NFL draft winners and losers
Following the NFL draft, there's no shortage of people eager to offer their view of which teams won and lost on draft day. Little attention seems to be paid to the impact the draft has on current NFL players. The fantasy fortunes of a number of players changed dramatically on draft day. Let's look at the winners and losers from a player standpoints.
Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter, Philadelphia Eagles When the Eagles traded up in Round 1, it looked as though they were after Oregon State running back Steven Jackson. Instead, they nabbed offensive lineman Shawn Andrews, who may step in as a starter at guard. So not only did the Eagles not bring in more competition for Westbrook and Buckhalter, they improved their ability to open up holes, too. Duce Staley may have been a part-time player last season, but he still rushed for 463 yards, caught 36 passes and scored seven touchdowns. Those are numbers that can go to Westbrook and Buckhalter now.
Joey Harrington, Detroit Lions If Harrington isn't successful this season, it won't be because of a lack of weapons around him. With Roy Williams and Tai Streets joining Charles Rogers and Az Hakim, the Lions have as talented a receiving corps as anyone, and Kevin Jones is a major upgrade at running back. There will be no excuses if Harrington doesn't throw for 3,500 yards and at least 20 touchdowns this season (which isn't to say we think he will).
Justin Fargas and Tyrone Wheatley, Oakland Raiders For a while, it looked like the Raiders would trade for Corey Dillon. Then, many expected them to spend a second or third-round pick on a running back, perhaps Maurice Clarett, before he was ruled ineligible for the draft. Instead, the Raiders didn't bother to draft a running back but did select the No. 1 offensive tackle and the No. 1 center in the draft. Both Robert Gallery and Jake Grove can be immediate starters, and along with newly-signed Ron Stone, the Raiders figure to have a much better offensive line this season. That bodes well for Fargas and Wheatley, who figure to split the rushing load.
NOTE: With the Raider's recent signing of ex-Steeler RB Amos Zeroue, this ugly RBBC is best avoided, imo.
Michael Vick, Atlanta Falcons Atlanta's first-round draft choice, Michael Jenkins, isn't likely to be a star. But he is a tall receiver with speed, and he gives Vick a fourth – with Peerless Price, Alge Crumpler and Brian Finneran – quality target.
Troy Hambrick, Dallas Cowboys As bad as Hambrick was last season, he might be a 50-50 bet to open the 2004 campaign as the starter for the Cowboys if he shows up to training camp in good shape. The Cowboys passed on a chance to get one of the top three backs in the draft and settled for Julius Jones in the second round. At worst, Hambrick should be in an open competition to keep his job.
Eric Moulds, Buffalo Bills Moulds has always been the Bret Saberhagen of fantasy football, producing outstanding numbers only every other year. He's due for a big year in 2004, and having speedster Lee Evans on the field to attract attention from opposing safeties will only help.
Byron Leftwich, Jacksonville Jaguars Some thought that Reggie Williams was a reach with the ninth overall pick, but the Jags wanted to make sure they got a quality young receiver who could grow up with Leftwich, just like Joe Montana had with Jerry Rice, Troy Aikman with Michael Irvin, and so on.
Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals After his incredible rookie season, Boldin was sure to draw more attention from opposing defenses this year. The drafting of Larry Fitzgerald should assure that Boldin doesn't see too many double teams. And if you're concerned about Boldin catching passes from an inexperienced quarterback like Josh McCown, remember that he caught 10 passes for 122 yards from McCown in Week 16.
Jeff Garcia, Cleveland Browns Giving up a second-round pick in order to move up one slot to draft Kellen Winslow was probably a bad move for a Cleveland franchise that had a lot of needs. However, Garcia should be thankful. With the unproven Quincy Morgan and Andre Davis on the outside and a virtual unknown in Frisman Jackson lurking as the No. 3 receiver, Garcia really needed another quality target. Winslow should be exactly that, as he has a chance to make a Shockey-like impact as a rookie.
Kerry Collins, New York Giants Just a day after that draft, it was already clear that the Giants would release Collins and go into the season with No. 1 pick Eli Manning as their starter. At this stage, it's highly unlikely that Collins will be able to find a starting job anywhere else. His best chance, ironically, might be in San Diego as a mentor to Phillip Rivers. Arizona, Chicago and Detroit are other possibilities.
Bryant Johnson, Arizona Cardinals A first-round draft choice last season, Johnson surely didn't think he'd be going into his sophomore year as no better than a No. 3 receiver. That's exactly what will happen now that the Cards have Larry Fitzgerald to go with Offensive Rookie of the Year Anquan Boldin.
Amani Toomer and Jeremy Shockey, New York Giants As good as Manning is now and as good as he's likely to get, it's rarely a good thing for top receivers to go from a veteran quarterback who knows them to a rookie one who doesn't. The New York passing game will definitely experience some growing pains this season. In Peyton Manning's rookie season, Marvin Harrison caught 14 fewer passes for 90 fewer yards (with one more TD) than he had the year before with Jim Harbaugh at QB.
Tai Streets, Detroit Lions Streets may still slip into a starting role ahead of either Roy Williams or Charles Rogers, but that's unexpected. Even if it happens, Streets will still see fewer passes thrown his way than he would have if the Lions had not drafted a receiver with their first pick.
Charles Lee and Joe Jurevicius, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Give credit to the Bucs. By adding Joey Galloway and first-round pick Michael Clayton, they've dramatically improved their receiving corps. That may be small consolation to Lee, who probably won't get a chance to prove that his late-season showing wasn't a fluke. Meanwhile, Jurevicius may be able to hold off Clayton for the No. 3 role, but you can bet that the rookie will get plenty of playing time.
Lamar Gordon and Arlen Harris, St. Louis Rams Every season, the understudy to Marshall Faulk is one of the first backup running backs off the board in most fantasy drafts. That will happen again this season, but it will be first-rounder Steven Jackson, not Gordon or Harris.
Artose Pinner, Detroit Lions After losing most of his rookie season to a leg injury, Pinner was hoping to compete for the starting tailback job in Detroit this season. That's still possible, but rookie Kevin Jones is the early favorite for the job.
Bobby Shaw, Buffalo Bills Assuming rookie Lee Evans steps in as a starter opposite Eric Moulds, third-year man Josh Reed will be the slot receiver, a role in which Reed excelled as a rookie. That pushes Shaw to the No. 4 spot, and out of the minds of fantasy owners.
Erron Kinney, Tennessee Titans Astute players have long been waiting to see what Kinney could do as the primary pass- catching tight end for the Titans, and the wait appeared to be over when Frank Wycheck announced his retirement. Then, inexplicably, Ben Troupe fell in the team's lap in the second round. He's good enough to immediately compete for the starting job, or, at the very least, see significant action in double tight end sets.
Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals Yes, Rudi will probably be the starting tailback when the season begins. But there are a few things to consider when trying to determine how much playing time he'll lose to Chris Perry. First, the Bengals submitted a one-year tender to Johnson, a restricted free agent, and he's almost certain to sign that before June 1. That means he'll be an unrestricted free agent next season. By giving a healthy chunk of carries to Perry, the Bengals can keep Johnson's stats in a range that may not allow him to command a huge raise next season. Furthermore, as a late first-round pick, Perry is likely to sign a three- year contract at a fairly reasonable rate. Don't be shocked if Perry gets 8-10 carries per game this season in addition to being the primary pass-catching back.
Quentin Griffin, Denver Broncos After passing on Steven Jackson in the first round, the Broncos go into the season with Garrison Hearst, Mike Anderson, Griffin and rookie Tatum Bell as their options at tailback. Some sort of committee is likely early in the season, but Bell is a more direct threat to Griffin than any of the other backs. While considered small himself, Bell is bigger than Griffin, and faster than him, too. Hearst is currently the odds-on favorite to lead the Broncos in rushing this season, but Bell may be the next in line.