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Seahawks emerge as biggest draft winners
April 23, 2001
The Sporting News
All 31 teams came looking to restock their supplies for another NFL survival test. Some teams picked up only the bare necessities, while others came away more than replenished. Although not a single down has been played by any of the 246 players selected in this weekend's draft, it's not too early for TSN to grade each team's effort.
Best pick: G Steve Hutchinson. This wasn't a glaring need because Chris Gray and Robbie Tobeck are adequate options inside, but the Seahawks were smart not to pass over Hutchinson.
Worst pick: CB Curtis Fuller. Seattle had an outstanding weekend, but it might have reached a bit on the speedy Fuller. He's too short to play his natural safety position at the pro level.
Bottom line: Mike Holmgren was the big winner this year. The Seahawks focused on defense in free agency, which enabled them to concentrate almost exclusively on offense in the draft. Grade: A
Best pick: QB Drew Brees. General manager John Butler couldn't have planned it better himself. Brees' free fall wasn't a huge shock, but the Chargers didn't expect to get a player like him after trading away the top pick.
Worst pick: LB Carlos Polk. The Chargers ended Polk's slide early on Day 2. This is another fine player, but he fits best in a 3-4 scheme. The Chargers are confident Polk will hold up in a 4-3. We'll see.
Bottom line: Although they deviated somewhat from their original blueprint, the Chargers came away with everything they could have hoped for -- a stud runner and promising passer. Grade: A
Best pick: C Dominic Raiola. This was truly an outstanding pick by Matt Millen and Co. The Lions have been trying to find a competent snapper since they lost Kevin Glover, and Raiola is the answer.
Worst pick: WR Scotty Anderson. It's unfair to label this a "worst pick," but the Lions could have added cornerback help in the fifth round instead. But Anderson, who did some nice things at the Senior Bowl, has potential.
Bottom line: Millen couldn't have done any better in his first draft. The Lions got stronger in the trenches on both sides of the ball with three potential impact players (Jeff Backus, Raiola and Shaun Rogers). Grade: A-
Best pick: DT Damione Lewis. The Rams felt bad letting go of D'Marco Farr, but Lewis should ease the pain. The most disruptive tackle in the draft, Lewis will spend most of his time in opposing backfields.
Worst pick: DT Ryan Pickett. A rule of thumb on draft day is to be aware of other teams' draft boards. He has a nice upside, but the Rams didn't have to jump so soon. He was only a third-rounder to most teams.
Bottom line: The Rams upgraded the overall athleticism of their defense in the first round by taking Lewis, Adam Archuleta and Pickett. Linebacker Tommy Polley and veteran cornerback Aeneas Williams, acquired from the Cardinals on Saturday, also help. Grade: A-
Best pick: CB Fred Smoot. He was the top cover player on some draft boards, so the Redskins were shocked he was still available in Round 2. It's possible that Smoot will be relegated to a dime role as a rookie.
Worst pick: QB Sage Rosenfels. Marty Schottenheimer was hoping he would land Chris Weinke but settled for Rosenfels. Adding a young arm is good, but Jesse Palmer and Mike McMahon are better.
Bottom line: The team had plenty of needs to address, but taking receiver Rod Gardner in the first round was a good decision. Often compared to Cris Carter, Gardner should fit well with QB Jeff George. Grade: A-
Best pick: CB William Peterson. The Giants have a long history of picking players from Michigan, but this time they settled on Western Illinois. Peterson has a legitimate chance of starting as a rookie.
Worst pick: K John Markham. The team is desperate to find a replacement for Brad Daluiso, but Markham isn't the answer. Not only were there better kickers available, nobody else wanted Markham.
Bottom line: To the casual fan, this doesn't appear to be a great draft. But it is. GM Ernie Accorsi did a tremendous job with his top four picks and added depth at cornerback. Grade: B+
Best pick: TE Todd Heap. A mid-first-round talent taken with the final pick of the first round. New QB Elvis Grbac loves to go to his tight ends, and Heap should help Shannon Sharpe control the middle of the field.
Worst pick: RB Chris Barnes. The loss of running back Priest Holmes forced this move, but the Ravens could have done better. Unless they know something we don't, Barnes was sure to be an undrafted free agent.
Bottom line: Another fantastic effort by Ozzie Newsome and his staff. They landed another offensive weapon (Heap), a big cover man (Gary Baxter) and a replacement for departed center Jeff Mitchell. Grade: B+
Best pick: DE Jamal Reynolds. The Packers haven't had a presence on the edge since Reggie White left, but Reynolds should solve that problem. As a rookie, he probably will platoon with John Thierry.
Worst pick: LB Torrance Marshall. This is another selection by default. There's much to like about Marshall, and he brings speed to the mike linebacker spot. But Bernardo Harris will keep him on the bench.
Bottom line: Ron Wolf's farewell draft ultimately will be remembered for the selection of Reynolds. Wolf and his staff did an excellent job of upgrading the overall athleticism of the defense. Grade: B+
Best pick: WR Chad Johnson. At one point in the pre-draft process, Johnson was considered a top-10 pick. He dominated at the Senior Bowl and should give the Bengals great flexibility in the passing game.
Worst pick: TE Sean Brewer. A late riser on most teams' boards. The Bengals pulled the trigger too early with him. Still, addressing the need for a pass-catching tight end was a good move.
Bottom line: Despite having the league's smallest scouting department, the Bengals did a nice job. As is the case in most years, the Bengals stayed put and let the draft come to them. Grade: B+
Best pick: DT Gerard Warren. The Browns could have gone in a number of directions, but Warren is the inside run stuffer they have lacked for two years. Orpheus Roye and Stalin Colinet were out-of-position ends.
Worst pick: S Anthony Henry. Not a top-100 player, but the Browns didn't agree. It's a surprise to see him get drafted at all, let alone in the fourth round. He could really struggle at the next level.
Bottom line: This was the team's best draft since its rebirth. A tremendous first day landed three players (Warren, wide receiver Quincy Morgan and running back James Jackson) who should become starters next season. Grade: B
Best pick: RB Derrick Blaylock. This pint-sized, small-school product could develop into a quality third-down back. He gives the Chiefs another option in the return game, too.
Worst pick: DT Eric Downing. The Chiefs had more questionable picks than any other team. They like Downing's continual development, but they get a low mark here based on what most scouts said.
Bottom line: When evaluating the Chiefs' work, you have to factor in the trade for QB Trent Green, who will have a greater impact than anyone the team would have added with the No. 12 pick. Grade: B
Best pick: C Robert Garza. The Falcons were desperate for interior line help, and this fourth-round pick could provide relief immediately. A small-school player from Texas A&M-Kingsville, he impressed against top talent at the Senior Bowl.
Worst pick: TE Alge Crumpler. Instead of an impact receiver or defensive lineman, the team picked another tight end (it picked O.J. Santiago in '97, Reggie Kelly in '99). He has a huge upside, but the logic is puzzling.
Bottom line: QB Michael Vick isn't a sure thing, but he has the potential to revolutionize the position. Teams rarely thrive without making bold moves, and the Falcons deserve credit for a bold jump. Grade: B
Best pick: RB Kevan Barlow. The loss of free-agent Charlie Garner made finding a running back essential. Barlow is an all-purpose back who fills a huge void in the team's West Coast offense.
Worst pick: LB Jamie Winborn. Considering Jerry Rice's pending release and a nagging leg injury to Tai Streets, the Niners would have been better of addressing the receiver position in Round 2.
Bottom line: Instead of trading down, which is typical Bill Walsh fashion, the Niners moved up to get defensive end Andre Carter. The trio of Carter, Winborn and Barlow should help the team's rebuilding efforts. Grade: B
Best pick: RB Michael Bennett. His running style and track background make him very similar to Robert Smith. He's unproven in the passing game but adds a home run dimension in the backfield.
Worst pick: WR Cedric James. He fits the big receiver mold that Dennis Green covets, but there were better receivers on the board at the time (fourth round). He figures to be a practice-squad body.
Bottom line: This could turn out to be one of Green's best drafts. Along with the Bennett pick, the Vikings had glaring needs at cornerback and defensive tackle, and they got two of each. Grade: B
Best pick: OT Kenyatta Walker. The first round couldn't have unfolded any better for the Bucs, who ultimately got the left tackle they've been desperately seeking the entire offseason.
Worst pick: S John Howell. This was a safe pick for the Bucs and it gives them another physical presence in the deep secondary. The problem is Howell likely would have been available in the later rounds.
Bottom line: It was a difficult decision, but giving up their second-round pick in order to get a player of Walker's ability is why the Bucs have arguably the most talented roster in the league. Grade: B-
Best pick: WR David Terrell. It was shocking to see Terrell slide this far (No. 8 overall). The Bears desperately need playmakers on offense, and they got arguably the best one in the draft here.
Worst pick: G Mike Gandy. Before fans get too upset in Chicago, please realize this is a good pick. The Bears did such a good job in the early rounds, there was no choice but to put Gandy in this category.
Bottom line: For the second year in a row, Mark Hatley got lucky, as was the case when linebacker Brian Urlacher fell in his lap last April. It's hard to fault any of his picks because each one addressed a need. Grade: B-
Best pick: QB Quincy Carter. The Cowboys are excited about this pick, and they have good reason to be. He won't start as a rookie, but his upside is great. He could be around as long as Troy Aikman.
Worst pick: S Tony Dixon. Not a bad player, but they could have waited until the third round to get him. Dixon provides great run support from the secondary, but he has a long way to go in terms of coverage skills.
Bottom line: Aside from Carter, there weren't any impact picks, but the Cowboys really helped themselves on defense. Including Dixon, there are four players who should contribute in some form in the fall. Grade: B-
Best pick: S James Boyd. Some scouts believe that Boyd will be a better pro than he was a college player. He is an instinctive player, and his incredible postseason workouts provide great promise.
Worst pick: DT Marcus Stroud. He was not the 13th-best player, but he does give the Jaguars a wide body to stop the run. He plays too high, and his weight will always be a concern.
Bottom line: In a few years, this could end up looking like a terrific draft. However, until some of the Jaguars' picks turn potential into production, the grade can't be high. Grade: B-
Best pick: S Derrick Gibson. The Raiders have been trying to eliminate their problems at safety the past couple of years. This move does just that. They are glad this potential Pro Bowl player fell into their hands.
Worst pick: QB Marques Tuiasosopo. There's no doubting Jon Gruden's ability to evaluate quarterbacks, but Tuiasosopo would have been around in the third or even the fourth round. He does have a lot of upside.
Bottom line: The Raiders came away with everything they could have hoped for -- and more. Gibson and Tuiasosopo fill obvious holes, and defensive end DeLawrence Grant was a steal in the third round. Grade: B-
Best pick: RB Correll Buckhalter. The Eagles failed miserably on the ground following Duce Staley's injury last season. Getting Buckhalter gives them a nice backup and goal-line option.
Worst pick: TE Tony Stewart. The Eagles would be foolish to go with Stewart as primary backup for Chad Lewis this season. Stewart is not ready to contribute in the NFL, especially in short-yardage situations.
Bottom line: First-round pick Freddie Mitchell is the playmaker this team has lacked for two years. Unlike last year's second-round pick Todd Pinkston, Mitchell is prepared to help immediately. Grade: B-
Best pick: OT Kenyatta Jones. The Patriots used their time on Saturday night wisely and moved up to get this underrated tackle with the opening pick on the second day.
Worst pick: G Matt Light. He isn't a bad player, but the Patriots didn't need to trade up to get him. He will help fix some pass-protection problems on the interior, but was he worth wasting two picks?
Bottom line: The team didn't do well on the first day. But Sunday was different. Drew Bledsoe needed a tight end, so the Patriots took two of the best available (Jabari Holloway, Arther Love). Grade: C+
Best pick: QB Chris Weinke. This is exactly where TSN had Weinke slotted to go (44). It's a pick with great value for the Panthers. With his maturity, it's possible Weinke might start some as a rookie.
Worst pick: WR Steve Smith. He isn't ready to contribute at receiver, and it's doubtful he will wrestle the kickoff-return chores from Michael Bates. The Panthers spent a third-round pick on a punt returner.
Bottom line: Linebacker Dan Morgan gives the Panthers two things they lacked a year ago -- speed and playmaking ability on defense. Aside from Morgan and Weinke, this was a mediocre draft. Grade: C+
Best pick: OT Jonas Jennings. This franchise is known for uncovering offensive-line gems in the later rounds, and this pick could continue the tradition. Sixth-round pick safety Tony Driver was a nice choice, too.
Worst pick: RB Travis Henry. He indeed has second-round talent, but is he really an upgrade over what the Bills already have? Sammy Morris and Shawn Bryson could keep Henry on the bench as a rookie.
Bottom line: GM Tom Donahoe's first draft with his new team is tough to evaluate. The Bills landed some talented players, but first-rounder cornerback Nate Clements could be the only one with a large role this fall. Grade: C+
Best pick: WR Chris Chambers. The addition of Chambers and the free-agent signings of wideouts James McKnight and Dedric Ward should really help the team's passing game.
Worst pick: CB Jamar Fletcher. The Dolphins have the best cover tandem in the league (Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain) and a promising young nickel player (Ben Kelly), so the logic here is questionable.
Bottom line: The team really likes its first two picks, and it made some good choices after that. Sunday selections like offensive tackle Brandon Winey and quarterback Josh Heupel could be better than expected. Grade: C+
Best pick: OT Kareem McKenzie. He might not start immediately, but you can never have enough competition at tackle. Some team insiders think McKenzie can move inside and play guard.
Worst pick: RB LaMont Jordan. This wasn't a "need" pick, but Jordan gives the Jets a tremendous insurance policy behind Curtis Martin. Still, they really should have addressed the defensive line here.
Bottom line: Unless they knew something others didn't, trading away two picks to move up three spots in the first round -- for Santana Moss -- was a questionable move. Otherwise, they were solid. Grade: C
Best pick: DT Mario Fatafehi. Considering when the Cards got him -- fifth round, 133rd overall -- Fatafehi was a nice value. He and second-round pick DE Kyle Vanden Bosch should contribute as rookies.
Worst pick: CB Michael Stone. The Cards made a couple of strange picks, but taking Stone so high (second round, 54th overall) was the most puzzling. Most teams had him slotted for the fifth round or lower.
Bottom line: The team already was solid at offensive tackle, so it's hard to comprehend its ignoring more glaring needs on the defensive line by selecting Leonard Davis with the second pick. Gerard Warren or Justin Smith would have made more sense. Grade: C-
Best pick: LB Kendrell Bell. A great pick. Bell is a perfect fit for the Steelers' 3-4 scheme. The big knock on him is that he's undisciplined, but he will respond to coach Bill Cowher.
Worst pick: DE Rodney Bailey. The team projects him as a defensive end in its defense, but regardless of where he lines up, Bailey doesn't look like he can play in the NFL. The Steelers really missed here.
Bottom line: Moving down a few spots in the first round in exchange for an extra pick was a sound maneuver. Bell and defensive tackle Casey Hampton were nice additions, but some of the later picks were shaky. Grade: C-
Best pick: C Ben Hamilton. This is the type of undersized, intelligent lineman that the Broncos have won with for years. Hamilton will be groomed as the eventual successor to Pro Bowl center Tom Nalen.
Worst pick: DE Paul Toviessi. This was a questionable pick to begin with, and trading up to get him in the second round makes even less sense. End Reggie Hayward, the third-rounder, is better.
Bottom line: None of the picks appears to be an immediate upgrade -- even first-round corner Willie Middlebrooks. Getting players such as Hamilton, punter Nick Harris and wide receiver Kevin Kasper made for a solid Day 2. Grade: D+
Best pick: S Idrees Bashir. The Colts have been unhappy with their secondary situation the past couple of years. Bashir, who covers plenty of ground in the deep third, will be an upgrade.
Worst pick: WR Reggie Wayne. He's a solid player, but there really isn't much upside here. The Colts need someone to complement Marvin Harrison; Chad Johnson was that guy.
Bottom line: Unless Bashir breaks out, there doesn't seem to be an impact player in the bunch. The Colts have some obvious needs on the defensive line that were not addressed. Grade: D
Best pick: WR Onome Ojo. Randy Mueller has done a great job of improving his team's speed on the perimeter. Ojo should help in that category, even if he has played football for only three years.
Worst pick: RB Deuce McAllister. He provides a solid insurance policy, not to mention a better set of hands in the backfield. This pick is similar to the Rams' selection of running back Trung Canidate a year ago.
Bottom line: There doesn't seem to be a real method to the madness in New Orleans. The Saints spent two of their top four picks on running backs, and the defense was all but ignored. Grade: D
Best pick: LB Keith Adams. A young prospect with great natural tools; his father played with the Patriots. Adams has been around the game and knows what it takes to get the job done.
Worst pick: TE Shad Meier. Why a tight end this early (third round)? Better yet, why Meier? This position is very important to the Titans, but this pick defies logic. He was projected for the seventh round.
Bottom line: The Titans' grade improves once you consider former Rams defensive end Kevin Carter came over in a trade. GM Floyd Reese had a much better second day than first in this draft. Grade: D
-- Mark (Karch222@aol.com), April 25, 2001