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20/20 Hindsight - Post-Draft Impressions

MIA| MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | OAK | PHI | PIT | SD | SEA | SF | STL | TB | TEN | WAS

Nothing like being asked to kick off the 2006 fantasy season by being asked to play the fool. So here are my initial impressions of each team’s draft class before most of the rookies enter the doors of their respective facility. If you want an extensive analysis of most of the skill players your team drafted, or players you’re considering for your dynasty drafts, check out The 2006 Rookie Scouting Portfolio.

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.

  • Best Drafts: Philadelphia, St. Louis, NY Jets, and Cleveland
  • Safest Drafts: Dallas, New England, and Tampa Bay
  • Riskiest Drafts: Tennessee, Denver, and Houston
  • Worst Drafts: Minnesota, Seattle, and San Diego


Impact Player: TE Leonard Pope, Georgia.
Leinart will have the greatest long-term impact—good or bad—on the status of this draft class, but the 6-7 Pope has excellent receiving skills and will have an immediate mark on this team in several ways. First, he has the size and speed to stretch the seam, which only makes it more difficult for opposing defenses to focus solely on Boldin and Fitzgerald. Second, despite the fact he’ll need fine-tuning as a run blocker, his receiving skills will take pressure off the run game, and open some plays for Edgerrin James that Shipp and Arrington didn’t have in 2005. But the greatest impact will be in the red zone, where the Cardinals most dangerous scorer last season was their kicker. Pope’s size is a huge match-up problem, and coupling his presence with the addition of Edgerrin James gives Dennis Green a real run-pass option inside the 20-yard line that they’ve lacked for several years. These two players will be the reason why the Cardinals should score 3-4 touchdowns per game rather than 5-6 field goals.

Project: WR Todd Watkins, BYU.
This kid has a lot of natural talent as a downfield threat that can make some huge plays. First he needs to learn how to approach the game. If he succeeds there, he’ll then have to learn how to beat the jam, run better routes, and consistently make the reception on balls he’s expected to catch. Watkins comes to a team with two excellent role models at the position. If he’s serious about learning, he has a chance to develop into situational player with enough future value to trade, if Arizona still has their dynamic duo.

Sleeper: DT Jon Lewis, VaTech.
Lewis fell because of his height and the fact he had some great games early in his career, but never took the next step to be dominant. Virginia Tech has a good pipeline of defensive players that make a good transition to the NFL. Paired or rotating with Darnell Dockett, the Cardinals should see in upgrade on the line. At the very least, Lewis’ high motor should push more-heralded, Gabe Watson in training camp.

My Two Cents: I don’t think they helped themselves on the offensive line—a guy like Max Jean-Gilles is better value that Lutui. Lewis or Watson are capable of contributing on some level right away, but the Cardinals have a history of pick great athletes on the defensive line that don’t show up every Sunday. I graded Matt Leinart as the 3rd quarterback behind Cutler and Young because I feel he can’t make the last second, high-velocity throws under pressure that are necessary for several NFL routes. Despite this observation, I think Leinart is correct about his assessment that Arizona is the perfect fit for him. Neither the Titans nor Jets have the skill players the Cardinals do. As I have mentioned before, Leinart, more so than Young and Cutler, will need stronger skill players around him to be as effective. He’s teamed with a great runner, two of the best receivers in the game, and an offensive-minded coach. I like this pick, and Leinart should live up to the billing as the QB that will make the quickest transition.


Impact Player: CB Jimmy Williams, Va Tech.
Williams has an equal number of fans and detractors, but I think he has a good chance to succeed with the Falcons where he will be reunited with DeAngelo Hall. They should form a promising, aggressive tandem that will get to make a lot of high-profile plays due to the Faclons strong pass rush. I like this pick, and in a couple of years, we should be hearing about Atlanta having one of the better pass defenses in the NFL.

Project: QB D.J. Shockley, Georgia.
I think this is a good pick. Living in Athens, Georgia, I was more of a David Greene fan, but Shockley proved he has the skills and maturity to develop into an NFL-caliber player. His biggest problem is his footwork to set up and deliver the football. With a few years of NFL coaching, I believe he’ll be ready to at least be an effective #2 QB.

Sleeper: RB Jerrious Norwood, Mississippi State.
He couldn’t have gone to a better place than Atlanta because he is a one-cut, slashing runner that should naturally thrive in the Falcons zone blocking run game. Duckett’s status as the future has come and gone, and Atlanta needs a successor to Warrick Dunn within the next 2-3 years. Norwood has dynamic open-field skills and he’s proven his talent as a runner on a team frequently overmatched in the SEC division. In this respect Norwood is almost comparable to QB Jay Cutler—a quality player on a bad team.

My Two Cents: Williams and Norwood will at least contribute immediately as situational players. Shockley, in my opinion, is an astute selection. Let’s face it, in 2-3 years one of two things will happen with the Falcons quarterback position: Vick will finally become the passer the organization needs him to become, and Matt Schaub becomes expendable as their 1A backup or the Falcons give up on Vick, and go with Schaub before the Virginia product forces his way out of Atlanta in order to get his shot to start elsewhere. Shockley has a first-day arm, first-day athleticism, and first-day character. He just needs time, and more coaching. I think at least 4 out of their 5 picks will be of value to the team within 2-3 years. Jennings out of Fresno State is my only question mark here.


Impact Player: NG Haloti Ngata, Oregon.
This is the guy Ray Lewis needs to run free and disrupt offenses. I liked ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth’s take on Ngata, which was fairly critical of his quickness and effort. Still, I pick him as an impact player, because Lewis should benefit from the switch back to the 4-3 defense the Ravens will make due to the money they spent on this guy. Even if Ngata is less than stellar, or even a bit disappointing, I think the defense benefits overall.

Project: WR Demetrius Williams, Oregon.
I like Williams’ athleticism but he’s still a bit raw as a route runner and blocker. He’s a hard worker, and should develop in a couple of years if he continues to display this tendency (and models himself after Derrick Mason).

Sleeper: C Chris Chester, Oklahoma.
The former tight end did a good job making the transition to center for the Sooners. This pick is an example of good scouting because he’s an athlete that displays a strong mental approach to the game. He’s not a brand name guy, but his skills earned him a second round selection.

My Two Cents: The Ravens have to be waiting for Steve McNair, because they didn’t pick a quarterback, and they don’t have one on the roster that is ready to step into the fray after Kyle Boller. Even if they acquire the soon-to-be-departed, Titans stalwart, I think they should have considered a signal caller in the later rounds like an Omar Jacobs, Bruce Gradkowski, or D.J. Shockley. To their defense, there are some decent long-term prospects they’ll acquire as undrafted free agents. Baltimore acquired a lot of quality depth with potential to grow into contributors within a short-term period. RB P.J. Daniels is one of my sleepers in this draft class, and reminds me a bit of Mike Anderson. TE Quinn Sypniewski is an interesting player that should be able to spell Todd Heap and contribute on special teams. Not a glamorous draft and I don’t see players that will contribute right away, but I think it will turn out to be better than average with Daniels, Chester, Ngata, and possibly Williams.


Impact Player: S Donte Whitner and CB Ashton Youboty (both from Ohio State).
The timing and value of both selections was suspect, especially Whitner with the 8th pick. Still, Whitner is a safe pick and a good player. One of the things I’m beginning to question about draft analysts is their criticism of how to play the draft board. When one considers how many of these first round picks often fail to live up to expectations, trying to get cute with wheeling and dealing a pick seems pretty dangerous to me. It’s not like these draft analysts are playing with the team’s money. Whitner may not be a pro bowl player, but he should be a valued starter for years to come. Youboty is another junior that was highly regarded, but drew the ire of draft analysts as the selection period approached. Personally, I like Youboty and believe he’ll turn into fine corner sooner than most think.

Project: OT Brad Butler, Virginia.
He’s not a great athlete, but he plays smart and has enough skills to grow into a starter.

Sleeper: FS Ko Simpson, South Carolina.
Simpson has the athleticism to be an all-pro defensive back. He has decent instincts, but needs more coaching on positioning and footwork. He and Whitner should make a fine tandem sooner than people think.

My Two Cents: This was a very unglamorous draft, but as fun as it would be to make fun of the too senior citizens in this process, I’m not ready to conclude the game has passed by Marv Levy and Ralph Wilson. If anything, they are displaying patience with their offensive talent—something most media types say no one in the NFL does, but readily bash teams when they actually do it. This wasn’t a great draft for them, but not as bad as its press. The media is stuck on the timing of the picks, but on the whole, the players are pretty solid. I really like the Kyle Williams pick in round five. The LSU DT reminds me of Kelly Gregg of the Ravens, he grows on you.


Impact Player: RB DeAngelo Williams, Memphis.
Williams is the best pure runner in the draft not named Reggie Bush. I hear people questioning why Willams would be selected in a power running system when he’s not a power runner. I’m not going to question John Fox for two reasons. First, Williams is more Tony Dorsett than Barry Sanders. He’s a compact runner with deceptive strength and excellent stamina. I read Gil Brandt make a comment about Williams not playing in the Tennessee game due to a suspect injury. This is an uncharacteristic swipe at a player’s of Williams’ reputation. I watched this runner stay in the game after a 4th quarter run of more than 40-yards—after he carried the rock more than 20 times in the game—and stay in the contest to score on the next play. And the play in question involved Williams carrying about 500 pounds of linemen on his back for nearly two yards.

Williams isn’t going to punish people in the 4th quarter at 5-9, 214-lb, frame, but he’s definitely not a situational runner, either. He has excellent hands, so the combo of Williams and Foster should be fun for Carolina to spring on opposing defenses this fall. Either player should be able to line up in the slot, so both could be on the field at the same time. Foster is a great talent, but he runs a bit upright. I wouldn’t be surprised if Williams eventually earns at least half the carries within a season or two.

Project: DE Stanley McClover, Auburn.
The athletic talent is there, and he shows some skills as an edge rusher. He’ll need some time, but could become a starter in a few years if he demonstrates the effort scouts say he lacks on a consistent basis.

Sleeper: TE Jeff King, VA Tech.
This is the best blocking tight end in the draft. He’s going to see the field sooner than his draft status indicates because he’s a very strong run blocker and good pass protector. King has good hands, but he’s not a great open field athlete. He’s not going to be much of a fantasy sleeper, but he’s underrated from an NFL standpoint.

My Two Cents: Marshall, Anderson, and Salley are all prospects capable of being solid starters in a couple of years and at worst, productive depth. Williams should become a franchise back.


Impact Player: DT Dusty Dvorcek, Oklahoma.
The rich get richer with Dvorcek, a prospect that should be able to at least rotate on the Bears already great unit. His character was a question mark, but bar fights and drinking wasn’t much of a character issue 20-30 years ago. Not that it’s okay to throw down while in a drunken stupor, but the point is Dvorcek should continue to mature and he’s a pretty good player.

Project: WR/KR/CB Devin Hester, Miami.
Hester and Ohio State’s Tedd Ginn, Jr. were touted as the NCAA’s designated playmakers to begin 2005. Ginn fulfilled this promise more than Hester, but the University of Miami playmaker should become the Bears’ kick returner as rookie because of his speed and open field vision. Hester was an unsuccessful corner at Miami. He’ll stick as a special teams guy and hope to develop as a receiver. Hester will need a lot of work to even approach the skill of promising pass catchers Mark Bradley and Bernard Berrian.

Sleeper: DE Mark Anderson, Alabama.
I think Chicago got excellent value for Anderson in round five. He should be able to rotate with Brown and Ogunleye or develop into a possible outside linebacker. He’s a smart player with a nose for the ball and good pass rushing skills. I thought he was good enough to go earlier than the fifth round.

My Two Cents: I honestly don’t know much about Danieal Manning, a pick many deemed questionable in round two but I think Dvorcek, Anderson, and FB J.D. Runnels should develop into quality depth. I like Runnels as a receiver out of the backfield and a guy that should be able to lead for Benson and Jones. I don’t think they came out with any short-term impact players.


Impact Player: CB, Jonathan Joseph, South Carolina.
He’s not quite ready for greatness, but he has outstanding physical skills. He needs to refine his game, but in the meantime he could see the field as the nickel back. The draft-eligible junior should develop into a quality starter within a couple of seasons.

Project: DT Domata Peko, Michigan State.
Another guy strong on the physical skills, but short on productive play. He needs work to become a starter.

Sleeper: LB A.J. Nicholson, FSU.
Nicholson is kind of like David Pollack—not physically gifted, but has a high football IQ. Look for Nicholson to find his way onto the field and become a solid contributor.

My Two Cents: I’m not too impressed with this draft. There is a lot of raw talent in this class, but no one that will step right in and help this team become a Super Bowl caliber franchise in the next year or two. Joseph and Nicholson have the most promise. I wonder what they are going to do with QB Reggie McNeal, who turned off scouts with his stubborn desire to remain a quarterback. Personally, I think he could develop into a decent back up over the long haul but for most NFL teams, a guy with his athleticism would be a waste as a backup QB. I’m a bit under-whelmed with the Bengals draft for the first time in 5-6 years.


Impact Player: ILB D’Qwell Jackson, Maryland.
Jackson is undersized, but an excellent tackler. He went as expected in the early second round. I think Jackson will make the biggest impact because he plays smart and aggressive.

Project: OLB Kamerion Wimbley, FSU.
Willie McGinest will serve as the perfect mentor for Wimbley, a player Romeo Crennel projects as a 3-4 pass rusher at the linebacker position. The FSU DE needs some work and isn’t that instinctive a player, but he has the smarts and attitude to succeed.

Sleepers: CB DeMario Minter, Georgia and RB Jerome Harrison, Washington State.
Minter is an aggressive cover corner that plays with savvy. Harrison is undersized, but possesses good vision and uncommon stamina. Both should eventually be solid role players within 2-3 seasons and possibly more.

My Two Cents: The Browns had a strong draft. There are several players I didn’t mention that I could have plugged into the other categories. Vickers was the best fullback in the draft and should be a great addition to their power running game. Oshinowo in the 7th round will be the future NT they need for the 3-4 defense, and Travis Wilson was a possible first day prospect before injuries and freshman quarterback play derailed his senior year at Oklahoma. If Cleveland keeps up this rate of success with drafts, they will contend for the division within five years.


Impact Player: LB Bobby Carpenter, Ohio State.
Carpenter is the type of player that should be in the league for 8-10 years as a starter. He’s the kind of player you expect to get in the middle of the first round. Parcells has to love this guy.

Project: DE Jason Hatcher, Grambling State.
He has the physical skills (6-6, 283 lbs.) and promise to start on the strong side, but will likely need a year. He’ll eventually rotate with Canty.

Sleeper: WR/KR Skyler Green, LSU.
Green should become a quality kick returner immediately, but has potential to make plays out of the slot like an Az-Hakim or Dante Hall. Parcells will probably find a way to use him in advantageous situations for his open field running.

My Two Cents: I think Dallas had the kind of draft that has small chance to disappoint, but isn’t going to wow you either.


Impact Player: QB Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt.
I have him graded in the 2006 Rookie Scouting Portfolio as the best quarterback in this class. The fact Denver traded up to get him is a nice endorsement of Cutler’s skills. I think he’ll play much sooner than expected (late 2007), and play pretty well.

Project: WR Brandon Marshall, Central Florida.
Marshall was a DB as a junior. He’s a player with Terrell Owen’s size, but not his speed. He manhandles defensive backs at the line of scrimmage and has good hands. He should develop into a fine possession receiver with occasional big play ability due to his size.

Sleeper: C Greg Eslinger, Minnesota.
He’s a very mobile, athletic center that will fit in perfectly with this Denver line. He’s a refined, technician at his position—something the Broncos value.

My Two Cents: Cutler, Scheffler, Marshall, and Eslinger could all become productive starters. Scheffler and Eslinger sooner than later. This was a good draft, and a very good one if you throw in the addition of WR Javon Walker. Dumervil was a kid I loved early in the season, but after his second half I think the jury is out. He might be a one-dimensional player. Still it’s a good gamble for this team and shouldn’t cost them big for considering him.


Impact Player: LB Ernie Sims, FSU.
He’s a playmaker at LB, but like Ray Lewis, he’s going to need some big guys upfront to free him up. He’s a guy that excels when he plays in space. Rogers and Wilkinson should fit the bill here. I don’t see him as defensive rookie of the year material, but he will have some nice games right away.

Project: CB Dalton McCann, WVU.
He has the aggressiveness and physical skill to eventually become a starter, but it may take a while.

Sleeper: RB Brian Calhoun, Wisconsin.
I didn’t have Calhoun rated as a top tier back in this draft, but I think Detroit got a fair value for him in round three. He is a good receiver with a good burst, and is elusive. He’s a character player, and he should push Kevin Jones and Shawn Bryson for playing time due to the fact he’ll outwork them. I see Calhoun as initially a 3rd down back, but he could develop into more. He’s faster than credited…

My Two Cents: Sims, Bullocks, and Calhoun should make strong contributions to this team. Scott and Matua don’t impress me as offensive line prospects but they should eventually be serviceable.

Green Bay

Impact Player: LB A.J. Hawk, OSU and Abdul Hodge, Iowa.
Not sure he warrants Ray Lewis consideration, but he’s going to be a serious upgrade for Green Bay. Hodge is a fine player in his own right, and I believe he, and Hawk will greatly improve the quality of tackling on the Packers defense.

Project: WR Will Blackmon, BC.
He’s a terrific leaper with decent hands. He needs to refine his receiving technique and learn to run routes. Blackmon is the type of player former WR coach Ray Sherman could have turned into a good player—ala Donald Driver. We’ll see what the current staff can do.

Sleeper: WR Greg Jennings, Western Michigan.
He reminds me of Derrick Mason: fast enough, good hands, and a savvy guy with or without the ball in his hands. He’ll contribute in the slot this year and surprise some people with the rapport he’ll establish with Favre.

My Two Cents: Green Bay got some guys that could tackle and an underrated receiver that I think makes a quicker impact that most will expect. The offensive line choices don’t look good right now. If they pan out, the long-term grade has potential to be significantly higher.


Impact Player: DE Mario Williams, NC State.
He better be an impact player. Houston gave up the highest rated prospect among 20 teams to get Williams. Frankly, I don’t care how much they can explain how he’ll alter formations, disrupt passing plays, and make the occasional sack or game changing tackle. Williams will not have the same impact as Reggie Bush. I keep hearing him compared to Dwight Freeney or Julius Peppers in terms of the expected impact. All I know is Houston better hope he’ll compare to Reggie White. That’s the value they’ll need to get from Williams that will be commensurate to what Bush is going to give New Orleans. Ryans

Project: OT Charles Spencer, Pittsburgh.
He has the physical skills to be a quality starter, but needs coaching.

Sleeper: RB Wali Lundy, Virginia.
I think he’s a good fit for the offense Kubiak will be bringing to Houston. Lundy was stuck in the scat back role for the last two years because Marques Hagans was the QB. When Matt Schaub was the starter, Lundy thrived and looked like a big-time prospect. I think he’s a quality player that should challenge for the #2 spot this year. He’s a downhill runner and good in short yardage. He doesn’t have Vernand Morency’s athleticism, but he might be a better all around player.

My Two Cents: Houston will get bashed for this draft all year long, but they made some decent picks. Winston and Spencer could develop into quality starters on the offensive line because they are athletic players in the Denver-mode. DeMeco Ryans is a good player, and David Anderson and Owen Daniels are good role players. If they chose Bush the grades would have been a half grade higher.


Impact Player: RB Joseph Addai, LSU.
He’s a perfect fit for this offense and my runner up-rookie of the year candidate (no need to guess the favorite). Addai does everything well. Critics say Addai split time and wasn’t good enough to be the starter at LSU. I remember the same thing said about a back at Miami that split time with Najeh Davenport, James Jackson, and Clinton Portis. Bill Polian was smart enough to draft him, too…

Project: S Antoine Bethea, Howard.
He needs to learn the finer points of reacting to what is in front of him. He’s a potential starter with coaching.

Sleeper: ILB Freddie Kieho, San Diego State.
He plays well in space and is known as a hard hitter. Dungy’s defense is well suited for him but he needs to learn to temper is aggressiveness.

My Two Cents: This team doesn’t need much other than a running back and they succeeded there. The rest of the picks are projects.


Impact Player: TE Marcedes Lewis, UCLA.
I’m not a big fan of Lewis’ game, but he is a fine receiver—something the Jags have lacked at the tight end position. He’ll get every opportunity to start right away and open up the middle of the field for the Jaguars. He’s just not as dynamic a player as his billing.

Project: Pick any of the three defensive linemen. Not sold on any of them.

Sleeper: RB Maurice Drew, UCLA.
Fred Taylor is getting old, Greg Jones is slow, and Toefield and Pearman are role players. Drew is a dynamic open field runner with excellent receiving skills. He’ll be a great 3rd down back, but I also think he has potential to be the next Warrick Dunn. He’ll make an early impact as a return specialist, but they didn’t draft him in round two just for that role. Even with my high hopes for Drew, I’m concerned about this committee of RBs Jacksonville has collected, because none of made an impact the running game and it’s slowing Leftwich’s development.

My Two Cents: I would have rather seen the Jaguars get Leonard Pope if they were going for the giant-sized, athletic tight end. I like Maurice Drew a lot, but the backfield in North Florida is officially a mess. Ingram is an aggressive LB but I don’t see him developing into a consistent starter. The rest of the players are projects that will need to pan out to save this class and I doubt it happens.

Kansas City

Impact Player: DE Tamba Hali, Penn State.
I think this is a step in the right direction for Kansas City, but they need more a lot more help before Hali grows into the play he’s capable of being 2-3 years from now.

Project: WR Jeff Webb, San Diego State.
Webb has the athleticism and hands to develop into a quality receiver. He won’t be pushed into to duty right away.

Sleeper: QB Brodie Croyle, Alabama.
Croyle, Cutler, and Jackson have the best arm strength of the quarterbacks in this draft. I’m a fan of Croyle’s overall game, but he needs to bulk up. He reminds me of Marc Bulger in terms of his style of play and body type. If the Chiefs can maintain the quality of their offensive line as its players’ age and leave, Croyle could have landed in one of the best situations of all the signal callers.

My Two Cents: SS Bernard Pollard is a nice choice for the future and Marcus Maxey could surprise. Overall this is a solid class with 2-3 potential impact players.


Impact Player: S Jason Allen, Tennessee.
Allen is an excellent pick and another great cog in a promising defense that Nick Saban is rebuilding fast.

Project: WR Devin Aromashodu, Auburn.
This guy is one of the better run-blocking receivers in the draft class. He has to improve his consistency with receiving technique, but with good coaching he could become a quality #3-#4 receiver with upside.

Sleeper: WR Derek Hagan, Arizona State.
I loved watching Hagan and believe he could become the complement to Chambers by 2007. Critics say he’s inconsistent catching the football. Based on the film study I’ve done, I’m not too concerned—he’s a good route runner with excellent concentration on difficult throws. He’s a mix between Herman Moore and Rod Smith in terms of his positive traits. He’s going to become Daunte Culpepper’s safety net Miami.

My Two Cents: The Dolphins only had two first day picks this year, but they will likely become impact players. Three of the four, second day selections (Toledo, Wright, and Aromashodu) should make the team and eventually contribute. Wright is one of those “could be a better pro than collegian,” types that are often labeled this way but rarely accomplish it. The offensive line needs to get better and the lack of picks here could be a concern. Although this is the case, line play often improves with coaching more than any position. Its possible the same lackluster line could continue to move in the right direction without adding youth. We’ll see…


Impact Player: LB Chad Greenway, Iowa and Cedric Griffin, Texas.
Greenway should become a consummate professional as the Vikings’ new WLB, and a pretty good fantasy IDP prospect. Unlike Thomas and Henderson, the Vikings finally have an LB prospect that will play to his potential in Minnesota. Griffin is another solid player that tackles well for a corner. Both are solid starters and should see time early in their careers.

Project: QB Tarvaris Jackson, Alabama State.
I thought Minnesota selected Jackson way too high. Sometimes you have to wonder if a new coach that was considered a big-time offensive coordinator tries to hard to show they can develop a raw player into a starter. We’ll see with Jackson, I thought there were at least 7-10 better prospects at the position.

Sleeper: I don’t see any with this team. Edwards has great physical potential, but didn’t work hard enough. Greg Blue is a great hitter at the safety position, but can’t play the pass. And Ryan Cook, and Cedric Griffin are expected to be impact players soon.

My Two Cents: With three second round picks, I expected a bit more from Minnesota. I think this was a disappointing draft overall.

New England

Impact Players: RB Laurence Maroney, Minnesota. WR Chad Jackson, Florida.
Maroney has the all-around skills to be a franchise back, but he needs to improve his skills as a blocker and route runner. He also needs to give full effort. He’s a smart football player, but turned it on and off in college. New England does not have a good track record with starting RBs from the draft under Pioli and Belicheck. While Maroney has some question marks, ability-wise he’s by far the best runner they have drafted in their tenure. Jackson should make Brady a very happy man. This is the closest thing New England has to a potential franchise receiver. Physically he can take it the distance with his running skills or run by you.

Project: DE Jeremy Mincey, Florida.
He should become a decent backup with potential for more as he receives more coaching. He’s the typical, athletic SEC defensive end that needs to learn the finer points of line play.

Sleeper: FB/TE Garrett Mills.
Mills is just a good football player—the epitome of a Belicheck guy. I foresee Mills becoming one of the more statistically productive fullbacks in the passing game since the days of Larry Centers. He’s going to give Tom Brady a different dimension as receiver.

My Two Cents: This was another good draft for the Patriots. I wonder why Dave Thomas was selected when they have Graham and Watson, but he’s a fine all-around football player. The Memphis kicker Gostkowski was a high pick, but he fills a definite need and can make the distance kicks. The four linemen on both sides of the ball chosen in rounds 5 and 6 have are the type that should develop into quality players for this squad. The Patriots evaluate talent well, and it shows once again this year.

New Orleans

Impact Player: Who else? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just ask anyone that says they casually follow football.

Project: WR Marques Colston, Hofstra.
Colston has the height, hands, YAC skills, and leaping ability to be an outstanding receiver. What he needs is coaching to learn the position. Some teams considered him as a 2-3 year project at tight end that could pay dividends. Speaking of tight ends, I’m a little surprised the Saints didn’t draft one at all.

Sleeper: WR Mike Hass, Oregon State.
This guy is the Drew Brees of receivers: No respect initially at any level but proves people wrong. I promise you he is not Ricky Proehl! He’s about 20 pounds heavier and is a much more physical player. Hass is going prove a lot of people wrong about him. I love this pick for the Saints. Randy Meuller, the Saints GM was quoted saying Reggie Bush was extremely excited about the pick and he told one of the scouts how glad this guy would be on the team. Drew Brees is going to take to Hass very quickly because the receiver is willing to do the dirty work over the middle—after Joe Horn, the Saints don’t have a receiver that does this very well.

My Two Cents: Reggie Bush makes this draft, but the Saints did pretty well after landing the prize of the year. Alabama’s Roman Harper, little known Jahari Evans, and Rob Ninkovich all have the talent to start in 2-3 years—Harper much sooner. Hass and Colston could develop also. Why didn’t New Orleans draft a tight end? With McAllister and Bush, the play action game to the TE should one of the first things Payton installs. I’m puzzled about this one.

New York Giants

Impact Player: WR Sinorice Moss, Miami.
Moss disappeared in games, but this can be attributed to Miami’s quarterback play and rotation of receiving talent to get them time. This is a tough football player, that has the skills to make an impact but I believe he’ll need a year or two in order to make the physical adjustment to the NFL—especially to get his body at a place to prevent injury. I’m not expecting much from him right now except as a return specialist and occasional slot receiver.

Project: OT Guy Whimper.
He’s an athletic lineman that converted from TE position. He’ll need time, but should find a position on the line and within a season or two, play it pretty well.

Sleeper: SS Charlie Peprah, Alabama.
He’s over aggressive and likely miscast as one of those SEC safeties in the mold of Greg Blue, and Thomas Davis—hard hitters that can’t play the pass. I think Peprah’s issues are correctable and once he learns, he’ll be a one of those players every acts as if he always belonged despite initially doubting him.

My Two Cents: A lot of people don’t like this draft because Kiwanuka seemed like a wasted pick when they have such good ends in Strahan, Umenyiora, and the promising converted LB Justin Tuck. I think people are being a little too critical here. Strahan isn’t getting any younger, and Tuck is no guarantee to step in and become an all-pro. Kiwanuka has that type of promise and will get pushed in this unit. Plus, a rotation prolongs Strahan’s career. It also gives the Giants the opportunity to put Strahan at DT on some plays. The acquisition of Arrington provides a major boost to the linebacker corps. Ask me what I think about the rest of these picks in 2-3 years because that’s what it’s going to take for them to make a significant contribution if at all. This is why I don’t like the Giants draft.

New York Jets

Impact Players: OT D’Brickshaw Ferguson, Virginia and C Nick Mangold, Ohio State.
A lot of people wanted Leinart, but Ferguson is the best choice for this team. If the QB situation doesn’t look better this year, they might have a shot at Brady Quinn in 2007. Ferguson will play immediately, and play well enough to help the offense. The key is his athleticism. Jets fans should be happy for once. Mangold was the best C on the board. The Jets just went a long way towards rebuilding their offensive line.

Project: Brad Smith, Missouri.
Note the lack of position listed here. Will he be a QB, RB, or WR? The initial thought of the Jets is WR. Smith is the closest thing to Kordell Stewart that’s come along in the draft. I’m skeptical he makes the transition.

Sleeper: LB Anthony Schlegel, Ohio State.
He’s kind of the forgotten man of the great Buckeye linebacker corps.

My Two Cents: The Jets had a good draft. QB Kellen Clemens is someone I didn’t evaluate, but he has been a fast riser. Maybe a little too fast a riser for my taste. He’s not very mobile, and his short time span where he improved doesn’t make me as excited as so many others. I feel the same about Leon Washington. He’ll be a valuable contributor, but don’t expect him to be more than a valuable change of pace back that can be an effective starter for 2-3 games if needed. Despite my slight misgivings about these two players as future stars, they are solid selections and fit with the theme New York had with most of their picks—football players with a good on-field IQ.


Impact Player: SS Michael Huff, Texas.
I love this pick. I know Leinart was there for the taking, but please remember something about Oakland—the stink at tackling. The Chiefs may have been worse last year, but over the span of the past five years, the Raiders have everyone beat. Huff can play any position in the secondary and he’s both a hitter and a tackler. I’m telling you right now, Al Davis stumbled into picking the best coach he could find. Art Shell is going to rebuild this team and in 2-3 years, we’re going to be hearing about how great Shell and Romeo Crennel are as coaches. In Oakland, Huff will be a big reason why.

Project: LB Darnell Bing, USC.
Yep, you heard right—linebacker, Darnell Bing. He’s converting to a more natural spot. He’ll need another 15 pounds to look the part, but that’s not all he’ll require to make it. Bing is an undisciplined player that doesn’t have good tackling technique—he’s more of a hitter than a guy that wraps up. Shell better call up Ted Hendricks, because Bing is going to need some lessons.

Sleeper: LB Thomas Howard, UTEP.
The guy is a natural linebacker with speed to burn. He needs to refine his game, but this is the kind of athlete at LB the Raiders have lacked for years.

My Two Cents: I like this draft, because they resisted the temptation to pick a quarterback. Stick with Brooks, develop Andrew Walter another year, and allow one of the best guards to ever play the game team with one of the best tackles to strap on a helmet (co-offensive line coach Jackie Slater) to teach this line how to dominate. With Shell and Slater in the draft room, I’m not going to question the linemen they picked—at least 2 of the 3 will probably wind up very useful to the team. Ainsley (from the FF Today message boards) hipped me to Mr. Irrelevant, Maine WR Kevin McMahan. He’s an interesting, small-school prospect. People love bashing the Raiders, but something tells me Art Shell is going to shut everyone up sooner than people could ever realize.


Impact Players: OT Winston Justice, USC. G Max Jean-Gilles, Georgia.
Wow…people talk about Tennesee stealing Vince Young and Lendale White, but as a Titans fan I have to admit what Philly got away with was on the level of Spike Lee’s Inside Man. The Eagles just reloaded on the offensive line in a way that should create another window of opportunity to contend in 2-3 years. You may think I’m nuts with Dallas, Washington, and New York all head of them but consider the Eagles are the only team with a franchise quarterback than can carry this team. Dallas’ window is now and maybe next year. Jason Campbell is still 3-4 years away in Washington. And Eli Manning will be the Eagles best competition—that is if the Giants can find a runner to replace Barber once he retires, which will be sooner than later. McNabb is a franchise quarterback, and this team is going to regroup. These two linemen just set the foundation for eventually another 3-4 year run starting in 2007.

Project: WR Jeremy Bloom, Colorado.
Bloom will become a terrific slot receiver in the NFL. He’s rusty from pursuing his other career, but prior to the ultimatum the NCAA made to him, Bloom displayed some promising skills as a pass catcher. He’s also much faster than he timed at the combine. Remember, he wasn’t in football shape. When he was in football shape, I watched Bloom win sprint during an off-season competition that included an impressive list of NFL player. Among them was Ahman Green, one of the fastest backs in the NFL.

Sleeper: WR Jason Avant, Michigan.
Everyone is down on this class of receivers. Avant’s stock slipped because he had a disappointing time. I’m telling you now—it doesn’t matter with this guy. He has body control that might rival WR Brandon Lloyd, and quality hands. He is not afraid to go across the middle. He’ll be reliable and fearless—Todd Pinkston will soon be a distant memory. I truly believe between Reggie Brown, Avant, and Bloom, McNabb will have a better receiving corps than he ever imagined with Owens in the fold. They will all complement each other extremely well.

My Two Cents: I thought this was one of the top drafts. There wasn’t a single pick I disliked here, and that’s rare. Not much else to say here. I think Philly regroups after the Owens debacle and by next year is right back in the thick of it.


Impact Player: WR Santonio Holmes, Ohio State.
Holmes is the perfect Steeler: he’s a very good return specialist; blocks aggressively on run plays; and can make plays all over the field. I think Holmes has a shot to make an impact in the second half of 2006 as a receiver. He’ll be better than Randle El. Anthony Smith

Project: QB Omar Jacobs, Bowling Green.
Jacobs is one of my favorite quarterbacks in this draft. This is the kind of player Pittsburgh couldn’t pass up because he’s accurate, intelligent, and has a big-time arm. Jacobs will eventually develop into a player that Pittsburgh can trade for a first day pick—especially if he gets a chance to replace Roethlisberger for a game or two and displays what I’m talking about here.

Sleeper: WR Willie Reid, FSU.
Some people commented this was a high pick for Reid, but I disagree. This guy will develop into a fearless slot receiver and he should step right in as their return specialist. He has excellent concentration in traffic, and he gave teams fits at FSU.

My Two Cents: Not as good of a draft as their cross-state counterpart, but not bad. Charles Davis and Cedric Humes are two players that could develop into quality depth. They aren’t stopwatch/combine kind of guys, but they are good football players—something Pittsburgh values. The picks in the top half are pretty strong.

San Diego

Impact Player: OT Marcus McNeill, Auburn.
This was their best pick of the draft if Cromartie doesn’t pan out.

Project: CB Antonio Cromartie, FSU.
He needs to the finer points of his position he would have gained with another year of college, but now he’s going to have to do it while adjusting to the NFL. I don’t know if this was an A.J. Smith or Schottenheimer-initiated pick. He sure does remind me of former Chief and Seminole WR/KR Tamarick Vanover. Hopefully Cromartie has more success beyond special teams.

Sleeper: MLB Tim Dobbins, Iowa State.
This is smart football player that I believe will develop into a starter for the Chargers. Schottenheimer generally does well with linebackers—he was one himself for the Browns back in the 70’s. Dobbins is a bit small, but he’s a savvy player.

My Two Cents: I didn’t like this draft. Whitehurst will be a solid back up, but he’s a dangerous player because he looks better than he plays. If Rivers doesn’t develop as expected, Whitehurst will be just good enough for the Chargers to give too many chances as their window of opportunity passes by them. Dobbins and McNeil are solid picks. If Cromartie plays to the Chargers rating, I’ll stand corrected…


Impact Player: None this year. I’m not sold on Jennings as a starting CB and Tapp is not ready for prime time.

Project: WR Ben Obomanu, Auburn.
This receiver can block and demonstrates skills as a deep threat. He’s a long shot, but could develop into a decent situational player.

Sleeper: FB David Kirtman, USC.
Kirtman stood out on film as a receiver. He’s a very underrated player and I believe Mack Strong’s heir-apparent.

My Two Cents: I’m surprised the Seahawks didn’t have much of a draft. Other than Kirtman and the kicker, I don’t think a single player from this class will make a lasting positive impact for at least two years.

San Francisco

Impact Player: TE Vernon Davis, Maryland and LB Manny Lawson, NC State.
The guy is simply a physical stud that catches the ball like a receiver—think a heavier Terrell Owens with the same amount of speed. If Alex Smith can’t improve his game with Davis in the fold, something will be really wrong. I think the Niners found their eventual replacement to Julian Peterson with Manny Lawson.

Project: Michael Robinson, Penn State.
I don’t know exactly what position he’ll be playing in San Francisco, but it won’t be QB. Wait three years and see what happens. Remember Arnaz Battle was a QB and 3 years later, he’s just beginning to show flashes of skill at WR.

Sleeper: WR Brandon Williams, Wisconsin.
I loved watching this guy play. I think he’ll be a better fit for this team than Brandon Lloyd. He’ll just need a bit of time. A very tough player in the Mike Nolan mold of players he likes—think Frank Gore, a player that looked good despite running with two injured shoulders. Williams is one of those pound for pound tough guys.

My Two Cents: Mike Nolan is a good head coach and he is really putting a stamp on this team with smart, tough, athletic players. Eventually, San Francisco will become a very physical, football team. I like the direction they are heading and the draft. Parys Haralson is another find in round five. While I’m not sure I’d say this draft was as good as the Eagles effort, it’s close.

St. Louis

Impact Player: CB Tye Hill, Clemson and DT Claude Wroten, LSU.
I think this guy is the best CB in the draft. He has great recovery speed and just shuts people down with tight coverage. The Rams desperately need a shutdown corner, and this is as close to it as they are going to get. Wroten failed a drug test, but he’s a terrific talent. I think he’ll be able to start right away in St. Louis.

Project: WR Marques Hagans, Virginia.
Despite Hagans lacking great speed, he’s a savvy football player that runs well with the ball in his hands. I thought there were better choices available.

Sleepers: TE Joe Klopfenstein, Colorado. TE Dominique Byrd, USC.
These were two of my favorite players at this position. Both are underrated, but clearly Linehan thought enough about them to trade away the Rams 2005 starter! Both catch the ball very well. I think Klopfenstein is the better intermediate and redzone target while Byrd is a good blocker and runs surprisingly well after the catch. A nice, 1-2 combination that should help the run game and take some pressure off Bulger in the pocket.

My Two Cents: An underrated draft for the Rams and one of the best this year. I think they came away with at least five solid starters within 2 years. Wroten, Alston, and Hill are players that should make this defense a lot better very soon. The more I watch Scott Linehan, the more I’m impressed with him.

Tampa Bay

Impact Player: CB Alan Zemaitis, Penn State.
Tampa found a terrific defensive back in the 4th round, and I believe he’ll surprise early. This was a great pick.

Project: WR Maurice Stovall, Notre Dame.
He’s not near the receiver as his former teammate coming out next year, but he has the physical skills and intelligence to develop into a decent possession guy.

Sleeper: QB Bruce Gradkowski.
I said on the FFToday Forums thread that the Toledo signal caller reminded me of Rich Gannon. Apparently, Jon Gruden thought so too. He implied as much in this post-draft interview. This may seem strange to you, but I had Gradkowski rated only behind the big three prospects at the position. Chris Simms looked like he turned the corner last year, but so did Brian Griese in his second year in Denver.

My Two Cents: The Bucs had a good draft. Guard Davin Joseph is going to help out Cadillac immediately. Trueblood may need a bit more time, but Tampa went in the right direction here. I’m not a huge fan of Maurice Stovall, but Zemaitis, Gradkowski, and T.J. Williams are second-day finds. Let everyone else talk about Kellen Clemens as that steal of a QB, all I know is Bulger and Brady came from the sixth round and Gradkowski, like the both of them is much better than a 6th round pick.


Impact Player: RB Lendale White, USC.
I have been vocal about White being overrated in this class, but I have been equally vocal about him being a talented runner. I felt his effort was questionable on film. He didn’t always run as hard in plays where he should have made holes. It appeared he expected the USC line to open up huge holes, and he didn’t consistently get the yards available to him in tight spots. When he doesn’t take anything for granted, he’s a load. The Titans got him very close to the spot I rated him among his peers. I don’t think he’ll be an 1100-yard rookie, but a 700-900-yard effort with 7+ scores isn’t out of the realm of possibility for this rookie.

Project: QB Vince Young, Texas.
He’s not ready to start, but in 2-3 years he’ll be what Falcons fans hoped they get from Michael Vick by now—a more athletic version of Steve McNair. I think Tennessee hopes White will be able to generate enough offense to keep the pressure off Young, once they get him onto the field. I think the Titans develop Young in a similar way they did McNair. Remember, McNair was supposed to get some mentoring from Chris Chandler but Chandler wanted to move on. The point is not to worry about Young lacking a quality QB ahead of him.

Sleeper: DT Jesse Mahelona, Tennessee.
This is the kind of player that the Titans line coach Jim Washburn will develop into starter. He’s quick and a good tackler in pursuit. At worst, he’ll be quality depth for this team.

My Two Cents: The first two picks could make this draft special. WR Jonathan Orr should develop into a solid contributor—he’s a fine blocker in the run game, too. The depth of this draft doesn’t seem quite as good as previous years, but there are 4-5 picks that could hit big.


Impact Player: LB Rocky McIntosh, Miami.
Defensive coordinator Greg Williams has a knack with linebackers. Despite the issues with Lavar Arrington, Williams landed a guy that should be better for his system. A nice, 2nd round pick here. Apparently Santana Moss, Shaun Taylor, and Clinton Portis lobbied for this pick, too.

Project: DT Kendrick Golston, Georgia.
With coaching and improved health, this is the kind of player that can become a solid sarter. He’s a good athlete and potential contributor available in the late rounds.

Sleeper: DT Anthony Montgomery, Minnesota.
He’s a disruptive player that shot up draft boards. He could surprise early.

My Two Cents: Washington went offense in free agency, so it makes sense they drafted at the other size of the ball. No outstanding picks after McIntosh, but the class is filled with players that should become valued depth down the line. Overall, an average draft at best.