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 Post subject: Great Blue Draft Report Reviews Draft, Good Stuff!
PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2007 3:16 am 
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Below is a suumary of this year's rookie class.Its very interesting and just shows what teams have top talent evaluators and which ones don't. A rookie class can't be judged its first year but there are a few trends with certain teams that seem to draft well year after year. Remember last year when the Patriots draft Logan Mankins and Nick Kazcur 2 rookies who ended up starting. Well look whose on the list again New England drafting Ryan O Callaghan in the 5th round. Gee what a novel concept of drafting young,talented rookies who become the building blocks of your line in the 1st -5th rounds instead of the Faclon's drafting 2 linemen in the 1st 3 rounds in at least 12 years and the rest are low round picks. Think New England knows a thing or 2 about protecting the QB? Whose won 3 out of the last 5 super bowls and which team hasn't had consecutive winning seasons in over 35 yrs? hint they have one of the smallest lines in the game---- the Falcons.

Think Chicago knows a little bit about drafting. A few yrs ago they draft Tommie Harris where many questioned he would be a flop out of Oklahoma, found lance briggs and now this year has the best return man in the game Devin Hester and the leading sack artist rookie in Mark Anderson in the 5th round.

It amazing how some teams continually draft well no matter where they draft and others have no clue. Are we giving Mckay to much credit granted he did draft Norwood but look at these other teams that are setting there team up to be competitive year after year without having to spend money and have the highest payroll in the league(Falcons).






SPECIAL ROOKIE REPORT:

FIRST-YEAR 2006 DRAFT REVIEW
(Ed. note: Of course, it usually takes 2-3 years for draft grades to become fully evident, so not too much should be made out of an immediate post-draft evaluation. However, we can rate how each team did to some degree in terms of the quality of their picks based at least on the players' consensus grade as well how specific teams did in meeting their needs with their respective. Again, however, no should put much stock in post-draft evaluations at this time.)


TOP 10+ OFFENSIVE ROOKIES


#
PLAYER
POS
NFL TEAM
RD
SCHOOL

1
Marcus McNeill
OT
San Diego
2
Auburn

2
Vince Young
QB Tennessee 1
Texas
3
Marques Colston
WR New Orleans 7
Hofstra
4
Devin Hester KR Chicago 2
Miami
5
Maurice Drew-Jones
RB Jacksonville
2
UCLA

6
Joseph Addai RB Indianapolis 1
LSU
7
Matt Leinart
QB
Arizona 1
Southern California

8
Ryan O'Callaghan
OT New England 5
California
9
Reggie Bush RB New Orleans 1 Southern California
10 Nick Mangold
C New York Jets 1
Ohio State

Honorable mention: Cincinnati OT Andrew Whitworth; Tampa Bay OG Davin Joseph; Pittsburgh WR Santonio Holmes; New Orleans OG Jahri Evans; Denver QB Jay Cutler; Atlanta RB Jerrious Norwood; New York Jets OT D'Brickashaw Ferguson and RB Leon Washington; Green Bay OG Daryn Colledge; New England RB Laurence Maroney

TOP 10 DEFENSIVE ROOKIES


#
PLAYER
POS
NFL TEAM
RD
SCHOOL

1
DeMeco Ryans
LB
Houston 2
Alabama
2
A.J. Hawk LB
Green Bay 1
Ohio State
3
Mark Anderson
DE
Chicago
5
Alabama

4
Kamerion Wimbley
DE
Cleveland
1
Florida State

5
Tamba Hali
DE
Kansas City
1
Penn State

6
Donte Whitner DB Buffalo 1
Ohio State
7
Ernie Sims
LB Detroit 1
Florida State

8
Dawan Landry DB Baltimore 5
Georgia Tech
9
Antoine Bethea DB
Indianapolis
6
Howard
10 Richard Marshall CB Carolina 2
Fresno State
Honorable mention: Oakland LB Thomas Howard; Detroit DB Daniel Bullocks; Cleveland LB D'Qwell Jackson; Chicago DB Danieal Manning; Houston DE Mario Williams; Denver DE Elvis Dumervil

TOP UNDRAFTED ROOKIE FREE AGENTS


#
PLAYER
POS
NFL TEAM
SCHOOL

1
Mike Bell RB
Denver Arizona

2
Paul Carrington
DE
Atlanta
Central Florida

3
Jon Ryan P
Green Bay Regina (Can)
4
Steve Weatherford P New Orleans
Illinois
5
Jayme Mitchell
DE
Minnesota
Mississippi

6
Hank Baskett
WR Philadelphia New Mexico
7
Kevin Dockery CB New York Giants Mississippi State
8
Ahmard Hall
FB
Tennessee
Texas

9
Ronnie Prude
CB
Baltimore
LSU

10
Oliver Hoyte
FB
Dallas
North Carolina State


TOP PICKS BY ROUND


RD PLAYER
POS
NFL TEAM
SCHOOL

1
Joseph Addai
RB Indianapolis LSU
2
DeMeco Ryans LB
Houston Alabama
3
Jerious Norwood
RB
Atlanta Mississippi State
4
Elvis Dumervil DE Denver Louisville
5
Mark Anderson DE Chicago Alabama
6
Antoine Bethea DB Indianapolis Howard
7
Marques Colston
WR New Orleans Hofstra

Team-by-team ratings:
Chicago… Despite not having a first round pick this year, the Bears' rookie class was as productive as any in the NFL. DE Mark Anderson, for example, a 5th round pick this year, led all rookies with 12 sacks this fall. Indeed, Anderson was 8th in sacks in the entire league despite the fact he plays primarily as a situational pass rusher. At the same time, KR Devin Hester, the second of two Bears' second round pick this past April, emerged as the NFL's most dangerous return artist this season as he returned 6 kicks for scores. Overall, Hester was second in the NFL with an average of 12.8 yards per punt return and fifth in KO returns with a 26.4 yards per return average. And that doesn't include a 108-yard returned FG for a score against the Giants. Meanwhile, safety Danieal Manning, Chicago's other second round pick, was the only Bears' rookie to be a full-time starter. And Manning, the first non-Division 1A player selected last April, was more than solid posting 70 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, two interceptions and 5 other pass breakups to also rate as one the league's top defensive rookies. On the other hand, the Bears didn't get much from their 3rd and 4th round picks as both 3rd rounder DT Dusty Dvoracek and 4th rounder LB Jamar Williams were placed on IR early in the year... First-year grade: A

New Orleans… When the Saints selected USC Heisman Trophy winning RB Reggie Bush with their #1 pick at the 2006 draft, most observers around the league figured the Saints were a lock to have a strong candidate for the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year. Little did they know! Bush, in fact, had a fine rookie campaign, however, the Saints' best rookie this year was WR Marques Colston, an unheralded 7th round pick from Hofstra. Colston, chosen 252nd overall at this year’s draft, became Drew Brees go-to guy as he caught 70 passes for over 1,000 yards and 8 TDs on the season, despite not playing in four games. Meanwhile, Bush had almost 1,300 yards from scrimmage this fall, but was better as a receiver than runner. Indeed, Bush averaged only 3.6 rushing yards per carry this fall, while he led all rookies with 88 receptions, but again averaged under 9 yards per catch. Colston and Bush, though, weren't the only rookies to have contributed big-time to the Saints' storybook resurgence this fall. OG Jahri Evans, a 4th round pick this past August, for example, has started at RG from day one this fall and has helped solidify a once-shaky offnsive front, while second round DB Roman Harper was one of the leading rookie tacklers in the league through the early part of the season, but had to be placed on IR after he tore an ACL. The Saints also got a solid performance out of undrafted rookie free agent P Steve Weatherford who has averaged a very respectable 43.8 yards per kick so far this fall... First-year mid-season grade: A


Houston…The 2006 draft will always be remembered in Houston for the fact that the Texans took DE Mario Williams over RB Reggie Bush and QB Vince Young with the #1 pick overall. And it certainly hasn't helped the morale in Houston that both Bush and Young have looked very much the part of emerging stars in the NFL. For his part, Williams wasn't a dud; indeed, he led the Texans' down linemen with 47 tackles and had 4.5 sacks despite playing much of the second half of the season with a painful foot condition. Lost amid the hullabaloo surrounding the Williams' situation, though, is the fact that the Texans did actually end up with the league's defensive rookie of the year in MLB DeMeco Ryans who may turn out to be one of the steals of last April's draft, or at least as much of a steal as the first player chosen in the second round can be. Ryans led all rookie tacklers with 156 stops this fall; indeed, the former Alabama star was second in the entire NFL in tackles to Miami's Zach Thomas. On the other side of the ball, 6th round RB Wali Lundy battled inconsistency at times, but emerged as a useful complimentary back rushing for 476 yards and catching 33 passes. Undrafted rookie free agent RB Chris Taylor also showed some interesting potential late in the season. Meanwhile, TE Owen Daniels emerged as a reliable underneath receiver and red-zone target, catching 34 passes 5 of which went for TDs. And the Texans grade would be even higher except that OT Charles Spencer, a third round pick who had established himself as a bulwark on the team's offensive line, was lost for the year with an injury early on; OL Eric Winston, the Texans' other third round pick, also looks like another future building block upfront... First-year grade: A

New York Jets: There are a lot of reasons why the Jets went from top draft pick contenders to a playoff team in just one year, including the return of veteran QB Chad Pennington; don't forget the Jets' rookie class, though, which also made a major contribution. Both OT D'Brickashaw Ferguson and C Nick Mangold, the Jets' two #1 picks this year, for example, were mainstays along an improved offensive line all season. Ferguson, the 4th player selected this year, did a decent job manning the LT, although he struggled at times in pass protection. Indeed, a case can be made that Mangold, the 29th pick this year, actually outplayed Ferguson, however, the Jets hav both pencilled into their respective positions for the next decade. Meanwhile, the Jets really weren't expecting all that much from RB Leon Washington, their 4th rounder, but the former Florida State scatback helped ease the pain of the loss of veteran RB Curtis Martin, whose career may be over because of a knee injury, as he ran for 650 yards and added another 250 on 25 receptions. Meanwhile, both DB Eric Smith amd CB Drew Coleman, 3rd and 6th round picks respectively, provided some useful minutes on the other side of the ball where both had 27 tackles with Smith chipping in a couple of interceptions. And the Jets' special teams got a boost from 'slash' WR Brad Smith who was solid covering kicks and also contributed some plays from scrimmage... First-year grade: A

Green Bay… No team has played more rookies this fall than the Packers, who appear to have turned a corner after winning eight games this fall, double their 2005 total. Not surprisingly, LB A.J. Hawk, the 5th player taken overall this past April, was the Packers' rookie headliner. And while it was almost impossible for the former Ohio State to live up to the hype that accompanied his selection, Hawk was close as he made plays all over the field finishing the year with 121 tackles, 3.5 sacks, a forced fumble, 2 interecptions and 5 other pass breakups. The Packers also had high hopes that 3rd round LB Abdul Hodge would be a major contributor this fall, but he barely played because of a knee injury. Meanwhile, WR Greg Jennings, a second-round pick, emerged as a bona fide deep threat for veteran QB Brett Favre early in the season, but faded down the stretch after suffering an ankle injury; still, Jennings averaged 14 yards per catch on 45 total receptions, three of which went for scores. Perhaps the biggest story for the Packer rookies, though, was their impact on the offensive line where both Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz, second and third round picks respectively, have been solid pairing up as Green Bay's starting OGs, while Tony Moll, a 5th round selection, also played a lot as an injury replacement. Then there was undrafted rookie free agent P Jon Ryan who averaged 44.5 yards per punt after migrating south from the Canadian league... First-year grade: A

Buffalo… More than a few heads were scratched at the 2006 draft when the Bills selected former Ohio State safety Donte Whitner with the 8th pick overall. No heads are being scratched today as Whitner was one of the most productive defensive rookies in the league this fall posting 105 tackles, an interception and 4 other pass breakups. The Bills, in fact, hit the daily double as FS Ko Simpson, a second rookie safety who may turn out to be a real steal in the 4th round, was almost as productive recording 77 tackles and a pair of interceptions of his own. The Bills also were expecting to have one of the better young DTs in the league this fall when they traded up to grab DT John McCargo with their second first rounder, but he had to go on IR early in the season with a foot injury. No problem, though, as DT Kyle Williams, a 5th rounder, picked up the slack posting 53 tackles to lead all rookie DTs. Meanwhile, 6th round LB Keith Ellison also was very productive recording 65 tackles, a sack and an interception despite not playing much in the middle part of the schedule. And the Bills got some really unexpected production from OT Terrance Pennington, a 7th rounder, who was more than solid after taking over at RT. Another 7th round OL, OG Aaron Merz, also showed some promise in limited playing time, while undrafted rookie free agent LB John DiGiorgio played well on special teams... First-year grade: A

Jacksonville… The Jaguars had the best little big man of the NFL's 2006 rookie class in RB Maurice Drew-Jones. Indeed, a case can be made that Drew-Jones, a second round pick this year, was the best man taken this year period. Over the course of the year, Drew-Jones rushed for almost 1,000 yards, along the way averaging a more than respectable 5.7 yards per carry; caught 46 passes for another 400+ yards; and was among the league leaders with a 27.7 yards per return running back KOs. In the process, Drew-Jones scored 16 TDs including 13 on the ground. The going was somewhat rougher, though, for Drew-Jones' former UCLA teammate, TE Marcedes Lewis, the Jaguars' #1 pick this year who had but 13 catches on the year for a measly 126 yards. The Jaguars most productive rookie other than Drew-Jones was 3rd round LB Clint Ingram, who came on late to finish the year with 71 tackles including a sack and an interception. In fact, the Jaguars defense got contributions from a number of first-year players including 5th round DE Brent Hawkins, (2 sacks), 7th round CB Dee Webb (17 tackles, 1 interception), and undrafted free agents Tony McDaniel, a DT who had 16 tackles and a sack, and LB Brian Iwuh (13 tackles)... First-year grade: A-

Cleveland … No one in Cleveland was quite sure what they were getting in Kamerion Wimbley, the former Florida State tweener whom the Browns took with the 13th pick overall at the 2006 draft. Was Wimbley in fact a big OLB or a quick DE. Whatever you call him - Wimbley is nominally an OLB in the Browns 3-4 scheme - Wimbley proved he can get after the QB this fall as he posted 11 sacks, second among all rookies this fall. The Browns, in fact, have some hope for the future on that side of the ball as MLB D'Qwell Jackson, the team's second rounder, was all over the field this season racking up 93 tackles before being forced onto injured reserve for the final three games of the year. As well, another ILB, Leon Williams, a 4th rounder who didn't play the first half of the season, really came on over the final weeks of the schedule, posting 42 tackles, including two 10+ tackle games. On the other side of the ball, the Browns were more than pleased with FB Lawrence Vickers, a 6th rounder who did a nice job lead blocking, while 5th round RB Jerome Harrison had a handful of touches this fall... First-year grade: A-

Tennessee… No rookie had a bigger impact on his particular team than Titans’ QB Vince Young. Young, the 3rd player taken overall at the 2006 draft, struggled with the speed of the game early this season, but once he caught up with the tempo rallied the Titans to a late-season 6-game winning streak that actually had Tennessee, which had started the season 0-5, on the brink of making the playoffs. Young was never particularly pretty this season as he completed just 52% of his passes and had one more pick than TD pass, however, as he did in college Young showed that remarkable ability to make plays when it counted. Indeed, Young was able to dominate as much with his legs and with his arm as he ran for over 500 yards on the season with most of that total coming in the second half of the campaign. The Titans also got an unexpected contribution from unheralded 7th round DB Cortland Finnegan who was all over the field as a situational DB posting 70 tackles as well as 2 sacks and 7 pass breaks ups. The Titans’ defense also got significant minutes from LB Stephen Tulloch and DT Jesse Maholena, 4th and 5th round picks respectively, with Tulloch contributing 47 tackles and an interception as a sometime starter. On the other hand, RB LenDale White, the Titans' second round pick this past April, struggled to make an impact rushing for just 244 yards. Indeed, undrafted rookie free agent FB Ahmard Hall, whom the Titans after he was passed over at this past summer’s supplemental draft, had a bigger impact as the team’s every-down FB... First-year grade: B+

Indianapolis… It would have been way too much to ask a rookie to come in and totally replace former Colts' RB Edge James, who took the money and ran to Arizona last winter, however, Joseph Addai, Indianapolis' #1 pick this year, came about as close as can reasonably be expected. Addai, selected 30th overall last April, led all rookie RBs with over 1,000 yards rushing - he was in fact the only first-year back to break that barrier - and added another 325 yards on 40 receptions. Meanwhile, the Colts also came up with a major steal at the 2006 draft in DB Antoine Bethea, an unheralded 6th round pick who has been a fixture in the Colts' secondary since the start of the season; Bethea finished the year with 90 tackles and had a pick and 4 other pass break ups. On the other hand, neither CB Tim Jennings nor LB Freddie Keiaho, the Colts' 2nd and 3rd round selections respectively played extensively, although Keiaho was effective when he did see game action posting 22 tackles... First-year grade: B+

Denver… The Broncos may get some modicum of solace after being unceremoniously booted from the post-season that the offense at least appears to be in good hands for the foreseeable future. Indeed, QB Jay Cutler, whom Denver traded up to acquire with the 11th pick overall, was the best of this year’s rookie QB corp as he hit on 59% of his passes including 9 for TDs against just 5 picks after taking over from an inconsistent Jake Plummer mid-way through the campaign. And Cutler should grow along with a couple of emerging young receivers in TE Tony Scheffler and WR Brandon Marshall, the Broncos second and third round picks respectively who both averaged over 15 yards per catch this season. Meanwhile, undrafted rookie free agent RB Mike Bell gave the Broncos' running game a physical presence as he pounded out almost 700 yards and unlike his namesake Tatum Bell with whom he shared the job, didn’t put the ball on the ground. The Broncos can also content themselves with the fact that they got one of the draft's real steals when they rolled the dice on DE Elvis Dumervil, the NCAAs leading sacker in 2005 who slipped all the way to the 4th round because of concerns about the fact that the former Louisville star was under 5-11. Dumervil actually didn't play the first month of the season, but once he got into the lineup picked right up right where he left off in college posting 8.5 sacks.... First-year grade: B+

New England... What would a draft be without the Patriots coming up with a gem or two. This year, for example, New England got one of the steal's of the draft in OT Ryan O'Callaghan, a 330-pound 5th rounder who was a rock on the right side after starting from day one. Meanwhile, RB Laurence Maroney, taken 21st overall, was everything the Patriots expected as he rushed for 745 yards in support of incumbent starer Corey Dillon, added another couple of 100 yards on 22 receptions, and averaged a solid 28 yards per return running back KOs. On the other hand, the Patriots didn't get much of a return on their investment in receivers Chad Jackson, a WR taken in the second round, and TEs David Thomas and Garrett Mills, selected in the 3rd and 4th rounds respectively as the trio contributed just 24 receptions combined, although Jackson did score three times; meanwhile, Thomas played well the last couple of weeks of the schedule in place of an injured Ben Watson. And PK Stephen Gostowski, a 4th round pick this year, was slow to make people in New England forget Adam Vinatieri as he hit on under 80% of his FG attempts missing four from inside the 40... First-year grade: B+


San Diego... The Chargers rookie class got off to a rocky start when four of the team's eight picks were released prior to the season. What the San Diego rookie class lacked in quantity however it more than made up for in quality. Indeed, a case can be made that OT Marcus McNeill, an absolute steal in the second round, was the best newcomer in the NFL this season period. And that may show what the scouting/guru community knows as McNeill, a one-time top 10 prospect, dropped like a stone last winter. Despite playing with two banged up hands this season, McNeill didn’t give up a sack nor was he flagged for a holding call all season long as he helped clear the way for LaDainian Tomlinson to run for 1,800 yards, a league-record 28 TDs and a likely MVP award. Meanwhile, CB Antonio Cromartie, taken 19th overall this past April, saw considerable time in situational coverage packages where he had 20 tackles and 5 pass breakups, although the Chargers were probably expecting a lot more from the former Florida State star. The Chargers other two picks - QB Charley Whitehurst (3rd) and Tim Robbins (5th) - on the other hand barely played, although undrafted free agent CB Steve Gregory played well on special teams... First-year grade: B+

Arizona… It was another disappointing year in the Arizona, however, the Cardinals have some hope for the future after QB Matt Leinart, the 10th player selected at the 2006 draft, showed plenty of promise in his rookie season. Leinart did struggle early at times, but finished the year with almost 2,500 yards passing as he completed a respectable 57% of his pass attempts; Leinart also threw for 11 scores but also had 12 attempts picked off. Most importantly, though, Leinart led the Cardinals to four wins in his final 6 starts, but will need some rehab time after dislocating his throwing shoulder late in the season. The Cardinals' offensive line also got a boost when second round OG Deuce Lutui was inserted into the starting lineup in mid-season. Lutui struggled at times in pass protection, but was more than solid drive-blocking. Meanwhile, TE Leonard Pope and DT Gabe Watson, the Cardinals 3rd and 4th round picks respectively, also saw considerable playing time with Pope catching 16 passes and Watson recording 16 tackles and a sack, although the Cardinals were likely expecting more from both players... First-year grade: B+

Detroit… After taking a WR with their top pick at the position in each of the previous three drafts, Detroit went defense early in the 2006 draft and came away with a mini-jackpot in LB Ernie Sims, the 9th player selected this year, and 2nd round DB Daniel Bullocks. Sims, in fact, finished second to only Houston's DeMeco Ryans among rookie tacklers in the NFL with 125, although the former Florida State star didn't register much in the way of impact plays. Meanwhile, Bullocks was third on the Lions with 77 tackles of his own; like Sims, though, Bullocks didn't make many impact plays especially in coverage. However, that was pretty much it for the Lions' current rookie class this year, although 5th round OT Jon Scott did get some valuable experience as a late-season injury replacement, while 3rd round RB Brian Calhoun hada handful of touches early in the season... First-year grade: B+

Baltimore... The Ravens entered the season with one of the larger - both literally and figuratively - rookie classes in the league with 10 newcomers on the roster. And the Ravens' rookie class played no small part in Baltimore’s run to a playoff bye. Indeed, two rookies played key roles on the Ravens’ dominating defense. DT Haloti Ngata, the team's #1 pick this year, for example, did a nice job plugging up the middle of the defensive front, although he didn't make many stops himself registering just 31 tackles and a sack. Baltimore's most productive newcomer, though, was DB Dawan Landry, a 5th rounder who had 69 tackles this fall and led all rookies with five interceptions, one of which he returned for a score. Indeed, Landry was one of two Ravens' rookie DBs to return a pick for a TD in the sane game this fall as undrafted rookie free agent CB Ronnie Prude also took an interception to the house; in fact, Prude was one of the better undrafted rookies in the league this year with a total of two picks. Meanwhile, 4th round WR Demetrious Williams emerged as a big-play threat averaging 18 yards per reception on 18 catches, while 5th round TE Quinn Sypniewski was effective as an in-line blocking specialist and P Sam Koch, a 6th rounder, averaged a respectable 43 yards per kick and put 35% of his punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.... First-year grade: B+

Cincinnati... This was supposed to have been a breakout year for the former sadsack Bengals, but after a season with more downs than ups, Cincinnati will be watching the playoffs on TV. However, don’t blame the Bengals 2006 rookie class. CB Johnathan Joseph, the 24th player selected overall, for example, emerged as the Bengals only reliable cover corner; indeed, Joseph was among the NFL’s leaders as he broke up a rookie-high 20 passes. Meanwhile, OT Andrew Whitworth was more than solid filling in for injured veteran LT Levi Jones and is expected to establish himself as a fixture on the Bengals' offensive line either at OT or OG next fall. The Bengals also got a draft-day steal in 4th round DT Domato Peko, a regular contributor in the Bengals' DT rotation who posted 43 tackles, including 2.5 sacks. The Bengals also added a couple of interesting ‘other’ rookies in LBs Ahmad Brooks and Rashad Jeanty. Brooks, whom the Bengals acquired at this summer's supplemental draft with a 2007 3rd round pick, showed some interesting potential, although he likely was never fully recovered from a knee injury in college, while Jeanty, who played collegiately at Central Florida before spending a couple of years in Canada, did a nice job as an OLB posting 60 tackles despite missing four games with a foot injury... First-year grade: B+

Tampa Bay… The Buccaneers figured to be in a position to fill some holes when they had 10 picks at the 2006 draft, however, they cut four of those players prior to the start of the season and in the end didn't get much in the way of quantity from their rookie class. What the Buccaneers did get, though, was some quality from rookie offensive linemen Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood, the team's first and second round picks this year who manned the right side of the Buccaneers' offensive line at RG and RT respectively this fall. Joseph missed some time early in the year with a sprained knee, but was more than solid after returning to the lineup, while Trueblood had his ups-and-downs at times, especially in pass protection, but provided a physical element to that side of the line. Meanwhile, Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden gambled that QB Bruce Gradkowski, a somewhat unheralded 6th round pick this year, could handle the starter's job when Chris Simms was lost for the year after having his spleen removed. Gradkowski was solid enough early on, but ultimately had to replaced but not before the Buccaneers season was toast. In the end, Gradkowski just wasn't accurate enough as he hit on 54% of his pass attempts and missed too many open receivers, although he did take reasonably good care of the ball. The Buccaneers also got some minutes from WR Maurice Stovall, a 3rd rounder who may have a future at TE, and 5th round DE Julian Jenkins... First-year grade: B

Kansas City… The Chiefs’ 2006 draft started and ended well but their wasn’t much in between. DE Tamba Hali, the team's first round pick, for example, was pretty much the same pas-rushing terror he was in college as the former Penn Stater racked up 8 sacks and also forced 6 fumbles in his rookie campaign in which he also had 62 tackles and an interception. Meanwhile, safety Jarrad Page, the Chiefs’ final pick in the 7th round, emerged as something of a find as he picked off three passes and had 35 tackles working mostly in situational packages. On the other hand, the Chiefs got very little productivity from their second through 6th rounds picks, although second round DB Bernard Pollard did emerge as a special team's star... First-year grade: B-


Carolina… The Panthers entered the season rated as solid Super Bowl contenders, however, it was an up-and-down campaign for Carolina which ended with the team not even making the playoffs. The Panthers, though, got some hope for the future from top 2006 draft picks RB DeAngelo Williams and CB Richard Marshall. Williams, the 27th player picked this year, did miss several games with injury but when healthy gave the offense a boost, rushing for just over 500 yards and chipping in 33 receptions. Meanwhile, Marshall, a second round pick, was thrust into the starting rotation because of injuries to other starters and responded by leading the team with 3 interceptions, one of which he returned for a TD, and 12 other pass breakups. Marshall also contributed 83 tackles to lead all rookie CBs. At the same time, though, the only other Carolina rookie to play this fall was OLB James Anderson, a 3rd round pick who had 21 tackles including 2 sacks... First-year grade: B-

New York Giants… The Giants' 2006 draft class will be remebered for tackle that wasn't when DE Mathias Kiwanuka, the last player taken in this year's opening round, had a chance to snuff out a last-minute Tennessee rally as he had Titans' rookie QB Vince Young wrapped up for what should have been a fourth-down sack. However, thinking Young had already thrown the ball and fearing a roughing the passer penalty, Kiwnauka let him go allowing Young to run for a first down as the Titans came back for a dramatic win. Kiwanuka's blunder aside, the Giants were actually pleasantly surprised with how well their rookie class played overall. Kiwanuka, for example, posted 4 sacks, intercepted a couple of passes and knocked down four others when called in to fill when both starting DEs Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora missed extensive time with injuries. Meanwhile, DT Barry Cofield, a 4th round pick, started all season and was solid enough posting 44 tackles and 1.5 sacks, but did appear to wear down as the season progressed. The Giants also got some unexpected production from undrafted rookie free agent CB Kevin Dockery who picked off two passes, one of which he returned 96 yards for a TD. Meanwhile, LB Gerris Wilkinson, the Giants 3rd-rounder who chipped in 30 tackles, two forced fumbles and a pass breakup, also contributed some useful minutes. The Giants, though, didn't get much from second round WR Sinorice Moss who didn't play until late in the year because of a quad injury and was virtually invisible once he did finally get into uniform... First-year grade: B-

Pittsburgh… The Steelers’ rookie class was a mirror image of the overall fortunes of the defending Super Bowl champions; that is, on balance disappointing overall, but did come on late. WR Santonio Holmes, whom the Steelers traded up in the first round this past April to acquire, for example, started very slowly but ultimately emerged as a big-play receiver and return ace as the campaign progressed. Indeed, Holmes, the 25th player selected this year, averaged a healthy 16.8 yards per reception on 49 total receptions including two for scores. The latter included a 67-yard scoring strike on the final play of the season as the Steelers beat the Bengals in overtime to knock Cincinnati out of the playoffs. For good measure, Holmes also averaged a respectable 10.2 yards per return running back punts including a 65-yard TD return. There was something of a similar story for DB Anthony Smith, the Steelers’ second rounder who didn’t play much until the final six weeks of the season but once inserted into the rotation played well, finishing the year with 2 interceptions and 3 other pass breakups. Holmes and Smith, though, were the only Steelers rookie to play much this fall to date... First-year grade: B-

Oakland… The Raiders' 2006 draft may ultimately be remembered for who Oakland didn't take rather who they did select. Indeed, with the 7th pick overall, the Raiders passed on QBs Matt Leinart and Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler and instead took DB Michael Huff. Time will tell! Indeed, the only saving grace is that by waiting – and finishing with the worst record in the NFL - the Raiders are guaranteed a shot at a top QB prospect in the 2007 draft such as Brady Quinn of Notre Dame. For his part, DB Huff was solid enough for a rookie this fall, posting a respectable 78 tackles, although he also missed his share of tackles this fall. Plus he made almost no plays while the was in the air. In fact, the Raiders' most productive rookie this year was second round LB Thomas Howard, who was among the rookie leaders with 110 tackles, but like Huff made few impact plays. Indeed, the duo combined for 0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles and 0 interceptions, although both were around the ball a lot. Meanwhile, 6th round OG Kevin Boothe, who started from day one, and 3rd round OG Paul McQuiston who started late in the season, weren’t necessarily the weak links on the Raiders' offensive line. That may be faint praise, though, on an awful unit which allowed 72 sacks... First-year grade: B-

Minnesota… The Vikings got a peek at the future when QB Tavaris Jackson, the third of three Minnesota second round picks at the 2006 draft, started the final three games of the season. While the Vikings lost all three, the team saw enough from the former Alabama State star to want to see more down the road. Jackson completed a respectable 58% of his passes as he showed a strong arm and good mobilty. Jackson, though, did throw 4 interceptions against just 2 TD passes. In fact, the Vikings played a lot of rookies this fall despite the fact that LB Chad Greenway, taken with the 17th pick overall, was lost for the season with a knee injury early in training camp. CB Cedric Griffen, the team's second round pick, for example, played a lot of minutes as a situational DB and sometime starter contributing 43 tackles, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and 8 other pass breakups despite missing the final two games of the season with an injury. Meanwhile, DEs Ray Edwards, a 4th rounder, and undrafted rookie free agent Jayme Mitchell gave the pass rush a bit of a boost each posting three sacks as situational pass rushers, while DBs Greg Blue, a 5th rounder, and Charles Gordon, an undrafted rookie free agent CB, also played a lot is situational packages. And by the end of the season OL Ryan Cook, the Vikings other second round pick, was starting at RT, although its not clear that the nominal C is the answer at that troublesome spot... First-year grade: C

St. Louis:… It was steady, albeit unspectacular slogging for the Rams' 2006 rookie class, as many as four of whom were regular starters during the year, although none was especially productive. CB Tye Hill, the team's #1 pick this year, for example, had a solid enough year posting 50 tackles and 3 interceptions on the year as he manned one of the Rams’ starting corner spots, but still needs to be more aggressive when the ball is in the air. Meanwhile, three other Rams rookies including TE Joe Klopfenstein, DE Victor Adeyanju, and OG Mark Settrestom , second, fourth and seventh round picks respectively, also all started. Adeyanju had 34 tackles and a sack, while Klopfenstein did a nice job blocking but had but 20 receptions. Indeed, the Rams investment of two first-day picks on TEs – they also chose Dominique Byrd in the 3rd round – didn’t really pay off as Byrd had but two catches. In fact, the Rams came up rather dry in the third round as neither of DT Claude Wroten nor OLB Jon Alson did much either, although the team still likes the latter’s athleticism. Meanwhile, OG Mark Setterstom, who did a solid job after taking over at LG, may turn out to be something of a late-round steal. First-year grade: C+

Atlanta…The Falcons’ 2006 draft kind of went the way of the regular season. For starters, the pre-draft deal in which the Falcons traded away their #1 pick in order to acquire former Jets' DE John Abraham didn’t work out the way Atlanta had hoped. Abraham was dynamic enough when he played but was limited to just six games all year by a knee injury. The Falcons, though, got some consolation from RB Jerious Norwood, a 3rd round selection who gave gave the running game a boost. Indeed, Norwood averaged a very healthy 6.4 yards a carry as he rushed for over 600 yards. The Falcons also got some unexpected production from undrafted rookie free agent DE Paul Carrington who chipped in with 3 sacks. On the other hand, DB Jimmy Williams, the Falcons' second round pick barely played until the final month of the season as did their three second-day selections… First-year grade: C

Dallas: Nobody thought it was going to be dull in Dallas this season. And that was the case for the Cowboys' rookie class. LB Bobby Carpenter, the team's #1 pick at the 2006 draft, for example, looked like a potential bust when he was a healthy scratch through the first half of the season, but did come on late when the Dallas LB corps was hit with injuries and finished with 19 tackles including 1.5 sacks. At the same time, DB Pat Watkins, the Cowboys' 5th rounder this year, was the starter through much of the season, registering 38 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, three interceptions and 4 other pass breakups, but also was victimized by some big plays going the other way. Meanwhile, big DE Jason Hatcher, a 3rd rounder this year, also contributed some useful minutes which included 2.5 sacks despite missing several weeks with an ankle injury. Second round TE Anthony Fasano also did a nice job blocking as the Cowboys' #2 TE and chipped in 14 receptions, while undrafted rookie free agent FB Oliver Hoyte, a converted LB, was solid as the team's lead-blocker. Two other undrafted rookie free agents - WRs Miles Austin and Sam Hurd - also contributed on special teams with Austin averaging 26 yards per return running back KOs... First-year grade: C

San Francisco… There was a good news, bad news quality to the 49ers’ rookie class this year. The good news: the 49ers won seven games and appear primed to make a run at the playoffs in the very near future. The bad news was that while the 49ers had one of the biggest first-year groups in the league with eight 2006 picks on the roster, the results were at best spotty. TE Vernon Davis, the 49ers’ #1 pick at the 2006 draft, for example, caught 20 passes this fall, including three for TDs, however, San Francisco was probably expecting much more after taking the former Maryland star with the 6th pick overall. It certainly didn’t help Davis’ development this year, though, that he missed 6 games after breaking his leg, although it also didn’t help that he also had a bad case of the dropsies, especially early on. There was a similar story for DE Manny Lawson, whom the 49ers selected with their second opening round pick. As with Davis, Lawson was solid enough posting 57 tackles, including 2.5 sacks, but again the 49ers were probably hoping for more. Indeed, that would likely be the overall theme for the 49ers rookie crop this year, although they did get some surprising production from DE Mel Oliver, a 6th rounder who had 43 tackles and a sack. On the other hand, 5th round DE Parys Haralson, a pass-rush specialist in college, barely played. Meanwhile, RB Michael Robinson, the former Penn State QB taken in the 4th round was used as both a runner and receiver, with limited returns, although he did make an impact on special teams, while 3rd round WR Brandon Williams was the 49ers' prime punt returner, but again with limited results... First-year grade: C-

Seattle: After cutting two of their original 6 picks at the 2006 draft, the Seahawks weren't expecting much in the way of quantity from their 2006 rookie class, but did get some usefiul contributions from both CB Kelly Jennings and DE Daryl Tapp, the Seahawks' 1st and 2nd round picks respectively, who played extensively in situational coverage packages. For his part, Tapp posted 33 tackles including three sacks, while Jennings had 41 tackles, an interception and 5 other pass breakups. The Seahawks most productive rookie, though, may have been P Ryan Plackemeier, a 7th round selection who was among the league's punting leaders with an average of 45.0 yards per kick. Meanwhile, undrafted rookie free agent LB Lance Laury emerged as a solid special teamer... First-year grade: C

Philadelphia: It was an and up-and-down year for the Eagles which ended on a very high note with the Eagles winning the NFC East title. And in doing so the Eagles didn't get a whole lot from the front end of the 2006 draft class, but did get some surprising production from a couple of unexpected sources. DT Broderick Bunkley, the 14th player selected this year, for example, barely played this season posting just 9 tackles and no sacks. Meanwhile, neither of rookie offensive linemen OT Winston Justice nor OF Max Jean-Gilles, the Eagles' second and fourth round picks respectively, played much while WR Jason Avant, Philadelphia's other 4th rounder, had but seven receptions. At the same time, though, the Eagles got some outstanding production from LB Omar Gaither, an unheralded 6th rounder who was a major contributor down the stretch as he posted 64 tackles, along with a sack and an interception. Meanwhile, undrafted rookie free agent WR Hank Baskett provided something of a big-play threat as he averaged over 21 yards per reception on 22 catches, including a pair of TD catches... First-year grade: C-

Washington... After trading away their #1 pick at the 2006 draft and cutting two of the 6 players they did select prior to the season, the Redskins weren't expecting much from their current rookie crop. Washington, though, got some unexpected production from DT Kedric Golston, their 6th round pick who had 44 tackles and a half sack. Meanwhile, LB Rocky McIntosh, the Redskins' second round selection, also came on a bit late finishing the season with 28 tackles, while both 5th round DT Anthony Montgomery and DB Reed Doughty, another 6th rounder, saw some playing time... First-year grade: D+









Miami... The Dolphins figured they had a chance to contend this fall after acquiring veteran QB Daunte Culpepper from Minnesota for a second round pick at last April's draft. Unfortunately, Culpepper, who suffered a devastating knee injury the previous season was just a shell of himself early this season and spent the second half of the season on the sidelines. And there is no guarantee that Culpepper will ever be 100% again. It also certainly didn't help that DB Jason Allen, the Dolphins' top pick at the 2006 draft, was a healthy scratch through much of the first half of the season, although he did play more as the campaign progressed posting 20 tackles and a pick. It also didn't help that two of Miami's other 5 picks this year - OT Joe Toledo (4th) and DT Rod Wright (7th) didn't play this fall because of injuries. In fact, 3rd round WR Derek Hagen, who caught a modest 21 passes was Miami's most productive rookie this season... First-year grade: D-

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Sometimes running the Mularkey offense makes me feel like I'm in a prison.


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