright has
great raw skills and shows talent for the position in terms of
technique. He just had enough lapses against big-name competition
to receive the inconsistent tag. Plus he has a sketchy background
that took him from USC to Fresno State early in his career. If
Wright’s head is on straight and he works, he could be a shutdown
corner in a few years.
Notable Free Agents: RB Tyrone Moss, Miami. In terms of running
skill, he’s better than Pittman, Hunt, or possibly Dwayne
Wright but an ACL injury cost him a lot of his speed and burst.
If he regains enough of this quickness by summer, he could make
the roster and develop into a player I would love to have as depth
on my fantasy roster. It may never happen, but pay attention to
his progress in camp.
Impact Player: DE Anthony
Spencer is a workout warrior projected to be the bookend opposite
DeMarcus Ware. The rookie from Purdue will have a strong chance
of earning his fair share of sacks if he cracks the starting lineup.
Make it a point to consider Spencer in the mid-rounds of your
Project: QB/WR Isaiah
Stanback is a physical talent that needs a lot of work to become
an NFL passer. It’s quite possible he can make it happen, but
his development as a QB remains at its earlier stages. This is
a luxury pick for the Cowboys and not a player fantasy owners
will likely need to consider for at least a couple of years.
Sleeper: QB Matt Moore, Oregon
I believe Moore is a better prospect at QB than Stanback. In fact,
I think Moore has the ability to be a starter in the NFL. I was
most impressed with Moore’s pocket presence, which to me has the
important to his position equivalent to a running back’s vision.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Moore becomes the #3 QB in Dallas and
ascends to a backup role in 2-3 years. I would stash Moore away
on a deep dynasty roster or at least keep close tabs on his progress.
I was surprised Moore wasn’t selected over the 4-5 small school
prospects that went in the late rounds.
Notable Free Agents: RB Jackie Battle, Houston. Battle has size
and speed. He could possibly be a ‘tweener at the RB position.
WR Jerard Rabb, Boise State. He could develop into a solid possession
Impact Player: DE Jarvis
It was a small crop of draft picks for the Broncos, but Moss could
become an impact player within a couple of years. He has a very
quick first step and flashed dominant, playmaking ability as a
pass rusher. The Broncos have a good enough defense that Moss
could become a situational edge rusher to begin the season.
Project: DE Tim
Crowder is an all-around decent college player that should make
the team, but he lacks the elite skills to be more than a player
rotating on the defensive line.
Sleeper: RB Selvyn Young, Texas
Young possesses good vision, quickness, and receiving skills.
Despite an injury history and fumbling problems, I thought Young
would get drafted at the very least on the second day. He was
a good enough back to split time with phenom Jamal Charles—a back
that I believe will become a first day pick within a couple of
years. Young faces a depth chart that includes Travis Henry and
Mike Bell but remember Bell was also in Young’s position last
year. Additionally, Denver cut Cedric Cobbs last week while signing
Young to a free agent contract. Cobbs was actually a viable candidate
in the Broncos’ three-way race for the starting job in 2006.
Impact Player: WR Calvin
Johnson, Georgia Tech
Is this a no-brainer—Johnson is the most talented player in this
draft. He plays in an offense suited to his talents and he’s starring
opposite a player with pro bowl ability in Roy Williams. He’s
the odds-on favorite for rookie of the year if he stays healthy
because he blocks with tenacity, has the power to break tackles
after the catch, and the acrobatic ability and hands to make catches
few receivers in the pros can even make as consistently as he.
Project: QB Drew
Stanton, Michigan State
Physically, Stanton has all the tools to be a top-flight signal
caller. But he’s a reckless player that takes too many hits when
he breaks the pocket and displays impatience both in the pocket
and with his progressions. Stanton will need a lot of work and
structure to capitalize on his potential. If he passes the Mike
Martz development program, look out. But it could be 2-3 year
Sleeper: DE Alama-Franis Ikaika,
A raw prospect, but his athleticism coupled with Rod Marinelli
should translate into a fast-developing player. Detroit has an
improving defense and Ikaika’s strength and speed off the edge
could reap dividends for fantasy owners by 2008.
Notable Free Agents: QB Phil
Horvath, Northern Illinois. Horvath has the pocket presence and
arm strength to develop into a back up.