Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
17 Jun 2006
Best player available analysis by Sean McCormick
Remainder of Four Downs by Bill Barnwell
(Ed. note: For this round of Four Downs, we're pleased to present Sean McCormick's "Best Player Available" analysis for each division, along with the usual gang commenting on other moves by each team before and since the draft. The reasoning behind BPA analysis is explained in this article. Each player drafted is listed along with his position on four different independent draft boards and the Best Player Available according to each of those boards. Please note that two of these boards only ranked 100 players.)
|Pick||Player||Player Rankings||Best Player Available|
|18||LB Bobby Carpenter||18, 23, 27, 33||OT Winston Justice (3), DB Jimmy Williams|
|53||TE Anthony Fasano||53, 63, 74, UR||DB Richard Marshall (2), OT Eric Winston, DB Ashton Youboty|
|92||DE Jason Hatcher||151, 176, UR, UR||G Max Jean-Gilles, DB Ko Simpson, DT Gabe Watson, DB Darnell Bing|
|125||WR Skyler Green||153, 211, UR, UR||OT Jonathan Scott, DE Mark Anderson, DB DeMario Minter, DT Babatunde Oshinowo|
|138||DB Pat Watkins||55, 93, UR, UR||OT Jonathan Scott, DE Mark Anderson, DB DeMario Minter, DT Babatunde Oshinowo|
|182||DT Montavious Stanley||92, 127, 149, UR||DT Rod Wright (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall|
|211||OT Pat McQuistan||UR, UR, UR, UR||DT Rod Wright (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall|
|224||OT E.J. Whitley||211, UR, UR, UR||DT Rod Wright (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall|
Bill Parcells has a long history of bringing in familiar players whenever he takes a new job. Now that he has been coaching for over two decades, it was perhaps inevitable that Parcells would take the next step and draft the children of his ex-players. So long as you are getting decent value on the pick, the strategy makes a good deal of sense. When a first-round pick flops, it often isn't because of a lack of physical talent but rather because of character issues of one sort or another. Parcells knows exactly what he is getting in Bobby Carpenter: a smart, technically sound linebacker who plays within the context of the game plan. Carpenter will be the anchor that allows DeMarcus Ware to concentrate on attacking the quarterback. Complementary starters are usually taken in the second or third round, but with Dallas having put together an excellent defensive draft last year, they had the luxury of bypassing players with higher ceilings for one with a high floor.
Anthony Fasano is another player Parcells has a thick dossier on. Fasano is a sound blocker and an excellent short-to-intermediate receiver who has drawn comparison to fellow Golden Domer Mark Bavaro. He has an impressive work ethic and comes with experience in Dallas' offensive system. Again, there were players with higher grades available at the position, but none came with the Charlie Weis seal of approval. Parcells believes that a two-tight end set is now better able to generate mismatches than a three-receiver set, and the expectation is that Fasano will be able to share the field effectively with Jason Witten.
While Dallas may have sacrificed some upside with their first day picks, they did find some good value on the second day with Pat Watkins and Montavious Stanley. Watkins is a bit taller than the norm for a safety, and his size gives him the ability to match up well in coverage against tight ends and big wide receivers. He'll contribute immediately in red zone packages and on special teams. Stanley is a traditional two-down tackle who can stuff the run and provide the occasional bull rush. He's a good enough athlete to rotate in at any of the three defensive line spots, but his future is probably at nose tackle.
Not wanting the abrasiveness of Terrell Owens to be the only thing irritating Bill Parcells' immaculate sunburn, the Cowboys added Mike Vanderjagt to be their kicker for the 2006 season. Adding a proven veteran kicker is a little bit of a sea change for the Cowboys, who haven't had a veteran kicker start the season for them since 1994 (Eddie Murray, who was ancient then and would come back to the Cowboys five years later).
Readers of Football Outsiders know how we feel about the fungibility of kickers not named "Adam Vinatieri" or "David Akers." The advantage the Cowboys got by spending the league minimum on a kicker allowed them to funnel that money toward depth elsewhere. Sure, those minimum-salary kickers were bad, but that's a function of Dallas scouting, not a lack of kickers on the market. Just ask Rob Bironas or Matt Bryant.
With the signing of Vanderjagt, the Cowboys are getting a kicker who was very accurate last (regular) season, but has also been an absolute cypher on kickoffs over the last three seasons, ranking 30th in our ratings for kickoff value in 2003 and 32nd in 2004. He did not even attempt a kickoff in 2005. It begs the question whether, for the veteran minimum, a 50-year-old Eddie Murray might not be a better value. Granted, it doesn't beg very hard.
The Cowboys signed three linebackers: John Saldi from Texas Tech, Oliver Hoyte of North Carolina State, and Virginia's Kai Parham. Parham declared as a junior for the draft and promptly found that no one was actually terribly interested in drafting him. With the Cowboys linebacking corps lacking depth even after the drafting of Bobby Carpenter, expect Parham to stick as a nickel linebacker. Saldi, the son of former Cowboys tight end Jay Saldi, seems mostly like a bone being thrown to a local guy. Then again, his father went from being an undrafted free agent himself to earning a NFL pension.
The Cowboys also signed Yale quarterback Jeff Mroz; in his pre-draft diary, Mroz notes the success of Ryan Fitzpatrick (as in "3rd-worst in QB DVOA in 2005" Ryan Fitzpatrick) as a motivator for him, and even manages to get a Rob Johnson dig in. The report on his pre-draft pro day notes, "He threw the ball well, but was pushed for time as the scouts were hurrying to get across town to anther pro day being held at the University of Pittsburgh." If the scouts are bailing on your workout because they want to beat the traffic, well, let's just say you should become familiar with the fine eating establishments of Albany, Macon, and Bossier-Shreveport.
|Pick||Player||Player Rankings||Best Player Available|
|32||DE Mathias Kiwanuka||20, 31, 40, 48||OT Winston Justice (3), DB Jimmy Williams|
|44||WR Sinorice Moss||35, 36, 36, 36||RB LenDale White (2), OT Eric Winston, DB Ashton Youboty|
|96||LB Gerris Wilkerson||64, 86, 94, 96||G Max Jean-Gilles, DB Ko Simpson, DT Gabe Watson, DB Darnell Bing|
|124||DE Barry Cofield||90, 98, 107,115||OT Jonathan Scott, DE Mark Anderson, DB DeMario Minter, DT Babatunde Oshinowo|
|129||OT Guy Whimper||98, 141, 155, UR||OT Jonathan Scott, DE Mark Anderson, DB DeMario Minter, DT Babatunde Oshinowo|
|158||DB Charlie Peprah||164, 207, UR, UR||DT Babtunde Oshinowo (3), DE Mark Anderson|
|232||DB Gerrick McPhearson||143, 171, UR, UR||DB Dee Webb (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall|
The Giants have gotten more aggressive in recent years about positioning themselves to grab players they like at value, and they continued that trend this year, sliding down seven spots to land Boston College defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka and then trading up in the second round to take Sinorice Moss. Opinions were split on Kiwanuka, whose stock tumbled somewhat after D'Brickashaw Ferguson toyed with him during Senior Bowl week. Kiwanuka has terrific physical tools, but he plays too upright and without leverage. Boston College has a bit of a reputation for not adequately developing its prospects, and it's likely that a few years with Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora will improve Kiwanuka's technique tremendously. With Umenyiora and the talented Justin Tuck already on hand to pick up the slack should Strahan start to fade, the Giants didn't have a pressing need for a pass rusher, but they stuck by their board and took the player who they clearly felt was the best available.
While several of the boards weren't big on the Kiwanuka pick, they were unanimous in applauding the trade up for Sinorice Moss. Moss is a similar player to his older brother Santana, but his lack of production at the college level makes him a riskier selection. Moss will duke it out with Tim Carter for the right to have Eli Manning point at him in the huddle and say, "You go deep." He didn't handle the return duties at Miami, but Moss has the talent to be a quality punt and kickoff returner.
New York continued to find good value with just about every selection; four of their final five picks were steals on at least one of the draft boards. Gerris Wilkerson bounced around between defensive end, middle linebacker and outside linebacker, but with enough reps he could develop into a force on the weakside. Barry Cofield didn't make many plays at Northwestern, but he can stack at the point of attack. The Giants need bodies along the interior line with the departure of Kendrick Clancy, and Cofield figures to work his way onto the field during run downs. He may even challenge the disappointing William Joseph for a starting spot.
New York may have found some cornerback depth at the bottom of the draft with Maryland's Gerrick McPhearson. McPhearson's instincts are suspect but he has great athleticism. He probably won't amount to more than a nickel or dime back, but with the loss of Will Allen and Will Peterson, the team needs all the depth it can get at the position.
After shopping his services around the league and finding that he wasn't going to get the $10 million bonus he and his agents were asking for (a situation which, if you are so inclined, you can feel free to refer to as being "Postonized"), LaVar Arrington suddenly decided that he was willing to take a physical with the Giants. When that physical revealed that they'd only have to stuff a $5 million bonus into Arrington's pockets, the Giants had themselves a new starting outside linebacker.
What's interesting is that Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis is switching Arrington from the weak side to the strong side, feeling he's a better fit there. Tim Lewis knows more than I do about football. A lot more. That being said, Arrington's biggest weakness is his propensity to fall for play fakes, something that will only be exacerbated if it results in Jason Witten being open for a 15-yard gain.
The Giants also acquired some veteran depth, adding former Packers center Grey Ruegamer, former starting Giant linebacker Brandon Short -- who may take over on the weak side -- tight end Boo Williams, and former Bills quarterback Rob Johnson. Right. Read that again. Rob Johnson. The guy who hasn't been in the league since 2003, when he was one of the 47 quarterbacks who threw passes for the Raiders that year. Rob Johnson has become so irrelevant that an "I'm Feeling Lucky" Google search for Rob Johnson brings up the webpage of Rob Johnson, Ohio's premier rock guitar instrumentalist. Pro Football Prospectus 2006 features one last reminder of the awful mistake the Bills made by playing Johnson over Doug Flutie, and Johnson has been mostly injured and out of football since then. It is pretty much unfathomable that he got a gig without a Len Pasquarelli/Jason Whitlock Jeff George-level hype job. Maybe he will teach Jared Lorenzen pilates or something.
The Giants only added a couple of undrafted free agents immediately after the draft, one of which was George Mason power forward Jai Lewis. Listed by the Giants at 6'5", 292, Lewis is being slotted in as a offensive tackle for the time being. A recent glut of signings revealed very few hopefuls for 2006 roster spots but, if you have a moment, pray for the continued success of former Oregon State defensive tackle Sir Henry Anderson. Yes -- Sir Henry Anderson. He will compete with Junior Ioane for a role as a backup run-stuffer.
|Pick||Player||Player Rankings||Best Player Available|
|14||DT Broderick Bunkley||8, 9, 9, 10||DT Broderick Bunkley (4)|
|39||OT Winston Justice||10, 12, 12, 15||OT Winston Justice (4)|
|71||DE Chris Gocong||86, 212, UR, UR||TE Leonard Pope, DB Ko Simpson, DT Gabe Watson, DB Darnell Bing|
|99||G Max-Jean Gilles||40, 48, 50, 61||G Max Jean-Gilles, DB Ko Simpson, DT Gabe Watson, DB Darnell Bing|
|109||WR Jason Avant||85, 114, 115, UR||WR Demetrius Williams, DE Mark Anderson, DB DeMario Minter, DT Babatunde Oshinowo|
|147||WR Jeremy Bloom||181, 187, UR, UR||DT Babatunde Oshinowo (2), DE Mark Anderson, DB DeMario Minter|
|168||LB Omar Gaither||102, 190, UR, UR||DT Babatunde Oshinowo (3), DE Mark Anderson||204||DT LaJuan Ramsey||UR, UR, UR, UR||DT Rod Wright (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall|
Boom. Boom. Cough. Boom. Perhaps no team's draft graded out better on the four boards than Philadelphia's. The Eagles got good value with almost every pick, but they were particularly impressive early on, taking the consensus best player available with both their first- and second-round picks. Broderick Bunkley turned a lot of heads at the combine with his chiseled physique, his 40 reps on the bench, and his impressive athleticism. Justice also tested well, and the feeling before the draft was that he would go in the top fifteen despite his uneven form at USC. Several mock drafts had the Eagles choosing between the two players, but in the end they landed both.
Bunkley will have the more immediate impact. He plays with great anticipation and a high motor, and defensive coordinator Jim Johnson figures to pair him with last year's first round pick Mike Patterson to form an undersized but disruptive interior line. Bunkley will rotate with Darwin Walker, but as he gains experience he figures to win more of the playing time.
Justice will spend the year apprenticing behind Tra Thomas. While some character concerns undoubtedly contributed to Justice's slide, the more pressing issue was probably Justice's tendency to do just enough to get by. A tackle with his measureables should eliminate his man on almost every play, but Justice was one of the least consistent players on the Trojans offensive line. Thomas had to shed an underachiever label coming out of Florida State, and Philadelphia would be very happy to get a similar level of production from Justice.
The Chris Gocong selection didn't go over well with the boards, but it was cleverly done nonetheless, as the Jets were poised to take Gocong with the 71st pick before receiving the trade offer. The Jets were on the phone with Gocong and told him to hold on, they'd be drafting him in a few spots; instead, the Eagles promptly snatched Gocong. The Cal Poly product was highly sought as a DE/OLB hybrid by teams employing a 3-4 defense, but Philadelphia will try him out at strongside linebacker.
After the Gocong blip, Philadelphia went back to grabbing recognizable names, generally at good value. Max Jean-Gilles was considered the top guard prospect for much of the pre-draft period, but concerns about his weight pushed him down. Jean-Gilles is immoveable when he gets set, and he has quick feet for such a big man. If he doesn't eat himself out of the league, Jean-Gilles could be a nice addition to the offensive line.
Jason Avant was productive at Michigan, but he doesn't have the quickness to consistently separate from defenders. He should help carry on the Philadelphia tradition of fielding nothing but #2 receivers. Jeremy Bloom will work in as a slot receiver and return man. The Olympic skier impressed scouts with his willingness to compete at the combine shortly after returning from the Winter Games.
The Eagles have made some moves to tidy up their depth after the injury-riddled fiasco that was their 2005, adding quarterback Jeff Garcia, wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, and defensive tackle Ed Jasper to one-year deals. Choosing a city that despises Terrell Owens was a good decision by Garcia's agent. Of course, finagling a five-year deal for Donovan McNabb to appear on the cover of Madden would've been an even better one.
The Eagles seem to be pretty set for the season at this point, hoping that the lack of Corey Simon and Owens-related drama in training camp will allow them a solid camp and preparation for the season. Expect them to grab a powerful running back as one of the training camp leftovers to provide a change of pace to Brian Westbrook, Reno Mahe, and Ryan Moats.
Having mined Villanova's skill position players once for Westbrook, Philadelphia went back to the well by signing wide receiver J.J. Outlaw. An Eagles fan as a child, Outlaw will have to make the team on his special-teams skills. With 13 receivers on the squad and maybe three players (Reggie Brown, Greg Lewis, and Todd Pinkston) guaranteed spots, the fight between ten guys for the last two spots is worthy of an "Ultimate Fighter"-type show with Fred Barnett and Freddie Solomon as team coaches. Michael Gasperson will steal everyone's beanie, and it will be a good time for everyone involved.
|Pick||Player||Player Rankings||Best Player Available|
|35||LB Roger McIntosh||51, 77, 83, 96||OT Winston Justice (3), DB Jimmy Williams|
|153||DT Anthony Montgomery||275, UR, UR, UR||DT Babatunde Oshinowo (3), DE Mark Anderson|
|173||DB Reed Doughty||174, UR, UR, UR||DT Babtunde Oshinowo (3), RB Andre Hall|
|196||DT Kedric Golston||174, 195, UR, UR||DT Rod Wright (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall|
|230||G Kili Lefotu||UR, UR, UR, UR||DB Dee Webb (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall|
|250||LB Kevin Simon||239, 244, UR, UR||RB Andre Hall (2), DB Anwar Phillips (2)|
On its face the decision to trade up for Miami linebacker Roger McIntosh looks like one of the worst decisions in the draft. Washington gave away a sixth-round pick and a future second-rounder so they could move up and take a player that every single board felt was more of a late second/early third round prospect. It's likely that the Redskins wanted to find an impact linebacker to replace LaVar Arrington and felt that there was a sizeable drop-off at the position after McIntosh, but even so, the price seems exorbitant. No team has exercised as few picks as Washington over the past five years, and needlessly trading away future picks will ensure that the trend continues.
That's not to say that McIntosh is a poor prospect. He's been limited by injuries, but when healthy he's a smooth and explosive linebacker with the coverage skills to stay on the field in passing situations. McIntosh may well fit Gregg Williams' scheme, but he's going to have to do more than just fit in order to justify the expensive trade up -- he's going to have to dominate.
Washington didn't have another pick until the fifth round, when they chose Minnesota defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery. There were a few scouts who liked Montgomery's consistent effort, but none of the boards felt he was especially good value. The other picks had a bit more support, as Reed Doughty, Kedric Golston and Kevin Simon were all minor steals on at least one draft board. Doughty is a true strong safety, effective in run support but with questionable coverage skills. He should make an impact on special teams.
Golston had injury problems at Georgia that limited his production, but if he can stay healthy he has the ability to hold up at the point of attack and to pressure the quarterback. He's not the physical specimen that Rod Wright is, but he'll be able to contribute this year. Kevin Simon is another player who dropped because of injury concerns, but he was extremely productive when he was on the field. Simon doesn't have the speed to handle tight ends or running backs in coverage, but he could find a role as a two-down middle linebacker.
The Redskins strategy has been the same for several years now: identify targets of interest, (sometimes) wait for free agent signing period to open up, sign with financial prejudice. Since Al Bogdan covered the Redskins' 2006 signing spree in the last NFC East Four Downs, the only addition the Redskins have made is nabbing cornerback Kenny Wright from the Jaguars. Wright will compete with Ade Jimoh to be the Skins' nickel back next season.
With the Redskins carrying so much dead money on their cap, they become more and more reliant on the production of undrafted and minimum-cost free agents each year. While their starters are usually the pick of the year's free agent pool, the shiny veneer is paid for by a lack of depth, particularly on defense. Of the 11 guys listed as primary backups on the depth chart, six were undrafted free agents from the last three years. In that vein, the Redskins added four defensive players who may see time on the Redskins defense this year. Cornerbacks Chijoke Onyenegecha (Oklahoma) and Chris Hawkins (Marshall) could win spots in a wide-open Redskins secondary.
276 comments, Last at 08 Aug 2006, 11:08am by BobL