Players now must make grade


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Jan 22, 2006
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Players now must make grade
51 picked from ACC; defensive backs lead all positions with 49

By Jeff Legwold, Rocky Mountain News
May 2, 2006

The Denver Broncos' roster is a study in draft history.

Sure, there is a smattering of the team's former first-round picks, such as linebacker D.J. Williams, tackle George Foster, linebacker Al Wilson and receiver Ashley Lelie.

And, sure, there is a pile of somebody else's first-round picks, such as cornerback Champ Bailey, defensive tackle Gerard Warren, running back Ron Dayne and defensive ends Courtney Brown and Kenard Lang.

But there also is Tom Nalen, a seventh-round pick in 1994. There is Rod Smith, undrafted in 1994. And there is left tackle Matt Lepsis, undrafted in 1997.

"I tell the players that all the time, I tell everybody that all the time," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "Once the draft is over, the pick doesn't matter.

"Maybe in the contract it does for one, two years, but as for getting out on the field and competing, it doesn't matter."

Well, the draft is over - thankfully so for players such as former Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart, who said he grew weary of all the "nitpicking" - and now NFL teams will go about the business of seeing exactly what they have.

"It was a little tough sitting there on the second day and not seeing your name called," said former New Mexico State linebacker Jimmy Cottrell, a Castle Rock native who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Baltimore Ravens. "Kind of nerve-racking. But when it's over and you get that call to come into camp, that's exciting because now it's just time go play."

"You find somebody who wants you," said former Wyoming receiver Jovon Bouknight, a Denver native who was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Carolina Panthers. "I'm just excited to go play."

When the Houston Texans signed former North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams with the first pick, it started a big weekend for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The ACC led the way with 51 players selected during the weekend, followed by the Big Ten's 41 and the Southeastern's 37.

The NFL didn't think much of the Big 12, with 29 players from that conference being selected. The Mountain West had 12 players selected.

National champion Texas had six players chosen, runner-up USC 11. The Trojans led all schools and comprised 34 percent of the 32 Pacific-10 players who were drafted.

And in an intrastate battle that was a little closer than the University of Michigan certainly would like, the tradition-laden Wolverines had only three players selected, just ahead of Western Michigan's two.

"It shows we could play a little bit, too," said Western Michigan tight end Tony Scheffler, who was the Broncos' second-round pick.

Ohio State had nine players chosen, but five went in the first round; Florida State had eight players selected, four in the first round.

More guards were selected (18) than tight ends (15) and defensive back again was the most popular stop, with 49 players at the position being selected.

And while the class of receivers generally was frowned at by scouts, 30 were selected - it was the third-highest position total in the draft (34 linebackers were selected) - but only one of those went in the first round, when the Pittsburgh Steelers grabbed Santonio Holmes, formerly of Ohio State.

So off they go, on to their new teams in new places.

Buffalo Bills general manager Marv Levy, a Hall of Famer, called it "fantasy football."

"We got the ingredients," he said, "and now we have to bake the cake."

Said Bouknight: "You just want to get in. All that work, all the preparation and everything before the draft, is just for that shot to get in somebody's camp to show what you can do. Once you get it, you go from there."

Draft report cards

The grades are in. The Rocky Mountain News looked at which players each team got and when it got them. The teams that made the most of their picks, didn't reach and stayed true to their draft boards earned the A's - there were four this year. Those that did well with what they had and did a little more than necessary came away with B's. And those that reached some on the way to fill their most pressing needs got C's. Those that didn't help themselves enough earned the D's. The only F went to the team that continually mocks the draft in its own way. The "value pick" is the team's best grab of the weekend given where it got the player and what he will mean to the roster.

Team Value pick The lowdown

The A teams

Arizona QB Matt Leinart The Cardinals took advantage of who came down the board to them, including Leinart and TE Leonard Pope.

Carolina CB Richard Marshall Several teams projected DeAngelo Williams as a top-15 player, and the Panthers got him at No. 27.

Cleveland RB Jerome Harrison The Browns worked the board well throughout. They did better on the second day than some teams did all weekend.

New Orleans RB Reggie Bush The Saints got the best player in the draft at No. 2 to go with a solid second day.

The B teams

Buffalo T Terrance Pennington Reached some to snare S Donte Whitner. The Bills need mentors, as well, because their first four picks came out as juniors.

Denver C Greg Eslinger Results of WR Javon Walker's right knee rehab could make this an "A" day. WR Domenik Hixon's broken left foot is a concern.

Houston T Eric Winston DE Mario Williams can't possibly live up to the expectations the Texans have piled on him.

New England CB Willie Andrews T Ryan O'Callaghan is a medical concern but talented. RB Laurence Maroney was a great start in the first round.

New York Jets RB Leon Washington They had a big-time first day with the best T (D'Brickashaw Ferguson), the best C (Nick Mangold) and a QB (Kellen Clemens).

Philadelphia G Max Jean-Gilles A great second day for the Eagles, solid on the first. T Winston Justice is considered by most teams to be a character risk.

Pittsburgh C Marvin Philip The Steelers picked for need all weekend, which is why they surrendered too much to move up to take WR Santonio Holmes.

Seattle DE Darryl Tapp CB Kelly Jennings plays immediately and P Ryan Plackemeier was the best at the position in the draft.

Tennessee LB Terna Nande If RB LenDale White plays and works to his first-round ability, the Titans have their runner-passer combo of the future.

The C teams

Atlanta RB Jerious Norwood The Falcons had only five picks and no first-rounder after dealing for John Abraham. Norwood is a good find in the third.

Baltimore WR Demetrius Williams The Ravens took a player of need in DT Haloti Ngata but reached some on CB David Pittman.

Cincinnati WR Bennie Brazell Reached twice in the middle rounds - DE Frostee Rucker and LB A.J. Nicholson - before grabbing some special-teams help.

Dallas DT Montavious Stanley Skyler Green gives the Cowboys a big impact in the return game. DE Jason Hatcher, a former TE, is raw but has potential.

Detroit T Jonathan Scott Players with concussion problems always are a risk, and the Lions took one at ninth overall in LB Ernie Sims.

Green Bay WR Greg Jennings Moved around plenty and eventually turned a lopsided (against the Packers) trade for WR Javon Walker into five draft picks.

Jacksonville DE James Wyche The Jaguars had only six picks and tried to make the most of them with six players who will see the field quickly.

Kansas City CB Marcus Maxey A good weekend if QB Brodie Croyle's knees hold up and DE Tamba Hali has some impact.

Minnesota DE Ray Edwards The Vikings jumped too quickly for QB Tarvaris Jackson and had only two second-day picks.

New York Giants S Charlie Peprah DE Mathias Kiwanuka could have some impact, but the Giants have to commit to finding him a place in their rotation.

Oakland CB/S Michael Huff Huff will play right after the signature dries on his contract. T Kevin Boothe could be a find in the sixth round.

San Diego C Jimmy Martin The Chargers will be happy if their doctors are right about CB Antonio Cromartie (left knee) and T Marcus McNeill (back).

San Francisco TE Vernon Davis Davis is a monster, but the 49ers reached in the middle.

St. Louis TE Joe Klopfenstein The Rams got impatient late in the first day, but CB Tye Hill and Klopfenstein were a nice start.

Tampa Bay CB Alan Zemaitis The Buccaneers beefed up the offensive front on Day 1 but strayed some Sunday with a reach or two.

The D teams

Chicago DE Mark Anderson The Bears traded out of the first round, then reached twice in the second round.

Miami WR Devin Aromashodu The Dolphins traded away so many picks that three of their six were in the seventh round.

Indianapolis S Antoine Bethea The Colts always try for the home run and often reach to do it.

The F team

Washington S Reed Doughty The Redskins had no respect for the draft. They had one first-day pick - their only pick in the first four rounds.

Legwold report card

Rocky Mountain News NFL reporter Jeff Legwold graded everyone else's draft effort this weekend, so he graded himself as well.

In predicting his top 100 players in the draft, Legwold correctly selected 77, including 47 of the top 50. And of Legwold's top 32 choices, 26 were selected in the first round.,2777,DRMN_23918_4666461,00.html
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