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Ear to the Ground

EAR TO THE GROUND - 2005 SEASON (Week 15 Recap)

"The cosmos speaks in patterns" - Roger von Oech (paraphrase of Heraclitus)

"You can't block what you can't catch" - Montae Reagor (Colts DT)

"Winning is our business" - Bill Parcells (motto for Cowboys 2005 season)

The subject matter of ETTG is IDP with an emphasis on Dynasty leagues. Ear To The Ground was chosen for this column's title to convey a sense of detecting rumblings in the distance... an ability essential to project a prospect from college to pro and rookie to veteran. It will consist of four sections : Team Reports, a Defensive Rookie of the Year Meter, an In-Depth Profile and a strategy section called Cracking the Code. The team reports will be covered on a rotation (ARI - KC, MIA - WAS) every other week. The events that wash over the IDP Dynasty world and alter its landscape move at a slower rhythm and tempo and according to longer cycles than redraft leagues, making weekly coverage superfluous. IDP focus will be on the impact positions of LB, DE and S... exceptional DTs and CBs will be noted for leagues that differentiate DE/DT and S/CB. Dynasty content is geared towards youth. Like most successful working rosters that employ a blend of production and potential, there will be a balance of rookie and veteran coverage in the mix. FBG IDP content is complementary and interlocking. Upgrades/Downgrades and Strong/Weak Plays articles will by their nature see new names bubble up to the surface from week to week. Ear to the Ground will identify key players early on and can be thought of as a watch list for the whole season as it unfolds.


TEAM REPORTS - SEASON OVERVIEW AND GLIMPSE AT NEXT SEASON

ARIZONA

MVP - SS Adrian Wilson... DE Bertrand Berry co-MVP before injury.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - MLB Gerald Hayes... much more was expected of DT Darnell Dockett who got off to a strong start but fizzled down the stretch... FS Robert Griffith doesn't fit as he shouldn't have been expected to do well.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - Rookie CB Antrell Rolle... destined to be a star.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - Rolle (of course) and Dockett... SLB Karlos Dansby flashed Pro Bowl talent intermittently and sporadically but needs to be more consistent... whoever emerges at MLB.


ATLANTA

MVP - WLB/MLB Keith Brooking and CB DeAngelo Hall co-MVPs... DT Rod Coleman clearly is an impact player (at times, Falcons wins seem to be tightly correlated with his sacks)... he started out like gangbusters with 7 sacks in as many games before the bye, but has only 2.5 sacks over the seven games since... respectable for a mere mortal DT, but not the Rod Coleman numbers we have grown accustomed to.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - SS Bryan Scott looked like an ascendant player after a brilliant rookie campaign but was not the same player after an injury plagued sophomore slump and lost his job a few weeks ago... the team seemed to take a big step backwards in run defense after prized free agent MLB addition Edgerton Hartwell went down early with a torn achilles tendon, but he was shockingly unproductive for IDP rosters even before the injury... DE Patrick Kerney was solid and is a high character, high motor individual, but his anemic sack total (5.5) fell far short of the huge expectations generated by his monster 2004 season.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - SLB/WLB Demorrio Williams actually led the team in solos and combined tackles (94 & 120), bolstered by 3 sacks and 2 INTs. He struggles to keep on weight during the season (smaller than some safeties), gets washed out of too many plays and is a dead LB walking when he gets wired on to OL... but he compensates with the phenomenal instincts, mind boggling burst and explosiveness and an innate sense of angles. If he continues to develope has future Pro Bowl-type of ability... though a return to SLB will put a damper on his full potential.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - Can Hartwell return to MLB (and can he be more productive than his feeble stats in an abbreviated 2005 season)? If so, this will set the dominos in motion for Brooking and Williams to return to their former WLB and SLB roles. If not, rookie MLB Jordan Beck could get a look if he returns strong from a broken foot. He flashed big league ability and natural talent that belied the small school pedigree (non-Div I Cal Poly SLO) and has some freakish, mutant measurables for a LB, let alone a MLB... possessing a CB-like 4.4 and Dominique Wilkens/David Thompson-esque 42" hops.


BALTIMORE

MVP - With deference to OLB Terrell Suggs (41 tackles, 6 sacks, 2 INTs & 2 FFs), his less highly publicized counterpart Adalius Thomas has had the better and more consistent season (59 tackles, 7 sacks, 2 INTs, 3 FFs & 1 TD).

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - FS Ed Reed... maybe the biggest in the entire NFL on either side of the ball. In his initial three three seasons he had 4 sacks, 21 INTs and 4 FFs. In eight games thus far during an injury-riddled season, he has ZERO big plays. The decision by MLB Ray Lewis to play through a mid-season hamstring injury was an ill-fated one that ended shutting him down prematurely after just six games.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - WLB/MLB Tommy Polley was playing at a high level on the weak side, before the injury to Lewis necessitated a shift to the middle, where he seemed like an unlikely fit after being called soft and a finesse defender with the Rams. The former multi-sport star at local Baltimore school Dunbar High has always been a sensational athlete and led his basketball team to four straight state titles and the football team to championships in his last two. He leads BAL in tackles with 60, which is in striking range of his career high (68 - set in a brilliant rookie Super Bowl season which he had seemingly regressed from)... and his 3 sacks have already set a new standard for his personal best. There is no question he has been coached up by the Ravens defensive staff and is playing more physically and aggressively.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - OLB Dan Cody was one of the best defensive players in the nation in 2004, but a pre-season injury shut him down for his entire rookie season before it even started.


BUFFALO

MVP - MLB stalwart London Fletcher... who else?

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - Takeo Spikes season-ending knee injury after just three games.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - Would have to be WLB Angelo Crowell. He was pressed into service early with the devastating loss of Pro Bowler Takeo Spikes. Amidst little fanfare and overshadowed by one of the top LBs in the league (Fletcher), the little brother of ex-NFL WR Germane vastly exceeded expectations with 67 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 INTs & 2 FFs. He has flashed star potential, showing that he can thrive at the next level and is capable of being much more than just a backup.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - CB Nate Clements is entering the prime of his career and has the physical tools and multi-talented skill set to dominate and be one of the best CBs in the business. It would be a big surprise if the Bills don't lock him up to long term extension.


CAROLINA

MVP - CB Ken Lucas was one of the top free agent acquisitions in the league at any position. With emergent superstar CB Chris Gamble, they have spearheaded a 180 degree turnaround that has transormed a position that was a weakness as recently as 2004 into a strength. Lucas (turns 27 in January when CAR fans hope to find their team still in the playoffs and attempting a return to the Super Bowl) and Gamble (22) should be one of the top CB tandems in the league for many years to come.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - Rookie OLB/SS Thomas Davis was not as versatile or as ready to play as advertised. Glaring coverage deficiencies stopped his NFL safety career in his tracks (like he routinely did to ball carriers during a stellar Georgia career), and the Panthers have only begun to find a role for him at LB within their overall scheme. He still has a VERY bright future (see below). FAR more was expected of emergent superstar DE Julius Peppers, who has played well but his numbers and tangible production are not in line with his #2 overall pedigree (2002 draft class) and jaw-dropping athleticism (sixth man on a nationally ranked North Carolina basketball team). The sack phenom, two-way prodigy and supremely gifted physical specimen faltered and failed to take the next logical step in his development and evolution given his world class ability and skills. After playing all 48 games in his first three seasons, DT Kris Jenkins has terrorized his owners more than opposing OL the past two years, playing just a handful of games after going out early to season ending-injuries in consecutive seasons.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - The former Jaguar and Texan journeyman safety Marlon McCree filled in admirably on short notice when the defensive coaching staff made a rare misfire, waiting until the season began to determine that Davis was out of place at SS and a more natural OLB as a pro. McCree leads the team in tackles.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - With injury prone MLB Dan Morgan (a hummingbird egg is more resilient and robust than his noggin) prioritized this season for a long term extension, talented and multi-skilled WLB Will Witherspoon's future with the club is murky and shrouded in uncertainty. If he is allowed to move on, look for underutilized 2005 first rounder and miscast safety "bust" Davis to emerge as a superstar at his natural LB position.


CHICAGO

MVP - Serial Pro Bowl MLB Brian Uhrlacher... but a defense that is one of the stingiest in recent history has received key contributions from the DL (DEs "Wale" Ogunleye and Alex Brown could have made the Pro Bowl and second year DT Tommie Harris did for the first time), elsewhere at LB (Lance Briggs also a first time Pro Bowl honoree) and in the secondary (second year CB Nathan Vasher another first time Pro Bowler, CB Charles Tillman could have made it and SS Mike Brown also was selected to go to Hawaii).

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - It would be nitpicking to reach for a player to pigeonhole into this category, which really doesn't apply in this brilliant and historic season.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - Vasher's 8 INTs is tied for second in the NFL with veteran Pro Bowlers Darren Sharper and Champ Bailey. O-Gun and Brown played a much higher level this season than in 2004.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - More of the same... this is a young team that will have the opportunity to grow together and become even better for many years. With such a young team, it is possible and even likely that few if any of the principal defensive stars have reached their ceiling and are incapable of reaching even higher levels of play.


CINCINNATI

MVP - Rookie MLB Odell Thurman is an emergent superstar. His intensity and explosiveness have almost singlehandedly transformed the face of the defense and lent it a more intimidating attitude and physical nature. The former Georgia star's 5 INTs and 4 FFs are tied for the league lead at his position and represent a freakish blend of athletic ball skills and monster striking power. CB Deltha O'Neal leads the NFL with 10 INTs, which is more than his prior three seasons COMBINED.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - Prized rookie first round DE/OLB conversion David Pollack has not had a seamless segueway and transition to the next level and another position... he has come on recently as a pass rush specialist and the Bengals are still very high on his future prospects. The loss of star second year FS Madieu Williams after just four games was one of the biggest causes of CINs struggles in run support at various points during the season... the start of which can be pinpointed almost exactly to the time when he was injured.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - Thurman and O'Neal spearheaded the team's defensive resurgence and league lead in INTs and the all important stat of turnover differential, so fateful and strongly correlated with won-loss record. FS Kevin Kaesviharn has filled in admirably for Williams and is tied for the team lead in tackles with Thurman (56).

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - Pollack, and don't make the mistake of forgetting about Williams, who looked like one of the CIN's op defensive players in his first 1 1/4 seasons before being placed on IR just four games into the 2005 season.


CLEVELAND

MVP - ILB Andra Davis has easily led the Browns in tackles his last two healthy seasons. He has been chosen by up 'n coming HC Romeo Crennel to play the Tedy Bruschi role in the CLEs 3-4, rewarded recently with a five year contract extension.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - Sean Jones was one of the highest regarded safeties in the 2004 draft, after Sean Taylor (he was drafted in the second round along with Bob Sanders and Michael Boulware). After a pre-season injury turned his rookie season into a complete washout, his sophomore year has been little better... he appears to be #4 on the totem pole in a safety rotation that includes Chris Crocker, Brian Russell and Brodney Pool. Ravens free agent CB Gary Baxter was coveted by current CLE GM and former BAL scouting executive Phil Savage, but he only lasted five games.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - With two games remaining on the schedule, DE Orpheus Roye already has shattered his career high in tackles (42) with an NFL DL-leading 58 in a season that marks a decade of NFL service. ILB Ben Taylor has been a solid inside presence next to Davis. CB Leigh Bodden has played well enough in Baxter's absence that he may bump Daylon McCutcheon to nickle CB in 2006.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - High second round rookie FS Brodney Pool is a gifted athlete who flashed the multi-faceted skill set and versatility (playing the ball and in run support) while at Oklahoma to be a star at the next level given the opportunity. He did come out a year early, and the dust may have settled considerably next year in what has been a very crowded position for the Browns this season. Third year OLB Chaun Thompson was a physical specimen with prodigious measurables entering the league but extremely raw given his small school (West Texas A&M) pedigree. This season he set career highs in tackles (48), sacks (4) and FFs (2). With his off-the-scales athleticism and formidable natural talent, it is safe to say Thompson is just scratching the surface of his potential, has an unknown but still very high ceiling and could be primed for a breakthrough season in 2006.


DALLAS

MVP - Largely relieved of the coverage responsibilities he was saddled with in the two seasons that preceded 2005, SS Roy Williams returned to the incendiary form routinely on display in his stellar rookie campaign (career high 88 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 INTs, 3 FFs & 2 TDs), with 66 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks, 2 INTs, 3 FFs and 1 TD. The former Oklahoma star was one of the most gifted athletes in the nation and in his inaugural pro season... on either side of the ball. It is a shame that deficiencies in secondary personnel leading to liabilities in overall coverage in the 2003-04 interim kept the Cowboys from unleashing his full playmaking potential. This season IDP players were reminded of what they have been missing.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - The LB play collectively and as a whole. Starting LBs Dat Nguyen (ILB) and Al Singleton (strong side OLB) got injured, rookie OLBs DeMarcus Ware (regressed after a scorching start and looks increasingly "Lost in Space") and Kevin Burnett (never got untracked) have disappointed... OLB Scott Fujita and ILB Scott Shanle don't look like long-term answers and ILB Bradie James has teased that he is about to make a long awaited breakout only to revert back to a frustrating lack of consistency.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - How well coveted free agent CB Anthony Henry played before suffering a mid-season groin injury. His addition changed what the Cowboys are able to do, greatly expanded the ways in which they can attack offenses and completely transformed their effectiveness in doing so. DE Chris Canty was a first round talent that became a day two steal after a knee injury followed by an untimely bar rumble led to an eye injury (since corrected) which could have led to permanent vision loss. In one of the best looking DAL drafts in a while and one of the best in the NFLs class of 2005 (Ware, DE Marcus Spears, Burnett, etc.), Canty may be the best and most consistent rookie.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - Ware has flashed signs of being a special player and will be a star once the light comes on. In retrospect, it was asking too much to expect him to dominate early in his career given the jump in level of competition from Troy State to the NFL, as well as transitioning from a hand-on-the-ground DE to a stand up LB.


DENVER

MVP - Since the blockbuster Broncos/Redskins trade... Pro Bowls - CB Champ Bailey (2), Clinton Portis (0)... with the addition of potential star RB-of-the-future Tatum Bell included with the second round "throw-in" selection, this trade looks more than ever like a slam dunk and no-brainer for DEN architect and mastermind Skeletor.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - While not his fault, the unexpected free agent signing and re-acquisition of ex-Bronc WLB Ian Gold (after a one year stint with the Bucs due to a disagreement about his post-ACL injury worth) has been a nightmare for D.J. Williams owners. While he has the speed, athleticism and range to look like one of the top WLBs from the class of 2004 (along with Daryl Smith), he also outweighs Gold by 20-30 pounds and was the more natural fit at SLB... but it has wreaked havoc on his stats and IDP production. The former USA Today Player of the Year was the only player John Madden ever said could have made the transition to the NFL directly from high school, where he starred for Concord De La Salle and was the most highly recruited prospect in the nation.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - WLB Ian Gold, after the 2004 season hiatus as TBs SLB, hasn't skipped a beat and looks like the same ascendant player that in 2003 appeared ready to break out as one of the top WLBs in the league. Skeletor was mocked in the wake of the draft for selecting so many CBs, but Darrent Williams and Domonique Foxworth have not played like rookies and have been nothing short of a revelation, elevating the play of the entire secondary and defense, as well as the Broncos post-season chances.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - If Darrent Williams can withstand the pounding, this mighty-mite will surprise some people with the production he is capable of.


DETROIT

MVP - SLB Kennoy Kennedy... and it wasn't that close.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - SLB Boss Bailey's persistent injury trouble (he plummeted down many team's boards over medical concerns related to blowing out BOTH ACLs) continues to mute his considerable potential. MLB/OLB Teddy Lehman's puzzling and inexplicable failure to penetrate the starting lineup in his sophomore season. DE James Hall hasn't built on a career 2004 season (11 1/2 saks and 4 FFs) and that now looks like an aberration.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - Kennedy... also, DE Kalimba Edwards showed signs of breaking out and extricating himself from bust status with a team high 7 sacks (more than previous two seasons combined)... though he is still a situational player and doesn't bring much to the table in run support and tackle production.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - MLB Earl Holmes did his best work during the Bush adminstration (the FIRST Bush) and isn't getting any younger. The new coaching staff post-Mooch has to find a spot for the talented and aforementioned Lehman. If stout enough to hold up at the POA, he has the dangerous kind of speed, range and athleticism from MLB to be a proverbial sideline-to-sideline playmaker.


GREEN BAY

MVP - MLB Nick Barnett is on track to lead the team in tackles for the third straight season... he is just 24.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - KGB will be 29 next season and his 5 sacks represent a precipitous dropoff from his 49 sacks in the prior four seasons. 2004 first rounder Ahmad Carroll continues to shoot himself (and the team) in the foot with stupid, unnecessary penalties. There has never been anything wrong with his measurables, but he may not have the requisite attitude and temperment to accept being coached up at his position.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - Rookie FS Nick Collins was supposed to be too raw (Bethune-Cookman) to help much initially but has been much more advanced and NFL-ready than advertised. DE Aaron Kampman has been solid if not spectacular as a pass rusher (6 1/2 sacks) but is second among DEs (to only serial Pro Bowler Michael Strahan) with 51 tackles.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - Collins is an ascendant player that could develope into a real playmaker with continued maturation. Look for new LBs flanking Barnett, who has somewhat languished in obscurity leading a mediocre stop unit not exactly stockpiled with defensive talent in recent seasons. This course of events could yield a productive WLB in itself (that player is most likely not on the roster currently so watch out and monitor the situation closely in the off-season), as well as funnel even more plays to the emergent star.


HOUSTON

MVP - ILB Morlon Greenwood... but this is kind of like being the "coolest" 'N Sync or Back Street Boys member.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - SS Glenn Earl looked like an ascendant player last season, than injuries caused him to lose his job to rookie C.C. Brown... which he only got back recently when the defensive coaching staff's dissatisfaction with FS Marcus Coleman prompted them to slide Brown there, vacating the SS position. It may be too early to call him a bust, but he hasn't exactly set the world on fire since regaining his starting job about a month ago.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - Second year CB Dunta Robinson has not generated nearly as many as big plays (sacks, INTs and FFs) as in his near DROY campaign, but he continues to be one of the better young tackling CBs in the NFL.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - ILB Kailee Wong looked like the teams best LB through 5 games, at which point he went to IR. If he can come back strong, the former OLB has the athleticism, versatility and football smarts to be a productive player at several positions... which he may need to, as HC Dom Capers is a dead man walking (and so could be his 3-4 scheme).


INDIANAPOLIS

MVP - FS Bob Sanders and DE Dwight Freeney both made the Pro Bowl.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - SS Mike Doss off-season shooting embarrasment has been the least of his problems. After rumors that GM Polian and HC Dungy (who prefer to stock their roster with high character types) attempted to unload him in the wake of that incident, he has been a liability in coverage and not as strong in run support as his supremely gifted counterpart. He doesn't look like the three time All American at Ohio State... though pro scouts expressed doubts about his ability to cover at that time, an observation which now looks prescient. SLB David Thornton is a talented player (as he proved by being a top 10 LB when he last played WLB in 2003) but doesn't get many opportunities to make plays at SLB in Dungy's Cover Two.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - MLB Gary Brackett has been a huge upgrade over the underachieving weak link Rob Morris (especially in coverage, but also as an open field tackler), WLB Cato June went from a sketchy SS/WLB conversion in 2004 to a 5 INT season (tied with Odell Thurman for league lead at his position) and a Pro Bowl berth. Undersized DE and situational pass rusher Robert Mathis showed last season wasn't a fluke by again finding himself among the league leaders in sacks and FFs.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - An early injury put CB Marlin Jackson's fast track development on hold for the moment, but in limited action (including recent starting assignments due to injuries) he has flashed the same versatility, natural talent and array of multi-faceted skills that allowed him to become a multi-All American winner and caused the Colts to select him in the first round. He looks like a future star.


JACKSONVILLE

MVP - Mike Peterson does it all and is in the vanguard of the new fast, agile and athletic three down MLBs (like Jonathan Vilma, Antonio Pierce, Odell Thurman and Lofa Tatupu)... surprising that none of these playmakers made the Pro Bowl.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - SS Donovin Darius going on IR after just two games. Despite making the Pro Bowl (on reputation), DT Marcus Stroud has not played at as consistently high a level as his less publicized but more intense and passionate counterpart, John Henderson (he of the pre-game helmetless head slap ritual).

PLEASANT SURPRISE - The development of Rashean Mathis into an elite CB.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - DE Reggie Hayward started slow but than picked up steam and as he gets more comfortable in the system could put up some monster sack numbers with the attention OLs are forced to pay the twin tower interior presence of pocket collapsers extraordinaire Hendo and Stroud. WLB Daryl Smith is a phenomenal player who is overshadowed and upstaged by talent at other positions (Peterson, Hendo & Mathis), but he has the kind of ability to make some sizable footprints of his own.


PRO BOWL TEAM (DEFENSE)

AFC

  • DE - Derrick Burgess (OAK), Dwight Freeney (IND), Jason Taylor (MIA)
  • DT - Richard Seymour (NE), Marcus Stroud (JAC), Jamal Williams (SD)
  • OLB - Cato June (IND), Joey Porter (PIT), Shawne Merriman (SD)
  • ILB - Zach Thomas (MIA), Al Wilson (DEN)
  • CB - Champ Bailey (DEN), Ty Law (NYJ), Deltha O'Neal (CIN)
  • SS -Troy Polamalu (PIT)
  • FS - John Lynch (DEN), Bob Sanders (IND)

NFC

  • DE - Julius Peppers (CAR), Michael Strahan (NYG), Osi Umenyiora (NYG)
  • DT - Rod Coleman (ATL), Shaun Rogers (DET), Tommie Harris (CHI)
  • OLB - Lance Briggs (CHI), Keith Brooking (ATL), Derrick Brooks (TB)
  • ILB - Jeremiah Trotter (PHI), Brian Urlacher (CHI)
  • CB - Ronde Barber (TB), DeAngelo Hall (ATL), Nathan Vasher (CHI)
  • SS - Mike Brown (CHI), Roy Williams (DAL)
  • FS - Darren Sharper (MIN)


Defensive Rookie of the Year Meter

The Top 10 DROY Candidates

  1. Lofa Tatupu, MLB, SEA, 2.13, USC (6'0" 240)
  2. Odell Thurman, MLB, CIN, 2.16, Georgia (6'1" 230)
  3. Shawne Merriman, OLB/DE, SD, 1.12, Maryland (6'4" 245)
  4. Kirk Morrison, OLB/ILB, OAK, 3.14, San Diego State (6'2" 240)
  5. Derrick Johnson, SLB, KC, 1.15, Texas (6'4" 235)
  6. Leroy Hill, WLB, SEA, 3.35, Clemson (6'1" 225)
  7. Darrent Williams, CB, DEN, 2.24, Oklahoma State (5'8" 188)
  8. Kerry Rhodes, SS, NYJ, 4.22, Louisville (6'3" 210)
  9. Nick Collins, FS, GB, 2.19, Bethune Cookman (5'11" 193)
  10. Carlos Rogers, CB, WAS, 1.9, Auburn (6'1" 194)

    Standin On The Verge Of Gettin It...

  • DeMarcus Ware, OLB/DE, DAL, 1.11, Troy State (6'4" 232)
  • Antrel Rolle, CB, ARI, 1.8, Miami (6'1" 202)
  • Thomas Davis, SS/OLB, CAR, 1.14, Georgia (6'3" 230)
  • Marlin Jackson, CB, IND, 1.29, Michigan (6'1" 200)
  • Nick Collins, FS, GB, 2.19, Bethune Cookman (5'11" 193)
  • Mike Patterson, DT, PHI, 1.31, USC (6'0" 285)
  • David Pollack, SLB, CIN, 1.17, Georgia (6'2" 260)
  • Channing Crowder, ILB/OLB, MIA, 3.6, Florida (6'2" 240)
  • Barrett Ruud, MLB, TB, 2.4, Nebraska (6'2" 240)
  • Josh Bullocks, SS/FS, NO, 2.8, Nebraska (6'0" 205)
  • Eric Green, CB, ARI, 3.11, Virginia Tech (6'0" 197)
  • Justin Miller, CB, NYJ, 2.25, Clemson (5'11" 200)
  • Adam "Pacman" Jones, CB, TEN, 1.6, West Virginia (5'11" 185)
  • C.C. Brown, SS, HOU, 6.14, LA-Lafayette, (6'0" 200)
  • Jerome Carter, SS, STL, 4.16, Florida State (5'11" 220)
  • Chris Harris, FS, CHI, 6.7, Louisiana-Monroe (6'0" 205)
  • Dominique Foxworth, CB, DEN, 3.33, Maryland (5'11" 180)
  • Chris Canty, DE, DAL, 4.31, Virginia (6'7" 290)
  • Erasmus James, DE, MIN, 1.18, Wisconsin (6'4" 270)
  • Justin Tuck, DE, NYG, 3.10, Notre Dame (6'5" 261)
  • Marcus Spears, DE, DAL, 1.20, LSU (6.4 295)
  • Shaun Cody, DT/DE, DET, 2.5, USC (6'3" 290)
  • Fabian Washington, CB, OAK, 1.23, Nebraska (5'11 180)
  • Brodney Pool, FS/SS, CLE, 2.2, Oklahoma (6'3" 208)
  • Kevin Burnett, OLB, DAL, 2.10, Tennessee (6'3" 235)
  • Alfred Fincher, MLB, NO, 3.18, Connecticut (6'1" 240)
  • Justin Tuck, DE, NYG, 3.10, Notre Dame (6'5" 261)
  • Matt Roth, DE, MIA, 2.14, Iowa (6'4" 270)
  • Bryant McFadden, CB, PIT, 2.30, Florida State (6'0" 180)
  • Corey Webster, CB, NYG, 2.11, LSU (6'0" 197)
  • Oshiomogho Atogwe, FS, STL, 3.2, Stanford (5'11" 220)
  • Ron Bartell, CB/FS, STL, 2.18, Howard (6'1" 213)
  • Jonathan Babineaux, DT, ATL, 2.27, Iowa (6'2" 280)
  • Stanford Routt, CB, OAK, 2.6, Houston (6'1" 195)
  • Lance Mitchell, MLB, 5.32, Oklahoma (6'3" 245)
  • Luis Castillo, NT, SD, 1.28, Northwestern (6'5" 305)
  • Travis Johnson, DE, HOU, 1.16, Florida State (6'5" 285)
  • Donte Nicholson, SS, TB, 5.5, Oklahoma (6'2" 216)
  • Daryl Blackstock, SLB, ARI, 3.32, Virginia, (6'4" 240)
  • Travis Daniels, CB, MIA, 4.3, LSU (6'1" 184)
  • Kelvin Hayden, CB, IND, 2.28, Illinois (6'0" 198)
  • Stanley Wilson, CB, DET, 3.8, Stanford (6'0" 190)
  • James Butler, S, NYG, UFA (only undrafted free agent on this list), Georgia Tech (6'3" 210)

    Injured Reserve

  • Jordan Beck, MLB, ATL, 3.26, Cal Poly (6'2" 230)
  • Dan Cody, OLB/DE, BAL, 2.21, Oklahoma (6'5" 265)

In-depth Profile

This section will draw from and point back to pre-season work, such as the IDP Rookie and Sleepers articles, as well as include new profiles in-season as events dictate.

Nick Collins, FS, Green Bay Packers

Overview: A small school tweener with great measurables and versatility (played SS, FS and than was switched back to SS in his last three seasons, before lining up at CB during the Senior Bowl)... he is raw but will most likely be pressed into service right away out of necessity. The Packers coaches think Collins may have a little bit of Darren Sharper in him, another small school find from William & Mary who went on to became a multi-Pro Bowler and one of the top FSs in the NFL when healthy (he was actually drafted later than Collins with the 2.30 pick in the 1997 draft). Bethune-Cookman is not exactly known as a football factory, but they also produced the outstanding fellow FS/CB Rashean Mathis, who parlayed an NCAA-leading INT total (he shattered the NCAA record for INTs and return yardage in a season) into a second round pick, as well. While his small school pedigree and lack f Div. I experience raises frightening level of competition concerns, he does have some upside if the team is patient with his development. A freakish physical specimen who was a prep LB, had the versatility to have played three secondary positions, has serious hops (40") and reportedly was clocked by some scouts at his workout in rare sub-4.4 time, exceptional for a safety... even a FS. One of the enigmas of this class that would probably have no business starting so early in his career for a great many teams, but he landed on a team that is among the neediest for secondary talent and playmakers

Fantasy Outlook: With the Packers secondary in general and deep patrol specifically in disarray (the team reluctantly parted ways with face of the defense and local icon/institution Sharper and allowed him to leave for purpler pastures due to cap constraints... journeymen Mark Roman and Earl Little are scrapping over the SS position), most reports coming from Green Bay training camp and pre-season developments strongly suggest that Collins is close to securing the starting FS role, if he hasn't done so already. The Packers front seven is not the stoutest in the league, so he could rack up some decent tackle numbers long before the first winter storms descend on to the frozen Green Bay tundra. He caught an INT that was approximately the degree of difficulty of an underhand softball pitch in the first pre-season game against the Chargers on a badly overthrown ball by Brees. Still, it was nice to see the rookie capable of capitalizing on those opportunities he is afforded, as there should be plenty more where that came from during the course of the 2005 season. In the same division as the good looking passing attacks of the Vikings and Lions (on paper at least), expect Collins to get tested more often than Onterrio Smith after a whizzinator sting operation.


Cracking the Code - In Order to Break the Rules? Know the Rules!

Overlay on top of your knowledge of which positions are more productive in IDP (LB generally over DT and CB... MLB typically better than OLB... WLB usually superior to SLB) a knowledge of the constellation of physical traits, prototypical triangle numbers (height, weight and 40 time) and other measurables (cone and shuttle drills and vertical jump reflect quickness, stop-start ability and explosiveness... especially important for skill position players... strength reps are very important for linemen) that often translate to success in the jump from college to the NFL. In addition, keep a mental inventory of EXCEPTIONS to the rules. In this way you can build a catalog or index and expand your repertoire of comp players in order to make a more educated breakdown and analysis of incoming IDPs and better informed judgements about how their probable career path will unfold. Knowing which prospects "break the rules" (whether for reasons of differential physical attributes, intrinsic talent and/or skill levels... despite inherent positional challenges) can be an invaluable tool in projecting the potential arc and trajectory of a prospect's career.

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