IDP Rookie Preview: Part 1

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IDP Rookie Preview: Part 1

Postby Loqutis » Thu May 12, 2005 8:39 pm

5/10/05 ... view.htm#1

Every rookie pick is an investment in your dynasty team. Due to supply (limited pool of starters) and demand (better scoring in most leagues), offensive players are where you have to devote most of your resources. So picking defensive players typically assumes more risk, no matter where you draft them. No one wants to miss out on the next supposedly undersized RB that rushes for 1,000 yards or the too slow rookie WR that doesn't wait for his third year to break out. So from that investment perspective, we’ll review this year's crop of rookie defensive players. First, here is an overall outlook, by position, of the rookies.

DE – not a good year if you need immediate help at DE. Most of the best collegiate DEs are tweeners and in situations where they will be converted to OLBs. Erasmus James and Justin Tuck look to be the only two with potential to be good sack producers and every down players, with only James having the situation to do it as a rookie. I think Matt Roth will be a productive every down player, but limited in getting to the QB.

LB – overall, very good depth and potential. The thing that stands out most in this class in the number of guys with potential to be great sack artists, particularly those tweeners converting from DE. Historically being a OLB/DE tweener has been a stigma and hurt the value of player with most teams. While the risk of changing positions still shouldn’t be overlooked, more teams (particularly San Diego and Dallas) see Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and others have in creating productive edge rushers who can play with their hand off the ground. Aside from the risk of changing position, the focus on pass rush responsibility means these guys won’t be posting 100-tackle seasons. So if they aren’t getting double-digit sacks, their fantasy value will be average. There also aren’t many Mike or Will tackle-machines without significant negatives in this class. Only Derrick Johnson looks to have the talent and situation to be the Jonathan Vilma or D.J. Williams of this class.

S – once again, there is at least one player who looks like a lock to be an elite player, Thomas Davis – assuming he doesn’t convert to LB. There is also plenty of talent in very good situations. Lots of sleepers to be found here.

DT – pretty poor class, especially compared to the last few years. The player with the most upside is probably changing positions. Houston wants Travis Johnson to play end in their 3-4.

CB – this is an absolutely outstanding class of CBs. However, even in leagues that segregate DBs, they fall, so there isn’t much reason to reach for one.

Blue Chips | Most Undervalued | Most Overrated | Market Performers | Speculative | Penny Stocks | DTs & CBs | Undrafted Free Agents

Blue Chips
Three players jump out as having the best combination of elite talent, NFL measurables, and opportunity. They are as close as you can get to locks to put up great fantasy numbers from Week 1 of 2004 through long, productive careers.

Thomas Davis (SS, CAR)
Announced as an OLB by the team, he then lined up in their first post-draft OTA at SS. If he stays at SS, he’s behind Mike Minter, but Minter could be cut. The news the Mark Fields will be done for the year could also effect where he plays. Regardless, he should find a way into the starting lineup and quickly become an impact player.

Shawne Merriman (OLB, SD)
I would have liked to see him land on team that plays a 4-3, where I believe his tremendous athleticism would have evolved him into a complete right end like Jason Taylor or Simeon Rice after he bulked up a bit. However, he has a great opportunity to make an immediate impact with the Chargers, where they are in need of some help rushing from the edges of their 3-4. He doesn’t have the same pass rushing skills of a Terrell Suggs, but he has a better understanding of playing in space. He is not just a workout wonder who went higher than he should of due to measurables, he is a very good football player and could be the top producing defensive rookie.

Derrick O. Johnson (LB, KC)
News that he is slated to compete for a job on the strongside, as opposed to the typically more productive Mike or Will slots seems to being discouraging some owners who are too structured in their perception of the impact of position. If I wasn’t confident he’s going to be a stud at this level, I’d consider him undervalued. His pass coverage skills are already solid, which is usually the part that limits the time of rookie LBs. His sideline-to-sideline speed will allow him to make tackles all over the field. The bottom line is he’s a playmaker, and the Chiefs lack that in the front seven, so the team will find a way to fit him in and he’ll be productive regardless of where he lines up.

Most Undervalued
It's hard to be a "sleeper" when you're taken early in the NFL draft, but these players carry question marks or come into situations that may have other owners skittish about their outlook. However, they are talented players with great upside that will leave you with bargains falling farther than they should and outperforming their draft position. This doesn't mean reach for them early, but keep an eye out for them as potential bargains where they fall relative to your league.

Erasmus James (DE, MIN)
He was recognized as an elite prospect early in college, but a hip injury cost him the 2003 season and other injuries limited him to pedestrian numbers in 2004, resulting on mixed reviews on his upside. In a replay of last year, a potential franchise pass rusher slipped and became an excellent value pick for the Vikings in the first round. Despite being picked 1.18, and one of the few true hand-on-the-ground high upside ends in a draft full of tweeners who will be converted to OLB, I’m seeing James similarly slide in dynasty rookie drafts. The Vikings appear set to move Kenechi Udeze to the left side, where his bulk makes him a better fit at anchor end, leaving James a path to win starting RDE. With the addition of Pat Williams to underrated superstar Kevin Williams on the interior, if Udeze takes the next step, James could benefit from playing the rushing end on one of the best defense lines in the NFL. His immediate upside is limited by the deep rotation the Vikings still have, with rush specialist supreme Lance Johnstone still figuring into the equation and Kevin Williams likely to see some work at end in some sets. He isn’t in the class of a Julius Peppers or Simeon Rice, but he has the best potential in this draft class to be the standout pass rushing end, as opposed to a player with LB-only eligibility, as most of the other top ends in this draft will.

Justin Tuck (DE, NYG)
The only DE other than James drafted on Day One who looks like he will remain eligible at DE and has potential to post double-digit sacks. The career sack leader at Notre Dame fell after battling some injury problems and declining numbers as he faced constant double-teams and had little supporting cast in 2004. He had the potential to be a first round pick in 2006 if he stuck around. As it stands, he has a ton of upside and enters a situation where the team lacks depth and their best end is near the end. He could be a force as soon as 2006.

Josh Bullocks (S, NO)
Most draftniks and pundits have a short memory when it comes to projecting rookies. After the 2003 season, completing his redshirt sophomore season, there was talk Bullocks could leave and be a top prospect. He was coming off a record-breaking season with national accolades. He returned to a new coaching staff and system in 2004, and did not produce the same type of numbers (from a Big 12 record ten interceptions in 2003 to just two in 2004), hence he’s received relatively little publicity or recognition. His talent was not overlooked by the Saints, though. They took him early in the second round, near where former Cornhusker S Mike Brown went 5 years ago. The comparisons to Brown don’t end there. Bullocks has the same nose for the ball and big play capability Brown has shown. He has potential to be a tremendous playmaker in centerfield, the type they’ve missed in the secondary since Sammy Knight left. The team just inked former Buc Dwight Smith to play FS and Jay Bellamy remains the incumbent at SS, but Bullocks will work his way in before long, the same way Michael Boulware did in a crowded Seahawk secondary. He’s better suited to play FS, where he can be a ballhawk, so he should have opportunities in nickel and dime packages immediately.

Brodney Pool (S, CLE)
Brian Russell was never signed as anything more than a stop-gap and Sean Jones returns from blowing out a knee, so the selection of Pool was both best player available and need-based. While not the oversized intimidating presence of Roy Williams or Sean Taylor, Pool has excellent all-around skills with ideal measurables and athleticism for the “old” prototype of a safety – but has the frame to add some more bulk, too. If Jones returns well from injury, he and Pool will quickly form one of the better young safety tandems in the league.

Dan Cody (DE/OLB, BAL)
Cody is first round talent who fell because he needs to put on some more weight and due to previous bouts with depression. He is another tweener, but unlike the others, he played standing up, at times, in Oklahoma and has room to fill out. This pick was a steal, and the only thing I don’t like are his early plans for him. As Rex Ryan switches them back to a base 4-3, they apparently plan to work him in as an OLB, although he’ll undoubtedly be moved around as he was at Oklahoma. However, it would be wise to let Cody bulk up and look at him as pure DE. He has the height and frame to have no problem carrying more weight. It will decrease his speed, but I think he has potential to be a standout every down DE, as opposed to just filling a situational edge rusher niche.

Most Overrated
There's no greater buyer's remorse than remembering the defensive player you selected early to pass on a Michael Clayton. These players may go higher than they should in dynasty rookie drafts due to name recognition or their real NFL draft position. Don’t get me wrong, these are (mostly) talented players, but relative to their potential and/or the situation they landed in, you might be better taking a flyer on another offensive player and seeing if they fall another round.

Demarcus Ware (OLB/DE, DAL)
OK, I brutally struck out with my projection of Vilma as one of the most overrated defensive players last year, so I’m right back to sticking my neck out again on the first non-CB defensive player drafted by a guy who identified the talent of Lawrence Taylor. No question he’s an incredible athlete, I just question all the challenges he has. Another of the many undersized DEs in this draft who will be, for the most part, converting to OLB, which is more complex than it seems. Compounding learning a new position, he generally faced a lower level of competition with a Sun Belt schedule than players in top programs. It’s always a big step up for any rookie, but he needs to jump several rungs on the ladder. Finally, he’s saddled with huge expectations. Dallas’s defense was a disappointment last year and the Big Tuna should be more demanding than usual as he tries to stop his career as a Cowboy’s coach from continuing to head in the wrong direction and tarnish his legacy. He’s instituting a new defense with several new players, and the heat will be coming from teammates, as well as coaches, as they try to mesh quickly. No question this guy has tremendous potential, but too much risk to reach at the deepest position in fantasy football. Completely different story if he retains DE eligibility. This is such a thin DE class, it won’t take as much to have more value at a thinner position.

Lofa Tatupu (LB, SEA)
While I think the Seattle front office and scouts are the only ones overrating Tatupu, I’ll include him here for anyone tempted to take a chance on him early based on where he went in the real draft (13th pick of the second round, 45th overall). While he has a great motor, I can’t see it overcoming his lack of size and athleticism. While he could be the next Dat Nyguen, it’s more likely he’s the next Robert Thomas. I don’t see him beating out Niko Koutouvides for this season, much less finding long-term success as a MLB.

Marcus Spears (DE, DAL)
Textbook example of player who has more real value than fantasy value. I think he has a bright future as a double-team drawing 3-4 DE, but it’s rare those players have much fantasy value. Look no further than his former college teammate, Marquise Hill, who was a very similar, albeit less talented, player.

Matt McCoy (LB, PHI)
It’s hard to bet against Andy Reid, but this pick was a surprise. A classic overachiever who benefitted from playing next to Kirk Morrison, little looked exceptional about him to warrant being drafted so high. Mark Simoneau isn’t working out great, so they add a less talented version of him? Pass.

Market Performers
Talented players likely to be drafted in most dynasty leagues, whose value should be commensurate with where they are drafted. They have a strong outlook, but some question marks, like a situation that immediately falls short of ideal and/or need time to develop.

Darryl Blackstock (LB, AZ)
Brings immediate help in adding a pass rush from the edge, but needs to develop to be a complete LB. Denny Green has blown up the defense since he arrived, so don’t be surprised to see him beat out James Darling for a starting job.

Odell Thurman (LB, CIN)
With injuries clouding Nate Webster’s return and Kevin Hardy cut, the Bengal’s LB situation is not as crowded as it seems. Thurman should eventually be the starting MLB, with Landon Johnson pushed outside or demoted to a back-up role. His upside is great and his disposition is perfect to see him being a tremendous force, but he carries a lot of baggage.

David Pollack (OLB/DE, CIN)
Another tweener who looks like he’s converting to OLB. He was given uniform number 99 at the team’s first post-draft OTA, but he’s talked about learning OLB and changing his number before the season. I think Pollack is too good a football player, with too good a coach, to not eventually find a niche. The release of Kevin Hardy gives him an inside track. It will take him a while to learn LB, learning to rush with his hand off the ground or drop in coverage. However, I think he could eventually be successful as a pass rush specialist who, once he learns to play standing up, can move up and down the line and disguise where he’s coming from. I think they also work in looks at DE, where Justin Smith has never consistently lived up to his potential and they don’t have many options to generate a pass rush in the front four.

Barrett Ruud (LB, TB)
While I don’t expect Ruud to displace Shelton Quarles in the middle this year, he could win the strongside job with an outstanding pre-season. Long term, he has solid measurables and talent to at least be a very good two-down, run-stuffing MLB.

Kevin Burnett (LB, DAL)
Parcells cleaned house on the defensive side of the ball. Burnett could challenge for either outside LB spot or an inside one when they line up in a 3-4. He has the size Parcells likes at LB and should contribute as a rookie and grow into a consistent starter.

Matt Roth (DE, MIA)
Good situation as he’s an early pick of the new regime and the Dolphins struggled to replace Ogunleye last year. Should see at least situation work this year, more if Vonnie Holliday doesn’t bounce back from his disasterous run in KC. Roth could be the long term answer to bookend the front four with Taylor. He doesn’t have the athletic gifts to ever be an outstanding pass rusher, but I think he can be a competent anchor end, providing good tackle numbers and, as long as he’s opposite a stud like Taylor, occasionally get to the QB.

Due to the limited starting lineup requirements and lack of scarcity at IDP positions (in most leagues), taking a flyer on defensive players in a dynasty rookie draft is uncommon. These guys will be, and should be, late round picks or, in most cases, waiver wire material. However, they have nice upside, or are in a situation to have value as rookie, or both. Some of the first few mentioned may be drafted, but dropped if they don't get off to a fast start, and could become valuable FA pick-ups in the future.

Kirk Morrison (LB, OAK)
The leader of San Diego State’s ‘Darkside Defense’ ending up a Raider seems fitting. The Raiders typically reach for workout wonders over football players (once again evidenced by their first two picks), but did the opposite in the third round this year. Morrison is an excellent fit as an inside LB in a 3-4 scheme where he can make a quick read on a gap assignment and doesn’t have to work in as much space. He has the instincts to be a very good player, with versatility to play inside or out, and should develop into the leader this defense has been lacking.

Lance Mitchell (LB, AZ)
After looking like a top prospect as a sophomore in 2002, he never returned to form last year from a torn ACL that cut short his junior year and appears to have lost a step. However, he ended up in a great situation, where neither Orlando Huff or Gerald Hayes are talented enough to prohibit a near future job for Mitchell in the middle. He has the ability, but the athleticism has to catch back up and confidence to return for him to be able to demonstrate his skills.

Alfred Fincher (LB, NO)
Late bloomer exploded on the scene in 2004 and ended up a Day One pick. One of the few true MLBs in this draft, he has the upside to be a tackle machine as a two-down run-stuffer a la Earl Holmes. The situation is a bit crowded again in the Big Easy, but keep an eye on him. Courtney Watson might be better on the outside and Fincher is a better version of Orlando Ruff. If healthy, Cie Grant may be his biggest opposition in camp. One or more of Ruff, Sedrick Hodge, and Derrick Rodgers could be cap casualties, which would bring the picture into better focus for 2005.

Donte Nicholson (S, TB)
Declined from junior to senior year, which saw him freefall on draft day. An explosive hitter, he may be a more exciting player than solid fantasy producer. Good situation in Tampa Bay, where most of the currrent safeties on the roster are more suited to centerfield. Nicholson can become the intimidating presence they’ve lacked back there since John Lynch left.

Adam Seward (LB, CAR)
Despite his ridiculous propensity to injury, the Panthers have inexplicably failed to properly back-up Dan Morgan. Now, they will no longer have to juggle Will Witherspoon between the weakside and middle or try to squeeze more talent than there is out of Vinny Ciurciu. To finally address the situation, they brought in Chris Draft as a free agent, but he was a bust at the position in Atlanta. The answer should be the blue collar overachiever they added in Seward, who makes up for his measurables with effort and football acumen. His upside is limited as a full-time starter, but he should fill in nicely for the handful of games Morgan is bound to miss.

Ryan Claridge (LB, NE)
Versatile player with size to play inside and has displayed nice pass rush skills from the outside. A football “gym rat” whose motor and acumen exceed his physical skills. Does this sound like a Belichick guy or what? Age and injury are big concerns to the Patriots LB group. I expect Chad Brown (who brings problems with both, as well) or another vet LB to be added before the season, but there is opportunity for Claridge to get worked into the rotation and a possible starting inside job in his future.

Vincent Burns (DE/OLB, IND)
The fact he was a bit of a reach in the third round almost makes him overrated, but I think he’s completely off the board in most dynasty leagues. Sweet Pea doesn’t have the measurables to play every down, or the skills to convert to LB, but he is a tremendous pass rusher and you need look no further than what the Colts were able to do with Robert Mathis to like the possibility of Burns becoming a regular contributor. Don’t reach, this is simply a guy to remember when you peruse the waiver wire in the next year or two.

Brady Poppinga (LB, GB)
The early evaluations from fans on Ted Thompson’s first draft as Green Bay GM hasn’t been too positive. Poppinga might have an early chance to change that, but I don’t expect him to. The thing I like best is that he steps into a decent situation, with depth at LB a problem. The addition of Ray Thompson probably precludes Poppinga from having a chance to start, but he might be their best talent at back-up for all three positions – which isn’t as much a compliment to Poppinga as disparagement of their current situation. He’s another tweener, having played some DE earlier in college, but his best pro position might be MLB, where he has the size and would have decent speed for the position.

Penny Stocks
Guys with little to no value right now, but with the chance to surprise down the road.

Michael Boley (LB, ATL)
One of the more shocking freefalls of the day on the defensive side. Boley was an outstanding playmaker and well-decorated player in college. He needs to bulk up and add strength, but he has the frame to support it, so I’m not sure what made him fall to the middle of Day Two. Falcons GM Rich McKay, the guy who drafted him, did mentioned he was a bit of an underachiever, so I guess there were some notions about him, but I think this was a huge steal. Ike Reese will probably be the first back-up outside LB, but with a season to learn and get bigger, Boley should be a significant contributor in 2006.

Rian Wallace (LB, PIT)
Underrated prospect had little incentive to not declare early with Temple’s program in shambles. Goo has more talent than you expect from a fifth rounder and slides into a nice opportunity on a team that plugs and plays LBs that turn out productive in their scheme. He can play either inside or out, and it sounds like the Steelers will work him inside, at first. With the departure of Kendrell Bell, Larry Foote officially moves into the starting role he filled on an interim basis while Bell went through another injury-plagued season last year. Foote was solid, but unspectacular, so he doesn’t have a stone cold lock on a job. Similarly, Clark Haggans was disappointing on the outside as a full-time player after standing out as a back-up. There is more opportunity than usual for a rookie LB in Pittsburgh’s defense, and while I don’t expect Wallace to win a starting job, he could get a shot at one sooner than later and has the talent and temperment to hang onto it.

Oshiomogho Atogwe (S, STL)
Makes up for lack of speed with positioning and instincts. The Rams secondary is in transition and he may be the only “natural” free safety they have on their roster right now. If Archuleta isn’t a good fit for centerfield or Tinoisamoa can’t convert, O.J. could get a shot quickly.

Bill Swancutt (DE, DET)
Overachiever that lacks measurables to project well, but stood out at Senior Bowl and showed ability to dominate a high-level of peer competition. Situation is appealing, if he can cut it at the next level, don’t be surprised to see it as soon as this season.

Leroy Hill (LB, SEA)
One of my favorite college players last year, I was surprised he went Day One. He has the attitude and motor, but not the measurables. Too slow to convert to SS, as the Seahawks successfully did with Michael Boulware, and too small to project well as a full-time player. Regardless, he packs a ton of ability and effort, so if he gets a chance, he could defy the odds.

Jordan Beck (LB, ATL)
D-IAA Defensive Player of the Year needs to bulk up and hasn’t faced top competition, but he has excellent speed and has displayed tremendous playmaking skills in the middle against both the run and pass. A poor man’s Brian Urlacher, Beck may need to play outside at this level, depending on how he plays with more weight. Nice upside, but no room for him now, and the Falcons drafted another great prospect two rounds later in Michael Boley.

Sean Considine (S, PHI)
Hernia surgery in January may have dropped him a bit, but the Eagles offset the reach for McCoy in the second with a steal of Considine in the fourth. Could eventually replace Brian Dawkins, when he leaves or retires.

Trent Cole (DE, PHI)
Left off the A-list of this year’s tweeners, Cole is a talented player who was an extremely consistent producer at DE in college. Explosive and technically sound as a pass rusher, he lacks the size and speed to project succeeding there as an every down player. However, he could put up some good sack numbers as a specialist, and Jim Johnson says he will stick at DE. Possibly the sequel to N.D. Kalu.

Chris Canty (DE, DAL)
Many expected this super-sized DE to be one of the top DLine prospects heading into this draft. However, a dislocated knee cut short his 2004 season and his a beer bottle to the head in a nightclub cause some serious eye problems, including a detached retina. While the retina was reattached and doctors are confident about his long term prognosis, it’s not a situation that should be taken lightly. He has the ideal size and skills for a 3-4 DE, which is why Parcells took a chance on him. He’s also big enough to work at tackle too. Either way, his fantasy upside is limited once he’s fully healthy and playing regularly. He has more potential value if he moves to DT in a 4-3 and is eligible there in leagues that segregate the positions.

Jonathan Goddard (OLB, DET)
One of the top pass rushing DEs in the MAC, he’s too undersized to be considered at the position at this level. Has the skills to develop into a nice situational player, and the Lions need help from somewhere with the pass rush.

Nick Collins (S, GB)
Versatile, nice measurables, and successful at a lower level of competition, but is a developmental prospect at this point. One of the biggest reaches of the draft. I’d list him as ‘overrated’, but I don’t see anyone touching him early in fantasy drafts. Has a shot to start due to lack of quality and depth.

Marviel Underwood (S, GB)
They reach for Collins and then spend an early Day Two pick on a guy who is nearly as much of a project. Still, whoever is more impressive between the two could be a significant part of the rotation in the middle of the secondary.

Jerome Carter (S, STL)
Big hitter enters a situation lacking depth.

Jonathan Welsh (DE/OLB, IND)
Another DE likely to convert, he was drafted after Sweet Pea Burns, but seems to project better as an OLB. Production dropped from 2003 to 2004, but the overload of talented tweeners were more responsible for him falling to the middle of Day Two, as he grades higher.

Robert McCune (LB, WAS)
Impressive physical specimen who looks the part of a MLB, with excellent speed and strength, but a better athlete than football player. Doesn’t create or recover turnovers and his overall reaction time is slow from lack of instinct. Also a bit stiff, not fluid in making “football movements”. Upside is probably limited to special teams and back-up, but he falls into a situation in disarray. Plenty of short-term opportunity in the Redskins LB group, especially with the return of an old and injured Michael Barrow uncertain.

Tyjuan Hagler (OLB, IND)
Just a little more size and a bigger name program would have had off the board earlier. I suppose you could say that about a lot of guys, but Hagler has a ferocious temperament and flies around the field. The Colts are an excellent place for him to land, where an undersized but quick and aggressive defender can earn work. The situation is a little crowded now, but keep his name in mind.

Jared Newberry (LB, WAS)
Draft value dropped after disappointing senior year. Measurables give no reason to be more excited about him. Only thing to really like is the situation, where injuries leave a depleted core and he has been mentioned in the running for the MLB job if Barrow doesn’t return, along with just about every other LB on the roster.

Jovan Haye (DE, CAR)
Panthers don’t often miss on DLinemen. Developmental prospect to remember a few years down the road.
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