NFC/AFC North Draft Grades

*Posted on www.newsportswriters.com on 5/14/2006

NFC North

Chicago Bears

Best Value Pick: Mark Anderson, DE, Alabama
He’s listed as a defensive end but do to his size (6’4″, 254) and speed (4.61) I would think that he is more suited to play linebacker in the NFL. Anderson is one of the fastest and athletic prospects at his position, but at this time is way too small to be effective at end. This really wasn’t a need position for the Bears, but going along with the rest of their draft they didn’t seemed real intent on filling their needs anyway.

Worst Value Pick: Danieal Manning, S, Chicago
The Bears traded out of the first round as expected, but what wasn’t expected was that they would select a player with the talent worthy of a fourth round pick. If they were going to pick a safety or corner why didn’t they stay put at the 26th pick and select a far more talented player. Even at the 42nd spot they could have gotten a player with far more talent. Manning is not big enough to play safety in the NFL (5’10”, 202), and he is a nickel corner at best. He does have good speed (4.47), but he is coming from a very small school so the transition to the NFL will be that much harder and take that much longer.

Sleeper Pick: Devin Hester, RS, Miami
Another head scratcher by the Bears, but he at least will bring some excitement to their special teams. I honestly felt that they already had an above average return game, and using a second round pick on a guy who will only be able to help you in that area makes little sense to me. He’s one of the fastest guys in the draft (4.32), and he’s in this spot mostly because of the mystery of where he’ll fit in on this Bears roster. He projects as a cornerback, but likely will never be anything more than a punt and kick returner as a pro.

Grade: I’m just still very baffled with their move to trade out of the first round and select a safety in the second round. If they were going to select a defensive back they should have stayed put where they could have their choice between players like Kelly Jennings, Jimmy Williams, or Daniel Bullocks. All much greater talents than Manning. The fact that they used none of their first five picks to address their pitiful offense may be even more baffling, and what may be even more baffling is that when they finally did select offense they selected a fullback and an offensive guard. Both of who are players who were lucky to be selected at all. The bottom line was that the Bears biggest three needs were cornerback, tight end and wide receiver. They failed miserably at addressing any of those and are not a better team because of any of their picksâÂ?¦D

Detroit Lions

Best Value Pick: Brian Calhoun, RB, Wisconsin
It was very hard for me not to put Jonathan Scott here, but I simply loved this pick of Calhoun by the Lions in the third round. You can’t beat the value here with this running back, who is very explosive and plays much bigger than his true size (5’9″, 201). There are doubts to whether he can handle a full load at the NFL level, but if he is used the right way (as a 1-2 threat with current starter Kevin Jones) I think he can become a very successful and productive pro.

Worst Value Pick: Anthony Cannon, LB, Tulane
It was very hard for me to find a player to put here from this draft, but I put Cannon here simply because he probably shouldn’t have been selected at all. He had rookie free agent written all over him, and at (5’11”, 226) lacks the ideal size to be a successful linebacker in the NFL. He does have nice speed (4.74), but once he puts on the weight he’ll need to take the NFL beating that should dissipate pretty quickly.

Sleeper: Fred Matua, OG, USC
I have him here only because he was selected in the seventh round of the draft. He probably should have been picked three rounds earlier, but it looks like his durability issues got the best of him on draft day. He has very good size for a NFL guard (6’2″, 306) as well as very adequate speed (5.09). He does have durability concerns as I stated, but he seems to play with a mean streak that is so essential at the pro level. Picking Matua in the seventh round was a steal and at worst should provide the Lions with nice depth at the guard position for many years to come.

Grade: This was another one of my favorite drafts of the year, and by far the best for the Lions under GM Matt Millen. They succeeded in addressing most of their needs and came away with two sure starters in ’06 and possibly even three. Their first four selections of Ernie Simms, Daniel Bullocks, Brian Calhoun and Jonathon Scott were four of the best consecutive picks by a team in the draft and the later selections of Fred Matua and Alton McCann were not bad at all either. Maybe the best part of this draft was that they finally held the urge of selecting a receiverâÂ?¦A

Green Bay Packers

Best Value Pick: Abdul Hodge, ILB, Iowa
This was one of the best third round picks of the draft (along with Eric Winston, Claude Wroten, and Ashton Youboty) and further proved my theory that with the 75th pick in the draft it’s likely you’ll get the same talent as a player at the 15th pick in the draft. I simply love Hodge and felt he was one of the best linebackers in the draft and probably the best inside linebacker prospect. With Hodge and first round pick AJ Hawk along with current starter Nick Barnett, the Packers now have their three starting linebackers for the next eight to ten years.

Worst Value Pick: Daryn Colledge, OT, Boise State
This selection definitely fills a need, but with players like Marcus McNeill, Andrew Whitworth, Jeremy Trueblood, Eric Winston, etc., etc. still available it was a bit puzzling. He adds nice athleticism to the position, but probably wasn’t deserving of being selected in the second round of the draft.

Sleeper Pick: Ingle Martin, QB, Furman
Martin has some D1 football experience having played two years at Florida where he started the first four games of the 2003 season before being replaced by current starter Chris Leak. The main reason I put him here is because of the versatility he brings to the table for the Packers. In his college career he has also seen time as a punter as well as wide receiver. He has nice qualities as a passer and his speed (4.65) and experience at multiple positions makes him an intriguing addition to say the least. Will Blackmon could also be put here do to his ability to play receiver as well as cornerback.

Grade: Good thing Bret Favre announced he would be returning for another season before this draft because it certainly wouldn’t have helped their cause had he waited. In the end it wasn’t as bad as that statement makes it sound, but there were things in certain places that they certainly could have done better. The Colledge pick was a decent reach, as well as the selections of Jason Spitz, Cory Rogers, Ingle Martin, and Tony Moll. I think they should have used one of their middle rounds pick on a running back, but it wasn’t a pressing need given the resigning of both Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport. They did address most of their many needs, but when you have as many needs as they do it’s really hard to not haveâÂ?¦B-

Minnesota Vikings

Best Value Pick: Greg Blue, S, Georgia
Next to LSU’s Laron Landry I felt that Blue was the second best safety in the SEC. He has great size (6’2″, 216) and speed (4.62) for a safety and he flat out hits a ton. His durability issues are probably why he fell to the fifth round, but believe me getting him here in the fifth is an absolute steal. The Viking currently have Tank Williams and Darren Sharper at the safety positions, but look for Blue to push for playing time and definitely contribute in a big way on special teams in his rookie season.

Worst Value Pick: Ryan Cook, C, New Mexico
Cook was one of the biggest reaches on draft day and added to that the pick didn’t make much sense due to Vikings already having one of the best centers in the league in Matt Birk. Cook has nice size (6’6″, 328), but seems to too tall to play the center position and too slow (5.45) to play anywhere else. It will be interesting to see where he ends up on the Vikings depth chart come training camp.

Sleeper: Tarvaris Jackson, QB, Alabama State
With Mike McMahon and JT O’Sullivan currently on the roster behind Brad Johnson, using a second round pick on a quarterback was a bit of a puzzling move here. This was the biggest reach of the draft, but Jackson is reported to have a tremendous amount of “upside.” It’s picks like this and Ryan Cook that likely lead to the firing of personnel director Fran Foley after only three months on the job. If anything Jackson is an intriguing prospect, but warranting a second round pick he does not.

Grade: If you take away two of their picks it’s not that bad a draft at all. Certainly not one that justifies firing your personnel director after only three months. The selections of Ryan Cook and Tarvaris Jackson were big reaches, but the remaining picks of Chad Greenway, Cedric Griffin, Ray Edwards and Greg Blue filled needs and did so with very capable football players. They probably should have taken a defensive tackle over Jackson, but all in all it wasn’t a horrible draftâÂ?¦C

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

Best Value Pick: Demetrius Williams, WR, Oregon
Williams, in my opinion, was the fourth or fifth best wide receiver in the draft and provides great value for the Ravens in the fourth round. He does have durability issues, but at (6’2″, 197) possesses ideal size for a NFL receiver and with the combination of his (4.5) speed and size he shouldn’t have too much trouble with separation. The bottom line is that this pick fills a need for the Ravens and Williams has the ability to fill their third receiver role as early as his rookie season.

Worst Value Pick: Chris Chester, C, Oklahoma
Chester is a versatile lineman, but has more experience at the tight end position than any other position along the line. The fact that he played tight end shows his athleticism, but he has had durability issues in all of his five years at Oklahoma. His versatility will likely make him a productive addition, but selecting him in the third round was just too big a reach.

Sleeper: David Pittman, CB, Northwestern State
I’ve got him here only because he comes from a small school (and that school being in LA. has nothing to do with it). I’m most intrigued to see if Pittman will ever amount to anything other than a nickel back in Baltimore. He has nice size (5’11”, 182) and speed (4.51) for a pro corner, but may need to put on about 10 pounds to handle some of the bigger receivers in the league. He possesses very nice fundamentals, but he can he translate those skills to the NFL level and can he do it sooner rather than later?

Grade: The Ravens are known for their productive endeavors come draft weekend, but I have to say they took a step backwards this year. The first round pick of Haloti Ngata was nice given that was the guy they wanted and they went and got him not giving up much to do so, but the rest of their picks have question marks all over them. I obviously liked their selection Williams, but his durability issues were enough to scare teams off ending up in him lasting until the fourth round. Most of their other picks were marginal reaches and none will likely ever start in Baltimore. They had a lot of picks and they did sure up some of their depth issues with those picks, but the Ravens usually come away from a draft with two to three starters for the upcoming season. This year they may have only selected one�C

Cincinnati Bengals

Best Value Pick: Reggie McNeal, QB, Texas A&M
Just to great an athlete to have stayed on the board until the sixth round, but I think in the end that will only drive him that much more to succeed. He has nice size (6’2″, 198) and great speed (4.35), and if he doesn’t make it in the NFL as a quarterback I can guarantee there will be a place for him somewhere as a receiver. He’ll need to add some weight and that may take a little of his speed away, and he does have a strong enough arm to at least give it a try at quarterback at this level.

Worst Value Pick: Frostee Rucker, DE, USC
There were definitely better prospects still available at this position when they selected Rucker, but he does fill a need nonetheless. He has playing experience at both end and at linebacker, but was never at all dominant at either position at any time. He’ll need to put on some weight (267) if he plans on playing end, and that will likely chip into his above average speed (4.89). Overall it wasn’t a terrible pick, but certainly the worst of the weekend by the Bengals.

Sleeper: Bennie Brazell, WR, LSU
No surprise here and I really liked the decision by Cincy to draft him other than letting this speedster hit the open rookie free agent market. The kid can flat out run and was a five time national champion and 14 time All-American. He may never see the field as a receiver, but he does have nice height (6’0″) and great speed (sub 4.3) for the position. He made a career at LSU on special teams and look for him to do the same in the NFL, possibly starting in his rookie season.

Grade: The Bengals addressed their four biggest needs with their first four picks and got quality players with each pick. Their later selections of AJ Nicholson, Reggie McNeal and Bennie Brazell were very nice as well. They probably should have selected a tight end, but with their current crop of receivers I guess they figured it wasn’t a pressing need. I’m most interested to see how this already potent offense will implement the great speed of both Reggie McNeal (4.35) and Bennie Brazell (4.3) in the years to comeâÂ?¦B

Cleveland Browns

Best Value Pick: Babatunde Oshinowo, DT, Stanford
Projected by some as a second round pick, falling to the sixth round was a bit of a surprise and provided unbelievable value for a team that can certianly use some stability at the position. He is a perfect fit for the 3-4 defense that Cleveland runs, and likely fell so far due to the few teams that run that scheme. He has below average speed (5.34), but will likely be called on mainly be a run stuffer in the NFL (ala Jerry Ball, Norman Hand, Grady Jackson, etc.).

Worst Value Pick: Travis Wilson, WR, Oklahoma
It was hard to find too many errors in the Browns draft, as most picks were either dead on are even borderline steals. Wilson is a slight reach, but overall has great size (6’2″, 214) and speed for his size (4.52), and is very consistent catching the ball. He has no real glaring weakness, but if I had to pick one I guess it would be durability. Wilson should be able to come in right away and compete with Dennis Northcutt for the third receiver spot behind starters Braylon Edwards and Joe Jurevicius.

Sleeper Pick: DeMario Minter, CB, Georgia
Being a SEC guy this is another player I know a lot about and was a little surprised to see him fall all the way to the middle of the fifth round. He has nice size (5’11”, 190) and speed (4.52) for the position and has played in all four seasons at Georgia (became the starter at the end of his sophomore year). He’s a very consistent player and rarely gives up the big play. I feel he can be the Browns’ starting nickel back in his rookie season and definitely contribute in a big way on special teams.

Grade: Overall I felt the Browns addressed their biggest need, linebacker, in a very big way by coming away with three future starters in Kamerion Wimbley, D’Qwell Jackson and Leon Williams. Those three selections alone merit an A grade and later selections of Travis Wilson, DeMario Minter and Babatunde Oshinowo is icing on the cake and will provide them with very adequate depth at their respective positions. I think Cleveland came away with three immediate starters here and quite possible three to four more down the line. Romeo Crennel was surely taking notes on draft day preparation during his time in New EnglandâÂ?¦A

Pittsburgh Steelers

Best Value Pick: Orien Harris, DT, Miami
Considered by some to be a first round talent, Harris is a stout run stuffer with above average size (6’3″, 301). He likely fell to the fourth round due to his lack of athleticism, but he uses his body well to counter that and at times has even held his own in double teams. His durability concerns were another reason teams probably shied away, but here in the fourth round you can’t argue with the value.

Worst Value Pick: Anthony Smith, S, Syracuse
This pick was a slight reach and after the free agent signings of Ryan Clark and Mike Logan it really doesn’t fill a pressing need. Smith has below average size for a safety (194) and on top of that isn’t overly fast (4.71). He is an above average tackle, but if he’s nowhere near the ball due to lack of speed and bulk what’s really the point.

Sleeper Pick: Omar Jacobs, QB, Bowling Green
Very much in the mold of previous draft picks Kordell Stewart, Hines Ward and Antawn Randle El, Jacobs is an intriguing prospect who grades out more as a quarterback than any of their prior picks. Mainly due to his size (6’4″, 232) and speed (4.84) he’ll likely have to make it in the NFL as a quarterback and I feel he has the ability to do so. He had a huge sophomore year, but his numbers dropped off in his junior year due to injury which was why his decision to leave school early was a bit puzzling to say the least.

Grade: The Steelers absolutely had to come away with a receiver in this draft and they did so by trading up in the first round and selecting a guy who some felt was the best available at the position. The selections of Anthony Smith and Willie Reid were reaches (at least Reid fills a need with Randle El gone), but their later picks of Orien Harris, Omar Jacobs and Cedric Humes dead on and even provided very good value. Overall it was a pretty typical draft for the Steelers, filling some needs and adding a starter or two along the way�B-

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