Draft report cards written right after the draft are about as useless as all of our mock drafts put together, but nevertheless, here’s ours:
Arizona Cardinals: A+
Denny Green knows talent. He picked up future starters at CB in Antrel Rolle (1st) and Eric Green (3rd), and got a quick, speedy and productive running back in J.J. Arrington in the 2nd. However, it’s his two mid-round picks in OG Elton Brown and OLB Darryl Blackstock that give this draft our highest grade. Brown will team with LT Leonard Davis, RT Oliver Ross and OC Alex Stepanovich to give the Cardinals one of the biggest, most physical offensive lines in the league. Blackstock can rush the passer behind DE Bert Berry, giving the D a one-two punch that it was sorely lacking last season. Fifth-round ILB Lance Mitchell was a first round lock before tearing his knee up late in Oklahoma’s 2003 season. If he can recover some of his lost speed and lateral mobility, he could lend Denny Green’s team a toughness it just doesn’t have right now.
Best Pick: Elton Brown, OG in the 4th.
Worst Pick: Green scored value at each of his slots.
The Skinny: Denny Green’s teams are always fundamentally sound, but they lack mental toughness. If Rolle, Green and Blackstock can come in and bring the swagger they each carried in college, they could be part of a young nucleus in Arizona that carries them to the playoffs, particularly if Arrington is the real deal at RB.
Atlanta Falcons: B-
Coach Jim Mora Jr.’s defense relies on speed and quickness, and he drafted accordingly. Second-round DT Jonathan Babineaux is a 285-lb. menace who, while a little light in the pants, isn’t afraid to mix it up. The same goes for OLB Jordan Beck (3rd) and OLB/DE Chauncey Davis (4th). Both of those players fall into that OLB/DE hybrid mix who bring athleticism, if not great size, to the footbal field. Expect to see both of them used as stand up pass rushers, as well as coming out the three-point stance next season. OLB Michael Boley was and intruguing value in the 5th round, and could eventually develop into a starter on the strong side. On offensse, Mora used his first pick to nab Roddy White, the fleet receiver out of UAB to give Michael Vick a new target. Peerless Price probably won’t be back with the team after coming from Buffalo in a costly, disappointing trade, and last year’s second round pick, Michael Jenkins, has had trouble getting open in the pro game after dominating at Ohio State.
Best Pick: OLB Michael Boley in the 5th.
Worst Pick: Roddy White in the first. Atlanta has a ton of holes: FS, SS, and OL that they failed to address in the draft, and White looks to have been a luxury pick in the first round who benefitted from being in a weak class for WR’s.
The Skinny: The Falcons and Jim Mora Jr. are modelling themselves after the Buccaneer teams of the late nineties, drafting light, fast, versatile defenders. However, they will continue to be exposed by teams that like to pound the ball, as they were in Philadelphia last season. Mora should have tried to get bigger along both lines.
Baltimore Ravens: B+
There was some question how well Ozzie Newsome would do in the draft wthout Phil Savage, who left to become GM for the Cleveland Browns. Well, those questions were answered, as Newsome stuck to his philosophy of drafting true football players and not paying attention to 40 and shuttle times. In the 1st round he took Mark Clayton, the shifty WR out of Oklahoma who comes with a polished game and great hands. In the third and fourth rounds, the Ravens picked up two solid offensive linemen in RT Adam Terry out of Syracuse and OC Jason Brown out of North Carolina. Terry is a big, physical project with nice athleticism, but will have to learn the nuances of pass protection, while Brown is a physical mauler who could step in for veteran C Mike Flynn, who has been beset with injuries lately. Second-round DE Dan Cody of Oklahoma brings intensity and a pass rush to a Baltimore team that struggled to get to the passer last season.
Best Pick: Clayton (1st) will make Kyle Boller’s life alot easier on third down, getting open consistently with great quickness and speed.
Worst Pick: Adam Terry (2nd). Terry is 6’8, 325 lbs. with good athleticism, but he will be nowhere near ready to step in for Orlando Brown at RT this season, and drafting him this high seems to suggest that that’s what the plan is.
The Skinny: An overall good job by Newsome in the draft, but it would have been fun to give new offensive coordinator Jim Fassel and QB coach Rick Neuheisel Cal’s Aaron Rodgers to work with. Boller, like Rodgers a Jeff Tedford product, has struggled so much that one wonders if Newsome didn’t consider taking Rodgers at #22.
Buffalo Bills: D
The Bills didn’t pick in the first round, and they reached desperately for WR Roscoe Parrish in the 2nd. Parrish is small and skinny, and is not the answer at WR, especially for a new starting QB in J.P. Losman who is not known for his accuracy. In the third round, the Bills selectes TE Kevin Everett out of Miami, who can help right away, but he is a step slow and never really performed in a Miami system that produced back-to-back first rounders in Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow Jr. The rest of the draft was equally unimpressive, with CB Eric King of Wake Forest (5th) serving as the most promising pick.
Best Pick: Eric King in the fifth.
Worst Pick: Parrish in the second. Too small and not quick enough to compensate.
The Skinny: The Bills burned this year’s first rounder last season to move up and draft J.P. Losman, whom nobody is excited about right now, despite the fact that he’s replacing the miderable Drew Bledsoe this season. Add him to this mish-mash of players, and it’s just further evidence that GM Tom Donahoe has to go.
Carolina Panthers: B+
Another team that drafts ‘football players’ as opposed to athletes, the Panthers made some very solid picks. First rounder Thomas Davis has a freakish combination of size, speed, and physical ability, and John Fox may move him to OLB, where Davis will be a great fit and add to what is already an extremely physical defense. The rest of the draft was also dedicated to grabbing physical, tough players that will make playing the Panthers on Sundays an unpleasant task. Second round running back Eric Shelton is a huge, speedy back that will step in nicely for the oft-injured Stephen Davis when Davis finally retires. Third-rounder Evan Mathis is an extremely athletic guard who really surprised at the combine, where he displayed freakish mobility for a man his size. Third-rounder Atyyah Ellison (DT) adds to a team strength in the middle of that defense.
Best Pick: Fifth-rounder Ben Emanuel. He’s a big, fast strong safety who never blossomed at UCLA. But then again, no football player has blossomed at UCLA in decades. Learning under Fox and Mike Minter will help Emanuel realize his potential.
Worst Pick: Ellison in the fourth. Ellison has serious issues with motivation and desire to be great. Those players don’t last on Fox’s Panthers teams.
The Skinny: If you’re an offensive player going up against the Panthers this year, you better get AFLAC (quack) .
Chicago Bears: C
Cedric Benson spent the last two months convincing every NFL team that he wasn’t as flaky as Ricky Williams, and them immediately after getting drafted had a breakdown, like Ricky Williams, decrying the dehumanizing aspects of the draft process. Good luck, Bears fans. Still, Benson is a productive, physical runner that will come in and eat carries. Unfortunately, the Bears spent big bucks on free agent RB Thomas Jones who started to come on last last season. Second-round WR Mark Bradley may have been Oklahoma’s third-best WR, but he still has prototype size and speed. More and more, it seems like Jerry Angelo is over-matched in the GM role.
Best Pick: QB Kyle Orton in the fourth. Orton can develop into the team’s starter as soon as the Bears realize that Rex Grossman isn’t an NFL QB.
Worst Pick: Bradley in the second. Is Bradley really any better than David Terrell, who the Bears just cut?
The Skinny: The Bears needed help everywhere, and outside of Benson, look to still need help everywhere.
Cincinnati Bengals: C
Why would the team that drafted Justin Smith two years ago draft this year’s version in David Pollack? Because they can. Marvin Lewis knows defense, and he saw something in Pollack that he liked. Pollack will play OLB for the Bengals in Lewis’s aggressive multiple-front scheme, but will he make plays on the pro level? Granted, he was a menace while at Georgia, but his lack of size and overall athleticism makes you question whether or not it will translate to the Bigs. Second-round LB Odell Thurman can be a tremendous ILB in the Ray Lewis mold if he stays focused and out of trouble, like Ray Lewis. In the third round, Marvin Lewis took a flyer on Chris Henry. If Henry mellows out, he could combine with Chad Johnson, Kelley Washington, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to give the Bengals the best group of WR’s in the league. If not, those guys could combine to give San Quentin Penitentiary the best 4X100 relay team in Penal League history.
Best Pick: Thurman. Mean, tough ILB’s are hard to find–unless you’re Marvin Lewis.
Worst Pick: Pollack. I’ll believe he’s an NFL force when I see it.
The Skinny: The Bengals continue to draft the best player available, despite how well he fits into the team concept. They did it last year by drafting Chris Perry in the first even though they had Rudi Johnson on the roster, and they did it again with Pollack. Lewis will have to work overtime to find out where Pollack fits best.
Cleveland Browns: B+
Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage combined to put together a great draft for a team that needed alot of help. Drafting WR Braylon Edwards with the 3rd overall pick, when many considered him the best overall talent in this draft, was impressive. They could have taken the bait and picked up Cedric Benson or Aaron Rodgers, but stayed with their plan and took Edwards, who adds to a good collection of WR’s (Antonio Bryant and Dennis Northcutt) in Cleveland, even if it is just Trent Dilfer throwing to them. Second-rounder Brodney Pool, while sloppy in coverage, brings a physical presence to the Browns’ secondary in much the same way that Rodney Harrison does in New England, so Crennel will get the most out of him. Third-round QB Charlie Frye might end up starting before the season is over, and CB Antonio Perkins (5th) is already one of the top returners in the NFL before he even straps on the pads for the first time.
Best Pick: Frye in the third. Many scouts thought that Frye may have been the best QB in the draft, over Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers.
Worst Pick: The Browns, with Phil Savage, received value at each of their slots.
The Skinny: The Browns are two years away from being competitive, but they got a good start with this draft. This year will be more about weeding out all of Butch Davis’s many mistakes than it will be about adding talent. They could have addressed the defensive line more than they did, but that’s for next year’s draft, where they figure to have a top pick yet again.
Dallas Cowboys: B
It’s amazing, for as good a coach as Bill Parcells is, just how bad he is at picking talent. Not that he necessarily steered the Cowboys to a bad draft this year, rather that any player he brings in still won’t be able to cover up for the horror-show that Drew Bledsoe figures to be behind a porous Cowboys offensive line. Still, Parcells had a good draft despite not getting one of the top tackles. Parcells made the gamble that Demarcus Ware, out of Troy State, will be a better pass-rushing OLB than Shawne Merriman will be. This is a shaky call, at best. Ware, playing (and dominating) at a small school, flashed potential while Merriman did the same–in the ACC. This will be a match-up to watch for years to come. With their second 1st-rounder, the Cowboys picked up DE Marcus Spears, who brings size and talent, if not intensity, to the table. Parcells continued to stock his new front-seven with LB Kevin Burnett (2nd) and DE Chris Canty (4th), both talented, but injury prone, players. Fellow 4th rounder RB Marion Jones III will combine with Julius Jones to give the Cowboys a devastating 1-2 punch in the backfield if the offensive line comes together.
Best Pick: Burnett in the 2nd. A fast, powerful, do-everything OLB in the Derrick Brooks mold will help from Day One.
Worst Pick: Ware at #11 could be the ultimate boom or bust pick for Parcells, especially if Shawne Merriman dominates in San Diego.
The Skinny: Parcells is hungry and desperate to win right now, and he drafted with that in mind. The hope in Dallas is that getting Ware, Spears, Burnett and Canty to stock a front-seven with FA acquisition DT Jason Ferguson will give the Cowboys enough defense to hide the fact that they have no QB. If the young defenders are ready to go, the Cowboys could make a push for the playoffs. If not, and Drew Bledsoe is put in position to have to carry the team, it could get late early in Dallas.
Denver Broncos: D-
When your main competition in the AFC West includes the Raiders, who just added Randy Moss to Joey Porter and Ronald Curry, you better add cornerbacks, and quick. Clearly, that was Mike Shanahan’s thinking going into the 2005 draft. He spent the team’s first three picks on the cornerback position, getting Darrent Williams (2nd), Karl Paymah (2nd), and Domonique Foxworth (3rd). Unfortunately, none of those corners have the size or talent to hang with any of the Raiders’ fearsome WR crew (not that anyone does). However, when you decide, as Shanahan did, that you’re going to spend three straight picks on one position, you better get top talent in at least two out of three. Mission failed. Williams is the best of the three, but he’s only 5’8″ tall. Paymah and Foxworth are good for depth, but little else. The Broncos spent their other 3rd rounder on RB Maurice Clarett. Yes, that Maurice Clarett. The buzz was that Parcells was looking at Clarett for his 4th round pick, and Shanahan jumped to secure the talented, but troubled and painfully slow back out of Ohio State. Awful.
Best Pick: Williams in the 2nd. If nothing else, Williams is an electrifying returner and an exceptional athlete.
Worst Pick: Clarett in the 3rd. As soon as he signs his name on the dotted line and gets his first check, look for Clarett to disappear.
The Skinny: Shanahan still hasn’t won a thing since Elway retired, and he’s no closer now than he was last year, or the year before that, or the year before that. This is probably his last year in Denver, and QB Jake Plummer will be following him out the door.
Detroit Lions: A
When you add WR Mike Williams to a receiving corps of Roy Williams and Charles Rogers, you are building perhaps the second best receiving trio in the league after the Raiders. The only shame is that we’ll have to watch Williams suffer with Joey Harrington throwing the ball at him, and not to him. Second round DT Shaun Cody was projected as a mid-first rounder on many draft boards. In the third round, Matt Millen picked up CB Stanley Wilson, a fast, tall athlete with excellent skills who needs refinement. He could surprise.
Best Pick: Tie–QB Dan Orlovsky (5th) and DE Bill Swancutt (6th). Both of these players were promising college players who will have a huge learning curve, but could both end up forcing their way into the starting line-up before long. Swancutt dominated during Senior Bowl practices coming off the corner, and Orlovsky is a big, powerful QB with worlds of confidence and shoddy technique.
Worst Pick: Matt Millen received value with all of his selections.
The Skinny: Millen has had two great drafts back-to-back, and now the team has to bring it to the field to save his job. Alot is riding on Joey Harrington this season. And Harrington may have three starts to get it together, or he’ll find himself on the bench.
Green Bay Packers: B-
The Packers got lucky and landed QB Aaron Rodgers at #24. The team has waitied for years to draft a replacement for Favre, and they finally had to guts to call his bluff this year when Favre took his time to announce whether or not he’d be back for another season. It won’t be easy for Rodgers, having to replace Favre next season, particularly if Favre decides he’s not ready to retire then, either. Another factor is how Rodgers, a California kid, will adjust to playing on the Frozen Tundra. Teams backed away from Rodgers, fearing that he was just another Jeff Tedford creation, a la Kyle Boller and Joey Harrington. The Packers had major holes on the OL and in the defensive backfield, and while they were unable to get anyone in the draft to replace the departed Marco Rivera and Matt Wahle, they did address the secondary with picks in the second and fourth rounds. CB Nick Collins (2nd) and FS Marviel Underwood (4th) are both intruguing athletes who will need some coaching up. WR Terrence Murphy (2nd) adds a speed dimension that could help take the heat off of WR Javon Walker.
Best Pick: Craig Bragg, WR in th 6th. Bragg is a savvy pass-catcher who knows how to get open and catch the ball. He could develop into an excellent slot receiver for Favre on third downs.
Worst Pick: Nick Collins in the 2nd. The Packers took Collins with athletic OT Khalif Barnes still on the board, who could have helped ease Green Bay’s tremendous problems on the OL.
The Skinny: This draft only turns out well if Aaron Rodgers is the real deal and if Favre is willing to teach a rookie how to do his job. Both are 50/50 propositions, at best.
Houston Texans: D
Charlie Casserly got his clock cleaned by Al Davis leading up to the draft in the Phillip Buchanon deal, and it carried over into the draft. The Texans need serious help along both the defensive and offensive lines, and although they scored Travis Johnson in the first round, Casserly ignored the OL and DL the rest of the way. Johnson is a tough, physical player, but he’s not the anchor-type DT that Houston needed to help plug against the run in their 3-4. In the third round, the Texans selected RB Vernand Morency, who is a physical, quick running back despite the fact that they have productive Domanick Davis on the roster. For a team that had alot of holes, spending a first-day pick on a back-up RB is a questionable strategy.
Best Pick: WR Jerome Mathis (4th). Pairing the fastest player in the draft with strong-armed QB David Carr and WR Andre Johnson could be special on that carpet.
Worst Pick: Johnson in the 1st. Johnson isn’t the NT they needed, and they may have reached for him in the first place.
The Skinny: It’s do-or-die for Dom Capers this year, so he’s going to have to make Johnson and Morency fit his plans. The key will be keeping David Carr healthy, and the Texans’s offense could be explosive.
Indianapolis Colts: F
Ending up with CB Marlin Jackson (1st) and DB Kelvin Hayden (2nd) with his first two picks won’t solve Tony Dungy’s main problem with the Colts–a complete lack of mental toughness. To top it off, they reached for DE Vincent Burns in the 3rd round, which was already a position of strength on the Colts roster.
Best Pick: LB Tyjuan Hagler in the fifth. Hagler doesn’t have great measurables, but he’s tough as nails.
Worst Pick: Jackson in the first. He’s too slow to play corner on the carpet in the RCA Dome and is pitiful at FS, where he may eventually end up.
The Skinny: Dungy is running out of excuses in Indy, and if they can’t get past the Patriots this year, the Colts may have to start thinking about a post-Dungy future.
Jacksonville Jaguars: B+
Somebody was going to take a chance on Matt Jones and Jacksonville was the team to do it at #21 in the first round. Jones, if used correctly, can give Byron Leftwich the big target that he needs to help him out of jams. Last season, Jaguars wideouts had all kinds of trouble getting open. While raw, Jones possesses rare speed and size that could open up the field. But that’s alot of “if’s” regarding Jones. The second round drew LT prospect Khalif Barnes, another outstanding measurables guy that has yet to realize his potential. Fiery HC Jack DelRio might be just the guy to light a fire under Barnes and get him to play up to his capabilities. Third round cornerback Scott Starks is a bit undersized, but is tough, speedy, and quick. He can step in right away and give the team a capable cover corner in the nickel and will be excellent against the slot receiver in three and four-wide formations. RB Alvin Pearman in the 4th gives the team a little insurance against Fred Taylor’s annual injury problems. He can combine with LaBrandon Toefield and Greg Jones to give the Jags a great set of backs to line up with every Sunday.
Best Pick: Fifth-round SS Gerald Sensabaugh. With current SS Donovin Darius begging for a trade out of Jacksonville, Sensabaugh gives them a capable replacement in case Darius gets his wish. While Sensabaugh is raw, he might be able to match Darius in terms of physicality, if not play-making ability.
Worst Pick: Matt Jones in the first. The Jags were not in a position to gamble with their first round pick, but they did with Jones. He has never been a WR or a TE, but he’ll be asked to step in and contrbute as a pass-catcher in his rookie year in the NFL. A tall order for a young athlete, especially one who will be learning on the fly.
The Skinny: The Jags won’t be going anywhere if Byron Leftwich doesn’t take a big stride in terms of reading defenses and delivering the ball accurately to his receivers. The addition of Barnes, and maybe Jones, will help.
Kansas City Chiefs: C-
What can you say about Dick Vermeil? He follows up an outstanding first-round pick with OLB Derrick Johnson, who slipped a little bit, by drafting punter Dustin Colquitt in the third round. Colquitt isn’t a bad pick, per se, but the Chiefs are desperate for defensive personnel, and while a punter will help the field position battle, the first day pick might have been better spent on a DB or DT prospect. That said, you have to give Vermeil credit for using his second round pick to get CB Patrick Surtain out of Miami. Excellent value.
Best Pick: Johnson in the first. He’s an absolute stud who will be a huge impact player in Gunther Cunningham’s blitzing schemes. Johnson is a freakish athlete who won’t be asked to take on blocks, which will allow him to do what he does best–seek and destroy. Might be the best match-up of perfect player for the perfect team in the entire draft.
Worst Pick: Colquitt in the third. Off the top of my head, I can think of 10 other positions that the Chiefs needed before ‘punter’.
The Skinny: This is Vermeil’s last go-round with the Chiefs, so every pick had to count. Outside of Derrick Johnson, none of them will be major contributors this year, although some (CB Alphonso Hodge (5th), WR Craphonso Thorpe (4th)) could develop into players down the road.
Miami Dolphins: A+
Nick Saban’s first job will be to figure out how to get an aging roster to play together for two more seasons while he rebuilds the offense and restocks several positions on defense. Consider his first draft a success towards accomplishing both tasks. First round RB Ronnie Brown seems to be the anti-Ricky Williams–he’s a solid character guy who seems to love playing football. Blessed with size, speed, quickness and great hands, Brown is the complete package and makes that offense better instantly. Second round pick DE Matt Roth gives the Dolphins another sturdy, intense defender to play opposite Jason Taylor and provide a double-edged pass rush not seen in Miami since Adewale Ogunleye was dealt to the Bears for Marty Booker. The Dolphins received tremendous value in third-round LB Channing Crowder, who will step in for the departed Morlon Greenwood. Crowder isn’t as fast as Greenwood, but he is an instinctive, physical player who has the ability to take over games at times with his play-making ability.
Best Pick: Crowder in the third.
Worst Pick: The Dolphins received great value with all of their picks.
The Skinny: Saban did a great job avoiding the temptation of taking QB Aaron Rodgers with the #2 pick and sticking to their guns by taking Brown. Him, Roth, and Crowder are all true football players who will make an impact from the first day on. Saban has alot of work to do, but this draft is a great start.
Minnesota Vikings: C-
Troy Williamson is not Randy Moss. Not that Williamson is a bad player, per se, but he was a definite reach at the #7 pick overall, as Minnesota panicked and grabbed the first Moss-ish type guy they could find, passing on the better player in Mike Williams. While Williams doesn’t have the foot speed of Troy Williamson, he is the better overall talent, and the more natural receiver, while Williamson is still a work in progress. To add to the problem is that Williams ended up in the same division, playing for the Detroit Lions, so passing on him could haunt the Vikings for years. They did well with their other pick in the first round by selecting DE Erasmus James. James, prior to his leg and knee injuries, dominated the line of scrimmage inthe Big 10 like few others ever have. He’ll combine with DE Kenechi Udeze, DT Pat Williams and DT Kevin Williams to give the Vikes what should be the best DL in the game. The Vikes also scored a great prospect in RT Marcus Johnson in the second round. Johnson is a big, agile mauler, and might open the season as the starter at RT, replacing the disappointing Mike Rosenthal. They spent their third rounder on the speedy and tough CB/FS Dustin Fox out of Ohio State. He could develop into a real sleeper as a versatile playmaker who can play center field for them and still move up and cover the slot receiver on third downs. Those guys are hard to find.
Best Pick: RB Ciatrick Fason in the fourth round. The Vikes are loaded at RB, but Fason might have been too good to pass on, as he slid all the way into the fourth round.
Worst Pick: Williamson in the first. He comes into the league with more pressure on him than maybe any other player in the draft. There is no way he can win.
The Skinny: The Vikings did a great job in moving on into the post-Randy Era, but selecting Williamson was a poor move unless he’s been hiding something during his time in college that will come out in the pro’s. Unlikely.
New England Patriots: F
Many draft publications have been rating the Pats draft an ‘A’ because, well, Belichick did it. While that argument certainly holds some water, when you look at this draft objectively, it’s a mess. Belichick enters each draft like a rich kid entering a Porsche dealership. He doesn’t care what he’s going to pay for it: if he sees something he wants, he takes it, regardless of value. Only Belichick could burn draft picks on players that were probable UDFA’s and still merit a passing grade. Not here. Looking at this draft objectively, he took a nice OG prospect in Logan Mankins (about 30 picks too early), a small, unspectacular DB in Ellis Hobbs in the third (about 3 rounds early), and a SS in James Sanders (two rounds early). Will Belichick turn these guys into players? Yes. Will he still have the Pats competing for rings despite the fact that he reached for every pick in every round? Yes. Does that make this draft an ‘A’? No.
Best Pick: Mankins in the first. He’s an athletic, mean lineman who fits the Pats mold (he’ll never be good enough to ask for a contract extension).
Worst Pick: Hobbs in the third. Why is it a bad pick? Because it deprived New Jersey of yet another guy who could have pumped my gas on the turnpike.
The Skinny: The matrix of drafting solid project players has worked with the Pats in the past, but Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis, two of the best teaching coaches around, are no longer there. Now we get to see just how good Belichick really is. The word is that Belichick only drafts players who don’t have thumbs. Why, you ask? Because that way, they can’t pick up a paycheck. rimshot!
New Orleans Saints: C+
The Saints needed alot of new players and probably a new Head Coach and they ended up with the same coach, RT Jammal Bown and QB Adrian McPherson. Good luck. Brown (1st) is a monster RT who will be a great player for a long time in the NFL. However, second round pick, SS Josh Bullocks will not provide them with the speed that the Saints’ defense currently lacks, and neither will third round ILB Alfred Fincher. While both are tough-minded players, neither is an elite athlete who are guaranteed to start for a bad, bad defense.
Best Pick: Brown in the first.
Worst Pick: Adrian McPherson in the fifth. While McPherson has great talent, he is more famous for his off-the-field problems. Pairing him with Aaron Brooks, no stanger to controversy himself, is just asking for trouble.
The Skinny: Somebody page JetNation when the Saints re-join the NFL. They may be the worst run organization in the league right now, which is saying something.
New York Giants: B+
The Giants burned most of this year’s pick last year in the Eli Manning/Chargers deal. Considering that Manning looks like the real deal, the Giants have done very well recouping value with their four picks in this year’s draft. In the second round, they scored CB Corey Webster, who was a suer-fire first rounder before the start of last season , where Webster was injured much of the year. Drafting Webster is the death-knell for disappointing CB Will Allen, who is in the last year of his contract and could still be dealt before the pre-season hits. In the third round, the G-men picked up intriguing DE prospect Justin Tuck, who is only Notre Dame’s all-time sack leader. Tuck and Michael Strahan could combine at some point next season to give the Giants a dangerous pair of pass-rushing ends. The sleeper pick here is RB Brandon Jacobs, who has great size and quick feet. He gives the Giants the big back they thought they were getting with Ron Dayne, who was not re-signed.
Best Pick: Tuck in the third. If he stays healthy, Tuck has first-round ability and could give the Giants a deadly pass-rush combo.
Worst Pick: The G-Men didn’t have enough picks to mak a “worst pick.” They could have tried harder to find an offensive lineman, however.
The Skinny: With a re-focused Jeremy Shockey and with Eli Manning getting a full pre-season as ‘the man’, the Giants could be ready to compete early on. It will be interesting to see if Coughlin doesn’t just go ahead and start Webster over Allen from Day One. Coughlin was disgusted with Allen’s unwillingness to play physically, or to play hurt. Webster was brought in specifically to body up to Terrell Owens, who ate the Giants smaller corners alive last season.
New York Jets: B+
A confession: I was sitting in the ESPNZone when Paul Tagliabue announced that the Jets drafted “Mike Nugent, Kicker, The Ohio State University.” I put my beer down and laughed for five minutes straight, finally carried past the limits of sanity by another Jets embarrassment. This was on the heels of getting ripped off by Al Davis for his third string TE, Doug Jolley. I was done. I ordered another beer. Then I watched the board, expecting CB Justin Miller to be drafted before the Jets picked again at #57. As each pick slid by and Miller remained on the board, I knew that Terry had sold his soul to Satan.
So, what was a bad trade still resulted in the Jets getting three instant starters: Jolley (TE), Nugent (K), and Miller (KR, possibly at CB). It doesn’t get much better than that.
Nugent is a freakishly accurate kicker from long range who knows about kicking in swirling winds, having kicked in the Horseshoe at Ohio State. The Jets desperately needed a kicker they could believe in, after the nightmare in the clutch that was Doug Brien, and Nugent will be that guy. Rookie kickers historically struggle, and every Jet fan eye will be on Nugent every time he kicks it. How will he respond when he misses his first 42-yarder and the boos start coming down? (And you know they will). That will be what defines his career, but early signs are good.
Justin Miller, besides being a dynamic return man (and one who doesn’t run out of bounds like a certain wimpy panty-waist WR who will go unnamed), is also a raw, but developing, physical cornerback whose 4.4 speed could earn him the starting gig at RCB after Donnie Abraham retires. Miller plays with a toughness and a swagger that the Jets haven’t had at CB since James hasty left for the Chiefs, and he could end up being the best cover-man we’ve had here since Aaron Glenn.
Third rounder Sione Pouha, probably picked a round too early, is a huge mammoth DT who can replace the departed Jason Ferguson on the nose, and give MLB Jonathan Vilma the necessary protection to run and chase, while also occupying blockers to let Dewayne Robertson work the middle one-on-one.
The Jets take a bit of a hit for not addressing the offensive line shortage on the team in the fourth round. However, they did acquire two intriguing SS prospects in Kerry Rhodes (4th) and Andre Maddox (5th). Neither is the prototype athlete SS, but both bring good size and skills to the position. Rhodes is a converted QB who is still learning the ropes of playing DB, but he is quick and instinctive, if not overly physical. Maddox is the exact opposite: a little slow, but plays with a vicious mean streak that will make him a great special teamer if he doesn’t win the starting job at SS next to Erik Coleman.
Sixth-rounder RB Cedric Houston will assume the Lamont Jordan role as short-yardage plugger. Houston was productive at Tennesse when he wasn’t battling various injuries. Still, he could be a nice surprise, particularly if he can convert a few third-and-shorts for us early on.
Fellow sixth-rounder Joel Dreessen, currently a TE, is an intriguing prospect who could be used as an H-Back in Mike Heimerdinger’s offense. He has good athleticism, size, and toughness. In contrast to the finesse player Doug Jolley, Dreessen could be a nice, physical complement if Chris Baker isn’t retained.
In the seventh round, Terry Bradway selected WR Harry Williams, who has ridiculous speed, but was more renowned at Tuskegee for his track and field exploits than for his football ability. A pure project and a long shot to make the roster. It would have been interesting to see Michigan SS/OLB prospect Ernest Shazor, who signed with Arizona as a UDFA, taken at this slot.
Best Pick: Justin Miller in the second. Terry B got lucky when Miller dropped because of a drunk and disorderly charge he had slapped on him the week before the draft. [Note: Next year, week before the draft, we all drive down to Oklahoma and get RB Adrian Peterson drunk and arrested so we can scoop him up, too]
Worst Pick: Kerry Rhodes in the fourth. While an interesting player, Oklahoma assassin Donte Nicholson was still on the board who, while he has less upside than Rhodes, may be reay to play now at SS.
The Skinny: It looks like, on paper, the Jets had an excellent all-around draft. If Nugent s as good as we think he is, he might win 2-3 games by himself next season, and if Miller can average close to the 30.3 yards-per-return on kickoffs as he did in the ACC, the Jets will be ready to contend. Terry Bradway pulls it off again.
Oakland Raiders: C
The Raiders spent the days leading up to the draft fleecing other teams for players they wanted gone anyway. They received the Jets first rounder (#26) in exchange for third-string TE Doug Jolley and the Raiders #2 (which they had acquired from the Texans, along with their third rounder, for disgruntled CB Philip Buchanon). Al Davis then went out and wasted just about every one of those picks. First-round CB Fabian Washington out of Nebraska was tabbed to replace Buchanon, but is he any better? Quick: name the last great corner to come out of Nebraska. Answer: Bruce Pickens. Just kidding, he sucked too. Similarly, Al Davis selected Stanford Routt in the second round out of Houston. Routt, like Washington, ran a sizzling 40-yard dash at the combine, which is always a big selling point to Al Davis.
Best Pick: LB Kirk Morrison in the third round. Even though it was probably a round too early, Morrison is a tough, hard-nosed ILB that will help a traditionally soft defense.
Worst Pick: QB Andrew Walter in the third round. Walter is tall and has a decent arm, but he’s also got a horrific case of happy feet that makes Jim Everett look tough by comparison.
The Skinny: This draft was all about Randy Moss, whom Davis traded the seventh overall pick for. If Moss can stay under control playing in the Oakland zoo, the draft will be a success. If not, the Raiders will not compete for another five years.
Philadelphia Eagles: A
If you won Super Bowl rings for managing the salary cap and drafting capable players, the Eagles would be working on a dynasty. The Eagles never draft for the upcoming season, they draft for three seasons down the road, when they dump high-salaried veterans and replace them with the draft picks they’ve been grooming to take their place. DT Mike Patterson (1st) will replace Corey Simon, who balked at signing long-term and will be gone after this season. WR Reggie Brown (2nd) will replace T.O., who is also squawking about getting a new contract. You go down the line, and you’ll see that Andy Reid has a young guy tabbed to take every starter’s job as soon as it comes time to earn the big money. This season is no different.
Best Pick: Reggie Brown in the second. A big, gifted receiver who will give McNabb a consistent, hard-working target.
Worst Pick: Andy Reid and co. received value with all of their picks.
The Skinny: Despite the improvements made to teh Falcons and the Vikings, no team is really colse to competing with the Eagles right now.
Pittsburgh Steelers: B+
Bill Cowher knew he needed to surround Ben Roethlisberger with more offensive weapons, and he did just that, adding the top-rated TE Heath Shuler in the first and WR Fred Gibson in the fourth. Miller can be a young quarterbacks best friend, as a reliable, instinctive pass-cather in the mold of Dallas’s Jason Witten. Gibson is another story. Entering Georgia as a highly-touted recruit, Gibson flashed enormous athetic skills, but looked soft and lazy at time. It will be interesting to see how that plays out in Pittsburgh, where they eat soft and lazy players for breakfast. Second round CB Bryant McFadden was a good value here who, in many other years, might have found himself in the first round. However, in a CB class this deep, McFadden found himself pushed down the charts.
Best Pick: LB Rian Wallace in the fifth. Wallace is a physical, speedy LB that played in a bad program at Temple who could flourish with the right coaching.
Worst Pick: OT Trai Essex in the third. You never want to second-guess the Pittsburgh coaching staff when they tab an offensive lineman in any round, as their track record for finding blockers is exceptional, but you wonder if they didn’t jump on Essex too early. Time will tell.
The Skinny: After the loss of Plaxico Burress, who had been Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite target, Cowher did a good job in getting adequate replacements in Miller and Gibson. If Big Ben and Miller can develop a chemistry early on, they could be this generation’s Aikman-to-Novacek.
St. Louis Rams: A-
When you have Orlando Pace at LT, you should not be allowed to draft Alex Barron to play RT, but that’s just what Mike Martz was able to do. Barron has freakish athleticism and size, and will have the opportunity to start slow, playing on the right side where he can learn the speed of the NFL game. As soon as he proves he’s ready, the Rams may find themselves with a pair of Hall of Fame bookends. Adding to that O-Line mix is third round OC Richie Incognito, who has worlds of talent and physical strength, but is an absolute mess off the field. If he can get himself straightened out, QB Marc Bulger will have all day to throw those in-cuts to Torry Holt. In between, Martz picked up some DB’s in Ronald Bartell (2nd) and Oshiomogho Atogwe (3rd) to help fix what was a porous pass defense in 04.
Best Pick: Barron in the first. Getting a player of this caliber at #17 is a heist.
Worst Pick: Bartell in the second. Bartell spent Senior Bowl Week getting torched by just about every WR they put in front of him. And Matt Jones.
The Skinny: If the Rams can get their pass rush sorted out, they could compete for the Super Bowl. Martz did nothing to help that in this draft. Again, the offense will look pretty, but they’ll still give up over 30 points per game.
San Diego Chargers: B-
The Chargers had surprising success last season after many experts predicted that they’d fall flat on their face. In order to keep the momentum moving forward, Marty Schottenheimer needed to bolster his defense with a pass rush, and improve his offensive line. They went two for two. Picking up DE/OLB Shawne Merriman and DT Luis Castillo in the first round were two choices that make the Chargers D significantly stronger. Merriman, in particular, might develop into one of the better defenders in the league regardless of position. Castillo is a stout run-stuffer who, if he’s able to maintain his core strength without steroids, can combine with Jamaal Williams to form a DT wall through which no running backs will pass. Second round WR Vincent Jackson has great size and speed, and was incredibly productive in Division 1-AA, bt it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to translate that success to the NFL. On the second day, Schottenheimer selected three interior offensive linemen, all in the ‘rugged brawler’ mode.
Best Pick: Merriman in the first. An absolute stud.
Worst Pick: Castillo in the first. No one knows if he’ll maintain his speed and strength minus the steroids he admitted to taking. He could end up being a 265 lber by the end of camp.
The Skinny: If one or two of the second day OL’s step up and clain a starting job, and if Merriman is the truth, Schottenheimer will be in the playoffs again this season.
San Francisco 49ers: C
Pity the Niners fan. Their ownership may be the cheapest in the NFL and they allowed their payroll to dictate which player they would pick first in the draft. While QB Alex Smith is certainly no slouch, he is not considered by most to be a franchise-type QB. A savvy player, mobile, with a serviceable arm, Smith in most years would struggle to be a mid-second rounder. The Niners were burned by USC QB Matt Leinart’s decision to return to school. Second round OC David Baas will combine with 04 second round OG Justin Smiley to give the Niners two absolute monsters in the middle who will open running lanes for the disappointing Kevin Barlow and this year’s third rounder Frank Gore. Gore, who has fought off multiple knee injuries, is a huge gamble for the Niners, and may have been available later in the draft. Third round OT Adam Snyder is an athletic, powerful lineman who will probably need a year of grooming before he sees any significant playing time.
Best Pick: Baas in the second round. Baas is tough enough to play center, athletic enough to play guard, big enough to play tackle.
Worst Pick: Alex Smith in the first. He’ll get Eli Manning money as a result of being the best QB in a bad QB draft.
The Skinny: The Niners will be playing the Saints every time you turn on your television. That’s just the way it works.
Seattle Seahawks: F
Mike Holmgren runs off qualified personnel men like Marilyn Manson runs off Jehovah’s Witnesses. As a result, he ends up drafting with his considerable gut instead of with his head and he ends up with bad picks every year. This year, he burned a first rounder on OC Chris Spencer, who, while a good player, was not worth a first round pick when there were so many other needs on the team. In the second round, Holmgren reached again for LB Lofa Tatupu, who is small and slow, but physical and instinctive. Third round QB David Greene has potential, but bad mechanics and a substandard arm. Still, he’s a gutty winner in the Tom Brady mold.
Best Pick: LB Leroy Hill in the third. Hill is a tough, speedy LB who will fit in well in those NFC West track meets.
Worst Pick: Tatupu in the second.
The Skinny: Start the clock for the first Mike Holmgren “it’s not my fault” meltdown…now.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A-
Jon Gruden knows talent. He got his stud RB in Cadillac Williams in the first and then scored again the second round with ILB Barrett Ruud. Williams is a smaller back, but is very similar to Charlie Garner, with whom Gruden had tremendous success in Oakland. Williams has excellent vision, accleration and top speed. Ruud is a pure throwback football player who will put his body on the line to make plays in Monte Kiffin’s defense. He adds a desperately needed infusion of youth to an aging group of LB’s. In the third round, Gruden added TE Alex Smith and OT Chris Colmer, both high-quality, if not great, prospects. Smith can run and catch the ball and is an efficient blocker, while Colmer is a nice RT prospect who will need to add lower-body strength to be effective.
Best Pick: WR J.R. Russell in the seventh. Russell, with good size, speed and hands, was extremely productive at Louisville, and Gruden may have gotten a late round steal.
Worst Pick: OG Dan Buenning in the fourth. Buenning has poor lateral mobility and can be a liability in pass protection.
The Skinny: Gruden spent this off-season reloading, and seems to have settled on Brian Griese as his QB. If Griese delivers, the Bucs could challenge the Falcons for the NFC South crown.
Tennessee Titans: C-
Floyd Reese, after failing miserably to manage his salary cap, resulting in a multitude of cuts this off-season, entered the draft looking to re-stock the positions that his bungling had depleted. In the first round the Titans reached for CB Pac-Man Jones with the sixth overall selection, ahead of the higher-rated Antrel Rolle. Jones ran slower than expected at his pro day, and his size is unimpressive to begin with. In the second round, Reese reached for OT Michael Roos, who is relatively new to playing football, and while he has nice size and agile feet, will need major work to even find himself on an NFL field. WR Brandon Jones was drafted in the third round to replace Derrick Mason. Good luck, Brandon.
Best Pick: WR Courtney Roby in the third. Roby’s speed and toughness will be relied upon to stretch the field for non-burners Drew Bennett and Tyrone Calico.
Worst Pick: Pac Man Jones in the first. Just a waste of the #6 pick. Awful.
The Skinny: It’s re-building time in Tennessee. Steve McNair should think twice about coming back to this mess.
Washington Redskins: D
The Daniel Snyder travelling circus just gets better and better. Although first round pick CB Carlos Rogers is a nice player, the Skins would have been better off addressing the fact that they have no WR’s and drafting Mike Williams. Instead, they jump on Rogers, who is a tall, physical CB, but is far from a finished product. Later in the first, after trading up, they selected QB of the future Jason Campbell. In fact, ‘The Future’ was Campbell’s nickname at Auburn, where his combination of size, mobility, and arm strength was supposed to put him in contention for a Heisman. It never materialized. The drafting of Campbell just further acknowledges the disaster that is/was the Mark Brunell signing for $42 million dollars that the Skins are now liable for. So now they have three QB’s–Campbell, Patrick Ramsey, and Brunell–making top dollar and not one of them can go out and be counted on to win an NFL game right now.
Best Pick: LB Robert McCune in the fifth. Very fast ILB with a mean streak.
Worst Pick: Campbell in the first. A very expensive attempt to wipe out the mistakes of the past.
The Skinny: Poor, poor Joe Gibbs. Poor Joe Gibbs.