NFL Draft: Worst To First

Another draft is in the books and there's fans in 32 cities feeling more delightful about their respective football teams than they did a week ago. I'm not suggesting any fan shouldn't be jubilant right now.

It's difficult for a team to get worse by drafting new players and not losing anyone in the process, although some teams seem to master the art of not getting better through the draft.

I ranked all 32 NFL teams based on how I feel they drafted, from worst to first. I took into consideration some dynamics, including each club's draft position, team needs heading into the draft, players they could've used the most and the players they passed on.

Normally I would have broken this down into Parts I and II, but frankly, I dread the majority of you wouldn't wait around to read Part II. So without further ado...

THE BIGGEST LOSERS

32. New York Giants: Simply put, the Giants got scorched on draft day. They needed a defensive tackle above all and reports are saying they had John McCargo targeted. Feeling that pick no. 25 was a tad bit high for him, they traded down seven spots with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Buffalo then moved up with Chicago and "reached" for McCargo at 26. That bonehead maneuver alone was enough to rank the Giants among the lowest. To make matters worse, the Giants then selected defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. Let me get this straight. You take an end who will have to play behind not one, but two Pro Bowl defensive ends? At this point, the Giants were better off trading down again and stockpiling more picks. If they insisted on keeping the pick, a linebacker like D'Qwell Jackson or DeMarco Ryans would've been much more logical. The Giants did get Sinorice Moss in the second round, but that doesn't erase the fact the club dropped the ball by not securing a much-needed defensive tackle early in the draft. Barry Cofield was the Giants lone DT taken in round four. Don't expect him to help.

31. Washington: Considering the Skins only had one of the first 152 picks nobody expected much on draft day. They didn't' let anyone down. The lone day one pick was Miami linebacker Rocky McIntosh at 35. Hopefully he'll help make up for the team losing Lavar Arrington to the Giants. I wouldn't bank on it. McIntosh is an underrated player. But at 35, he wasn't underrated to the Skins. A good pick of need but was still taken too high. Skins fans might not want to hear this, but nobody else they took the in the draft matters much.

30. Chicago: The Bears trade out of the first round with the Bills and with their first pick take safety Danieal Manning. Why would a team so rich defensively take a safety with their first pick? Bears should've stayed where they were and taken tight end Marcades Lewis. Small receiver Devin Hester was a reach in the second round as well. In the third round they took another defensive player in Dusty Dvoracek.

29. Indianapolis: Drafted a running back in the first round but in Joseph Addai it wasn't whom they expected. The Colts were hoping Laurence Maroney or DeAngelo Williams would fall to the end of round one but that didn't happen. Indy would have been better served to move up to get one of them. Williams was taken three spots prior to the Colts pick at 30. I'm befuddled the club passed on Ashton Youboty in round two in favor of cornerback Tim Jennings.

COULD HAVE DONE MUCH BETTER

28. Miami: Jason Allen is a highly skilled player but he's also a high injury risk. He's coming off an injured hip. With no second rounder the Fins could have easily traded down and still got Jimmy Williams. I'm also perplexed as to why Derek Hagan was taken over Maurice Stouvall in round three. Undrafted quarterback Marcus Vick was invited to try out for the team. This has nothing to do with the draft but I thought I'd throw that out there anyway.

27. Kansas City: I fully anticipated the Chiefs to go with a corner or wide receiver with the 20th pick. Santonio Holmes and Jonathan Joseph were both on the board. Instead the Chiefs took DE Tamba Hali. While the Chiefs could use an end on the defense, 20 was probably too high for Hali, whom many projected to be a second round pick. Of course, he could turn out to be another Dwight Freeney. Brodie Croyle was taken in round three. I'd call him a threat to Trent Green's future but the way this guy tears up knees Green won't be losing any sleep.

26. Dallas: Bobby Carpenter is a talented linebacker but the 18th pick was too high to take him. I thought trading up to try and grab Broderik Bunkley or Haloti Ngata to replace La'Roi Glover should've been of more importance. Anthony Fasano was a good second round pick but DE Jason Hatcher over Victor Adeyanju in round three was a mistake.

25. Cincinnati: Johnathan Joseph was the best player on the board at 24 but the Bengals needed a safety more than a corner. Even with the free agent addition of Sam Adams a defense tackle in the first two rounds would have been beneficial, as would a tight end. Second round pick Andrew Whitworth is a project at tackle who'll be buried behind Levi Jones and Willie Anderson unless he can learn to play guard. QB/WR Reggie McNeal is a potential steal in round six but in general I thought this was a poorly executed Bengals draft.

24. Jacksonville: Marcedes Lewis in the first round was a good addition for quarterback Byron Leftwich, but I'm not sold on Maurice Drew in round two being better than some of the running backs that were taken after him, including Jerome Harrison and Jerious Norwood. Clint Ingram in round three can turn out to be a good linebacker.

23. San Diego: The Chargers scored with their first two picks. Antonio Cromartie has the potential to be a great corner in the NFL. Sadly, the Chargers have a poor history with drafting cornerbacks in the first round. Marcus McNeil was a good pickup at tackle in round two. After that the Chargers draft made little sense. Why take Charlie Whitehurst in round three? Omar Jacobs would have been a better project quarterback to take and he was available in the fourth round.

22. Minnesota: With five first day picks the Vikings had all the ammo needed to move into the top ten and grab a potential franchise player. They didn't. Chad Greenway was productive in college but the Vikings could have done better in round one. With three second rounders, only DB Cedric Griffin is likely to contribute much immediately. Greg Cook could eventually be a starting center, and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is perhaps the draft's biggest project and was taken much earlier than anyone anticipated.

21. Seattle: Kelly Jennings is a potential blanket corner in this league and if the Hawks end up with Ty Law the secondary would be much improved. Darryl Tapp was worthy of a second round pick despite being undersized for DE (251 pounds.) Rob Sims could be one of the steals of the draft in round three and should be starting by 2007.

20. Carolina: DeAngelo Williams falling into their laps at 27 was certainly a welcome and unexpected gift. He's more than just insurance for Deshaun Foster. Richard Marshall was a great value pick in round two and takes the sting from losing Ricky Manning Jr. Club had a pair of third rounders but disappointed with James Anderson and Rashad Butler.

19. Atlanta: Considering they didn't have a first round pick there shouldn't be much to complain about. Just a few months ago when Atlanta had the 15th pick many projected Jimmy Williams going to them. They still got him in round two at 37. Jerious Norwood is a good running back for round three. In the perfect example of how far Marcus Vick has fallen, the Falcons passed in round seven over the potential brother QB combination in favor of D.J. Shockley. If you throw in the fact that Atlanta got John Abraham instead of a first round pick this was a good weekend.

THE WAIT AND SEE APPROACH

18. Tennessee: Perhaps no team drafted a pair of players with as much upside as the Titans. Unfortunately, no other team drafted a pair of players who have "flop" written all over them as well. Vince Young was one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all-time. Tennessee took him third overall instead of Matt Leinart, which shocked many. He's not close to being ready to start as a rookie and his career can truly go either way. LenDale White was a top ten pick not too long ago but attitude, injury and weight issues saw him slide all the way down to 45. Poor Travis Henry, didn't this happen to him in Buffalo with Willis McGahee? White has the capability to be great but also has the potential to be out of the league in couple of years. The rest of the Titans draft was suspect at best.

17. Pittsburgh: When you're the defending Super Bowl champs you're afforded the luxury of picking need players in the draft. The Steelers did just that. Pittsburgh saw free agent WR Antwan Randle El flee to Washington. So they traded up on the draft and grabbed the top receiver on the board in Santonio Holmes. They also replaced departed safety Chris Hope (Titans) in round three by taking Anthony Smith. The interesting pick came in round five when Omar Jacobs was selected. Talk about poor personal decisions. If Jacobs stayed in school another year he could have possibly been a first round pick in 2007. Now he's likely to spend a good part of his career as a clear-cut backup to Ben Roethlisberger.

16. Baltimore: The Ravens draft was anything but flamboyant but it has all the makings of being effective. Haloti Ngata will eat up blockers up the middle, enabling Ray Lewis to make more plays. Ngata is very much like Ma'ake Kemoeatu, who the club saw bolt to Carolina. Chris Chester was a good pickup at center in round two and Demetrius Williams has potential at WR in round three. Still, I thought Baltimore should have gone after Jay Cutler or Leinart. Trust me, Steve McNair isn't the answer, and apparently Kyle Boller isn't either.

15. New England: Nobody knows what the Patriots will do on draft day. I'm not sure Bill Belichick even knows what he's going to do, although things always seem to work out regardless. This year the Patriots got a lot faster. Laurence Maroney was taken in round one and it's just a matter of time before he unseats Corey Dillon. Chad Jackson literally fell into their laps in the second round. Anyone who remembers the combine recalls how impressive he was. He'll offset the loss of David Givens to Tennessee. Ryan O'Callaghan was a steal in round five.

14. New Orleans: Drafting Reggie Bush alone places them in the top half of this lis. Sure, the Saints could have addressed a bigger need by taking D'Brickshaw Ferguson or traded down for AJ Hawk, Michael Huff or Vernon Davis. But you don't want to be the GM that passes on Reggie Bush, as the Houston Texans will shortly find out. Bush has the potential to be one of the game's all-time great backs and once the hurt subsides from not being the top overall pick, Bush will find the Saints are a good fit for his talent. Roman Harper could turn out to be a good safety (round two) and WR Mike Haas was an absolute steal in round six.

13. Denver: At one point the Broncos owned the 15th and 22nd picks of the draft. By the time they were on the clock, they were picking 11th. Reportedly they had their eyes glued on Jay Cutler all along and in the end they got their guy. I'm not sure if the pick is an indictment on Jake Plummer but it definitely isn't an endorsement. Many feel that Cutler will be the best pro of the "big three" QB's to come out this year, and undisputably he's landed in the best situation. Tony Scheffler was a bit of a reach at tight end in round two but a necessary one. Elvis Dumervil is small but could be a steal in round four. Greg Eslinger was another late round (7th) Denver pick in a long standing tradition of not taking offensive linemen early. In other words, he'll probably be starting at center in two years.

12. Oakland: You have to give Al Davis credit for not going after the glamour pick in Leinart at number seven. Of course they may live to regret it. It looks like it'll be Aaron Brooks in 2006 after the club took safety Michael Huff in the first round. Huff has as much potential in this league to be an impact DB as any defensive player in the draft. It wasn't just the safe decision, it was a wise one. Thomas Howard is a much undervalued linebacker and a good pick for round two. There was talk of USC safety Darnell Bing being a late first rounder yet he lasted until Oakland picked in round four. There's already talk of him moving to linebacker like Chicago did with Brian Urlacher. Kevin Boothe is a potential sleeper at tackle in round six with a lot of ability and a lot of medical issues.

11. Houston: Look, I like Mario Williams. The guy has astonishing ability and potential. I can see where the Julius Peppers comparisons are coming from. Still, I can't fathom passing over Bush and I think Houston made a grave blunder. With this pick comes the ridiculous burden of unfair pressure on Williams. Whether he deserves it or not, he will eternally be compared to Bush. That's a lot of hype for a defensive end to live up to. Another thing I don't like about Williams is for all his physical gifts there were too many times at North Carolina State he didn't play up to his ability. Most of his sacks came in a handful of games. I'm also not too high on Demarco Ryans being the first pick of round two. Daniel Bullocks would have been a smarter choice and filled a bigger need at safety. However, the combination of Charles Spencer and Eric Winston in the third round was brilliant. Those two will help a line that is dreadful improve quickly. One or both of them may start from day one. Had the Texans selected Bush they would have easily earned top honors in this column. Passing on him penalizes them ten spots.

THE WINNERS

10. Green Bay: The Pack didn't draft for flash but make no mistake about it; they had an incredibly effective draft weekend. AJ Hawk is possibly the surest pick in the entire draft. He'll help the Packers front seven immediately and I see many Pro Bowls in his future. Daryn Colledge is a converted tackle in round two who'll play guard in the NFL. With an extra second rounder the Packers took WR Greg Jennings, a curious pick considering there were bigger names on the board. He's under six feet but reminds many of Santana Moss. Lastly, Green Bay struck gold in round three with linebacker Abdul Hodge and center Jason Spitz. All five first day picks will be starting sooner than later.

9. San Francisco: I've said for months I thought Vernon Davis will turn out to be the best player in this entire lot, regardless of position. The 49ers taking him at number six automatically puts their draft in my top ten. Davis will eat opposing linebackers and safeties for lunch from the moment he steps on the field. He'll also make Alex Smith a better quarterback in his second year. I already see a lot of Chargers similarities when it was Brees/Gates. Manny Lawson was an excellent decision at 22. He's perfectly built for a 3-4 defense. What prevents San Fran from being ranked higher are their strange selections in rounds three and four. Brandon Williams and former Penn State QB Michael Robinson were huge reaches this high in the draft. The club would have been much better off going for more defensive help. Parys Haralson has ability at DE in round five, but he's got a long way to go to adjust to the size and speed of the NFL.

8. Detroit: It gets harder to be impressed by any draft run by Matt Millen each year. This year however, I'm confident that Millen had a good day. Ernie Sims at nine might be considered a reach by some, but not to anybody who's seen Sims play. He has all the tools to be the NFL's next Derrick Brooks. Daniel Bullocks in round two gives the Lions two instant impact defenders they've been sorely missing. Bullocks has the potential to be as good as any first-round safety taken. Brian Calhoun was a good value pick in round three and in round four Johnathan Scott can eventually become a starting tackle. Fred Matua somehow lasted until round seven and the Lions gobbled up the USC guard. If any team is capable of seeing perceived good draft picks flop it's the Lions, but on paper this looks pretty impressive.

7. St. Louis: It's not often a team trades down in the draft and still cracks the top ten list. The Rams are this year's exception. Holding the 11th pick and trading down four spots with Denver, the Rams still got an incredible cornerback in Tye Hill, who could be this year's Champ Bailey. In round two the Rams got a useful tight end in Joe Klopfenstein and another in the third with Dominique Byrd. Apparently the Rams are realizing the TE position means something in the NFL. Round three prospect Claude Wroten is one of the more intriguing players of the draft. The defensive tackle saw his stock drop in a big way following a pair of off-field incidents related to marijuana. Still, if he can clean up his act the Rams have perhaps the most talented defensive tackle of the entire draft. Victor Adeyanju should have been a day one pick at DE. He wasn't and the Rams got him in round four. Several teams are going to bemoan over not taking him.


6. Buffalo: Marv Levy had a plan and he stuck to it despite the advice of any so-called experts. Levy was hell-bent on improving a defense that ranked 29th in team defense and by the time the sun set over draft weekend he did just that. New coach Dick Jauron hired Chicago secondary coach Perry Fewel to run the defense and immediately switched the Bills scheme to a cover two. All the players Buffalo took fit that defense impeccably. With the eighth pick Levy selected Donte Whitner, a safety who came highly regarded but not perceived as a top ten pick. The truth for Buffalo is he's an ideal safety for the type of defense they plan to implement. The Bills later moved back into the first round at 26 in a trade with Chicago to nab defensive tackle John McCargo. While some critics called both first rounders a reach none of them were the Bills defensive coordinator last season. The Bills defensive line was atrocious last year and Levy had McCargo rated third on his DT board. Without a second rounder due to the trade, the real value of Buffalo's draft came in rounds 3-5. Ashton Youboty somehow slipped into the third round and the Bills immediately grabbed him as Nate Clement's eventual replacement. Youboty was expected to go as high as the late first round and certainly no lower than the mid second. He'll contribute immediately. In the fourth, the secondary struck gold again with Ko Simpson still on the board. Simpson is raw but with unlimited physical ability and upside. He also comes with the luxury of learning the free safety position under Troy Vincent for at least one season. Kyle Williams was a great value pick in round five at DT. By the time 2007 rolls around the Bills could have as many as four or five new starters on their defense. Whitner and Simpson will remind many of the Indianapolis combo of Mike Doss and Bob Sanders. If you're a Bills fan, that's about as good as it gets.

5. New York Jets: The Jets could have gone a million ways with having two first round picks. They had the ammo to trade up for Bush. On a team filled with so many holes they could have went quarterback or running back right off the bat and nobody would have complained. In the end the Jets did the smart thing and instantly built an incredible offensive line for the future. D'Brickshaw Ferguson went fourth overall and has the makings of another Walter Jones. New York stuck to the line at pick 29 and selected Nick Mangold, the best interior lineman of the draft. Couple those two with Adrian Jones and the Jets could soon see similarities to the Seattle offense that just played in the Super Bowl. Many projected the Jets to tab Croyle in round two as a future QB but instead took Kellen Clemens, who has more to learn than Croyle but also has more promise. Some think he's as good as any of the bigger-name QB's. Round three safety Eric Smith could be an immediate starter. 2006 may be a long year for the Jets but don't anticipate that futility to last for long with Ferguson and Mangold anchoring the line.

4. Tampa Bay: The Bucs pretty much stood pat in each round and ended up with terrific value with almost every pick. The weakness of the Bucs was their offensive line and it was focused on immediately in the draft. Davin Joseph was gone at pick 23 and for good reason; he's the most talented guard in the draft. Second rounder Jeremy Trueblood may not start as a rookie at offensive tackle, but he'll be starting in the near future. The club isn't high on Kenyetta Walker so you can expect him to be gone after this season is over, if not sooner. Maurice Stouvall in round three is one of the true steals of the draft. I still can't believe this guy lasted this long. In him, I think the Bucs may have scored themselves a future Pro Bowler. Alan Zemaitas will provide good depth at corner in round four and is good enough to someday be a starter. Considering the Bucs picked 23rd this draft played out about as well as they could've hoped for.

3. Arizona: There's no doubt the Cards were tempted to try and trade up for either Leinart or Cutler. It played out so they didn't need to. Leinart ended up falling to them with the tenth pick. In him they have a future leader at the quarterback position and for Leinart he couldn't have landed in a healthier situation. First, he has no pressure to be an immediate savior. He can settle in and learn behind Kurt Warner. Whenever he does take the field, he has the comfort of handing off to Edgerrin James or throwing to the league's best receiving tandem in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. While he's obviously disappointed he wasn't taken higher, in a few years he'll be happy the way things worked out. Taitusi Lutui is a future stud guard and a great pick in the second round. Talk about value in the third round; Leonard Pope will instantly give Arizona a chain-moving threat over the middle of the field. The Cardinals drafted a pair of talented but flawed defensive tackles; Gabe Watson (4th) and Jon Lewis (6th). Even if neither of them work out it's a good draft for Arizona. If either tackle, particularly Watson can play up to his ability, this may go down as one of the better drafts in league history. The only thing that worries me is this is still the Cardinals we're talking about.

2. Cleveland: When you first take a momentary look at the players the Browns selected you may not see a big name jump out at you. When I examine the Browns draft I see a bunch of players that are going to fit this system perfectly. It took guts for the Browns to pass on Ngata or Bunkley but that's exactly what they did. With the 13th pick the Browns took LB/DE Kamerion Wimbley. He could easily be this year's Shawne Merriman and in veteran Willie McGinest he has the perfect mentor. He's a dream fit in head coach's Romeo Crennel's 3-4 defense. Another perfect fit for the defense is second round selection D'Qwell Jackson. He should start at inside linebacker immediately. In round three the Browns set out to replace departed WR Antonio Bryant (SF) and did so by selecting Travis Wilson. He didn't come with the hype many receivers did coming out but the kid from Oklahoma can play. Leon Williams will provide outstanding depth at ILB in round four and in the fifth round the Browns scored twice by landing RB Jerome Harrison and CB Demario Winter. Don't forget about sixth round project DT Babatunde Oshinowo. This draft class combined with the big name veterans the Browns landed previously in free agency should put them in contention for a playoff spot.

1. Philadelphia: Where's the beef? Look no further than Philly. For weeks the team was rumored to be trading into the top seven or eight spots to take either Bunkley or Ngata. They didn't need to. Bunkley fell to the Eagles at 14 and from there things got even better. Offensive tackle Winston Justice was regarded by many as a top 15-20 player. When Justice was still sitting on the board in round two at pick 39, the Eagles traded up six spots with Tennessee to take him. While he has first round talent and a seventh round attitude, you can bet the house head coach Andy Reid will take care of that problem real quick. In Justice they have a potential franchise tackle. In the third the Eagles landed undervalued DE Chris Gocong. Amazingly in the fourth Max Jean Giles, one of the top three rated guards was still on the board. The Eagles immediately snagged him. He'll have to get his weight down (he's generally listed at 356 pounds) but in Giles the Eagles landed themselves a grater who's as good a run blocker as they come. Jason Avant went in round four, a WR with a lot of unpolished potential who was expected to go on day one. Even the Eagles reaches were fun picks, as they took former Olympian Jeremy Bloom in round five. He'll make the team as a punt returner and could see time at WR. Lastly, Omar Gaither was a steal at linebacker with their second round five selection. By the time it was over for Philly, they greatly improved on both sides of the line and added a potential starting receiver in Avant.

Naturally, projecting how a team selecting seven days after the fact is about as reliable as the million mocks that preceded the draft. But for the time being, this is how I see it.

(email: patmoran2006@aol.com)



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