Pro Football Weekly on rookies.
Pro Football Weekly
The free-agency era almost demands that rookies contribute right away and make an immediate impact. In addition to the aforementioned four rookies, here is a look at the most intriguing rookies for each of the other 28 teams (one per team) heading into the 2005 season.
RB J.J. Arrington: Arizona Cardinals
Opting not to deal for Buffalo's Travis Henry, head coach Dennis Green is putting his faith in the undersized, but extremely productive second-round pick out of Cal. Arrington could develop into a Robert Smith-type featured back in the Cardinals' offense. Arrington's first order of business will be to beat out fifth-year pro Marcel Shipp for the starting job.
RB DeAndra Cobb: Atlanta Falcons
Cobb, a sixth-round pick, is basically the same size as current starter Warrick Dunn and has a lot of the same shiftiness in the open field. Dunn isn't a kid anymore, and Cobb could be the future. However, if Cobb makes an impact this year, it will likely come on special teams, and he will have to prove he can be a solid receiver to earn a roster spot.
LB-DE Dan Cody: Baltimore Ravens
Cody racked up 10 sacks in each of his last two seasons at Oklahoma and was a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award, given to the nation's finest defensive end, in both seasons. The Ravens believe he can fill the void left by the departed Peter Boulware, who was cut for salary-cap reasons. Cody will see time at both strong-side linebacker and defensive end as the Ravens employ more 4-3 looks this season.
WR Roscoe Parrish: Buffalo Bills
Most pundits predicted the Bills would try to fill a need along the offensive line, or add to their defensive line depth, with their first overall pick in April's draft, No. 55 overall. But the Bills' brain trust decided the biggest thing lacking was speed, particularly in the passing game, and jumped at the chance to select Parrish, a 5-9, 168-pounder who possesses blazing speed, game-changing playmaking ability and surprising toughness. He's expected to challenge for the No. 3 WR job, where he could be a nightmare for nickel corners to cover out of the slot. He also could quickly turn into one of the league's most dangerous punt returners.
RB Eric Shelton: Carolina Panthers
Shelton is basically a clone of veteran Stephen Davis. The second-round pick has a big body, good burst and the ability to pound the ball inside. The Panthers would like to stick with Davis and DeShaun Foster this season. However, should Davis or Foster struggle in their return from season-ending injuries, Shelton could find himself pushed into the spotlight sooner than expected.
WR Mark Bradley: Chicago Bears
The Bears' second-round pick was not even a regular starter for college football powerhouse Oklahoma. But Bradley, a former junior-college product who also played corneback for the Sooners, intrigued the Bears because of his athleticism. Bradley's 4.43 speed, at 6-1ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â½, 201 pounds contributed to a 21.3 yards-per-catch average last year. Bears general manager Jerry Angelo says Bradley graded out comparably to Vikings' No. 1 pick Troy Williamson and, you could say, comes with half the risk.
LB David Pollack: Cincinnati Bengals
Head coach Marvin Lewis is bullish on Pollack's potential at linebacker. Pollack was an All-America defensive end at Georgia, but Lewis believes he has the movement skills and pass-rush ability to be a force at his new position. Pollack is likely to be the starter at strong-side linebacker; the team cut veteran Kevin Hardy in May, paving the way for the rookie to take over the position.
CB Antonio Perkins: Cleveland Browns
Perkins could immediately help the Browns in nickel and dime packages, as well as on special teams. Perkins returned eight punts for scores at Oklahoma ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ three in one game. For a team that may struggle to score points in 2005, Perkins could emerge as a secret weapon.
DE-DT Chris Canty: Dallas cowboys
The Cowboys are not sure what to expect this year from Canty, who is rehabbing two injuries: an ACL tear that prematurely ended his senior season and a detached retina he suffered when he was hit by a beer bottle in a bar fight in January. In the latter incident, he was an innocent bystander. There are no character questions about Canty, who was Virginia's captain in '04 and is the son of a pastor. He's spending a few weeks off his feet following a second eye surgery, so his knee rehab will be delayed. Yet the Cowboys might have what amounts to a third first-round talent this year with Canty, whose stock dropped because of the injury concerns. At 6-7 and nearly 280 pounds, Canty has the perfect frame to play as a 3-4 end and has experience in that system in college.
RB Maurice Clarett: Denver Broncos
The former Ohio State star could be one of the more intriguing rookies in the entire NFL because of his immense boom-or-bust potential. By reaching for Clarett at the end of the third round, Mike Shanahan has put his own reputation on the line to some extent, but Clarett could have first crack at the most coveted RB job in the league should starter Tatum Bell falter. Clarett has the skills necessary to be a good fit in Denver's much-heralded ground game, but he'll have to check his attitude at the door.
WR Mike Williams: Detroit Lions
Williams, a TD machine for two years at USC, gives QB Joey Harrington a trio of first-round picks at the WR position and another at running back (Kevin Jones). Williams was passed over by nine other teams before Detroit, with the 10th pick, figured the value was too great and chose him. Some teams believe his speed isn't adequate and see him as a tight end or possession receiver. The Lions see Williams as a bonafide star and believe he has the skills to become a Pro Bowl mainstay.
WR Jerome Mathis: Houston Texans
Seeking speed at the wide receiver positon, the Texans drafted Mathis, a two-time All-American in the 200-meter dash. Mathis, who has been timed at 4.29 seconds in the 40-yard dash, could provide an impact on kickoff returns. He returned five kickoffs for scores in 2004, a Division I-AA record. He may also push for time at wide receiver as the Texans look for a pass catcher to share the load with Andre Johnson.
RB Anthony Davis: Indianapolis Colts
The Colts could not fathom why Davis was still on the board in the seventh round, given how productive he was in a Big Ten program like Wisconsin. Team president Bill Polian likens him to ex-Bills RB Thurman Thomas. The Colts projected Davis ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ who will likely return kickoffs ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ as a fringe first-day pick.The 5-7, 200-pound Davis lacks size, but has speed and explosiveness. He caught the ball well enough in a workout for Indy.
LB Derrick Johnson: Kansas City Chiefs
You can almost see Gunther Cunningham licking his chops thinking about all the ways he can utilize the Butkus Award winner, who was arguably the best all-around defender in the draft. The Chiefs' new-look defense has the potential to be much better, but it will need Johnson to be a big part of the improvement. Johnson can help in several ways, whether it's blitzing the passer, blanketing running backs in coverage or tracking the ball with his athleticism. The Chiefs are built to win now, and they'll need an immediate impact from Johnson to get to where they want to be.
LB Channing Crowder: Miami Dolphins
Crowder is exactly the kind of linebacker Nick Saban desires ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ big, strong, fast, versatile and a playmaker. However, there are reasons why he lasted until the third round in April's draft. He has had three surgeries on the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and one surgery on the ACL in his left knee. He was also flagged by many teams for two off-the-field incidents that resulted in arrests outside a nightclub. Dolphins must keep him on the straight and narrow and help him realize his Pro Bowl potential. If they manage that, they'll have gotten one of the steals of the 2005 draft.
OG Logan Mankins: New England Patriots
Picking last in the first round of a draft that had long since used up players with first-round grades, the Patriots took what some observers considered was a reach when they picked little-known Fresno State OL Logan Mankins. Most teams had given Mankins a third- or fourth-round grade, but the Pats love his size (6-4, 307), toughness (he grew up on a cattle ranch and aspired to be a professional rodeo roper), hardworking nature and nastiness. He's expected to contend for the starting job at left guard and could even challenge at right tackle.
QB Adrian McPherson: New Orleans Saints
Fifth-rounder McPherson comes with more baggage than U.S. Airways, but he has the skills to be a solid NFL quarterback in the future. Current starter Aaron Brooks hasn't been able to get the Saints over the hump, and McPherson has the tools to be a decent backup for now and possibly a starter down the road if he develops in practice.
RB Brandon Jacobs: New York Giants
For years, the Giants have struggled to find a suitable short-yardage and goal-line back to complement Tiki Barber. With Ron Dayne gone and Michael Cloud more apt to fill a third-down role, Jacobs could carve out a niche as a bulldozing back to complement Barber's and Cloud's shiftiness. Jacobs has incredible size at 6-foot-4 and more than 260 pounds. But make no mistake, Jacobs is a one-back, not a tight end or H-back. He once was ahead of Ronnie Brown, the No. 2 player taken in the draft, on the Auburn depth chart, but transferred to Southern Illinois where he could better showcase his skills. Though he'll be a specialist for now, he could serve as a valuable piece to the running game.
CB Fabian Washington: Oakland Raiders
Think there's not a lot of pressure on the former Nebraska speedster? A week prior to the draft, the Raiders, fed up Phillip Buchanon's his lack of discipline as well as his me-first attitude, cut their ties with the supposed future opposite Charles Woodson. Word is, they're not entirely sold on Nnamdi Asomugha, another former first-round cornerback, either, and could possibly still be looking to deal Woodson. Then factor in Oakland's issues at the safety positions and a lack of a pass rush in 2004, and it's easy to see why Washington will have to be up to the task early on.
RB Ryan Moats: Philadelphia Eagles
It didn't take long for the media and fans to make the connection between Moats and Eagles' starting RB Brian Westbrook. Both men are compact, about 5-8 or 5-9 and a solid 210-215 pounds. Neither is blazing fast, but both can run away from linebackers and make defenders miss. Each saw his draft stock fall because of durability questions. And not surprisingly, they share a common belief: that they deserve to be the every-down back. Moats, who will compete for the No. 3 RB job, has impressed the Eagles with his versatility and work ethic. With Westbrook's contract status uncertain, Moats could vault up the line quickly.
CB Bryant McFadden: Pittsburgh Steelers
McFadden, a second-round pick, impressed at the post-draft minicamp. The Steelers value experience at cornerback, but McFadden's physicality and athleticism could earn him playing time. However, he might have to show more playmaking ability to crack the rotation; he intercepted just four passes in four seasons at Florida State.
S O.J. Atogwe: St. Louis Rams
The third-round pick out of Stanford is one of three rookies ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ Ronald Bartell (second round) and Jerome Carter (fourth round) are the others ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ who figure to get a shot at the team's starting free safety job. A three-year starter at Stanford, Atogwe appears to be the most well-rounded candidate to start alongside veteran Adam Archuleta.
WR Vincent Jackson: San Diego Chargers
The Chargers' leading receiver last year was TE Antonio Gates with 81 catches, followed by RB LaDainian Tomlinson with 53. The wide receiving corps had only 116 total receptions. For San Diego's offense to realize its true potential, it needs a gamebreaker on the outside. Enter Jackson, a 6-5, 241-pound target with good speed and body control. He could see lots of single coverage with the aforementioned players drawing their share of defensive attention.
QB Alex Smith: San Francisco 49ers
The top overall pick in the 2005 draft is a no-brainer. Because of his relative unfamiliarity with the Niners' West Coast system, Smith will probably take a backseat to incumbent QB Tim Rattay at first, but taking into account Smith's size, athleticism and supreme intelligence, it's only a matter of time before he becomes entrenched in the starter's role.
LB Lofa Tatupu: Seattle Seahawks
Defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes liked the son of former NFL RB Mosi Tatupu enough to urge the Seahawks to trade up nine spots in the second round to select him. Tatupu has one key thing in common with Seattle's superb second-round pick last season, SS Michael Boulware ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ tremendous playmaking instincts. Don't be shocked if he quickly becomes the team's starting middle linebacker.
TE Alex Smith: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Smith won't be asked to put up huge numbers during his rookie season, but in a Bucs offense that hopes to involve the tight end more in the future, he could become a special player. The third-round pick has good hands and decent size. He also has the quickness to become an Alge Crumpler-type with some seasoning.
OT Michael Roos: Tennessee Titans
Although Roos, who didn't play football until his senior year of high school and played at I-AA Eastern Washington, is considered "raw", the Titans picked him 41st overall ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ the highest the team has drafted an offensive lineman since Brad Hopkins (13th in 1993). Coincidentally, the team sees Roos as a long-term replacement for Hopkins at left tackle -- likely after this season. In the meantime, he'll play the right side. The Titans surprised many when they took Roos so early. But they had a scout they trusted in former Titans OL Tom Ackerman, who has assisted the Eastern Washington coaching staff and compared Roos to a young Willie Roaf for his intelligence and technique.
H-back Manuel White Jr.: Washington Redskins
The college fullback-tailback opened eyes at minicamp for his apparently seamless transition to H-back. Despite catching just 52 passes in four years of college, White showed soft hands and good athleticism with a strong frame. An experienced lead blocker, he should be able to inheirt some of the duties that fell to Chris Cooley ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ who's much better at pass receiving ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ last season, when Cooley found himself lining up in the backfield a lot. White might not make the immediate impact Cooley did as a rookie, but he should give special-teams coach Danny Smith a bruising wedge buster and valuable cover guy.
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