NFC/AFC West Draft Grades

*Posted on www.newsportswriters.com on 5/13/2006

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

Best Value Pick: Gabriel Watson, DT, Michigan
The Cardinals were able to acquire who I thought was the second or third best defensive tackle in the draft in the fourth round, which clearly means it was great value. Watson, considered by most as first round talent, can be inconsistent at times but when he decides to turn it on is absolutely dominant. He is extremely durable for a player his size (never missed a game in college) and is also of high character. Adding Watson to a line that already has Bertrand Berry, Chike Okeafor, and Darnell Dockett, Arizona may just have one of the most complete front four in the NFL.

Worst Value Pick: Deuce Lutui, OG, USC
It’s not that the Cardinals aren’t getting good value in the second round with Lutui, I just thought that an offensive tackle or even a linebacker made more sense here for them. He does have great size, good footwork and did play some tackle in college, but I will be interested to see if one, the Cardinals ask him to play tackle and two, if he can successfully do it at the NFL level.

Sleeper Pick: Jonathan Lewis, DT, Virginia Tech
Lewis got off to a slow start with his collegiate career, but came on in a big way in his senior season and was even a second-team All ACC performer (which is saying something once you see the talent that came of that conference in this draft). He’ll really never be an every down player in the NFL, but excels in certain areas that will make him a very adequate situational player. In the sixth round it was just another very good pick by Arizona who ended up having a pretty solid draft.

Grade: Obviously their first round pick of Matt Leinart was a no brainer, and they should be able to bring him along slowly as he learns from one of the best “guys” in the NFL, Kurt Warner. Arizona didn’t reach for any of the players they selected and most, if not all of them, should still be on their roster three years down the road. I thought they could have addressed their weaknesses along the offensive line a little more than with just one pick, but it really is hard to argue with the value they got with every one of their selections. Lutui and Leonard Pope should be starters in their rookie seasons and Leinart, Watson, Brandon Johnson and Jonathon Lewis will likely be called on to contributeâÂ?¦B+

St. Louis Rams

Best Value Pick: Claude Wroten, DT, LSU
Probably the best defensive tackle in the draft behind Florida State’s Broderick Bunkley, the Rams were able to select Wroten with one of their three third round picks. He has the best initial quickness of any tackle in the draft and keeps it coming with a very high motor. He also has great speed (5.09) for his size (6’2″, 302), and will end up being an absolute steal if his leaves his minor off the field issues behind him. If he stays healthy and clean there is no reason he won’t be starting along side La’Roi Glover in his rookie season.

Worst Value Pick: Marques Hagans, WR, Virginia
Hagans played quarterback at Virginia and will try to make it in the NFL as a receiver. The problem I have with this pick by the Rams in the fifth round is that first of all Hagans is extremely undersized (5’9, 202), and also seems a bit slow for his size (4.64). Maybe learning from two of the best route runners in the league in Holt and Bruce will help his learning curve, but he’ll have to work on his speed to beat out the likes of Shaun McDonald and Kevin Curtis.

Sleeper Pick: Mark Setterstrom, OG, Minnesota
Normally I’d have a guy like Hagans here, but I give him virtually no chance to make this time as a receiver. Setterstrom was a very nice pick by the Rams in the seventh round, and with Adam Timmerman pushing 35 it wasn’t a bad direction for them to go in. They did use third and fourth round picks on guards last year, but Setterstrom should come in an immediately challenge for playing time.

Grade: This was another draft that I liked, especially their move in the first round to trade back and still get a guy that they wanted (Tye Hill) and filled a need. They got great value with virtually every pick, and snagging Wroten and Dominique Byrd in the third were nice moves. They probably should have drafted a linebacker with their second round pick, but Jon Alston in the third round was only a slight reach. The Rams have had a very productive offseason in free agency and they topped that off with an above average draft�C+

Seattle Seahawks

Best Value Pick: Darryl Tapp, DE, Seattle
A great value pick for the Hawks and fills what I felt was their biggest need going in to the draft. Tapp is a multiple All-ACC first team performer who shows great instincts and will rarely be outworked on the football field. He lacks ideal size (6’2″, 252) for the position, but uses his great speed (4.84) and quickness to mask that. Barring injury and assuming he adds 20-30 pounds, he should be starting along side Grant Winstrom at some point in his rookie season.

Worst Value Pick: David Kirtman, FB, USC
Kirtman projected as a seventh round pick at best and was more likely headed for being signed as a rookie free agent. The selection somewhat fills a need due to Mack Strong’s age (34), but they do currently have two other fullbacks behind Strong on the roster. He does have above average speed (4.75) and should contribute on special teams in his rookie season.

Sleeper Pick: Ben Obomano, WR, Auburn
Another Auburn receiver whose numbers suffered from the Tiger’s emphasis on the running game, Obomano has good size, not great (6’1″ 205), and very good speed (4.45). He, like teammate Aromashodu, will need to work on his physicality, blocking skills and consistency catching the ball. Other than that he’s got the size and speed to make it at the NFL level.

Grade: I thought the Hawks did a very good job of addressing their biggest roster needs in the first two rounds by selecting Kelly Jennings and Darryl Tapp. Both will push for playing time in their rookie seasons and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if they become starters before year’s end. They probably reached with their next two selections of Sims and Kirtman, but secured good talent with their final two picks in the seventh round of Ryan Plackemeier and Ben Obomano. Overall not a bad job for a team that went in to the draft with very few needsâÂ?¦C

San Francisco 49ers

Best Value Pick: Marcus Hudson, S, NC State
A very nice value pick by the Niners here with Hudson who probably should have been selected in the fourth or fifth round. He has nice versatility having played both corner and safety in college, but due to his speed (4.6) will likely play safety in the NFL. It’s not the Ed Reed type I thought Nolan would have gone for earlier in the draft (Huff), but in the sixth round he certainly fills a need.

Worst Value Pick: Brandon Williams, WR, Wisconsin
Again, it’s not that this is bad value. I just thought that there were at least a handful of better receivers still on the board when San Francisco selected Williams. He is vastly undersized (5’9″ 179) and will find it very hard to get off the line in the NFL. Williams does possess great hands and above average route running skills, which are both good attributes to a quarterback (Smith) still learning the ropes in this league.

Sleeper Pick: Michael Robinson, QB/RB, Penn State
He possesses the skills to play running back in the NFL, but should find his niche with this team at the receiver position. He has ideal size (6’1″ 225) and speed (4.54) and also is a very tough, competitive and talented athlete. If anything he is a football player, and should find a way to contribute on this very young and very thin roster in his rookie season.

Grade: I really thought the Niners should have focused more on the defensive side of the ball with their early picks, but it’s hard to argue with their first round selections of Vernon Davis and Manny Lawson. In bringing along a young quarterback there is nothing better than having a reliable target at the tight end position (and if Eric Johnson can stay healthy they will have two). After trading Brandon Lloyd you can’t really argue with their next two picks of receivers, but I thought there was certainly better talent available at that time at the position than Brandon Williams and project Michael Robinson (Jason Avant, Demetrius Williams, Maurice Stovall, etc., etc.). They did nice things with their first two picks, but other than Hudson and possibly Haralson, they failed to select any impact players afterwards in a draft where every pick had to countâÂ?¦C

AFC West

Denver Broncos

Best Value Pick: Greg Eslinger, C, Minnesota
Eslinger lacks ideal bulk and strength, but that only makes him an even better fit as a typical Bronco offensive lineman. He uses his intelligence and average athleticism to be effective in run blocking and also has a background in the zone blocking schemes run in Denver. Starter Tom Nalen is now 35, so Eslinger and last year’s sixth round pick Chris Myers are already auditioning for the starters role in ’07.

Worst Value Pick: Jay Cutler, QB, Vanderbilt
Surprised? Well first listen to why I have him here. First of all he doesn’t exactly fill a need with Jake Plummer coming off his best season as a pro. All the Snake needs now is this rookie looking over his shoulder. That ought to work out real well. I have never been high on Cutler and felt the Broncos should have stayed put at 15 and either select a running back or even a safety. They also could have considered trading back and selecting a defensive end.

Sleeper Pick: Elvis Dumervil, DE, Louisville
The only reason I have him here is because due to the oft injured group of players the Broncos currently have at defensive end it’s likely this kid will get a shot to contribute in his rookie season. I thought Denver probably should have used an earlier pick at this position, but in Dumervil they’ll get a player who should come in on obvious passing downs and bolster their current pitiful pass rush.

Grade: I felt this was an uncharacteristically below average draft for the Broncos. They are a team with few needs, but the needs they do have they failed to address. They are also a very veteran team, and by that I mean old. They did acquire Javon Walker to address their need at receiver (which is why I am baffled that they then used two fourth picks on receivers), but they have an average secondary at best and they failed to use even one pick there. Scheffler and Eslinger were nice picks, but figuring in Walker really saves their grade�C-

Kansas City Chiefs

Best Value Pick: Brodie Croyle, QB, Alabama
Very nice pick by the Chiefs who realize that Trent Green (now 35) will not play forever. Croyle is not the tallest fellow in the world (6’2 Ã?½”), but does have decent size (205) and great speed (4.82). He’ll need to add a little weight and does have injury issues, but Croyle is a very smart and competitive “football player” who should compete with Damon Huard in his rookie season for back up duties.

Worst Value Pick: Tamba Hali, DE, Penn State
Overall this was an ok pick for the Chiefs and it fills a need, but it didn’t fill their most pressing need and may not have been the best player available at the position. He is a bit undersized (6’3″, 275), but he does have great speed (4.78). Hali will likely start in his rookie season, but he will have to add some weight in order to be a factor.

Sleeper Pick: Jeff Webb, WR, San Diego State
Another case of the Chiefs acknowledging a need on their roster, but maybe doing so too late to have selected a player that can make an impact. Webb has great speed (4.44) and good size (6’2″, 211), but has durability, character and inconsistency concerns. In the sixth round the risk is certainly worth the possible reward, but the Chiefs should have addressed this need area a lot earlier than here.

Grade: The Chiefs failed to select one cornerback in this draft (Maxey will be a safety in the NFL), which was probably the position of their greatest need. Their second, receiver, they waited until the sixth round to address. They reached on just about every one of their picks, failed to again address their needs at receiver and corner and their best pick of the weekend will probably only amount to a back up for them for the majority of his career�C-

Oakland Raiders

Best Value Pick: Darnell Bing, S, USC
Some considered Bing first round talent, and as a linebacker (which is what he’ll play in Oakland) he certainly warrants that grade. Great size (6’2″, 227) for a safety, but will need to add some weight to play linebacker and hopefully that will not effect his great speed (4.57) too much. As a safety in the NFL he’d be nothing more than a back up, but at linebacker he has the skills to become a very good pro.

Worst Value Pick: Paul McQuistan, OT, Weber State
There were much better options still available at the position, and probably a couple more pressing needs on their roster. McQuistan was a late round prospect at best and coming from a small school will greatly delay his learning curve. He was a four year starter at Weber, but he does lack athletic ability and doesn’t use consistent leverage. He simply does not warrant third round pick status.

Sleeper Pick: Michael Huff, CB, Texas
He really doesn’t belong here, but I had to put him in this spot simply so I could acknowledge his selection. Huff is one of my favorite players in the draft and his ability to play both corner and safety made this a no brainer for the Raiders. Matt Leinart likely got consideration here, but I like the confidence they showed in Aaron Brooks by passing on him (a change in scenery and Randy Moss will work wonders for Brooks, trust me). Huff isn’t the biggest guy (6’0″, 204), but has unbelievable speed for that size (4.35) and is fearless, hard hitting and has a great knack for making big plays. (Seventh round pick Kevin McMahan probably should have been. Great speed and size (6’2″, 196, 4.38) and worth the gamble due to the Raiders already deep pool of talented receivers. He had 13 TD’s in his senior year.)

Grade: I really liked their selections of Huff, Thomas Howard, Bing, Kevin Boothe and Kevin McMahan. They only reached with one of their picks and used three of their first four picks to further address their defense. They probably could have selected a running back, but with LaMont Jordan and Jason Fargas currently at the position it wasn’t exactly a pressing need. They followed last year’s good draft with another good draft this yearâÂ?¦B+

San Diego Chargers

Best Value Pick: Marcus McNeill, OT, Auburn
McNeill certainly fills a need here and projected by some as first round talent makes him good value. He has unbelievable size (6’7 Ã?½ “, 332) and speed (4.97), but there is a bit of a risk due to his medical issues (stenosis of the spine). If he can stay healthy this pick will be an absolute steal, and likely put a smile on the faces of Phillip Rivers and LaDanian Tomlinson.

Worst Value Pick: Charlie Whitehurst, QB, Clemson
Not that he isn’t worth being selected in the middle of the third round, it just makes zero sense for the Chargers to have selected a quarterback at all in this draft. With AJ Feeley being the most veteran player at the position, San Diego will have serious issues developing any of their young signal callers. It also may show the Chargers true level of confidence in Phillip Rivers.

Worst Value Pick: Antonio Cromartie, CB, Florida State
The pick addresses a need for the Chargers, but selecting Cromartie in the first round is a huge risk. He missed all of last season with a knee injury, but he does have great size (6’2″, 208) and speed (4.44) for a cornerback. Plus with Santonio Holmes and Chad Jackson still available here, I thought for sure they would have selected one of them.

Grade: Not using a pick at all on receiver was a bit of a surprise to me. Keenan McCardell is now 36 and other than him they have little to nothing as far as proven commodities. Not the best approach towards bringing along Phillip Rivers. The selection of Charlie Whitehurst was also a head scratcher due to lack of need at the position. Overall most of their picks made little sense and only one of these players will contribute in ’06âÂ?¦C – (D)

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