Tuesday, May 02, 2006

From Worst to First: Ranking the NFL Drafts

With the 2006 NFL Draft in the books, here are my rankings of who had the best and worst days. While the methodology is an inexact science, I considered both the players that were picked, and if I thought they made good use of, or got good value for the picks.

So from worst to first, here’s how each team’s draft stacks up.

32. Buffalo Bills
Review: They began the day by reaching for safety Donte Whitnerx, who they could have had if they traded back 5-7 spots. The extra picks would have come in handy since they sacrificed their extra third rounder moving up to pick John McCargo, who they probably could have had if they stood pat in the second round. After the disaster of a first round, they actually made some solid picks. DBs Ashton Youboty (third round) and Ko Simpson (fourth round) were great value picks, and fifth rounder Kyle Williams isn’t much worse of a prospect than McCargo. Most of their second day was spent stocking up on offensive lineman. Given how bad their line is, that’s not a bad strategy.

Verdict: Whitner and McCargo are good prospects, but came off the board way too early. The Bills deserve to be dinged for not getting value for those picks. Futhermore, they get dinged again for trading up into the first round and passing on Winston Justice, who is a much better prospect than McCargo, and would have also filled a need at one of the offensive tackle spots. Their picks in the middle rounds redeem their grade somewhat, but they don’t get any breaks for turning what could have been a very strong draft into what is a mediocre at best draft.

31. Washington Redskins
Review; Their only day one pick was LB Rocky McIntosh, who they traded up to get. He’ll be worth it if he steps into the starting lineup and excels, which they believe he will. The rest of their picks were late round gambles, and all but one of the five players they added are on defense.

Overview: Their first pick was 35th overall, while their next came at 153. It’s tough to imagine that more than 1 of their five late round picks will make it, meaning that this draft is almost entirely on the shoulders of McIntosh. They added a couple of other intriguing prospects, but the depth, especially at the top end, just isn’t there for the ‘Skins.

30. Indianapolis Colts
Review: They added RB Joseph Addai in the first round, and while he won’t replace Edgerrin James, he’s a good fit for their system. Their other first day picks, CB Tim Jennings and ILB Freddie Keiaho are also good fits, though they went earlier than most experts figured they would.

Verdict: The Colts did a good job of grabbing players who fit their system, but none of them, with the exception of Addai, figure to be key players anytime soon.

29. Minnesota Vikings
Review: They started off great, adding linebacker Chad Greenway in the first, and cornerback Cedric Griffin in the second. After that, the wheels fell off. The reached by at least 2-3 rounds for OL Ryan Cook, then followed that up by sacrificing two third rounders to move up to the bottom of the second and grab QB Tarvaris Jackson. While he has some potential, the Vikes passed on two more talented QBs (Whitehurst and Croyle) who have proven themselves against stronger competition. They only made two selections after that, adding depth on the defensive side of the ball.

Verdict: Greenway was a great pick, and Griffin a solid one. Aside from that, they reached and gambled the rest of the way. The only other pick I can feel okay about is Ray Edwards, who could be a good rotation player on the d-line. They better know what they’re doing with Tarvaris Jackson, otherwise this is a poor way to begin the Brad Childress era in the Twin Cities.

28. San Francisco 49ers
Review: Sigh. They bit on Vernon Davis, but made a good pick later in the first round with Manny Lawson. After that, it was all downhill. With many great prospects on the board, they took future third receiver/return man Brandon Williams and Slash QB Michael Robinson in the middle rounds. They redeemed themselves somewhat in round five with DE/OLB Parys Haralson, but added another developmental WR, a depth DL, and two safeties with question marks later on.

Overview: The Niners needed to have a great draft, and didn’t deliver. Unless you buy the Vernon Davis hype, it’s hard to feel good about more than a couple of these picks. Like many other teams towards the bottom of the rankings, they lose out for passing on many better players (who also fit bigger needs) in the first four rounds of the draft. It’s a tough time to be a Niners fan; I can’t say much more without getting angry and/or depressed.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Review: They surprised everyone by adding guard Davin Joseph in round one and offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood in round two. Day one finished up with WR Maurice Stovall in round three. Of the day two prospects, DE Julian Jenkins and CB Alan Zemaitis could contribute, and QB Bruce Gradkowski has some potential.

Verdict: I think Joseph will be a player, but they should have traded down or gone with Winston Justice. Trueblood was a reach, and of the rest of their picks, Stovall is the only one who could become an above average player. The Bucs made some solid picks, but didn’t get great value for all of them, and missed out on some great prospects as well.

26. Cincinnati Bengals
Review: They added corner Johnathan Joseph in the first round, who is both a good value pick and fills a need. Second rounder Andrew Whitworth is also a good value pick, but offensive tackle is not a position of need. The rest of their picks are hit and miss. Domata Peko and A.J. Nicholson are talented, but struggled with inconsistency and off-the-field issues, respectively. Slash QB Reggie McNeal was a good pick, but it remains to be seen what the Bengals will do with him.

Verdict: They did well through the first two rounds, but third rounder Frostee Rucker was a reach. They gambled on day two, which is not a bad strategy given how few holes this team has. While they didn’t steal the show, the Bengals made some solid picks this past weekend.

25. Carolina Panthers
Review: They made standout picks in the first two rounds, grabbing RB DeAngelo Williams in the first, and CB Richard Marshall in the second – about 30 spots after where most people figured he’d come off the board. The rest of their picks are projects and gambles. I like the pick of LB James Anderson, and getting Stanley McClover in the seventh round is a steal, and the rest of their picks are reasonable gambles.

Verdict: Williams and Marshall will contribute right away, but the success of this draft will depend on the ability of players like Anderson and Jeff King to step in and fill needs.

24. Houston Texans
Review: They began the weekend by shocking the world and signing Mario Williams instead of Reggie Bush. They continued revamping the defense at the top of round two, picking linebacker DeMeco Ryans out of Alabama. With their two picks in round three, they finally addressed their Achilles heel, adding offensive tackle Eric Winston and guard Charles Spencer. On day two, they added depth at the skill offensive positions.

Verdict: On talent alone, this draft deserves to rank much higher. However, it gets knocked down dramatically because the Texans passed on the best player in the draft (Reggie Bush), as well as a player who had first round talent and fills their greatest need in the second (Winston Justice). They also failed to get proper value for their first overall pick by not trading down once they decided to pass on Bush. The Texans added some good prospects, but missed out on a couple of great opportunities.

23. Kansas City Chiefs
Review: First rounder Tamba Hali may never post double-digit sack totals, but he should be a solid three-down player for the Chiefs. Second-round safety Bernard Pollard has potential, but the Chiefs’ real coup was nabbing QB Brodie Croyle in round three. He struggled with injuries in college, but has a great arm, and showed great intangibles leading the Alabama Crimson Tide. Of their second day selections, CB Marcus Maxey is the most intriguing.

Verdict: They added some solid players, and could have found the successor to Trent Green. While they could have used a more NFL-ready corner, the Chiefs did well with most of their selections.

22. Atlanta Falcons
Review: The Falcons were without a first round pick, having sacrificed it to obtain John Abraham from the Jets. Nonetheless, they did well with the picks they had. Moving up to the top of the second round to pick DB Jimmy Williams was a great move. He has some character issues, but his talent is unquestioned. I like the pick of Jerious Norwood in the third round as well – he will contribute as a change of pace back and returner. Of the three second day picks, only D.J. Shockley may contribute right away, if they can work him into the offense in a slash role. It’s more likely that he’ll spend time in NFL Europe if they intend to develop him as a QB, but he’s certainly worth the 7th round gamble.

Verdict: They only ended up making five selections, but they did a great job of getting value with their picks. Abraham was a great pickup, and it was well worth sacrificing the extra third rounder to move up and grab Williams. While they didn’t add a lot in terms of quantity, they did a great job turning their assets into quality.

21. Miami Dolphins
Review: Their two first day selections, DB Jason Allen and WR Derek Hagan, have struggled with injuries, and dropped passes, respectively. Nonetheless, they each have a lot of talent, and were at worst, decent picks. The ‘Fins managed to pull of a couple of late round steals, grabbing talented, but inconsistent defensive lineman Rodrique Wright and speedy wide receiver Devin Aromashodu in the 7th.

Verdict: It’s hard to do much when you only have three picks in the first six rounds, but the Dolphins did an okay job of finding talent, then boosted their grade with a couple of steals at the end of the draft.

20. Chicago Bears
Review: They traded out of the first round, then grabbed DB Daniel Manning, who could fill a need at safety right away. Devin Hester is a great return man, but has yet to establish himself as either a corner or a wide receiver. I like the pick of Dusty Dvoracek as well. On the second day, they got a steal in defensive end Mark Anderson, who should have gone 2-3 rounds earlier than he did.

Verdict: They did a great job getting value for their picks, while also addressing a couple of needs. I think they added some good players, and while this wasn’t a spectacular draft, they certainly did a solid job.

19. New York Giants
Review: They traded down in the first round, picking pass-rusher Mathias Kiwanuka, then up in the second, adding speedy receiver/return man Sinorice Moss. Their subsequent picks were generally good value, and they got deeper at linebacker (Gerris Wilkinson), and on both sides of the line (Barry Cofield and Guy Whimper).

Verdict: I thought Kiwanuka was a bad pick, but Moss was a good one. Aside from that, they deserve a solid grade for adding depth and value through the draft.

18. Seattle Seahawks
Review: First rounder Kelly Jennings is a risky pick; he underperformed in college, but shot up the draft board with strong off-season workouts. Undersized defensive end Darryl Tapp got the call in round two, and guard Rob Sims was added in round three. Of the second day picks, wideout Ben Obomanu has the most potential.

Verdict: I’m not sold on Jennings, but I think they got a steal in Tapp. Like Lofa Tatupu, Seattle’s second rounder last year, Tapp was a prolific player in college who slipped on draft day because he lacks ideal size and speed. I think that by draft day 2007, a lot of teams will have regretted passing on him. Sims is a good prospect at guard who could step in soon, and Obomanu is intriguing, and certainly worth a seventh round gamble.

17. San Diego Chargers
Review: In round one, they gambled on talented but unproven corner Antonio Cromartie, then followed up by adding OT Marcus McNeill and QB Charlie Whitehurst later on in day one. On day two, I like the addition of ILB Tim Dobbins, who could be a sleeper, but the rest of their picks fail to excite me.

Overview: Cromartie is a boom or bust prospect, while McNeill projects to be a solid starter on either side of the line. I’m not sold on Whitehurst, but I think he has as much potential as any of the quarterbacks in this draft who aren’t named Young or Leinart. The Chargers, like many others, had a solid, but not spectacular draft.

16. New York Jets
Review: They started off with a bang, adding two of the best offensive lineman in the draft (D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold). After that, things got iffy. They traded back, then up in the second round, settling on QB Kellen Clemens. In the third round, they reached for both ILB Anthony Schlegel and S Eric Smith. The fourth round brought mixed results, with Slash QB Brad Smith coming off the board ahead of many more talented prospects, but the Jets redeeming themselves with the solid pick of RB Leon Washington later on. Their late round picks were unspectacular, but could provide depth.

Verdict: Like many teams who picked near the top, they lose marks for missing out on having a great draft. From a needs standpoint, the Jets failed to add a pass-rusher to take John Abraham’s place, but did solidify their offensive line. This grade will go up if Kellen Clemens turns out to be a starting QB, and Brad Smith can find a position in the NFL. Right now, however, we can’t bank on that happening.

15. New England Patriots
Review: They went offense early, adding RB Laurence Maroney in the first, then trading up to add speedy wideout Chad Jackson early in the second, ending his tumble down the board. In the middle rounds, they added TE David Thomas, who I think is underrated, and TE/FB Garrett Mills, who could replace Patrick Pass down the road. The rest of the day saw them add a kicker to compete with Martin Gramatica, and additional depth on the offensive and defensive lines.

Verdict: They certainly don’t draft for need, do they? The Patriots are thin and old at linebacker, but failed to add a single draft pick at that position. Similarly, there are concerns about their secondary, but only one defensive back was added (in the seventh round). They brought in a lot of talent though. Maroney’s not a bad pick, though I think DeAngelo Williams would have been better, and while I’m not sold on Jackson, he could become a deep threat in the passing game. While they didn’t address their biggest needs, the Pats reloaded on offense, which could pay dividends a few years down the road.

14. Jacksonville Jaguars
Review: Day one began with the additions of big pass-catching tight end Mercedes Lewis, and explosive running back/return man Maurice Jones-Drew. While both could begin their careers as situational players, third round pick, linebacker Clint Ingram, might have the opportunity to contribute right away in the wake of Akin Adoyele’s departure. On day two, the Jags added two defensive ends, and CB Dee Webb, an intriguing prospect who should have stayed in school.

Verdict: The Jags did a great job of adding impact players early, and then attempting to address their needs later. Though they only made six picks, it’s tough to argue with any of them.

13. Detroit Lions
Review; They finally went defense in the first round, grabbing OLB Ernie Sims, who’s a great fit for Rod Marinelli’s defensive scheme. They followed that up by adding ball-hawking free safety Daniel Bullocks in the second round. Brian Calhoun’s an interesting addition at RB, but the real strength of this draft comes from adding two offensive linemen – Jonathan Scott and Fred Matua, on day two.

Verdict: They addressed some key defensive needs early, then got great value going offense later. This wasn’t a spectacular draft, but the Lions did well.

12. New Orleans Saints
Review: Unlike their gulf coast counterparts, they didn’t outthink themselves and pass on the best talent in the draft. After that, things weren’t so spectacular for the Saints. They did well moving down in the second round, adding Center Jeff Faine in the process, but took safety Roman Harper far too early. Their second day picks don’t excite, though Mike Haas could develop into a solid receiver, and guard Zach Strief has massive size, and intriguing potential.

Verdict: It’s all about Reggie. Adding a talent like him automatically makes this a very good draft, but their performance from round two on kept this from being a great draft.

11. Oakland Raiders
Review: They began the day by adding my boy Michael Huff with the 7th overall pick, then picked up speedy outside linebacker Thomas Howard in round two. They followed up by adding depth to the offensive line (three picks), safety Darnell Bing (a steal in the fourth round, though they are apparently foolishly considering converting him to linebacker) and wide receiver Kevin McMahan, this year’s Mr. Irrelevant.

Verdict: Huff and Howard are great picks, and I could see Bing being a solid strong safety. Their o-line picks are intriguing, especially since two of them are from small schools, and they should get at least one contributor out of the bunch. While they could have used a franchise player like Matt Leinart, they certainly get points for bringing in some solid prospects to help solidify the defense.

10. Green Bay Packers
Review: They began the day by adding stud linebacker AJ Hawk out of THE Ohio State University. Following that, they picked up additional day one picks by acquiring a second rounder from Denver for Javon Walker, then trading back in round two. Their two second rounders – Daryn Colledge and Greg Jennings – might have been reaches, but they made up for that by adding LB Abdul Hodge and OL Jason Spitz in round three. The most notable of their day two picks is CB/WR/KR Will Blackmon of Boston College, who is a boom or bust prospect, while the rest of their picks project to be depth players at best.

Verdict: They got great value in Hawk and Hodge, who also happen to fill a big need at linebacker. They also solidified their depth on offensive line by adding Colledge (who can play guard or tackle) and Spitz (center or guard). The Pack had a very strong day one, but passed on a lot of talented prospects who were left on the board for day two.

9. Cleveland Browns
Review: The Browns began the day by adding end/backer Kamerion Wimbley, who is a perfect fit for the 3-4. They traded up to add ILB D’Qwell Jackson, and added another ILB (Leon Williams) to compliment him later on. Their other first day pick, WR Travis Wilson, projects to be a complimentary receiver at best. On the second day, the Browns made great picks. RB Jerome Harrison and FB Lawrence Vickers could contribute right away, while CB DeMario Minter and DT Babatunde Oshinowo could contribute down the road.

Verdict: I wonder if Jackson lacks the size to play in the 3-4, even in the middle, and Williams is inconsistent. Aside from those picks, the Browns had a great weekend.

8. St. Louis Rams
Review: The defense and tight end positions got real boosts this weekend. Undersized corner Tye Hill got the call in round one, then the Rams followed up with a couple of tight ends – Joe Klopfenstein and Dominique Byrd, and DT Claude Wroten and LB/S Jon Alston on day one. They added some good prospects on day two as well, DE Victor Adeyanju could contribute, Slash QB Marques Hagans has potential, and guard Mark Setterstrom has talent as well.

Overview: They added depth to the tight end position, then helped to shore up all three defensive units as well. They may not have added a franchise player in the draft, but they added a lot of quality prospects over the weekend.

7. Denver Broncos
Review: They traded up three spots to take QB Jay Cutler in the first round; I’m not a fan, but more power to them if they think he’s a keeper. They swapped the 37th pick to Green Bay to acquire Javon Walker, which is a great move. Following that, they added depth at tight end and wide receiver, then had a great second day, adding undersized pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil and center Greg Eslinger, both of whom will be solid players.

Verdict: They could have used immediate help at RB or DE, but they did well to add a proven receiver (though one who’s coming off of an injury) as well as a QB to groom behind Jake Plummer, and some intriguing prospects in the later rounds. Even if you don’t like Cutler, you have to respect the way they added an impact receiver and made some great second day selections.

6. Tennessee Titans
Review: They gambled on Vince Young ahead of the surer thing in Matt Leinart to start, but got a steal in LenDale White in round two. Many of their later round picks were great value, such as Calvin Lowry and Jesse Mahelona. They added depth at linebacker, and a potential speedster in Jonathan Orr.

Verdict: I would have gone with Leinart, but I will trust that their scouting staff knows what they’re doing. White was one of the best picks in the entire draft, and they did a great job beefing up the depth on defense. It’s likely that Vince Young will make or break the draft, but the Titans did a good job throughout improving their club.

5. Baltimore Ravens
Review: The Ravens made 10 selection, beginning with DT Haloti Ngata at #12. He’s exactly the type of big-bodied lineman they need to keep blockers off of Ray Lewis. Their other two first day picks – OL Chris Chester and DB David Pittman, are intriguing prospects, and could contribute soon. On the second day, they added WR Demetrius Williams, who has great potential as a receiver, and RB PJ Daniels, who could contribute in a rotation with Jamal Lewis and Mike Anderson. The rest of their picks project to provide depth, or special teams support right away.

Verdict: They got the tackle they needed in Ngata, and Chester, Pittman, and Williams could all be steals. The Ravens generally do a great job with the draft and this year is no exception.

4. Dallas Cowboys
Review: Bobby Carpenter is a great first round selection. He has the ideal size to play OLB in the 3-4, and will pair with last year’s first rounder, DeMarcus Ware, to provide the Cowboys with a strong pass rush. TE Anthony Fasano and WR Skyler Green could contribute right away in passing situations. On the second day, they did well grabbing S Pat Watkins, who could start this year at free safety, and massive DT Montavious Stanley, who has prototypical size for a 3-4 nose tackle.

Verdict: From a needs standpoint, they should lose marks for not addressing the offensive line on day one, and for not grabbing a quarterback to develop. However, the Cowboys did a great job of grabbing talented players. Only Skyler Green could be seen as a reach, and if nothing else, he figures to contribute as a return man. I hate to say this, but Jerry and the Tuna had one of the best drafts this year.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers
Review: Along with Matt Leinart and DeAngelo Williams, Santonio Holmes was the biggest steal of the first round. While they sacrificed their second rounder, the Steelers did well adding safety Anthony Smith and wideout Willie Reid in the third. Smith could contribute right away in the secondary, and Reid could step in as a returner. On day two, the notable picks were DT Orien Harris and QB Omar Jacobs, who both slid down the board, and I also like the pick of RB Cedric Humes in round seven.

Verdict: The Steelers did a great job trading up to get Santonio Holmes. While most thought that they should go after LenDale White to fill a need in the backfield, Holmes is the best receiving prospect in the draft, and could combine with Hines Ward to give the Steelers a pair of All-Pros at that position. They did a good job of addressing both value and need later on, and have positioned themselves to continue to be a contender.

2. Philadelphia Eagles
Review: They were rumored to be a mover and shaker in the first round, but instead they stood pat and let DT Broderick Bunkley fall to them. In round two, they moved up to grab freefalling OT Winston Justice, who most pundits figured they’d be trading up in the first round to acquire. He was a flat out steal with the 39th pick. In round three, they added an intriguing pass-rusher in Chris Gocong, who played at a small school, and followed that up on the second day by adding guard Max Jean-Gilles, wideouts Jason Avant and Jeremy Bloom, linebacker Omar Gaither and DT LaJaun Ramsey.

Verdict: The Eagles demonstrated once again why they are one of the most successful franchises in the league. They addressed a need at DT, then solidified their o-line with Justice and Gilles, both of whom were steals. They also gambled on productive, though undersized/slow players like Avant and Gaither, who will probably outperform their draft positions. They could also earn dividends on Jeremy Bloom, who should contribute as a return man right away. All in all, a fantastic job with the draft by everyone involved.

1. Arizona Cardinals
Review: They had a great draft. On the first day, they grabbed their quarterback of the future (Matt Leinart), a talented guard to block for him (Deuce Lutui), and a big tight end to catch the ball (Leonard Pope). While none of those picks filled the greatest needs for the Cardinals, they grabbed solid players, and in Leinart and Pope’s cases, the clear best player available at that point. Lutui might have been taken a bit early, but the Cards need to beef up the o-line, and he’s a great prospect. On Day 2, they grabbed two defensive tackle prospects (Gabe Watson and Jon Lewis), who add depth to an already strong unit. I’m intrigued by linebacking prospect Brandon Johnson as well.

Verdict: While from a need perspective, the Cards should have added a more NFL-ready linebacker, as well as depth in the secondary, they did manage to grab a number of talented players. Leinart, Pope, and Watson were flat out steals, and the former two project to contribute sooner rather than later to what is shaping up to be an explosive offense out in the desert.

That's it for our NFL draft coverage. I hope you enjoyed the whole experience, and are already counting the days until Mel Kiper's first big board of 2007.


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