Sudden Impact: 32 Second-Day NFL Draft Picks Who'll Play on Opening Weekend
While even the most casual fan can find excitement in hearing the commissioner announce the first overall pick or the first-round selection of his favorite team, the second day inherently lacks sizzle. Consequently, while the monetary value of future contracts drops precipitously as the day unfolds, so too does the size of the TV audience.
If you’re a general manager or a scout, however, the second day is when you make your money. It’s relatively easy for scouts to determine which players are worthy of being selected in the first two rounds; it’s in rounds three to seven where good scouting and talent evaluation can pay big dividends.
The foundation of a team is built in these latter rounds. Therefore, if a general manager can hit on just 40 to 50 percent of these selections, he can set up his team for long-term success—perhaps even change its fortunes in a single day.
The history of the NFL Draft is full of second-day selections that went from afterthought or obscurity to instant NFL success. A few examples from the past few years of players who outperformed their draft status as rookies (and beyond) include:
* Oakland Raiders middle linebacker Kirk Morrison, who started 15 games as the 14th pick in round three of the 2005 Draft, making 116 tackles and deflecting two passes;
* Baltimore Ravens strong safety Dawan Landry, who started 14 games as the 13th pick in round five of the 2006 Draft, posting five interceptions, three sacks, and 69 tackles;
* Dallas Cowboys kicker Nick Folk, who appeared in all 16 regular-season games as the fourth pick in round six of the 2007 Draft, making 26-of-31 field-goal attempts (83.9 percent);
* Houston Texans running back Steve Slaton, who started 15 games as the 26th pick in round three of the 2008 Draft, rushing for 1,282 yards and nine touchdowns on 268 carries and adding 377 yards and one touchdown on 50 receptions.
With less than two months remaining until the start of the 2009 regular season, let’s take a look at 32 players (one from each team) who, despite being bypassed on Day One of the 2009 NFL Draft, are ready to make impacts as rookies.
Lardarius Webb, CB/PR/KR, Baltimore Ravens (Round Three, Pick 24, Nicholls State)
After playing two seasons at Southern Miss, Webb transferred to Nicholls State, where he was a two-time FCS All-American. Although he has the ability to play both cornerback and safety (he ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the Combine, tied for best among defensive backs), it’s Webb’s talents as a return specialist that will get him on the field on opening weekend.
Kevin Huber, P, Cincinnati Bengals (Round Five, Pick Six, Cincinnati)
The Bengals didn’t have to look far to find their punter of the future, selecting local product Kevin Huber early in the fifth round. A left-footed directional punter with good leg strength, Huber was the first punter selected in the 2009 Draft.
How much faith do the Bengals have in Huber? The team jettisoned punters Kyle Larson and Ryan Plackemeier two days after the draft, essentially handing the job to the rookie.
Kaluka Maiava, ILB, Cleveland Browns (Round Four, Pick Four, Southern Cal)
Cleveland ranked 28th in the NFL in rushing defense in 2008, a problem that can be attributed, in part, to poor linebacker play. To help shore up the team’s shoddy ground defense, the Browns selected the least heralded of the four USC linebackers selected in the 2009 Draft, Kaluka Maiava, who has the versatility to play inside or outside. However, USC’s two-time Co-Special Teams Player of the Year will make his biggest impact as a rookie while covering punts and kickoffs.
Mike Wallace, WR/KR, Pittsburgh Steelers (Round Three, Pick 20, Mississippi)
Only an injury or illness will keep the former Rebel from returning kickoffs versus the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 10. Wallace, who holds the records for single-game, season, and career kickoff return yards at Ole Miss, posted one of the fastest 40-yard dash times in Indy (4.33), verifying what fans of the Rebels already knew—the kid can fly!
Though he’s a raw route runner, look for Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to split Wallace out wide in three and four-receiver sets to take advantage of his elite speed.
Anthony Hill, TE, Houston Texans (Round Four, Pick 22, North Carolina State)
Hill’s main assignment as a rookie will be to clear rush lanes for second-year tailback Steve Slaton. Regarded by many scouts as the best blocking tight end in the 2009 Draft, Hill provides a perfect complement to the Texans’ starting tight end, Owen Daniels, who’s a prolific pass catcher.
Opponents should expect to see plenty of two-tight end sets from Houston’s offense in 2009. Hill’s size and bulk (6'5", 262) make him an ideal blocker in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Austin Collie, WR, Indianapolis Colts (Round Four, Pick 27, BYU)
Collie will compete with Roy Hall and Pierre Garcon for the right to line up with Indy’s primary receivers, Anthony Gonzalez and Reggie Wayne. The BYU standout possesses good balance and body control, enabling him to run precise routes, but his lack of top-end speed (4.63 in the 40-yard dash) will relegate him to the slot, where he can be effective running underneath routes.
The former second-team All-Mountain West Conference kick returner also could make his presence felt on special teams.
Mike Thomas, WR/PR/KR, Jacksonville Jaguars (Round Four, Pick Seven, Arizona)
If Thomas was a few inches taller, he easily would’ve been selected on Day One of the 2009 Draft. The 5'8", 195-pound wide receiver plays bigger than his stature, however, as exemplified by the 259 passes that he caught during his Arizona career (a Pac-10 record).
Thomas should exit training camp as the Jags’ third or fourth option in the passing game, as Torry Holt and Troy Williamson are the only veteran receivers on the roster following the trade of Dennis Northcutt to the Detroit Lions. The former Wildcat receiver also will get every opportunity to contribute as a return specialist, an area in which he excelled at the collegiate level.
Ryan Mouton, CB/KR, Tennessee Titans (Round Three, Pick 30, Hawaii)
A gifted cover corner, Mouton (5'9", 187) provides much-needed depth to the Titans’ secondary and will step right in as the team’s nickel or dime back, where he’ll cover the opposition’s slot receiver.
The former Hawaiian Warrior returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in his collegiate career and will get an opportunity to utilize his 4.48 speed as one of Tennessee’s primary kickoff returners.
Shawn Nelson, TE, Buffalo Bills (Round Four, Pick 21, Southern Miss)
Draft analysts were surprised to see Nelson drop all the way to the fourth round, as many of them had the big tight end pegged as a first or second-rounder. Nonetheless, Nelson (6'5", 240) found a good home in Buffalo.
A better pass catcher than inline blocker, Nelson has the speed (4.56) to split the seam and draw safeties away from Buffalo’s newly acquired receiver, Terrell Owens, and from veteran wideout Lee Evans.
Patrick Turner, WR, Miami Dolphins (Round Three, Pick 23, Southern Cal)
After running a rather pedestrian 40-time at his pro day (4.59), and with the specter of USC draft busts like Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett fresh in the minds of scouts and general managers, Turner remained on the board until the 23rd pick of the third round.
Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington, one of the NFL’s most accurate short-to-intermediate range passers, is surely glad to have him, however, as the 6'5", 223-pound Turner provides the signal caller with a big target in the red zone and a possession receiver who will work the sidelines and the middle of the field.
Julian Edelman, ATH, New England Patriots (Round Seven, Pick 23, Kent State)
Typically, most seventh-round draft picks have a hard time making the final roster, let alone making an immediate impact on his team, but Julian Edelman is not a typical football player.
Although the Patriots have him listed as a wide receiver, Edelman was a dual-threat quarterback at Kent State, scoring 13 rushing and 13 passing touchdowns in 2008, making him an ideal candidate to line up behind center in the Wildcat formation. Edelman also will be given an opportunity to fill the void at kick returner, which was created when Ellis Hobbs was traded to the Eagles.
Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets (Round Three, Pick One, Iowa)
With both of the Jets’ primary running backs, Leon Washington and Thomas Jones, unhappy with their respective contract situations, general manager Mike Tannenbaum quickly traded up on Day Two of the Draft to select Iowa’s Shonn Greene with the first pick of round three.
Should the Jets be without the services of Washington or Jones for an extended period of time, Greene (5'11", 227) provides offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer with a powerful inside runner who possesses a good burst through the hole and the agility and body control to bounce his runs to the perimeter when necessary.
David Bruton, FS, Denver Broncos (Round Four, Pick 14, Notre Dame)
The Broncos spent three of their 10 draft picks on defensive backs to help fortify a pass defense that yielded 228.5 yards per game and 20 touchdowns (with only six interceptions) to its opponents last season, numbers that ranked 26th overall in the NFL.
Just a two-year starter at Notre Dame, Bruton is a bit raw as a defensive back and therefore might need some time to refine his coverage skills, but he should contribute immediately on special teams, as he was regarded as one of college football’s premier “gunners” on coverage units.
Alex Magee, DE, Kansas City Chiefs (Round Three, Pick Three, Purdue)
Magee is a good example of a team drafting to fit its scheme. After spending three seasons at defensive tackle, the former Boilermaker switched to end for his senior campaign.
While Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli attempts to reshape his team’s defensive roster, transforming it from 4-3 to 3-4 personnel, Magee (6'3", 298) provides the Chiefs’ decision-maker with a player who can handle any position along the defensive front, lending defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast more flexibility with his defensive line rotation.
Louis Murphy, WR, Oakland Raiders (Round Four, Pick 24, Florida)
There’s little doubt as to what induced Al Davis to select Murphy in the fourth round. Like the Raiders’ first-round selection, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Murphy is a former track athlete with tremendous speed, running a 4.43 40-yard dash at the Combine.
If he improves his strength (he managed just 12 reps on the bench press) in order to beat the press coverage that he’ll encounter in the NFL, Murphy can utilize his quickness and acceleration to separate from defenders and provide a much-needed target for quarterback JaMarcus Russell.
Louis Vasquez, G, San Diego Chargers (Round Three, Pick 14, Texas Tech)
After allowing starting right guard Mike Goff to leave the team via free agency, Chargers general manager A.J. Smith entered the 2009 Draft with a position of need on his offensive line. Consequently, the Chargers selected Louis Vasquez, a strong, wide-bodied guard from Texas Tech, who will battle Kynan Forney in training camp for the vacant right-guard spot. Vasquez’s presence alone increases competition, which should result in improved play at the interior portion of the Chargers’ offensive line.
Juaquin Iglesias, WR/KR, Chicago Bears (Round Three, Pick 35, Oklahoma)
Much like the team’s predicament at quarterback, the Bears are perpetually looking for a playmaker at wide receiver. With the trade for Jay Cutler, Chicago found its playmaker at quarterback and hopes it did the same at wide receiver with the selection of Oklahoma’s Juaquin Iglesias in the 2009 Draft.
In addition to possessing outstanding ball skills and being a fearless receiver in traffic, Iglesias is an accomplished kick returner who will alleviate some of Devin Hester’s responsibilities on special teams, enabling the fourth-year pro to focus on refining his skills as a wide receiver.
Derrick Williams, WR/PR/KR, Detroit Lions (Round Three, Pick 18, Penn State)
In 2004, Derrick Williams was the most highly coveted prep player in the nation. Though his production at Penn State didn’t exactly match the hype, Williams adds a multi-faceted dimension to the Lions’ offense and special teams.
With all signs pointing to top overall pick Matthew Stafford starting on opening weekend, Williams provides the quarterback with a dynamic target in the open field. Williams’ big-play potential on special teams (he returned three punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns in college) also gives the Lions’ return game an immediate upgrade.
Quinn Johnson, FB, Green Bay Packers (Round Five, Pick Nine, LSU)
Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson entered Day Two of the 2009 NFL Draft looking for a physical presence to add to the Packers’ running game. Enter LSU fullback Quinn Johnson.
Although Korey Hall and John Kuhn performed adequately at the position a year ago, Johnson, a converted linebacker, is a punishing lead blocker who will get the nod in the team’s opener to clear rush lanes for tailback Ryan Grant and to contribute on special teams.
Asher Allen, CB/KR, Minnesota Vikings (Round Three, Pick 22, Georgia)
In Allen, the Vikings get a physical cornerback who fits well into their Cover Two scheme. Although a bit undersized for the position (5'9", 194), Allen, a fearless tackler with good ball skills, competed against the best wide receivers that the SEC had to offer the past two seasons, making him the favorite to win a spot in the Vikings nickel package.
A record-setting kickoff specialist at Georgia, the former Bulldog also will compete for a chance to open the season as one of Minnesota’s primary kickoff returners.
Lawrence Sidbury, DE, Atlanta Falcons (Round Four, Pick 25, Richmond)
Practically an unknown commodity at the beginning of his senior campaign, Richmond defensive end Lawrence Sidbury turned in an MVP performance (four sacks) in the FCS Championship Game and followed that effort with the fastest 40-time (4.64) among defensive linemen at the Combine, elevating his draft stock quicker than any other prospect.
The fourth-round pick possesses great short-area burst that enables him to swiftly close on the quarterback, a trait that will get him on the field as a situational pass-rusher.
Tony Fiammetta, FB, Carolina Panthers (Round Four, Pick 28, Syracuse)
The consensus top fullback in the 2009 Draft, Fiammetta provides the Panthers with a multi-dimensional weapon in the offensive backfield. Though most effective as a lead blocker, the fourth-round pick caught 28 passes during his Syracuse career and has the speed (4.6) and bulk (245 pounds) to be an effective short-yardage runner.
With incumbent fullback Brad Hoover getting long in the tooth (he’ll be 33 in November), Fiammetta will be clearing rush lanes for tailbacks DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart much sooner than later. At the very least, head coach John Fox will find a place for the fullback on special teams.
Thomas Morstead, P, New Orleans Saints (Round Five, Pick 28, SMU)
One of only three punters selected in the 2009 Draft, Morstead, who possesses a strong leg and quick delivery, will battle incumbent Glenn Pakulak in training camp for the right to handle the Saints’ punting chores.
The fact that New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis traded up to select Morstead with the 28th pick in the fifth round bodes well for the former SMU punter, as does his experience as a kicker, which makes him a candidate to handle the team’s kickoff duties.
Roy Miller, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Round Three, Pick 17, Texas)
After falling to the middle of the third round, the Buccaneers get a defensive tackle with a rather large chip on his shoulder. Although disappointed with not being selected on the Draft’s first day, Miller should be happy to have landed with Tampa Bay, where he’ll immediately step into a defensive tackle rotation that includes Chris Hovan and former (Kansas City Chiefs) first-round pick Ryan Sims.
Miller, a strong run-stuffer who plays with good leverage at the point of attack, should see plenty of action on first and second downs.
Stephen Hodge, SS, Dallas Cowboys (Round Six, Pick 24, TCU)
The 6'0", 234-pound former Horned Frog lacks the requisite speed, quickness, and agility to play in space, spending most of his time at TCU in the box defending the run. Therefore, the Cowboys defensive staff will most likely ask him to put on a few pounds and convert him to linebacker.
In the meantime, Hodge will make his initial impact on special teams, something he did quite well early in his TCU career.
Travis Beckum, TE, New York Giants (Round Three, Pick 36, Wisconsin)
Faced with the reality of entering the 2009 season without the services of veteran wide receivers Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, the Giants brass hopes its third-round selection, Wisconsin pass-catching tight end Travis Beckum, will mitigate the losses.
A former linebacker, Beckum not only provides immediate help on special teams but also a speedy downfield option in the passing game that will take some of the pressure off the Giants’ young receiving corps.
Cornelius Ingram, TE, Philadelphia Eagles (Round Five, Pick 17, Florida)
If not for the torn ACL that he suffered in fall camp, causing him to miss the entire 2008 season, Ingram surely would have been selected on Day One of the 2009 Draft. Instead, the former Florida tight end fell to the fifth round, where the Eagles snatched him up with hopes that he can recapture his 2007 form, when he caught 34 passes for 508 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns.
A terrific athlete with soft, natural hands and good speed, Ingram will give quarterback Donovan McNabb a vertical threat who will draw safeties away from receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
Kevin Barnes, CB, Washington Redskins (Round Three, Pick 16, Maryland)
The Redskins selected a local product, Maryland cornerback Kevin Barnes, with their third-round selection in the 2009 Draft. In need of depth at the cornerback position, the tall (6'0"), hard-hitting defensive back will immediately step onto the field as Washington’s nickel or dime back, with the potential to be a starter by 2010.
Had he not missed the last six games of the 2008 season with a shoulder injury, Barnes may have heard his name called on Day One.
Rashad Johnson, FS, Arizona Cardinals (Round Three, Pick 31, Alabama)
A former walk-on at Alabama, Johnson is accustomed to having the odds stacked against him, which is what he’ll face as he attempts to secure playing time in Arizona’s crowded defensive backfield.
What Johnson has going for him, however, is the intellect to help him quickly digest the playbook and a defensive scheme that sometimes incorporates three or four safeties into its dime package. Look for head coach Ken Whisenhunt to find a place on the field for Johnson, a playmaker who intercepted 11 passes during his Alabama career, including two for touchdowns.
Glen Coffee, RB, San Francisco 49ers (Round Three, Pick 10, Alabama)
In an effort to reduce Frank Gore’s touches (he’s averaging nearly 278 per season), the 49ers selected Alabama tailback Glen Coffee with the 10th pick of the third round. Like Gore, Coffee is at his best when running between the tackles, where he can lower his pads and utilize his strong lower body to break tackles, and will get plenty of carries as a rookie.
As the season progresses and Coffee becomes more comfortable with the playbook, the former Crimson Tide running back should see his touches increase.
Deon Butler, WR, Seattle Seahawks (Round Three, Pick 27, Penn State)
Overshadowed during his Penn State career by teammate Derrick Williams, wide receiver Deon Butler made a name for himself by posting one of the fastest 40-times at the Combine (4.38), which, when combined with his natural hands and crisp route-running ability, makes him an instant threat in the Seahawks’ passing game.
Due to his small stature (5'10", 182), Butler is destined for the slot when offensive coordinator Greg Knapp goes to three- and four-receiver sets.
Brooks Foster, WR, St. Louis Rams (Round Five, Pick 24, North Carolina)
Like Seattle’s Deon Butler, Foster took a backseat to his more high-profile teammates, wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate, but the former Tar Heel has the size (6'1", 211) and speed (4.45) to step in as the Rams’ third or fourth receiver, as well as to immediately contribute as a “gunner” on special teams.
Due to the fact that he never put up huge—albeit consistent—numbers at North Carolina despite his tremendous athletic ability for a big man, Foster possesses perhaps the most upside of any pass catcher in the draft.
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