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Ear to the Ground


"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.



MVP - MLB Zach Thomas and DE Jason Taylor (Duh!)

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - Rookie DE Matt Roth of Iowa didn't make the kind of impact anticipated in the wake of his high second round selection.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - OLB/ILB Channing Crowder was for the most part as good as advertised, and no durability of character red flags surfaced, which were his two biggest question marks throughout the scouting and draft process. HC Saban should be a stable influence for his evolving maturity.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - CB Will Poole landed on IR before the season even started... if he rebounds strongly, he is one of the surest tackling CBs in the past couple drafts (including 2004 DROY runner up Dunta Robinson of the Texans and coveted 2005 top 10 overall CB and future star Antrel Rolle).


MVP - FS Darren Sharper

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - DT Kevin Williams... one of biggest in NFL on either side of the ball (with Ed Reed, Charles Grant)... highly regarded second year DE Kenechi Udeze getting injured for the second season in a row (shoulder in 2004, knee in 2005), which inevitably raises durability questions.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - SLB Keith Newman was the Vikings best LB for most of the season.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - Udeze... WLB/MLB E.J. Henderson and WLB Dontarrious Thomas could all flourish and have a chance to emerge under a potentially new coaching staff and defensive scheme.


MVP - ILB Tedy Bruschi

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - SS Rodney Harrison missing most of the season (also DE/DT Richard Seymour has been banged up a lot). Free agent LBs Monty Beisel and Chad Brown couldn't stop the bleeding in run support earlier in the season, before Bruschi made his dramatic and pivotal return. Injuries took a heavy toll in the secondary for the second season in a row.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - Bruschi's "comeback" as well as the smooth transition Mike Vrabel had from the outside to playing alongside Bruschi on the inside.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - Can Harrison make it back from a nasty looking knee injury at his age?


MVP - DE Will Smith

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - Charles Grant (in large part due to a lingering, season long turf toe injury)... the entire LB position... but especially MLB Courtney Watson (thought to be one of the best MLB/ILBs in the 2004 draft class with Daryl Smith after Jonathan Vilma).

PLEASANT SURPRISE - Free agent FS Dwight Smith was as good as advertised, unlike similarly high profile free agent safety acquisition Tebucky Jones, who was an utter bust and unmitigated disaster.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - Rookies Albert Fincher (possibly at WLB)... who was an active MLB at UConn... and FS/SS Josh Bullocks... he has a nose for the ball and was a playmaker at Nebraska.


MVP - DEs Strahan and Umenyiora, MLB Antonio Pierce and SS Gibril Wilson all made huge contributions and it would be difficult to separate out who was the MOST VALUABLE MVP.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - The Will brothers (Allen and Peterson) have not played up to their draft pedigree and considerable athleticism at CB... SS/FS Shaun Williams hasn't been an impact player, and may still be recovering from multiple knee injuries.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - Discovering Pierce was not just a "system player" from WAS... Umenyiora and Wilson took the next step up in their development and evolution to become among the elite at their respective positions.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - CB Corey Webster and DE Justin Tuck


MVP - MLB Jonathan Vilma... #1 LB in the NFL one of the easiest team choices in this category.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - DE Shaun Ellis didn't come close to approaching his 2004 sack numbers. Erik Coleman was replaced several times this season and was erratic in coverage... a critical lapse in a FS. DT DeWayne Robertson was supposed to be an ascendant player and emergent star, but after a strong start failed to break out or distinguish himself as expected... he is playing with a chronic knee condition that could be degenerative. Star WLB Eric Barton was knocked out early and his ferocious intensity and all around tackling skills and playmaking ability were sorely missed by the team.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - DE John Abraham played very well in bursts (though he was streaky) after being injured and missing a lot of time last season. Rookie SS Kerry Rhodes held his own when thrown into the fray and flashed star potential athleticism... instincts should come with reps and experience.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - CB Justin Miller is another gifted secondary athlete who could be a good one with more seasoning. Don't forget about Barton. Do the Jets sign Abraham to a long term contract, make him the franchise player for a third straight season or trade him... will he hold out if franchised?


MVP - DE Derrick Burgess and his league leading sack total had to be one of the most savvy and shrewdest free agent acquisitions in the entire league in 2005.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - CB Charles Woodson doesn't always make an impact commensurate with his ability... he is probably on of the half dozen best athletes in the NFL. OLB/DE-tweener Tyler Brayton could be a fine pass rusher and in run support with his hand on the ground but is wasted in the scheme as a stand up LB.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - ILB Kirk Morrison has great instincts... he thinks fast and plays fast, allowing him to close the gap on the rookie learning curve faster than most. Has top 10 potential once he really understands what offenses are doing and how to best attack them.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - Will Woodson be a Raider in 2006?


MVP - Co-MVPs FS Brian Dawkins and MLB Jeremiah Trotter.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - DEs were nondescript and ineffective except for Jevon Kearse, but even he hasn't had a massive impact. DT has been weak and unable to hold their ground let alone sustain a push (with exception of solid contribution from future star Mike Patterson)... OLBs Mike Adams and Dhani Jones aren't difference makers... CBs didn't play at as high a level as in 2004... especially Lito Shepard, who looked like he lost some confidence and got torched repeatedly this season.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - First round DT Patterson flashed a lot of pass rush potential along with run stuffing ability in the first and last month of the season (he hit the wall in the middle of the season only to break through it and reemerge at the end).

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - The Eagles were #2 in points allowed last season, but uncharacteristically mediocre in that department this year... will the real PHI defense stand up in 2006? Dawkins may be 32 but is still playing at an extremely high level (as evidenced by his monster production and stats this season), so don't expect him to go anywhere soon. DE Jerome McDougal was looking to get his career on track after his first two seasons were a washout, than ended up getting shot the night before training camp was set to open and suffering an in-season rehab setback that required surgery which effectively KO'd his season for good... he and fifth round DE discovery and revelation Trent Cole have some promise for next year. Who will line up at WLB for PHI next season... more importantly, will it matter and have any bearing or consequence in IDP leagues?


MVP - SS Troy Polamalu made his second straight Pro Bowl and eclipsed 2004 Defensive Player of the Year candidate ILB James Farrior as the most dangerous player on the defense.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - Farrior was injured and unable to sustain his withering pace of last season, though he still played at a high level when healthy and in the lineup.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - CB Ike Taylor was among the league leaders in tackles for his position, and his coverage chops grew progressively better as he gained reps, experience and confidence as the season wore on. FS Chris Hope was also one of the most productive tackling DBs in the NFL at HIS position, and had his share of big plays with 3 INTs... OLB Joey Porter has rebounded from a subpar 2003 and now has 17.5 sacks, 3 INTs and 7 FFs in his last two seasons. Bookend OLB Clark Haggans also had an outstanding season.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - The Steelers have been stockpiling talented CBs in recent seasons, and either (or both) Richard Colclough and Bryant McFadden could enjoy a breakout season in 2006 like Taylor did this season.


MVP - ILB Donnie Edwards started slow when hurt but surged at the end with a characteristically stellar season. DT/NG Jamal Williams is also a key piece to the puzzle for defensive minded HC Marty Schottenheimer and the Chargers.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - OLB Steve Foley didn't have the kind of production he enjoyed in 2004 (in what may have been an aberration... his 10 sacks were almost as many as he had in his six previous seasons COMBINED), yet it wasn't missed with the emergence of ascendant superstar Merriman. CB Quentin Jammer and SS Terrence Kiel have not developed as well as SD had hoped for.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - OLB/DE Shawne Merriman, who made it to the Pro Bowl (only rookie at any position) and some league insiders think has the inside track to DROY over the brilliant and incendiary Lofa Tatupu and Odell Thurman.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - Does Kiel rebound? 3-4 DEs typically put up nondescript stats, but first rounder Luis Castillo could be the exception.


MVP - MLB Lofa Tatupu vastly exceeded the expectations of many draftniks and gurus whose preconceptions were held thrall by conventional metrics, at the peril of ignoring his off-the-charts football IQ, instincts, work ethic, level of preparation, leadership and other intangibles.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - Obviously not many in a year like this (similar to IND and CIN in that adding a competitive defense practically overnight seemed to give a quantum leap-type boost to the teams overall confidence and fortunes)... Ascendant player and promising young FS Ken Hamlin almost getting killed in a rumble outside a Seattle nightclub and sustaining skull fractures which not only shelved him for the season but even raised questions about his career would have to figure prominently in this department... much more was expected of ex-Raven and Texans Pro Bowl OLB/ILB Jamie Sharper, but injuries prevented him from ever getting untracked, and he eventually landed on IR.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - Tatupu and fellow rookie LB Leroy Hill, who collectively comprised two of the top half dozen best rookie LBs and IDPs overall.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - SS Michael Boulware to become one of the best safeties in the NFL... a year after many scouts and league insiders predicted this seeming eventuality and formality.


MVP - Nobody


PLEASANT SURPRISE - The satisfaction of knowing that current/former-HC Mike Martz's grotesque and heinous experiment at DC (Larry Marmie) will soon be aborted after two horrific and monstrously failed seasons.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - The defense (and coaching staff) to get blown up with dynamite.


MVP - MLB Shelton Quarles, WLB Derrick Brooks, CB Ronde Barber and Simeon Rice were among the best and most productive players at their respective positions, and all deserve to be CO-MVPs

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - MLB Barrett Ruud couldn't crack the lineup, but that had more to do with Quarles playing like a man on fire than a lack of talent on Ruud's part.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - DE Dewayne White looked good whenever given the opportunity.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - The most anticipated development no doubt will be the battle for MLB... Ruud has a very bright future, but will it include 2006? Quarles may be playing at too high a level to be displaced just yet. Rice's projected contract salary next season could seriously jack up the Bucs cap, and it is unclear if GM Allen and HC Gruden want to go in that direction (though there may be indications and signs they don't)... this could be a golden opportunity for White if that scenario unfolds in the offseason.


MVP - Keith Bullock... a Pro Bowler without portfolio.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - Pacman's repeated off-field blunders cast an ominous pall over the season before it even started. The troika of 2004 DEs (Travis Laboy, Antwan Odom and Bo Schobel) have flashed promise intermittently and sporadically, but need to be more consistent and have been slow to develop. DT Albert Haynesworth has borderline Pro Bowl ability but has a questionable motor... SS Tank Williams is not playing at a level commensurate with his measurables and talent, and you have to wonder if he is limited by chronic injuries, or could thrive if turned loose in a different system?

PLEASANT SURPRISE - Pacman isn't in jail (yet).

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - Look for Odom to emerge from a crowded picture and assert himself more... he has the tools to become an above average power end but was raw coming out of Alabama as a junior.


MVP - Sean Taylor is the Redskins best defensive player (especially when WLB LaVar Arrington languishes on the bench) in real football terms, despite not putting up the huge production his pedigree and talent might suggest he is capable of... FS can be a real positional buzz killer for IDP stats, but he is still a game changing, high impact dude who completely changes the nature of what opposing offenses can do at a fundamental level and limits the ways in which they can attack the WAS defense.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT/BUST - Arrington's lingering injury, internal bickering with the organization and coaching staff, supposed penchant for freelancing, and failure to crack the starting lineup for much of the season and make any discernible kind of sustained impact. That would have to be chalked up as a disappointing year for one of the most dangerous, explosive and multitalented (when healthy) playmakers in the NFL at any position. Injuries prevented the team from getting a better look at what they have in coveted top 10 overall rookie CB Carlos Rogers. DT Cornelius Griffin, SLB Marcus Washington and CB Shawn Springs didn't play up to the high standard they set in 2004.

PLEASANT SURPRISE - MLB Lemar Marshall generally and for the most part allowed Redskins fans to not notice the absence of Antonio Pierce too much... while not as stout at the POA and as robust in run support (though he was adequate and led the team in tackles), the former collegiate safety is outstanding in coverage and had 3 INTs... with one returned for a TD.

WATCH FOR NEXT SEASON - Rogers looks like a future star, and the rare CB that can rack up tackles in run support as well as make plays on the ball (like fellow rookie Antrel Rolle, who also had a season disappointing due to injury, and also has one of the highest ceilings of any player selected in the 2005 draft at any position).



  • 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)

Colts DE Robert Mathis had a Pro Bowl-caliber season, but the three DEs chosen ahead of him were all worthy, and he is a situational pass rusher... DEs Aaron Schobel (BUF), Chiefs DE Jared Allen (KC) and Kyle Vanden Bosch (TEN) also had outstanding seasons... Jaguars DT John Henderson deserved the nod over teammate Stroud... Titans WLB Keith Bullock has maintained an extremely high level of play in the midst of a lost season and is a better all-around playmaker than Joey Porter, who may be only the second best LB on his own team (ILB James Farrior was banged up this season but came close to edging out Ed Reed for the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year)... Merriman had a phenomenal rookie season, is in a three-way race with Lofa Tatupu (SEA) and Odell Thurman (CIN) for DROY and leads all rookies in sacks... while not being as consistent as some of the other top rookies (let alone vets like Bullock), when at his best he is a frightening combination of size, strength, speed, agility and athleticism and he does have a commendable sense of timing, peaking at the right time for voters... too many great MLB/ILBs were left off the AFC squad... Al Wilson had a solid year (62 tackles, 11 assists, 2 sacks & 2 FFs) in leading the resurgent Broncos defense, but he was not as deserving of a Pro Bowl berth as the Jets Jonathan Vilma (122 tackles leads NFL + 44 assists, 1 INT & 4 FFs) or the Jaguars Mike Peterson (95, 36, 6 sacks, 3 INTs, 2 FFs & 1 TD), as well as Donnie Edwards (109, 36, 3 sacks, 2 INTs & 2 FFs) and London Fletcher (98, 52, 4 sacks, 1 INT & 1 FF)... Jaguars CB and emergent star Rashean Mathis may have been the better choice ahead of Ty Law... Bob Sanders was one of the best selections in either conference... he almost single-handedly and nearly overnight transformed an, until recently, very sketchy defense into an upper echelon stop unit.


  • 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)

The Giants twin terrors at DE were eminently worthy of Pro Bowl nods... Umenyiora has been one of the fastest rising young IDPs in the NFL and is an emergent star... Peppers made it more on reputation, though it is unclear whether there was another NFC DE even more worthy (the Cardinals Bertrand Berry would definitely have fit into this category if he had not gone on IR earlier in the season)... possibly the Bears Adewale Ogunleye, who started slow, but his blistering finish helped key the Bears withering, mind-numbing pass rush... Rod Coleman seemed to be more consistent in 2004 in this bitterly disappointing non-playoff season that fell far short of the team's lofty expectations... that said, his season total stats are comparable to last season and he is still the best in the business... Rogers is a beast and Harris has been a key contributor to the Bears historic defensive resurgence... though DT Rocky Bernard (SEA) was second only to Coleman in sacks for interior DL (8.5)... Brooking actually spent most of the season at MLB, and perhaps was rewarded by his peers for his selflessness... Trotter and Urlacher were excellent choices, though the Giants prized free agent MLB Antonio Pierce was also having a Pro Bowl caliber season before going down with a dreaded high ankle sprain in week 13... hard to argue with the CB selections, though Antoine Winfield (MIN) and Charles Tillman (CHI) were among the most productive statistically in the league at their position... Panthers insiders thought Ken Lucas consistently played at a Pro Bowl level all season, and teammate and counterpart Chris Gamble could be just another season of development away after a primarily offensive background as a Florida prep and being a two way WR/CB star at Ohio State... Brown and Williams were deserving, but Cardinals SS Adrian Wilson was one of the worst exclusions on either side of the ball from either conference... he played like the best SS in the game in 2005... another Wilson, the Giants SS Gibril, doesn't have the notoriety of some of his more high profile peers, but put up comparable or better big play numbers and superior tackle numbers... Darren Sharper had an outstanding season (especially in INTs) and should be a leading candidate for comeback player of the year... but Eagles FS Brian Dawkins was a glaring omission on a level with that of Adrian Wilson... how did he not get reservations to Hawaii with a line that included 65 tackles (best among NFC FSs), 3.5 sacks (tied for second among ALL NFL safeties with SS Adam Archuleta and behind only SS Adrian Wilsons DE and elite rushbacker-like 8), 3 INTs, 4 FFs (led ALL safeties, comparable to elite LBs and DEs) & 23 PD (nearly 50% better than next closest safety... Sharper's 16... and second to only teammate Sheldon Brown's 25 among all DBs)!?

Defensive Rookie of the Year Meter

The Top 10 DROY Candidates

  1. Lofa Tatupu, MLB, SEA, 2.13, USC (6'0" 240)
    (85 tackles, 18 assists, 4.5 sacks, 3 INTs, 1 FR, 9 PD & 1 TD)
  2. Odell Thurman, MLB, CIN, 2.16, Georgia (6'1" 230)
    (62, 36, 1.5 sacks, 5 INTs, 5 FFs, 9 PD & 1 TD)
  3. Shawne Merriman, OLB/DE, SD, 1.12, Maryland (6'4" 245)
    (40, 11, 9 sacks, 2 FFs & 4 PD)
  4. Kirk Morrison, OLB/ILB, OAK, 3.14, San Diego State (6'2" 240)
    (83, 24, 2 FR & 2 PD)
  5. DeMarcus Ware, OLB/DE, DAL, 1.11, Troy State (6'4" 232)
    (44, 11, 7 sacks, 3 FFs & 1 PD)
  6. Derrick Johnson, SLB, KC, 1.15, Texas (6'4" 235)
    (73, 16, 2 sacks, 2 FFs, 1 FR & 5 PD)
  7. Leroy Hill, WLB, SEA, 3.35, Clemson (6'1" 225)
    (43, 17, 7 sacks, 2 FF & 1 PD)
  8. Darrent Williams, CB, DEN, 2.24, Oklahoma State (5'8" 188)
    (48, 4, 1 sack, 2 INTs, 1 FF, 1 FR, 10 PD & 1 TD)
  9. Kerry Rhodes, SS, NYJ, 4.22, Louisville (6'3" 210)
    (73, 18, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 FF & 6 PD)
  10. Nick Collins, FS, GB, 2.19, Bethune Cookman (5'11" 193)
    (60, 21, 1 sack, 1 INT, 2 FF & 8 PD)

    Standin On The Verge Of Gettin It...

  • Carlos Rogers, CB, WAS, 1.9, Auburn (6'1" 194)
  • 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)

A Look Ahead and Sneak Preview of the 2006 IDP Draft Class (LB, DE & S)


  • A.J. Hawk, WLB, Ohio State (6'1" 238) - High First Round (Top 5-10)
    • +'s... Probably the best defensive player in the country, and certainly the top graded LB prospect (Lombardi Award winner for nation's top LB/DL). Appears to be the total package, with size, strength and speed (clocked a 4.4 at the Buckeyes pro day timing)... his best attributes, however, may be his instincts, intensity and intangibles. Rarely out of position, great sense of angles, doesn't stay blocked long and is a fundamentally, technically sound tackler in the open field. Complete game includes coverage skills. High character-type with nonstop motor who is humble and will be very coachable and a respected teammate, which should smooth his transition. Very durable (hasn't missed a game since his freshman year in high school).
    • -'s... Not many... can be overly aggressive, causing him to at times overrun plays and compromise the defense... but this is a correctable flaw.
    • Forecast... Will be the first LB taken in many IDP rookie drafts... almost regardless of where he goes, should be the favorite for 2006 DROY... has the athleticism and versatility to play inside or outside, but WLB could be his most natural position at the next level... where he might best leverage his sideline-to-sideline playmaking skills, phenomenal pursuit ability and rare closing speed relatively unencumbered by traffic... may not be as good an athlete as LaVar Arrington, but could be a better football player... better natural tools than Keith Brooking.
  • Chad Greenway, OLB/ILB, Iowa (6'4" 244) - Mid-Late First Round
    • +'s... Likely the #2 graded LB... freakish measurables (has been clocked as low as 4.4 and jumped as high as 40"+ in the vertical jump) might be the best for a frontline LB prospect in over half a decade... in terms of measurables and athleticism (if not as tangibly translated into identifiable production), Brian Urlacher could be a comp player.
    • -'s... Took a step backwards in 2005 and didn't meet the high expectations of scouts based on a prior stellar body of work with Iowa... may have been compensating for a lack of some of the surrounding talent he previously enjoyed... may not have elite instincts, run/pass recognition or ability to get off blocks... takes false steps and fails to wrap up at times.
    • Forecast... Similar to Hawk in that he has the multifaceted game and array of skills to line up inside or outside, but probably fits best at WLB at the next level... unlike Hawk, he may not be as pro-ready or make as big an impact his rookie season... could be more of a work in progress and a boom or bust risk than advertised... due to his monster athleticism he has an extremely high ceiling... if he hits, the payoff could be huge... or the former Hawkeye could roll snake eyes!
  • Demeco Ryans, OLB, Alabama (6'2" 232) - Late First Round/Second Round
    • +s... Off-the-charts intangibles who impresses off the field (Academic All-American) as much as on (All-American)... smart player who does a great job reading his keys, diagnosing and in run/pass recognition... while not a burner, has above average short area burst and ability to close on the ball carrier.
    • -'s... If he clocks a rumored 4.7, this would almost certainly bump him from round one, and maybe even out of the second round... a day one lock, though.
    • Forecast... Has the kind of attitude, temperament and work ethic to overcome a lack of eye-popping, best-in-class measurables, and if he lands in the right system and scheme, could even become a star... for instance, Lofa Tatupu probably doesn't run much better than a 4.7, but other qualities more than compensate for supposedly deficient measurables.
  • Thomas Howard, SLB, UTEP (6'3" 240) - Late First Round/Second Round
    • +'s... Best measurables among the LB prospects (saying a lot, given that Greenway is in his draft class)... former walk-on DB... late bloomer who blew up into a physical specimen with explosive speed.
    • -'s... May be a better athlete than a football player... there have been physical specimens in the past that were workout warriors but nonetheless ended up being wash outs in the NFL.
    • Forecast... One of the biggest question marks in the class due to uncertainty over pedigree, level of competition and instincts... could be a boom or bust type pick... has flashed coverage and pass rush ability, which could destine him for the strong side (the least desirable LB position from an IDP standpoint) in a 4-3, or possibly OLB in a 3-4... might surge up the draft board in the wake of the combine, personal workout circuit and Senior Bowl if his computer numbers are legit and as good as advertised... some physical traits and measurables are reminiscent of Chaun Thompson... if he ends up being a comp player, he has been a project who is just beginning to hit his stride after a few years in the league.
  • D'Qwell Jackson, MLB, Maryland (6'1" 225) - Second Round
    • +'s... Easily the top graded MLB/ILB prospect in the nation... telepathic instincts, innate sense of angles, exceptional ability to disengage from blocks, sort through the trash, find and get to the ball carrier... along with Hawk, probably the two surest tacklers at the position.
    • -'s... Not a burner... concerns about whether his size makes him ill-suited and a bad fit to play MLB in the NFL could be misguided (he is within 5 lbs of being the same size as Jonathan Vilma, Odell Thurman & Lofa Tatupu... all emergent stars and the three best MLBs in the past two draft classes).
    • Forecast... His physical traits and skill set reminded scout's scout Mel Kiper of Vilma... though that comparison could founder on the fact that Jackson is not in the same class in terms of speed and explosiveness... still, a poor man's Vilma could be better than 80-90% of other LBs.
  • Ahmad Brooks, ILB/OLB, Virginia (6'4" 240) - Mid-Late First Round
    • +'s... Measurables and pedigree are comparable to D.J. Williams, who was a top 2 LB in the 2004 draft class... at times in his collegiate career he has been deployed as a kick returner (also in Brian Urlacher's resume), which is an indication of the type of athleticism he possesses.
    • -'s... Like Greenway in that scouts aren't sure what to do with him after he seemingly regressed this season (admittedly injury plagued)... there may be some red flags associated with character and off-field concerns, so definitely read to the end of the brochure if considering him... sometimes where there is smoke there is fire.
    • Forecast... A junior who possibly could have been a top 10 pick in 2005, has not declared for the 2006 draft yet, and given a very bumpy and uneven season, could easily opt to return for his senior season and hope to elevate his stock for 2007... maybe the biggest enigma in the class at any position... has Pro Bowl potential but does he have the passion for the game and desire to prepare like a pro and work at refining his game that the great ones have? Has the physical traits and diversity of ability and skills to play either ILB or OLB in virtually any scheme... but with his freakish blend of size, power, speed and agility, could be a monster on the inside.
  • Honorable Mention... Keep an eye on star Florida WLB Ernie Sims, who is a beast and had to be held out of practice on occasion to prevent him from hurting his own teammates. Has the determination, intensity and toughness to be a first or second rounder and start for quite a few NFL teams.

Defensive Ends

  • Mario Williams, DE, North Carolina State (6'7" 285) - High First Round (Top 5-10)
    • +'s... Some scouts think he is the top defensive player in the draft at any position (ahead of Hawk), and the consensus best DE... does not have a fully formed game and is still developing and maturing, but could have once or twice-a-decade type athletic ability... Julius Peppers routinely gets a name drop as a comp player... prototypical size and long arms for a DE... rare speed for a big man to make plays from the back side and close on ball carriers... capable of being an ultra-disruptive, game breaking type of player.
    • -'s... Like most young edge rushers, needs to expand his repertoire of moves, as well as learn to string them together... plays too high and loses leverage when he gets sloppy and forgets his technique... could improve recognition, footwork and hand placement to become stouter at the POA and more effective in run support... may rely on his athleticism too much... he has not been as consistently dominant at the collegiate level as his considerable ability suggests he should... he will have to work harder as a pro to more fully realize his awesome natural talent.
    • Forecast... A phenom and prodigy who should in time become a two way pass rushing and run stuffing force... still a work in progress and may take a few seasons before he is ready to make a massive impact... recent history of the top DE prospects learning curve has been a mixed bag... Erasmus James, Marcus Spears and Matt Roth in 2005 and Kenechi Udeze in 2004 had nondescript rookie seasons and failed to distinguish themselves... but Jevon Kearse, Peppers, Dwight Freeney, Charles Grant and Will Smith exceeded expectations in the half decade before that... represents an enticing blend of safety AND high upside... will probably end up being very good no matter what... and could have the highest upside of any prospect (at any position) in the draft.
  • Matthias Kiwanuka, DE, Boston College (6'7" 262) - High-Mid First Round (Top 10-15)
    • +'s... Elite measurables and blue chip talent... has the tools and skills to dominate at the next level... and the character, personality and work ethic to get the most out of his phenomenal natural gifts... plays with a lot of pride befitting an accomplished and distinguished family line... the grandson of Uganda's first Prime Minister (Benedicto Kiwanuka was elected in 1961 and assassinated by Idi Amin in 1972).
    • -'s... High cut athlete that can be prone to playing too high and vulnerable to losing leverage to shorter, stronger players. Needs to add bulk and become stronger, as well as playing with greater concentration and technique. Can be a liability in run support. Runs upfield too much and has to diversify and add an inside move.
    • Forecast... Some scouts (though not necessarily influential ones) have expressed concern that he carries a higher bust risk than the other top IDP prospects. Conversely he has one of the highest upsides of any player (at any position) in the draft. Though slower (and taller), on film looks like a taller Simeon Rice or Jevon Kearse.
  • Tamba Hali, DE, Penn State (6'3" 267) - Mid-Late First Round
    • +'s... Sprang into prominence with a sensational senior campaign in helping lead a Joe Pa resurgence, but he also had a solid junior campaign after making the switch from DT... his interior DL experience should enable him to be a force against the run right away (unlike many still developing edge rushers, that are often one-dimensional)... a hard worker who is receptive to coaching... impressive short area burst and explosiveness, though he doesn't have the electric suddenness and lightning quick first step of Williams and Kiwanuka.
    • -'s... Doesn't have the prototypical measurables and constellation of physical traits, skills and talent of the two blue chip DE prospects graded ahead of him... can be handled by elite OL, though in fairness, that could be said of nearly everybody (veteran as well as rookie)... somewhat inexperienced on the outside (only two seasons after beginning career as a DT) with a limited repertoire of moves and ability to string them together.
    • Forecast... Showcases the passion for the game, fiercely competitive desire to get to the QB and ball carrier and the intensity and relentlessness to make it happen that the scouts like to see... without question a high motor dude (if he doesn't make it big, it won't be because he was a slacker)... sometimes determination can be one of the most important determinants in translating collegiate success to stardom at the next level... Jared Allen is not as physically gifted as some of his more talented peers, but he maximizes his ability within the constraints of his "limits" better than most and has done far better than many DEs with superior pedigree, tools and draft grades that were selected ahead of him... Hali fits this profile.
  • Elvis "Dumb and" Dumervil, DE, Louisville (6'0" 256) - Second/Third Round
    • +'s... A massively productive sack machine in 2005 (won the Bronco Nagurski and Ted Hendricks Awards as the nation's top defensive player and DE, respectively) and had a noteworthy junior campaign, as well)... seems to anticipate the snap count well and has very good reactions, reflexes and initial quickness, if not true blazing speed... solid intangibles... hard worker with a nonstop motor who never quits until the whistle blows... relentless and has shown proficiency in college at getting off blocks.
    • -'s... May be too short and slow to translate his admittedly impressive collegiate success to the NFL... level of competition concerns (doesn't face the caliber of opponents that USC and Miami routinely would)... legitimate questions about whether he has peaked and is about as good as he is going to get.
    • Forecast... Comparisons to Dwight Freeney are about as useful as comparing Joe Jurevicius to Steve Smith... they are both WRs, but that is about all they have in common as a shared attribute... a more apt comp player could be Terrell Suggs, who has turned out to be a pretty good pro despite a lack of blazing timed speed... Suggs is football fast and has more than adequate functional, PLAYING speed on the gridiron... Dumervil's ominous lack of elite physical tools, however, could suggest a position conversion to 3-4 OLB (though there are questions about whether he has the agility, change-of-direction ability and overall athleticism to make such a switch)... he did put up better one season stats than fellow Cardinal alumni Dewayne White (the current Buc didn't play his senior season), who has been slow to emerge as a pro but has tantalizing potential based on his distinguished body of work in college.
  • Honorable Mention... Virginia Tech DE Daryl Tapp is a ferocious edge rusher who has one of the fastest first steps and the most explosive closing speed at his position in the nation.


  • Michael Huff, FS/CB, Texas (6'1" 205) - Mid-Late First Round
    • +'s... The consensus top DB in the nation (Jim Thorpe Award winner)... outstanding athleticism and versatility for a DB... has experience and excelled at both safety and CB. Freshman All-American and two-time All-American who ran track in 2004... playmaker with a nose for the ball... outstanding combo of ball skills (breaks on the ball as well as anybody in the nation) coupled with hard-nosed run support capability (fundamentally sound tackler)... telepathic instincts and field awareness to rarely be out of position and the range to make up for mistakes.
    • -'s... Hasn't really mastered either S or CB as his positional reps and experience have been divided... somewhat of a tweener... doesn't have prototypical safety size and may not have the natural hip flip to become an elite NFL CB.
    • Forecast... Has the ability to succeed at FS or CB, but is probably more NFL-ready at FS... his lack of experience at CB could cause his to be relatively raw in fundamentals and technique at that position, where he could rely on his admittedly awesome and formidable natural ability (he shut down Ohio State star Ted Ginn to 9 yards on 2 receptions earlier in the season)... whereas even his limited CB experience should enable him to help out in coverage right away at the FS position... for instance, Huff would look really good next to Cowboys SS Roy Williams... could also be a force against the run and rare productive tackling CB if his NFL coaches decide he is a better fit or more needed there.
  • Darnell Bing, SS, USC (6'2" 220) - Mid-Late First Round
    • +'s... One of the most highly recruited athletes in the nation as a prep... arrived with high expectations (was given USC Athletic Director and former Heisman Trophy winner Mike Garrett's #20) and promptly proceeded to live up to them by becoming a Freshman All American and defensive leader... prototypical size... good speed and coverage ability for a SS, but his real forte is bringing the pain in run support... with NFL coaching (more NFL coach, as USC HC Pete Carroll is a two time NFL HC), reps and experience, could be the total package, with size, strength, speed, coverage and hitting ability... plays hurt and made first team All American his junior year despite lingering and nagging injuries... the best defensive player on a team in the midst of a winning streak of epic, historic proportions, and one of the best draft eligible prospects to emerge on defense in the past three seasons from one of the best, strongest and most consistent programs in NCAA history.
    • -'s... Seems to be dinged a lot... checkered medical history (multiple leg and shoulder injuries) could be a red flag and raise legitimate durability concerns... Bing will no doubt be probed, poked and prodded remorselessly by league doctors before being vetted and greenlighted for NFL team's scouting and coaching staffs to select with a high draft pick... doesn't possess elite coverage skills, but that could be said of nearly all SSs (veteran as well as rookie), and he otherwise has few holes in his game.
    • Forecast... Represents the leading edge of a lineage of outstanding USC DBs that went on to become distinguished NFL safeties (Ronnie Lott, Joey Browner, Dennis Smith, Tim McDonald & Mark Carrier, to cite a few)... injuries appear to be the only thing capable of being an obstacle to stardom and preventing him from fulfilling his seeming destiny as one of the top safeties in the NFL.
  • Honorable Mention... LSU Laron Landry is probably the top FS prospect after Huff (who may end up at CB)... he is a willing hitter despite being on the thin side... best attributes are his aerial skills... he is a ballhawk and a playmaker.

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

In mentally cataloging "comp" players and indexing prototypical measurables by position (including EXCEPTIONS!), streamline and economize this process with a few well chosen exemplars. Go through previous draft classes in recent seasons and try to form a checklist of attributes & characteristics that in retrospect could be seen as precursors that foreshadowed and pointed towards future stardom or mediocrity... as the case may be.


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