OAK | PHI
| PIT | SD | SEA
| SF | STL | TB
| TEN | WAS
Impact Player: QB JaMarcus
The first overall pick in the draft will likely start for the
Raiders from day one, but don’t expect Vince Young moments from
Russell. His talents are completely different than the Tennessee
quarterback. The LSU signal caller uses his legs sporadically
and his scrambling is more akin to the more recent, heavier version
of Culpepper. While Young had the propensity to break the pocket,
Russell is famous for standing in the pocket with 1-2 players
hanging on as the QB attempts to complete a pass. While this resulted
in big plays at LSU, the Raider’s new quarterback is going to
be in for a rough year if he thinks he can pull this trick off
on a regular basis in the pros. My money is on Russell believing
he can try this in an NFL pocket after maybe one successful result
in a game.
Russell has tons of strengths, but his footwork on drops and
delivery is really bad. He needs a coach dedicated to this area
of his development, because Russell’s accuracy from a traditional
drop is too inconsistent for any quarterback. When a quarterback
throws more accurately on the run, you know he needs work on fundamentals.
Although I saw him make high quality, NFL throws on film, he played
in an offense that emphasized the type of routes that allowed
his receivers to gain yardage after the catch. The most successful
route in this offense was the smash screen to WR Dwayne Bowe and
trust me it was Bowe that made this play so great—not Russell.
Despite these criticisms, Russell is a great competitor and his
arm is a legend come to life. He will become a very good quarterback
if he can survive his first few years in Oakland.
Project: DE Quinton Moses, Georgia
Moses seemed like a possible top 10 pick after promising 2005,
but this exceptional athlete was outperformed by his bookend teammate
Charles Johnson. If opposing offenses were consistently double-teaming
Moses, his stock wouldn’t have dropped so much but it was a simple
matter of Moses disappearing for stretches throughout the season.
This is a player that should become a good pass rusher in short
order, but he “should” have been a dominant pass rusher in the
NCAA in 2006. Give Moses a season, if he shows signs of promise
hang onto him. If he doesn’t, I suggest you adopt a very skeptical
perspective on this player that has underachieved at a really
Sleeper: WR Johnnie Lee Higgins,
Higgins was one of the players I most enjoyed studying on film.
That alone doesn’t make him a stud receiver, but he has some really
strong qualities. He has good fundamentals catching the football
and despite his slight build, he isn’t strictly a vertical threat.
Give or take a round, this is where I believe Ted Ginn would have
been a strong value. I’d rate Higgins just behind Ginn in the
special teams arena, but I think he is a bit better receiver.
Ginn is a better runner after the catch, but Higgins has the acceleration
to make the big play. The Raiders have Porter, Curry, Mike Williams,
and Doug Gabriel competing for a spot on the depth chart, but
I believe Higgins will stick with his return skills. If he fulfills
his potential as a receiver, I view him as a James Jett-like player
that can catch the football—or a poor man’s Isaac Bruce.
Notable Free Agents: LB Kyle Shotwell, Cal Poly. He’s undersized
to play ILB in the NFL, but has decent speed. It’s not out
of the question for him to be given a try at safety or outside
linebacker. He’s a good football player that understands
the nature of the game.
Impact Player: QB Kevin Kolb, Houston
Controversy aside as to the fact that Philly selected a QB in
the second round there is also disagreement on the value of Kevin
Kolb as such a high pick, altogether. I’m in the camp that
Kolb has the skills to develop into an NFL starter. When I saw
him as a junior, I saw a slightly overweight and plodding pocket
passer. He had a good arm but my initial impression was Kolb was
likely a system QB that would struggle once away from a wide-open
offense and had to cope with the speed of the NFL.
Then I saw Kolb this year and that opinion quickly changed. The
University of Houston QB lost weight and was actually very quick
and mobile in the pocket. He threw with velocity and accuracy
when forced off balance and he demonstrated an ability to improvise
against a fast defense. I developed a greater appreciation for
Kolb’s talents in the pocket and I believe he warranted such a
high pick. There are a few draft analysts that agree with this
assessment (although the opinion on Kolb is generally split).
Kolb isn’t likely to see the field this season, but if McNabb
experiences any setbacks the rookie could be placed in the lineup.
If he performs well enough, is there a chance Philadelphia could
consider sticking with him? I don’t think it’s likely, but I do
believe stranger things have happened in the NFL. More likely,
Kolb will get a more serious look in 2-3 years and his value will
dramatically increase among teams interested in acquiring a potential
starter both in the NFL and fantasy leagues.
Project: RB Nate Iloa, Hawaii
This short but broad tailback began his college career as a slot
receiver for Virginia Tech. Iloa is a powerful runner with a decent
burst of speed and catches the football very well out of the backfield.
But the Hawaii RB/FB prospect has to learn a pro style offense,
refine his blocking, and after all that, might not be fast enough
to warrant serious consideration as a even a depth chart player.
I liked what I saw out of Iloa and I think he could be an interesting
FB in Philly’s offense because of his ball skills. We’ll
see if he makes the team.
Sleeper: RB Tony Hunt, Penn State
I’m not a fan of Hunt, but he does have the size and fundamentals
to make an impact as a situational back. I don’t think he’s the
yards after contact runner many label him. What I saw on film
was a back that didn’t gain much yardage after contact. At best,
he’ll get an opportunity to be the short yardage back for Philly
so the coaching staff can put Brian Westbrook in the slot. This
could make Hunt a viable, bye week back if the Eagles offense
clicks on all cylinders and becomes a team that frequents the
Notable Free Agents: Alabama DT Jeremy Clark has good physical
skills, but either needs better coaching or stronger work ethic.
If it’s the former, he could make the team and be a solid
contributor along the defensive front. If it’s the later,
he’ll be going from camp to camp for a year or two, at best.
Impact Player: OLB Lawrence Timmons, FSU
Timmons is a fast, aggressive OLB that fits the Steeler’s
system. It’s a perfect fit. Plug the guy in and watch him
go if he starts. Pittsburgh is very good at reloading at this
position from year to year.
Project: CB William Gay, Louisville
Gay is a quality football player that understands how to play
his position, but lacks the physical skills to be considered a
surefire prospect. He’s a player that might fit into the
Steeler’s zone blitz defensive scheme. One of the best things
about Gay’s game are his ability to adjust to the ball in
the air and make interceptions and his tackling—not bad
skills for any football player. He just might not have the size,
speed, or athleticism to compete.
Sleeper: WR Dallas Baker, Florida
To be blunt, it sounds like the guy has been a goofball off the
field. Couple this with the fact the big guy isn’t all that fast
and you get a 7th round pick with enough talent to surprise if
he can mature. Pittsburgh could really use a receiver that has
an advantage against corners on fades and redzone passes. I could
see Baker becoming that Ernest Wilford type of player for Roethlisberger.
Notable Free Agents: RB Gary
Russell, Minnesota. I think Russell was one of the better natural
power backs in college football when he was actually on the field.
He gained weight and lost speed due to the fact he wasn’t playing
organized football in 2006. It’s the same thing that plagued Mike
Williams and Maurice Clarett when they had a year away from the
structure of team atmosphere. Clarett’s mind was far from right
to regain the direction his talent could have taken him. Williams
is getting a second chance in Oakland, but it remains to be seen
if he’ll make the most of the opportunity. Russell wasn’t a huge
name prior to losing his eligibility, but he finds himself in
the same situation. Kevan Barlow was just signed as a potential
compliment to Willie Parker. So put Russell behind Davenport,
Barlow, and Verron Haynes in the pecking order, but remember the
first two guys on this list blew their chances to become stars
in this league and Haynes is a bit of an overachiever.
Impact Player: S Eric Weddle, Utah
Finally the Chargers pick a player for their secondary that understands
how to play the game and isn’t some prospect high on athleticism
but lacking in the skills between the ears to develop into a valued
contributor. Weddle will be one of those “in the right place
at the right time” players and I think he’ll excel
in the NFL. If you don’t get Landry, Nelson, or Meriweather
you’ll still be happy with Weddle if you’re draft
rookies for your fantasy squad.
Project: WR Craig Davis, LSU
Sorry, but I don’t get this pick. I like Davis’ speed and ability
after the catch. He’s a pretty good return specialist, too. But
he’s another one of those receivers that does not catch the ball
extremely well with his hands and definitely has issues catching
the ball in traffic. Pencil in Steve Smith or Jason Hill as the
Chargers draft pick and I’m ecstatic—if you haven’t gotten the
hint that you should seriously consider these two receivers over
Meachem, Rice, and Davis then you need to work on your reading
comprehension. I think Davis could become a decent secondary option,
but it’s hard to teach a player to be willing to take a hit and
catch the football.
Sleeper: TE Scott Chandler, Iowa
I considered ILB Brandon Siler as this pick because he was drafted
so late, but Chandler is a very good receiver with nice body control
for a tight end. Siler is a good sleeper pick up, so definitely
consider him, but back to Chandler. I can see San Diego using
two-tight end sets and splitting Gates wide. While I don’t believe
Chandler will ever become a viable, every week fantasy starter
with Gates in San Diego, I think he’s capable of solid production
off your waiver wire.
Notable Free Agents: RB Germaine Race, Pittsburgh State; WR Jarrett
Hicks, Texas Tech; and WR Sonny Shackelford, Washington. The first
two established names for themselves with great productivity at
their respective schools, but both have petty big physical-fundamental
deficiencies in their games that I just don’t believe they’ll
overcome at the pro level. That leaves Shackelford, an intriguing
receiver that made big plays despite working with an exciting
but extremely erratic QB in Isaiah Stanbeck. I like Shackelford’s
sneaky athleticism and ball skills. San Diego’s receivers
are frankly a raw, weak bunch overall and I wouldn’t be
surprised to see the UW receiver at least make the practice squad
with a shot of developing down the line.
Impact Player: CB Josh Wilson, Maryland
Anyone remember Tim Wilson, the Oiler’s fullback that blocked
for Earl Campell. This kid is his son and like his dad, he’s
a very good football player. Wilson isn’t big, but he’s
extremely fast. But unlike these track athletes running scared
in pads, Wilson is a true player. Seattle found themselves a corner
of the future for their squad.
Project: WR Jordan Kent, Oregon
Tall, rangy, and fast, Kent is new to the game. He’s a
“regional” product that the Seahawks hope will learn
the receiver position and use his great athleticism to become
an excellent pro. Personally, I’m skeptical but it never
hurts to remember the name and see if he can do it.
Sleeper: WR Courtney Taylor, Auburn
In contrast to Kent is Taylor. He’s not as fast as the
ideal receiving prospect, but he can catch the football in traffic
and he’s faced some tough defenses in his day. Injury concerns
and that lack of speed dropped his stock, but if you want a second
day bargain in the Jarrett mold, Taylor could be this guy. The
Seahawks aren’t exactly strong at receiver. Engram is solid.
Branch is a slight bit above solid. And Burleson has the skills
to be solid. Add Taylor to that group and he fits right in—maybe
that tells you something about Seattle as a team…
Impact Player: LB Patrick Willis, Ole Miss
Here’s the early favorite for defensive rookie of the year.
Willis has a great nose for the ball, shoots gaps extremely well,
and is excellent in pursuit. I’d put him up there with Jonathan
Vilma when the UM alum initially came to the NFL and played in
the 4-3. Willis should anchor the Niners defense for at least
5-6 years in this free agency-laden era. If he excels, he could
become a lifer in San Fran.
Project: CB Tarrell Brown, Texas
Brown has skills, but was stuck behind some pretty good DBs at
Texas and didn’t have the best environment as a child, to
say the least. I should mention at this point I love the Niners
draft and Brown is a big reason why. Willis and Brown are two
first-round quality players from a skill set standpoint. Brown
may take a little longer to develop, but I think he’ll make
an impact sooner than later.
Sleeper: WR Jason Hill, Washington State
If there were one receiver I would take in this draft other than
Calvin Johnson, Hill is the one. I already profiled Hill extensively
for FFToday readers and I think he’ll be better than Arnaz Battle
by the end of the season. In fact, I think he’ll be better than
Darrell Jackson by the end of 2008. This receiver reminds me of
a more physical Isaac Bruce. He slipped in draft because they
said he underachieved during his senior season. I have a couple
of points to make about this apparent slippage: the kid plays
hurt and WSU didn’t have a tailback with the same skills as Jerome
Harrison and this allowed teams to focus more on Hill. I think
Hill is a first round talent and the fourth, first round talent
the Niners picked in this draft.
Notable Free Agents: QB Luke Getsy, Akron. I really liked Getsy
and labeled him as an underrated project with potential. He’s
already impressed in mini-camp and despite the fact its just mini-camp
it’s a good sign for an un-drafted free agent. Getsy has
excellent pocket presence, good accuracy, and a decent enough
arm to make this squad as the #3 QB. I actually believe Getsy
will be a very good backup in this league that can produce solid
fantasy numbers when in the game. He’s not worth picking
in any draft, but he is a name to remember.
Impact Player: FB/RB Brian Leonard, Rutgers
Steven Jackson isn’t planning on relinquishing the Rams starting
tailback job anytime soon, but Leonard is a football player with
great skills. He will immediately get the opportunity to spell
the Rams starter since Stephen Davis has already said he’s good
for 10 carries a game, at best. Leonard is a terrific receiver
and power runner, with eye-popping agility for his size. There
were few players that scored higher on the 2007 Rookie Scouting
Portfolio’s RB Checklist and I’m convinced Leonard will be used
in some fashion to make an impact. Remember, power runners often
come and go quickly. Jackson is entering his fourth season and
while expected to be a fantasy stud this year, the wheels can
fall off quickly. I’d take Leonard where you can get him in most
rookie drafts—round two or three—and be happy I did…
Project: CB Jonathan Wade, Tennessee
Wade was a track star that is just getting the hang of college
football. He has the physical tools an NFL team seeks from a quality
cornerback, but he needs more coaching and development. If he
acquires the techniques, he could become a valuable player.
Sleeper: DE Adam Carriker, Nebraska
Not a lot of defensive ends make a huge rookie impact, but Carriker
is a smart player that has skills to make his mark early as a
DE or DT. He’s very strong and in his case, strength and
technique should make up for his relative lack of speed.
Notable Free Agents: WR Nate
Morton, Wake Forest; RB Ryan Hubbard, Nevada. I really like these
two players. Morton reminds me of Ed McCaffrey—tall, athletic,
and tough. He catches the football well, too. Name a receiver
after Bruce and Holt on the St. Louis depth chart that you have
confidence in their play? Kevin Curtis, nope he’s gone. Drew Bennett?
Sure, but they still need a #4 WR and Bennett seems to have injury
issues too frequently to feel confident about him. Shaun McDonald?
Please…Morton really has a shot to stick. Ryan Hubbard is a good
receiver out of the backfield and a smooth, agile runner that
has good balance. He’s one of those players that the Rams could
plug into the offense out of desperation and he’ll play well.
I can completely see commentators on Sundays invoking the “where
did he come from” routine if this ever happens. The answer folks
Impact Player: G Aaron Sears, Tennessee
Sears is an excellent guard and the Bucs need a lot of help on
their line. If he and the rest of the new additions to his line
in the past two years gel, look for Cadillac, Clayton, and Garcia/Simms/Gradkowski
to excel. I think it’s going to happen. I see Tampa taking
a step forward and Atlanta and possibly Carolina take a step back
Project: OLB Quincy Black, New Mexico
I think the Bucs hope they picked a diamond in the rough that
Derrick Brooks could tutor into a becoming a solid replacement.
Black is an explosive athlete that needs a lot of work on technique.
Keep tabs in Black, but don’t pick him unless you begin to hear
someone other than Jon Gruden ranting and raving about the kid.
Sleeper: RB Ken Darby, Alabama
Darby was on the cover or college football previews at this time
last year. Now he’s a back that nearly didn’t get drafted. So
what’s the deal? Injuries, and underachieving Tide offense, and
the death of Darby’s father were all factors. I really like Darby
as a runner. He has a wiggle, good vision, and gains yardage after
contact. He was not nearly as productive as he was as a sophomore
and junior, but I think last year was an aberration if he can
get his mind right on football. I think he will and I think he’ll
make Michael Pittman expendable within the next year. He’s good
enough to team with Cadillac ala Dominic Rhodes to Caddy’s Joseph
Notable Free Agents: QB Zac Taylor, Nebraska. To make it simple,
Taylor has west coast offense experience for Gruden’s former
offensive coordinator. I don’t think he’ll make the
team, but he could wind up on the practice squad.
Impact Player: S Michael
Jeff Fisher was a safety at USC and then for the Bears. I think
the coach knows a good safety when he sees one. If he’s
going to select this guy in the first round, you better believe
he’s going to be expected to see the field early and make
an impact. He may not be as exciting as Landry, Nelson, Meriweather,
or even Weddle but he’ll produce—especially in a division
where they face Indy twice a year—good news for fantasy
Project: WR Chris
Davis can run after the catch and flashes some good skills as
a receiver. He needs work on his routes and he’s not a real big
guy. The problem I have with Tennessee’s penchant for receivers
in the past 10 years is the pick guys that at best could be the
next Derrick Mason or at worst Kevin Dyson. Drew Bennett came
close to breaking that mode, but now he’s in St. Louis. We’ll
see if Davis can aspire to Mason-hood.
Sleeper: WR Paul Williams, Fresno State
Now this is a receiver that might break the mold that Titans
have so often used to pick a pass catcher. Williams is a tall,
speedy receiver with good hands. He’s made some big-time, athletic
plays and has already shown something in post draft, camps. He’s
a quality receiver that didn’t play with very good quarterbacks
at Fresno. I like this kid to be one of the surprise receivers
in this draft. He should have a good opportunity to show it, especially
with David Givens likely out for another year.
Notable Free Agents: RB Danny Ware, Georgia.
I know a person on the UGA staff that works extensively with
the players. He said that from strictly a physical standpoint,
Ware should have been the best back on the Bulldogs team—that
includes Kregg Lumpkin, a player that was rated as high as Reggie
Bush coming out of school, and should have a chance to raise his
draft stock next year—but Ware doesn’t run with patience
or maintain a good pad level. He’s also earned the reputation
as a player that doesn’t make the most of his natural skills
and could work harder. Apparently he went to a training facility
last off-season, but returned in bad shape because he wasn’t
pushed. This will likely be the end of Ware’s pro football
dreams, but he does have the natural talent to prolong the chase.
Impact Player: S LaRon Landry, Washington
This could be one of the safest picks in the draft. He and Sean
Taylor will combine form the most the intimidating secondary in
the NFC. Tackles, sacks, and forced fumbles will be calling cards
for this kid as a fantasy player.
Project: QB Jordan Palmer, UTEP
Carson’s younger brother comes from the strong-armed, lead-footed,
Drew Bledsoe/Dan Fouts line of quarterbacks. But Palmer lacks
the pocket skills of these two fine pros and he’s a pretty raw
player. Coach Gibbs has had some success with developing quarterbacks
on the past, but I think Palmer’s upside is that of a solid back
Sleeper: LB H.B. Blades, Pittsburgh
Blades has nothing you look for at the combine, but everything
you look for in a football player—instincts, hitting, good reads,
and toughness. Think Sam Mills or Zach Thomas and you could be
right with Blades.
Notable Free Agents: QB Sam Hollenbach, Maryland. I think Hollenback
might have as much potential as Palmer and a cheaper price.