by Jeff West
June 14, 2005
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    Rookies in the NFL often have a hard time making a big contribution to their teams in their first year.  It's even more difficult for fantasy owners to expect production from those rookies.  But each year a few rookies make their owners happy.  Anquan Boldin and Michael Clayton are the most recent ones to earn fantasy starting status in their first campaign.  Are there any fantasy gems in the 2005 draft?  Let's take a look.

Team:  Arizona Cardinals
Grade:  A
Analysis:  Arizona has been one of the most hapless teams in recent history, however this draft may signal the start of a new, successful regime in the desert southwest.  The Cards seemed to grab value at nearly every selection.  Antrell Rolle will start immediately and it would not be surprising to see Eric Green claim the other starting role quickly.  JJ Arrington should earn the starting tailback role over Marcel Shipp, who has fallen out of favor with Coach Green.  Darryl Blackstock, Elton Brown, and Lance Mitchell are intriguing picks in that they were all considered first-round talent at some point by a number of experts.
Fantasy Spin:  JJ Arrington will start and could be a good number two fantasy RB.  Rolle will be tested as a rookie, which means plenty of opportunities for tackles and interceptions.  He could be a surprise as a #2 fantasy CB.


Team:  Atlanta Falcons
Grade:  C-
Analysis:  The Falcons addressed a troublesome WR issue by drafting Roddy White in the first round.  He will compete immediately for playing time.  Frank Omiyale is an unheralded OT who could find himself in a starting role as soon as this season.  The rest of the draft featured depth players at defense and a RB who may find it hard to make the team.
Fantasy Spin:  At first glance, Roddy White might appear to be a player to take a chance on, however the Falcons did nothing to upgrade a weak offensive line.  Michael Vick will have little time to find his receivers with shaky pass protection.  I wouldn't use a draft pick on any of the Falcons unless you have deep rosters and can afford to keep White in storage.


Team:  Baltimore Ravens
Grade:  B-
Analysis:  Once again, the Ravens made an attempt to upgrade their WR corps.  Mark Clayton should contribute immediately to an improving offense.  He'll be the #2 receiver on the team behind Derrick Mason.  Dan Cody, their second round pick, is a high motor, intense player who will find it hard to supplant Terrell Suggs or Anthony Weaver at DE initially.  He may get some snaps on passing downs, but won't put up great numbers as a rookie.
Fantasy Spin:  The Ravens have a solid (if aging) offensive line which will allow them to run and pass the ball.  Kyle Boller has shown signs of improvement and could be a decent backup fantasy QB with more dangerous weapons at WR now.  The defense is still solid, though little should be expected from the rookies.


Team:  Buffalo Bills
Grade:  D
Analysis:  I read somewhere that the Bills wanted any analysis of their 2005 draft to include JP Losman since they traded away their first rounder this year to obtain him in 2004.  Sorry, Bills, I'm only looking at the new recruits.  Without a first round pick, the Bills made Roscoe Parrish, a small WR, their first pick in 2005 (second round).  Parrish impressed at the mini-camp, but his true role will be as a return man.  The Bills already have a speedy deep threat in Lee Evans.  Parrish could work his way into the #3 WR spot if the Bills cut ties with underachieving Josh Reed.  Kevin Everett seemed to be a good pick, but he tore an ACL in mini-camp and probably won't make much, if any, contribution in 2005.  Justin Geisinger was a solid pick for the O-line in the fifth.
Fantasy Spin:  The big question mark for the Bills will be the play of JP Losman.  Because of his inexperience, I wouldn't expect a whole lot from any of the offensive players other than Willis McGahee.


Team:  Carolina Panthers
Grade:  A
Analysis:  The Panthers came away from the draft with ten players and really improved their team depth.  Thomas Davis could challenge Mike Minter for playing time if Minter shows any signs of his age.  Eric Shelton is a bigger, faster Stephen Davis who could share time with DeShaun Foster if Davis is released this summer.  The Panthers drafted three OLs who could all be the #1 backups at their positions by the end of camp.  Attiyah Ellison, Adam Seward, and Jovan Haye are excellent depth guys who could produce if called upon.
Fantasy Spin:  Eric Shelton could vie for time if Davis is released.  Foster is oft-injured and Shelton would then only have Nick Goings to beat out.  Davis is the only defensive rookie who will challenge for time initially, though his role will a hybrid safety-linebacker of sorts (get clarification on his position if your league has IDPs).  The Panthers should be a solid team this year with fantasy options on both sides of the ball.


Team:  Chicago Bears
Grade:  B
Analysis:  The Bears drafted the next workhorse RB in the league in Cedric Benson.  With Mark Bradley and Airese Currie, they got two fast WRs who could contribute in another year or two if Justin Gage and Bobby Wade don't step up opposite Muhsin Muhammad.  Kyle Orton joins a young, deep group of QBs and may find it hard to get a look.  Neither of the defensive players will get a sniff for quite some time.
Fantasy Spin:  Cedric Benson may be a top ten back this season if Thomas Jones doesn't bite into his stats too heavily.  If any of the WRs falter, Mark Bradley could rise up the depth chart and see some action.


Team:  Cincinnati Bengals
Grade:  C+
Analysis:  The Bengals had some serious needs on defense, but didn't seem to do a great job addressing them.  They took David Pollack, a DE/OLB tweener, in the first.  Pollack will make an impact from either position.  Their second round pick was a MLB which doesn't speak well of the two MLBs they drafted in the third round last year.  Chris Henry and Tab Perry were unusual picks given the depth at the WR position and may spell the end of Peter Warrick and possibly Kelley Washington.  A couple of Central Michigan offensive linemen add depth to a strong group.
Fantasy Spin:  Chris Perry has had attitude issues, but if Marvin Lewis can control him, he could be a steal in the third round.  David Pollack could be a nice sack specialist from the DE position as a rookie.


Team:  Cleveland Browns
Grade:  B
Analysis:  Given the Browns recent history of drafting, it might be wise to criticize this draft from jump, but they may have gotten it right this year.  They grabbed two potential starters in Braylon Edwards and Brodney Pool, a possible QB for the future in Frye, a dangerous return man in Perkins, and a pair of underappreciated OLBs in McMillan and Speegle.
Fantasy Spin:  With Winslow out again this year, Edwards will carry a heavy burden as the playmaker in the passing game.  He has the ability to produce and take some of the heat off Davis, Northcutt, and Bryant.  Pool could start at FS if he is able to outplay veteran Brian Russell in training camp.  If so, Pool might be a sleeper pick for defensive leagues.


Team:  Dallas Cowboys
Grade:  A
Analysis:  The Cowboys may have had the best draft in the league.  They grabbed two important cogs for their new 3-4 defense in the first round with OLB DeMarcus Ware and DE Marcus Spears.  The Cowboys also got value throughout the draft with Burnett, Canty, Beriault, and Ratliff on defense and Barber and Petitti on offense.  The only thing that kept them from an A+ grade was the failure to get a young WR and a FS in the draft.
Fantasy Spin:  DeMarcus Ware could be a sack-meister for the IDPers, and the upgrade on the overall defense will be a boon for Cowboy's team defense owners.  Barber probably won't get much work at RB with the Cowboys acquiring the A-Train from Chicago post-draft.


Team:  Denver Broncos
Grade:  F
Analysis:  Mike Shanahan continues to baffle the world with his off-season work.  After bringing in all of Cleveland's underachieving defensive linemen, he spent his first three draft picks on corners (two of them undersized and one a bit slow of foot).  Then the shocker of all shockers, Maurice Clarett was selected with a first-day pick.  While Clarett may thrive in the Bronco system, he was selected far too early.  The second day featured a division I-AA punter who may have some success if the Broncos fail to get Todd Sauerbrun from the Panthers.
Fantasy Spin:  If Tatum Bell and Quentin Griffin both get hurt this season (which wouldn't be too surprising), then Clarett could be a sleeper pick at RB.  None of the other picks will likely contribute much of anything this year.


Team:  Detroit Lions
Grade:  B
Analysis:  After selecting a WR with an early first round pick each of the previous two years, the Lions went out and did it again, grabbing Mike Williams with the tenth overall pick.  The Lions also added some depth to their defensive line with Shaun Cody and Bill Swancutt, two solid football players.  Stanley Wilson could see some time as a dime back as a rookie.
Fantasy Spin:  The drafting of Mike Williams could spell doom for Charles Rogers owners.  If the injuries don't kill his value, two outstanding WRs named Williams will.  Williams could be a demon in the red zone with his height and athleticism.  Shaun Cody could push for playing time as a rookie and has the ability to produce, although not much for fantasy owners yet.


Team:  Green Bay Packers
Grade:  C+
Analysis:  One of the biggest stories on draft day was QB Aaron Rodgers falling to the Pack as the heir apparent to Brett Favre.  The Pack also added three intriguing defensive backs: Nick Collins and Marviel Underwood both are safety/corner hybrids from small schools, and Michael Hawkins is an amazing athlete who played for one year at Oklahoma before dropping out of school.  The Pack also added a speedster wideout in the second round in Terrence Murphy.  Brady Poppinga is a tweener player who could get some time at DE as a situational pass rusher.
Fantasy Spin:  Any of the defensive backs could earn some playing time and be decent sleeper picks, so keep an eye on the depth charts.  Aaron Rodgers' value is nil this year and with Favre indicating the possibility of extending his career, Rodgers may have to wait until his third year as a pro to get a shot.  Murphy could get some opportunities at WR this year, however his value lies down the road.


Team:  Houston Texans
Grade:  C-
Analysis:  The Texans drafted some depth, but probably won't see any immediate results from this class.  First round DT Travis Johnson needs to really show some heart and climb the depth charts.  Jerome Mathis, a speedy WR taken in the fourth round, could challenge Jabar Gaffney, Corey Bradford, and Derick Armstrong for a starting gig.  RB Vernand Morency fell into the third round for the Texans, but is still behind Dom Davis, Jon Wells, and Tony Hollings.
Fantasy Spin:  If you play in a deep keeper league, Jerome Mathis may be worth a late round pick.  Eventually the Texan offense will begin to produce and Mathis could be a part of that action.  If you own Dom Davis, consider taking Morency very late as a possible handcuff if the Texans part ways with either Wells or Hollings.


Team:  Indianapolis Colts
Grade:  C
Analysis:  The Colts grabbed a couple DBs in Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden that could both see time this season in nickel and dime situations.  Rob Hunt, an athletic center, was an outstanding pick in the fifth round. Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns is an undersized DT who is a decent plugger.  Otherwise a ho-hum draft for the Colts who really needed some more holes filled on defense.
Fantasy Spin:  Marlin Jackson should earn the nickel position (dime at the very least) by season's start and could be a sleeper pick considering the Colts play nickel defense almost exclusively as opponents are forced to play catch-up early and often.  None of the other picks look to make any significant fantasy contributions.


Team:  Jacksonville Jaguars
Grade:  B+
Analysis:  The Jags stunned everyone when they took a weak armed, inconsistent QB in the first round.  What made the pick so surprising is that Matt Jones really doesn't have a position.  He'll probably be a third WR or second TE and emergency QB and possible special teams player and back-up long-snapper.  The Jags hope that he is not the "Jack of all trades, master of none" player.  The Jags did make some nice picks with Khalif Barnes, Gerald Sensabaugh, Scott Starks, and Alvin Pearman.
Fantasy Spin:  It remains to be seen what the Jags plan for Matt Jones.  At the very least, he should be a huge target in the red zone for Leftwich.  Starks and Sensabaugh are just an injury away from getting a chance to start.  Pearman is a solid all-around back who may not get a chance to do much this year.


Team:  Kansas City Chiefs
Grade:  B-
Analysis:  The Chiefs took the best linebacker in the draft, Derrick Johnson, in the middle of the first round.  Then they waited until the third for their next pick, a punter.  Craphonso Thorpe, a big name WR fell to the fourth for the Chiefs.  The rest of the picks were for depth at best.
Fantasy Spin:  Derrick Johnson could get a chance to start right away for the Chiefs and could really produce in Gunther Cunningham's defensive system.  Keep an eye on Craphonso Thorpe.  With the release of Johnnie Morton and limited experience at WR, a good training camp could propel Thorpe into a starting role in a high-powered offense.


Team:  Miami Dolphins
Grade:  A
Analysis:  Nick Saban did an excellent job with his first NFL draft and got good value with most of his picks.  Ronnie Brown is a stud RB who will be an instant starter for the Fins.  Matt Roth will back up Jason Taylor and could get some playing time.  Channing Crowder is an outstanding athlete who will learn a lot from Zach Thomas.  Travis Daniels could find himself starting at CB with the injury to Will Poole.  
Fantasy Spin:  Ronnie Brown is generally the first rookie selected in fantasy drafts because of his potential to be an instant impact player.  He'll be a solid #2 fantasy back who could push for a #1 role.  Travis Daniels could be a sleeper pick at CB with an opportunity to start from jump.


Team:  Minnesota Vikings
Grade:  A-
Analysis:  The Vikes surprised no one by selecting a WR with the seventh overall pick.  The surprise came in which WR they selected.  Troy Williamson is a very athletic, very speedy, very raw wideout.  He can fly, but he needs to improve his receiving skills.  Erasmus James is a talented pass-rushing end who will get plenty of action as a rookie.  The Vikes chose a highly touted RB, Ciatrick Fason, in round four who likely only fell because of his inexperience and youth.
Fantasy Spin:  Williamson will compete with Marcus Robinson and Travis Taylor for a starting gig and will likely see a good deal of playing time regardless.  He's worth a chance late in your draft as a fourth receiver with potential.  If you own Michael Bennett or Mewelde Moore, be sure to grab Ciatrick Fason.  Fason could see the field with a couple injury-prone RBs ahead of him.  James could be a nice second or third fantasy DE on a Vikes defense heavy on talent.


Team:  New England Patriots
Grade:  C+
Analysis:  It's hard to be critical of a team that has done so many things right over the recent past, but this draft was a little puzzling.  The Pats took a solid OT in Logan Mankins in the first round, much earlier than he was projected to go.  They did well in the third round (having traded away their second rounder) with CB Ellis Hobbs and OT Nick Kaczur.  The rest of the picks are likely special teamers or practice squad guys.
Fantasy Spin:  Ellis Hobbs has a shot to play the dime back this season and James Sanders and Ryan Claridge could contribute, but only if there are a lot of injuries in front of them.


Team:  New Orleans Saints
Grade:  C+
Analysis:  The Saints had a decent draft, but nothing to excite the fantasy owner.  Jammal Brown, an OT, was the first round selection and will be a solid starter in a year or two.  Josh Bullocks is a play-making safety who could challenge Dwight Smith for time at FS.  The Saints took a chance on the troubled Adrian McPherson at QB in the fifth.
Fantasy Spin:  IDPers should keep an eye on Bullocks as he could challenge for playing time and is a ballhawk.  Dynasty leaguers might want to take a flier on McPherson.  He has as much potential as any recent QB and might not have to wait long to get a chance to gain some experience.


Team:  New York Giants
Grade:  B
Analysis:  Considering the Giants only had four picks, they did reasonably well getting good value for their selections.  They selected LSU CB Corey Webster in the second round and followed that pick with DE Justin Tuck (who some had projected as a first-rounder).  Brandon Jacobs in the fourth round will provide some real meat at the RB position as he is a legit RB in the Jerome Bettis/Natrone Means mold.  Eric Moore, in the sixth, is an undersized DE who might be practice squad material.
Fantasy Spin:  Webster has a real shot at being the nickel back along with the Wills (Allen and Peterson), while Tuck will likely be the first DE off the bench behind Strahan and Umenyiora.  Jacobs could be a TD vulture much like Stacey Mack was for Coach Coughlin in Jacksonville.


Team:  New York Jets
Grade:  C
Analysis:  The Jets used their first pick of the draft (a second rounder) on a kicker, Mike Nugent.  They bolstered their depth at DB with Justin Miller, a first-round talent with some character issues, Kerry Rhodes, and Andre Maddox.  The Jets also addressed a shaky DT situation with an underrated Sione Pouha.
Fantasy Spin:  Mike Nugent will pay immediate dividends and was worth the second round pick.  Fantasy owners should be able to draft him with confidence and get great value as other owners are spending high for Akers, Vinatieri, and Vandy.  Justin Miller could be a sleeper pick at CB if the Jets cut ties with Donnie Abraham.


Team:  Oakland Raiders
Grade:  B+
Analysis:  The Raiders had a busy off-season and followed it up with a solid draft.  They drafted two of the fastest CBs available in Fabian Washington and Stanford Routt.  Andrew Walter, a big, strong-armed QB will be the eventual successor to Kerry Collins.  Pete McMahon is an underrated tackle who will start opposite Robert Gallery by next season.  Kirk Morrison, Anttaj Hawthorne, and Ryan Riddle will all contribute in a year or two.
Fantasy Spin:  While none of the draftees offer immediate fantasy satisfaction, those with roster space and time may want to take a chance with Andrew Walter.  He's the one who will be throwing to Randy Moss and Jerry Porter in a couple years.  Morrison will be a tackle-producing machine in a year or two.


Team:  Philadelphia Eagles
Grade:  B+
Analysis:  When you have a team with few holes and a lot of picks, you can afford to take some chances.  The Eagles took an instant contributor at DT in Mike Patterson.  With the threat of a Terrell Owens holdout, the selection of WR Reggie Brown seems like a sage decision now.  Matt McCoy and Sean Considine are instant special teams players who will develop into solid NFL starters.  Ryan Moats will play third fiddle at RB, but is a better pure runner than Westbrook and could see plenty of action even if the two RBs ahead of him stay healthy.  The other picks are high-risk, high-reward types.
Fantasy Spin:  While it is unlikely that Terrell Owens holds out the entire season, the time that he is missing in practice now is time that Reggie Brown is using to convince the Eagles' coaches he can play.  He might be worth a late draft pick.  If you own Westbrook or Buckhalter, think about grabbing Moats as a handcuff.


Team:  Pittsburgh Steelers
Grade:  C+
Analysis:  It may seem odd, the Steelers using their first round pick on a pass-catching tight end, but it happened.  Heath Miller was the expected pick of the Steelers and should have no trouble earning the starting gig in camp.  The Steelers also added a couple solid offensive linemen in Chris Kemoeatu and Trai Essex.  Their defense will be bolstered by the addition of depth players Bryant McFadden, Rian Wallace, and Shaun Nua.  WR Fred Gibson is an interesting pick who went much later than expected and could be the third receiver this season.
Fantasy Spin:  Owners who need a TE should think long and hard about Miller.  He's recovering from a hernia injury so his stock right now is low, but he could be a top 10 TE by season's end and should be an affordable draft pick.  Keep an eye on Gibson.  He could disappoint or he could sneak past Cedrick Wilson and Antwaan Randle-El and be the guy opposite Hines Ward.  Rian Wallace could become the next big thing in a long line of solid 'Burgh LBs.


Team:  San Diego Chargers
Grade:  A-
Analysis:  The Chargers had two first round picks and added a couple players to an already-impressive defense in DE/OLB Shawne Merriman and DT/DE Luis Castillo.  Vincent Jackson is a huge WR who will be a red zone threat as a WR and could be a solid backup at TE for Antonio Gates.  Darren Sproles will likely be a return specialist, but is a solid RB who could work his way up the depth chart.  Wesley Britt, Wes Sims, and Scott Mruczkowski are all solid additions to the offensive line.
Fantasy Spin:  None of the Charger draft picks looks to be a starter from jump.  Vincent Jackson should intrigue owners with his combo of size and speed.  Shawne Merriman, if he gets into camp and finds a position, could become a nice pass rusher for IDPers.


Team:  San Francisco 49ers
Grade:  B+
Analysis:  With the first overall pick, one that no one else seemed to want this year, the Niners selected a franchise QB in Utah's Alex Smith.  They seriously improved their depth at OL with David Baas and Adam Snyder, two players who will start soon.  RB Frank Gore is an interesting pick in the third.  He has been beleaguered with injuries in college, yet has a ton of potential.  Patrick Estes and Billy Bajema will battle for a position to back up injury-prone TE Eric Johnson.  On defense, the Niners added a couple speedy CBs in Derrick Johnson and Daven Holly, and a quick DT in Ronald Fields who will get in the DT rotation quickly.
Fantasy Spin:  Alex Smith has a legitimate opportunity to start out of camp this year.  Even if he starts the season on the bench, he'll see the field before long.  Frank Gore might be worth a look in a deep RB league as he should unseat Terry Jackson and Maurice Hicks quickly and challenge Kevan Barlow before long.


Team:  Seattle Seahawks
Grade:  D
Analysis:  After drafting the top center in the draft, Chris Spencer, in the first round, the Seahawks went out on a limb and drafted inside backer Lofa Tatupu in the second.  Tatupu went far too early and, to compound the issue, the Seahawks went out and drafted two more inside linebackers in Leroy Hill and Cornelius Wortham.  This was especially puzzling because the Hawks play a 4-3 and drafted another Mike backer in Niko Koutovides a year ago.  QB David Greene could succeed in the West Coast offense and will likely be the emergency QB this season.  Jeb Huckeba, a tweener playing DE, could be a decent player on pass-rushing downs.
Fantasy Spin:  There is very little to get excited about from the fantasy perspective with the Seahawk draft.  Owners would be best to look elsewhere for rookie help.


Team:  St. Louis Rams
Grade:  C+
Analysis:  The Rams needed some young talent at OL and got it in the forms of Alex Barron, Richie Incognito, and Claude Terrell.  If Incognito can overcome his off-field issues, the Rams could really have something.  The Rams also added a couple solid safeties in OJ Atogwe and Jerome Carter and took a big CB in Ron Bartell in the second round.  The Rams raided Ball State in the sixth round with WR Dante Ridgeway and punter Reggie Hodges.  Harvard QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was a late seventh round selection.
Fantasy Spin:  OJ Atogwe could have an opportunity to earn a starting position in camp and might not be a bad fantasy selection opposite Adam Archuleta.


Team:  Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Grade:  A-
Analysis:  The Bucs surprised no one by selecting RB Cadillac Williams in round one.  They added some nice depth at WR in Larry Brackins, JR Russell, and Paris Warren, and a good pass-catching TE in Alex Smith.  Defenders Barrett Ruud (MLB) and Donte Nicholson (SS) should both do well to continue the recent legacy of the Buc defense.  Chris Colmer and Dan Buenning add nice depth to the offensive line.
Fantasy Spin:  Cadillac Williams will be one of the first rookies selected in fantasy drafts as he is a complete player who should thrive in the Buc offense.  JR Russell or Larry Brackens could wind up as the fourth WR on the team and set themselves up for a starting role as soon as 2006.  Alex Smith should have little trouble earning the backup TE position.  IDP owners may want to look at Donte Nicholson for the near future and Barrett Ruud for the long-term.


Team:  Tennessee Titans
Grade:  B+
Analysis:  The Titans needed help and grabbed two instant starters with their first two picks.  Pacman Jones will start at CB and Michael Roos will start at RT.  The Titans also added three wideouts with the departure of Derrick Mason.  Courtney Roby, Brandon Jones, and Roydell Williams will battle for a starting role.  If the Titans release Lance Schulters, rookie fourth-rounder Vincent Fuller could challenge for a starting FS position.  Damien Nash, a fifth round pick, has seen plenty of action in mini-camp at RB with the injury to Chris Brown.
Fantasy Spin:  Pacman Jones has to be a consideration for fantasy owners at CB.  He'll get tested.  Courtney Roby will likely become the Titans third down receiver behind Drew Bennett and Tyrone Calico, so he might have some value.  Keep an eye on Vincent Fuller at FS.  If he gets the starting nod, he could be a solid one for years.


Team:  Washington Redskins
Grade:  C
Analysis:  The Skins selected a top CB with their first pick, ninth overall.  Carlos Rogers will instantly step into the starting spot opposite Shawn Springs.  The Skins also traded up into the late first round to select QB Jason Campbell.  Robert McCune, a fifth-round linebacker, could be a starter in a year or two.
Fantasy Spin:  Carlos Rogers will excite fantasy owners as a #1 or #2 CB.  Teams will look to test him and stay away from the veteran Shawn Springs.  While Coach Gibbs has proclaimed that Patrick Ramsey is his starting QB, look for Campbell to get time if the season is lost early.  Campbell might also be a nice pick for deep keeper leagues.


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