Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

28 Dec 2007

Too Deep Zone All-Rookie Team 2007

by Mike Tanier

Between Football Outsiders and my previous employer, I have now compiled All-Rookie Teams for six seasons. This is the easiest one I have ever assembled. I usually wring my hands about most of the selections. Did I pick a big stat guy over a better player? Am I hewing too close to (or veering too far from) conventional wisdom? Did I miss anyone?

There's a lot less drama this year. The two top running backs out-gained the first runner-up by more than 400 yards. Three rookie linebackers recorded over 100 tackles, and no others came close. Only one rookie quarterback made a significant contribution. Two offensive tackles stood far above the pack. Even normally tough positions, like center, sorted themselves out early in the year. The most controversial selection of the year may be at kicker. That says something about how obvious most of the choices were.

If this team actually took the field, they could easily compete for a Wild Card berth. The offensive line and running game would be playoff-caliber, and the defensive back seven would keep opponents honest. The kicking game would be a plus. The passing game and pass rush wouldn't be spectacular, but there will be teams with bigger flaws playing January football this year.

And now for the selections:

Quarterback: Trent Edwards, Bills: The last two weeks have been tough for Edwards. He battled the snow and wind in Cleveland when the Bills were fighting for the playoffs, then battled the Giants pass rush when the Bills were playing for pride. Edwards lost both fights, but he gave fans a reason for optimism. Edwards is no Jim Kelly. He's a system quarterback, a cerebral player with just enough arm strength and foot speed. Opponents and the elements got the better of him recently, but he proved earlier in the year that he can do just enough of everything -- even throw deep -- to stay in the league a long time.

Running Back: Adrian Peterson, Vikings: The Offensive Rookie of the Year, but of course you knew that. Peterson's Success Rate is just 45 percent, which ranks 33rd in the NFL. He's a boom-or-bust runner, especially when he's stuck facing eight- and nine-man fronts. When he learns to turn some of those no-gains into three-yard runs, he'll be even more special.

Running Back: Marshawn Lynch, Bills: Rushing for 1,000 yards as a rookie is great. Fumbling just twice in over 250 carries as a rookie is even better. Lynch and Edwards could become the cornerstones of a great ball-control offense.

Fullback: Korey Hall, Packers: Hall's the typical modern fullback: a converted linebacker who only plays about a third of his team's snaps, rarely touches the ball, but plays a key role on special teams. Hall made 12 special teams tackles before suffering a late-season hip injury, but he earned a spot on the all-rookie team with his skills as an I-formation lead blocker and pass protector. I love Brian Leonard, but most of his offensive production came when he replaced Steven Jackson at halfback. Pro Bowl voters may like pumped-up halfbacks on the roster, but Too Deep Zone is old school.

Wide Receiver: Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs: When was the last time the Chiefs had a young receiver to really get excited about? The Chiefs wasted a lot of time trying to develop guys like Snoop Minnis and Kevin Lockett over the past decade, none of whom could unseat veteran journeymen like Eddie Kennison and Johnnie Morton for playing time. Bowe finally gives the team a young, dangerous, multi-purpose receiver to diversify their offense. Unfortunately, Bowe arrives just as everyone else is getting old or injured.

Wide Receiver: Calvin Johnson, Lions: DVOA and DPAR likes Johnson better than James Jones, largely because of the difference in first downs (35 to 28) and fumbles (one to three). Actually, our stats like Anthony Gonzalez most of all, but he gets a little boost from the guy throwing the ball. At least picking the second team will be easy.

Tight End: Greg Olson, Bears: He has slightly better stats, including DPAR and DVOA, than Zach Miller. There isn't much else separating them.

Tackle: Joe Thomas, Browns: Jamal Lewis on Thomas: "I think he is the next Jonathan Ogden." Thomas is the only player who could seriously challenge Peterson for offensive ROY honors. He's far more likely than Peterson to still be playing at a Pro Bowl level seven years from now.

Tackle: Tony Ugoh, Colts: Offensive linemen are often most conspicuous in their absence. Ugoh's five missed games include the Colts' two losses and a 13-10 squeaker over the Chiefs. When Ugoh was healthy, the Colts could run their regular offense. When he was hurt, tight end Ben Utecht spent more time blocking than running pass patterns, and opponents overloaded the left side of the line. Ugoh was arguably more important to the Colts offense this season than Marvin Harrison.

Guard: Ben Grubbs, Ravens: The Ravens finished 27th in the NFL in Adjusted Line Yards, but don't blame Grubbs. At times, he was one of three rookies starting on the Ravens line. Grubbs was clearly the best of the bunch and was the most consistent lineman not named "Ogden" on the team.

Guard: Aaron Sears, Bucs: The Bucs offensive line features Sears and three second-year players (Davin Joseph, Jeremy Trueblood, Donald Penn). In Pro Football Prospectus 2007, I wrote that this might be a wasted year for the Bucs even if they made the playoffs, because they girded their roster with too many aging veterans. The Bucs made the playoffs, and this season was far from wasted if they found four young linemen to build around.

Center: Samson Satele, Dolphins: The Dolphins may be 1-14, but their offensive line hasn't been terrible. Satele, a starter since opening day, has bought into Hudson Houck's system and is one of the team's few building blocks.

Defensive End: Gaines Adams, Bucs: The rookie sack leader did his best work against the Falcons: seven tackles and three sacks in two games. Adams started the year on the bench but worked his way into the lineup by Week 9 and proved that he can be an every-down lineman.

Defensive End: Brian Robison, Vikings: When the Vikings lost Erasmus James, Darrion Scott, and Ray Edwards to injuries and suspensions last month, Robison felt ready to move into the starting lineup. The fourth-round pick, who began the season as a pass rush specialist, became the starting right end, and his confidence immediately impressed teammates. "B-Rob at times forgets that he's a rookie," linemate Kenchi Udeze said of Robison, who is second on the Vikings with 4.5 sacks. Robison would fit better playing linebacker in a 3-4 system, but he could develop into the next Trent Cole.

Defensive Tackle: Amobi Okoye, Texans: Okoye had four sacks in the first four games, then hit the rookie wall and briefly lost his starting job. Texans line coach Jethro Franklin pushed Okoye past the wall by giving him extra reps after practice. The counter-intuitive approach worked, and Okoye played well against the Bucs and Broncos. "As a rookie all you can do is adjust," Okoye said, "and adjusting is just to keep on going." The 20-year-old Okoye should keep going for a long time.

Defensive Tackle: Ed Johnson, Colts: Johnson is the best of the Colts' three rookie defensive linemen (Keyunta Dawson and Jeff Charleston are the others). The Colts run defense would have been a disaster if the undrafted Johnson wasn't ready to step into a starting role this year.

Linebacker: David Harris, Jets: Rookie middle linebackers, like rookie quarterbacks, have to take command of a huddle. Harris may have recorded 41 tackles in his first two starts, but it took him time to modulate his in-huddle EQ. "He's gotten better and better each week, a little more bass in his voice, a little more authoritative," Eric Mangini said in December. Despite Harris' "Luke, I'm your father" intonations, safety Kerry Rhodes sometimes came away from the huddle giggling like Tiki Barber after an Eli Manning speech. No one is laughing at Harris now that he has 116 tackles.

Linebacker: Jon Beason, Panthers: One of the Panthers' few young building blocks. Beason recorded 130 tackles this year, but he was at his best last week when he made a dozen stops against the Cowboys. He has the athleticism and intelligence to start for the next decade.

Linebacker: Patrick Willis, Niners: The Defensive Rookie of the Year. If you had any doubts, Sunday's 20-tackle, two-sack effort surely erased them. Willis still makes a lot of rookie mistakes, but few defenders make more plays in pursuit or are better at the point of attack.

Cornerback: Leon Hall, Bengals: Like all rookie corners, Hall found himself in the crosshairs this season. He made opponents pay often enough (five interceptions) that they will be less likely to pick on him next year.

Cornerback: Darrelle Revis, Jets: Revis and Hall finished first and second among rookie corners in tackles. That's a problem. A lot of those tackles represent 15-yard completions against faked-out defenders. But those tackles also show that Revis and Hall were on the field for play after play, taking their lumps without losing their starting jobs. "He's an all-around corner," said Ty Law, a friend of the Revis family who has taken Darrelle under his wing. "You can't label him as a 'cover guy' or a 'tackler.' He can do it all. As he gets more mature in the game and as he learns to pick up on some little nuances throughout, you are looking at an All-Pro."

Safety: Tanard Jackson, Buccaneers: Jackson stood out over runners-up LaRon Landry and Gerald Alexander because he made very few mistakes in a mentally challenging position: free safety in Monte Kiffin's Tampa-2 system. Jackson's a solid hitter and a very instinctive defender.

Safety: Reggie Nelson, Jaguars: Nelson leads the Jaguars with five interceptions and has emerged as one of the team's best defensive playmakers.

Kicker: Mason Crosby, Packers: Crosby enters the season's final week as the NFL scoring leader. He was Special Teams player of the Month in November, is 3-of-5 from 50+ yards, and averages a fine 63.7 yards per kickoff with 14 touchbacks. The former high school safety is a fine athlete who proved that his college statistics (he twice led the NCAA in 50-plus yard field goals) weren't inflated by the thin air at the University of Colorado. He's much better at kickoffs than Pro Bowl rookie Nick Folk, has one more 50-yard field goal, and has to battle the elements far more often than the Cowboys' kicker. That's why Crosby not only beat Folk for the All-Rookie Team, but should have earned Folk's trip to Hawaii. Crosby is the Special Teams Rookie of the Year.

Punter: Daniel Sepulveda, Steelers: He pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line 27 times, recorded just two touchbacks, and was called Robo-Punter by non-FO readers. That's how you make the TDZ All-Rookie Team.

Return Man: Yamon Figurs, Ravens: Figurs returned both a punt and a kick for a touchdown this season and had five returns of 40+ yards. Opponents like the Dolphins started giving Figurs the Devin Hester treatment by season's end: he's another return man too good to kick to.

Special Teamer: Lawrence Timmons, Steelers: Timmons excelled on special teams at Florida State, so it makes sense that he became one of the Steelers' top gunners. If our All-Rookie Team took the field, Timmons, Hall, and Figurs would chase down any kick that Crosby didn't send through the end zone or Sepulveda didn't land at the 10-yard line.

Honorable Mentions: James Jones, Packers, and Anthony Gonzalez, Colts (wide receivers). Brian Leonard, Rams (all-purpose back). Zach Hilton, Raiders (tight end). Tim Crowder, Broncos (defensive end), Anthony Spencer, Cowboys (linebacker), Frederick Bennett, Texans, Aaron Ross, Giants, LaRon Landry, Redskins, Eric Wright, Browns, Gerald Alexander, Lions, Michael Griffin, Titans (defensive backs). Nick Folk, Cowboys (kicker).

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 28 Dec 2007

84 comments, Last at 03 Jan 2008, 10:40pm by Chris

Comments

1
by Nathan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 4:09pm

This year I didn't buy Madden (opting for all-pro football), and it shows. I don't know most of the rookies outside of the draft, or the team I watch (the Colts)

Excellent article. I'd like to hear others comments who watched their team, I have no arguments.

It's amazing what a video game does for your player recognition though. I could name most O-Lines for every year in which I've played video football, and this year I'm clueless up and down.

Although I could name many Hall of Famers now that I never knew before ;)

2
by CNB (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 4:20pm

You've got to stop watching "One Night in Paris" while writing, Mike -- Oakland's rookie tight end is Miller, not Hilton (see: Honorable Mentions). ;)

3
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 4:26pm

Another thing to like about GB's combo of Thompson/McCarthy is the ability to find guys who can play AND play them. Along with the ones mentioned guys like Justin Harrell and Aaron Rouse all played a lot when healthy. I know Harrell was a number one pick so the guy should be playing but the Packers had a pretty solid D-line before he showed up and then he got hurt early. But he has been in the rotation the past month and done ok. Not great mind you, but ok.

At minimum he will be a run-stuffer in the NFL for a good decade. If he learns to use his hands then the Packers will really have something.

Rouse should be starting in front of Bigby. If he shows up healthy next year at camp Atari will be at least second string if not on the street entirely. Kid is just too dumb to start......

4
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 4:35pm

MT, Thanks for the hat-tip to Gonzales. He is special but has been nicked up a bit. With a full season, he'll be putting up big numbers as a #3 guy, and probably is an appropriate hairless heir to Wayne's #2 slot in a few years.

5
by John Morgan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 4:44pm

I'd just like to say that Brandon Mebane is a pretty obvious snub. He's a better run stopper and better pass rusher than Ed Johnson. One need only look at how the Seattle Seahawks rush defense has improved since he took over for Chuck Darby, with no other changes, to see his impact. Kind of frustrating to not even see him in the honorable mentions.

And while I'm kvetching, Brian Leonard? Why?

6
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 4:46pm

I also have to rave about Jon Beason. When Indy played Carolina I saw "rookie LB" on one side and injured Marvin Harrison on the other and concluded that Dallas Clark would have a Terrell-Owens-like 20-catch day. But Beason was awesome in coverage on a TE most people say can't be covered by LBs. News flash: he can be covered by THIS LB.

I watched him like I might watch my neighbor drive by in his new Maserati. Looks good now, but would look MUCH better with a big blue horseshoe on top. (That's Beason, not the car.) (And my neighbor drives a Maxima--it was just a hypothetical.) (Ah, forget it.)

7
by andy (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 4:47pm

actually, it's zach miller, in honorable mentions, but no matter.

the thing about zach miller is that he isn't explosive like greg olsen, but you watch him and it doesn't seem like you're watching a rookie play. he looks like just another tight end. he's unspectacular but solid. a willing blocker with fairly good hands.

brian robison has a nonstop motor and was very good when i watched him, he seemed to always be pressuring or sacking the qb.

8
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 5:00pm

John Morgan, look at Indy's Defense last year and their D this year. I'd like to say "enough said" regarding Ed Johnson, bit that's too smug and flippant.

They lost a starting DT in the preaseason and are currently down two starting DEs and another DT. The only constant on the DL all year has been Johnson, and they improved dramatically from last year in all ways.

Though I am a Seattlite, I really don't folow the Hawks, so there might have been injury issues tyhere too, but... Add in the fact that Indy has lost probably 20 LB starts due to injury, lost 4 D starters off last year's SB winning D, and there was a recipe for disaster. Is Ed Johnson the only reason they are doing well? Certainly not. But on paper, after last year's dubious performance aginst the run, one could certainly say "they will be weak in 2007 and worse than last year" (in fact many preseason pundits said EXACTLY that--including the FO projections). A significant part of their turnaround has been Johnson anchoring their line. He is very active. I am constantly surprised to see his jersey popping up in the middle of plays all over.

My head is not stuck in the sand--the two CBs are significantly better tacklers than the guys who started ahead of them last year; Sanders, likely DPOY is healthy; and Gary Brackett is having a monster year at MLB (pro-bowl snub). But in this scheme, it all starts up front, and with Freeney missing half a season, McFarland on IR all year, Mathis and Brock missing a handful of games each, EJ has been the man.

9
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 5:07pm

As an Eagles fan, even if every other rookie turns out to be a complete bust as long as Brent Celek pushes L.J. Smith's stone-handed ass off the field I'll be happy. Any other production from this draft class will just be gravy.

10
by The Broilermaster (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 5:18pm

Go Mason Crosby!

I was a student at CU for every game Crosby played...and it's a damn shame that he never quite got the chance to get a 70-yard field goal.

On more than one occassion Gary Barnett said something like "if we had gotten to the fifty yard line right before halftime i would have let him kick".

11
by AlexSmithJoe (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 5:19pm

Offensive tackle Joe Staley of the 49ers deserves (at least) an honorable mention.

The only offensive lineman from the 2007 draft who clearly outperformed him this year was Joe Thomas. Staley played the full season at RT, and aside from getting manhandled by Strahan in one game, did a solid job. The rest of SF's line imploded, but Staley wasn't one of the problems. Consider: If Ugoh and Staley traded teams, which one would we be talking about right now?

SF is going to take a beating in the media leading up to the 2008 draft for trading away their top pick for him, but as I've said before--they got a legit LT making 28# overall money for the next few years which is better than paying an unproven player Top-10 money (since the 49ers already have enough of those).

12
by Sam Larson (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 5:22pm

It seems to me that Adrian Peterson's poor success rate has more to do with the Vikings getting stuffed almost 30% of the time then anything he is doing wrong.

13
by John Morgan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 5:24pm

Bobman - given how the Colts performed in 2005 and in the 2006 playoffs with a healthy Bob Sanders, I would say that's your flippant answer. This is further supported by the fact that Indy's front 7 only grades out as 14th against the run, while their overall run defense is 10th. For comparison's sake, Seattle is 4th in adjusted line yards and 5th overall. Anyone who tracks Seahawks football knows that after losing Marcus Tubbs in the preseason, a dominant run defense looked pretty far fetched. The Tubbs-less Hawks of `06 sported nearly the worst run defense in all of football. Since Mebane stepped in for the IRed Darby, they have been among the best - w/ no other personnel changes.

I don't know enough to say that Johnson doesn't belong on the list, but I do know that Brandon Mebane does.

14
by Peter Koski (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 5:27pm

Mike, I wanted to get your thoughts on Joe Staley.

15
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 5:51pm

Olsen is a pretty lame blocking TE. He has soft hands and pretty good straight ahead speed but Clark keeps his job because he runs better routes.

Now Greg looks like he's improving so maybe next year he will be THE guy.

16
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 5:52pm

Fair enough, John, I like you blog btw. Could it be scheme--I see you listed Mebane as a NT on your blog and the all-pro/pro bowl rosters usually have difficulty wedging in both 3-4 and 4-3 guys.

Your argument is theoretically pure because of little turnover--easy to ID the difference if only one guy is new. I think mine is strong because of... all the turnover. 5 guys who were backups or in college last year are now on the "starting D" and the D has started many more due to injury including an all-rookie DL last week (actually, a second-year player started but it was his first start ever). Can they all really be upgrades over last year's SB team? I can't imagine. Can I be so haunted by the 375 yards the Jags rang up that a 50 yard per game improvement over a season in rush D makes me jump to conclusions? Probably.

Also, how pathetic is it that I don't even know if the team that plays 2.5 miles from my house runs a 3-4 or 4-3? I hang my head in shame.

17
by panthersnbraves (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 5:54pm

What? No honorable mention love for Carolina's newset QB - Matt Moore? Yet another "All-Star" pick that came in before the season was over. But really - too bad it took so long for him to get a chance to start.

(But this homer will agree that BEASTon is definitely worthy).

18
by Herm? (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 5:55pm

From watching, my only notable impression was of Buffalo. When Edwards came into his first game, against New England, he drove down the field as if he'd done it 1000 times. Between him and Marshawn Lynch, there's a lot of promise there. Last week there was a 2nd year LB named DiGiorgio who was a maniac on the field. Then Lee Evans and Jason Peters for young-ish guys. Take away the injuries, and Buffalo/Toronto? is easily in playoff contention next year.

But did anyone else read this and think that with so many Colts on this list, in 5 years the worst player is going to be the QB (yes, exaggeration)? Looks like the Polian's are still drafting well.

18
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 5:55pm

Huh. There are 7 teams with no All-Rookies, nor Honorable Mentions. It's a motley crew, too:

Patriots
Eagles
Seahawks
Chargers
Saints
Cardinals
Falcons

20
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 6:02pm

Fair enough, John, I like you blog btw. Could it be scheme--I see you listed Mebane as a NT on your blog and the all-pro/pro bowl rosters usually have difficulty wedging in both 3-4 and 4-3 guys.

Your argument is theoretically pure because of little turnover--easy to ID the difference if only one guy is new. I think mine is strong because of... all the turnover. 5 guys who were backups or in college last year are now on the "starting D" and the D has started many more due to injury including an all-rookie DL last week (actually, a second-year player started but it was his first start ever). Can they all really be upgrades over last year's SB team? I can't imagine. Can I be so haunted by the 375 yards the Jags rang up in one game in 2006 or that a 50 yard per game improvement over a season in rush D makes me jump to conclusions? Maybe.

Also, how pathetic is it that I don't even know if the team that plays 2.5 miles from my house runs a 3-4 or 4-3? I hang my head in shame.

21
by Splat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 6:08pm

Chinedum Ndukwe on the Bengals has been playing far above his draft position this year (I think he was the 3rd last player to be picked?). A pleasant surprise from the depths of day 2.

22
by TerryW (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 6:10pm

Nice article. Re: playoff chances, well, I think that offense would do a lot better than that defense. A typo: Greg Olsen, not Greg Olson.

23
by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 6:11pm

Pat,

That's because a team with no good rookies either has none either because

(1) their existing non-rookie players were so good that they didn't draft/sign many rookies, or the ones they drafted couldn't make the team, or the ones that made the team couldn't get playing time (likely because few veterans performed poorly or got injured). Hence we would expect certain relaly good teams with lots of non-rookie talent (Patriots, Chargers) to be on your list.

(2) Teams with holes drafted or signed rookies to fill them, but didn't do a very good job or get very lucky, so the rookies they acquired weren't very good. Since the team needed them to be good, the team ended up bad. Hence you'd expect some bad teams to be on your list as well.

24
by Nathan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 6:12pm

I think Ugoh was chosen based on how bad Charles Johnson was. I think he's probably the third best O-Lineman.

To grade them out (as I've seen the Colts)

Ugoh:
Run Blocking - Excellent
Pass Blocking - Average to below average

Charles Johnson:
Run Blocking - Average to below average
Pass Blocking - Catastrophic

So seeing Ugoh vs. Charles Johnson likely gives one the feeling he's a hall of famer, when in actuality he's an Amazing run blocker who can't really pass block yet, but is light years ahead of Charles Johnson.

I don't know how anyone else grades, people who saw them, can you give a basic Run Block/Pass Block grade?

25
by Nathan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 6:13pm

And Bobman, can you validate my grades?

26
by Nathan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 6:15pm

In terms of Pass Blocking, I'd also say this.

Ugoh gets beat by speed to the outside, he isn't fast enough to keep someone away from the outside (which is probably one of the reasons he's so good at Run blocking, sheer girth and strength.)

And Johnson gets beaten by someone looking in his direction.

27
by AlexSmithJoe (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 6:44pm

24#

Good post. I haven't seen enough of Ugoh to have much of an opinion of him, but it did seem like he was getting credit for the comparative dropoff between him and his backup (which was more like a third stringer because of Tarik Glenn's retirement), and for playing on a loaded offense. There's also a big difference between protecting Peyton Manning who makes very good decisions and has a quick release versus protecting the Alex Smith/Trent Dilfer/Shaun Hill freak show; likewise its easier to run block when you have one of the league's best passing attacks to open things up. Not to belittle Ugoh at all, but it seems that he's benefited from being drafted by the right team (and not getting Peyton Manning killed) to be getting all this attention. Seems a tad superficial.

Staley vs. Ugoh will be a really fun debate to reopen in 3-5 years since the Colts got Ugoh with SF's pick, allowing the 49ers to get back into the first round in 2008.

28
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 6:44pm

Nathan, LMAO about guys looking at Johnson. That is, unless they need to play him, then the tears of laughter turn to tears of despair.

I thought Ugoh looked tentative in pass pro the first few games, but the rest of the line, scheme, and Manning's pocket awareness kept things going well. Fewer false starts that Tarik Glenn in his later years! But I didn't think he looked average-to-below-average. I thought he was pretty good (on the same scale I'd guess that's "above average to good", and the numbers, as much as they can be relied on, bear this out in terms of sacks before and after his injury. Same with INTs before and after which can be caused by pressure on the QB. (and of course the running game fell apart as well after he was hurt.) I know Manning has taken a lot more pressure than in recent years, but I have no clear memory (and no TiVo to check) if that was a before/after Ugoh's injury situation.

All in all, looking at these three Colt rookies, all nominally starters, if they were without Gonzo at all, they might have lost one of the games they won. If they were without Ugoh at all, they'd have lost 2 more games (probably would have played Johnson at LT and then had to trade for somebody's 3rd year backup in desperation), but without Ed Johnson, I bet they'd have lost three more games. Now the fact that I think he's the MVR on Indy doesn't necessarily make him worthy of inclusion on this list if other rookie DTs out there are better. I personally think he's a monster, but time will tell.

29
by peachy (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 6:54pm

I think #23 is essentially correct, although I would frame it differently. To be an all-rookie, a player of course needs to be really good. But there are two other circumstances outside their control - playing time and exposure. An elite team may be so stuffed with veterans that a rookie simply can't get on the field enough; conversely, a bottom-feeder might have so few reliable players it has to throw its rookies to the wolves. In either case, only a truly exceptional player will make an impact.

The best situation is probably one like Reggie Nelson's - being drafted to fill the single open slot on a solid, experienced unit. You get plenty of opportunities to demonstrate your ability, but there's enough veterans around to compensate for your inevitable mistakes.

30
by Tom (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 6:56pm

Re Olsen's blocking:

While it's not great, it isn't atrocious either. He generally gets the job done. Plus his speed makes defenders too worried to sellout on the run. I think having him in the game is a positive for the running game.

31
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 7:01pm

#23: Well, the Patriots are easy. They only had one first-day draft pick. Hard to get lucky when most of your picks are on the second day of the draft (and they waived some of them, too).

The Seahawks might've gotten gypped, in that Brandon Mebane probably should've had an honorable mention, although the injury hurt him.

The Falcons, Cardinals, Chargers, Eagles, and Saints just didn't have great drafts. Not bad, mind you, but from the "one year" perspective it's hard to say any of their picks are going to be great starters, and it's not like they're hidden behind great players. Levi Brown is probably the best out of that entire set, and he's just struggling a bit as a rookie.

32
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 7:20pm

I would echo the voices calling for Staley over Ugoh. Ugoh was helped by having Manning getting rid of the ball quickly and having such great pocket awareness. Staley has spent most of the year blocking for Trent Dilfer, who no longer looks anything like an NFL QB. Staley has looked great in the last few games when Hill has been playing, the guy has some of the best feet I have ever seen on a OT, and seems more powerful than his rep coming out of college indicated. This season was only his third playing tackle, in a couple of years (barring injury) he will look like a monster.

But where is the love for Garrett Wolfe? He should get an honorable mention for the rookie who most resembles a schoolkid competition winner who has gotten to suit up for an NFL team.

33
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 7:23pm

Re: 31

*points to post #9*

34
by Matt M (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 7:26pm

How about at least an honorable mention for Leon Washington as a return guy?

35
by Joe in Seattle (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 7:28pm

#34

Washington is in his 2nd season.

36
by Jordy (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 7:29pm

Yeah, and Brian Mitchell and White Shoes Johnson. Totally snubbed.

37
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 8:09pm

Staley is a far more complete tackle than Ugoh and he played the whole season. I know Tanier hates the niners but he's way off on this one.

38
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 8:18pm

36 And the Metcalf boys, Eric and Terry. Good returners. Hey, are they related?

39
by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 8:20pm

I'll second John Morgan's case for Brandon Mebane, in which he made all the arguments that I was going to. And like him, I too don't know enough of Ed Johnson to say he doesn't belong, but that Brandon Mebane does.

Holmgren said today, that he thinks Mebane should be rookie of the year. OK, that's definitely biased, it definitely is Patrick Willis -- although I withhold my reservations about the guy; I think he's been playing well, but he doesn't seem to move the way I feel like a great ILB should. I am not expecting him to be a supposed "sideline to sideline" MLB like Urlacher and Tatupu, in his position, but he just seems to be assignment correct and a sound tackler, which is awesome, but not a special player. A very good player on a horrible defense always racks up lots of tackles...he's a very sound player, and he probably deserves the DROY, but I am definitely not going to think of him as the next James Farrior, quite yet -- so, Mebane isn't close to DROY, but I hold a good deal of stock in Holmgren's assessments, and one thing I'd like to point out that hasn't been brought up, is how really good Mebane is at collapsing the pocket. He only has a couple sacks, himself, but he's been instrumental in flushing the QB into moving where he doesn't want to go, and getting the Seahawks more sacks, and fewer successful pass plays against them. He's more than just a run stopper, although he's not Sapp or Randle as a pass rusher, he's a valuable NT on passing downs, and it seems to me the best case anyone can make for Ed Johnson who hasn't watched at least 2/3rd of Colts games is that he's equally deserving as Brandon Mebane, but failing that Mebane should get the pick.

Mike Tanier, still love the article and the picks. Can't make everyone happy.

40
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 8:22pm

Not to rain on Staley's parade but what happened to Gore's all-world season? He was expected top put up 1,800 yards this year. I really don't know... injury? If not, I think his OL might take a hit to their reputations for this kind of award.

Supporting Ugoh in that regard, Addai averaged over 100 YPG through 6-7 weeks. Ugoh got injured and the average has been about 60 YPG since then. Clearly other things are going on, but that's a pretty effective yardstick.

Nobody doubts that Manning's talents make his OL look better than it otherwise would be with a replacement level QB.

41
by Stillio (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 8:22pm

I won't say he got jobbed since I didn't see enough of Timmons to say who's better, but the Jag's Chad Nkang has been an absolute beast on special team's coverage. Not just good for a rookie, but the best special teams guy on the team, period.

42
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 8:40pm

Not to rain on Staley’s parade but what happened to Gore’s all-world season? He was expected top put up 1,800 yards this year. I really don’t know… injury?

Gore has had a bad wheel nearly all year, if you watch any Niners games you will wee him limp off for a play, limp back and then run like a man possessed on third down. Gore (and the entire Niners offense) has been severely hampered by kindergarten standard playcalling all year, Jim Hostler has been simply awful as offensive coordinator.

I am not sure how fair it is to use statistics alone to compare the play of a back in Tom Moore's offense who lines up behind Manning to a back in Hostler's who has been lining up behind Dilfer.

43
by Joe in Seattle (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 8:56pm

A 3rd vote for Mebane.

I can't really add anything that hasn't been said.

I guess I can add the Rocky Bernard hasn't been fully healthy for a while and it's probably put more burden on Mebane and he's still playing at a high level.

44
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 8:59pm

Here we go with the weather again. Trent Edwards plays in tough weather conditions and we are supposed to discount that to his subpar performence but when Eli does he just sucks. Just like the "adjust DVOA for bad weather games" after Brady throws for under 200 yards vs the Jets at the meadowlands.

Aaron Ross is better than both Leon Hall and D. Revis but Revis above Ross is an insult. Hall might have had more picks but he was also targeted and beat more often. Revis was also targeted a lot which is why he had more tackels. Ross has 3 INT, 1 TD, 1.5 sacks playing more man coverage and the only time I can remember him getting embarassed was the 2nd play of the Minnesota game where he was 1 on 1 with Sydney Rice on a play action pass that Ross lost in the sun. You don't want your corners to get beat deep but that was more understandable than some of the times Leon Hall was faked out and beat or the constant beating of Revis like a drum.

I didn't see all of the Texans games but I wasn't overly impressed by Okoye. I saw the guy shooting gaps which can result in easier sacks/pressure or getting the MLB behind you creamed. Dline coaches preach gap control and I didn't see it from him at all in the games I watched.

I think Calvin Johnson has all the talent in the world but the guy played really "raw" and made a ton of rookie mistakes. If he could polish up his technique and reads the guy could be the #1 wideout in the league for years to come.

29- Hit the main point on the head. A lot of making an "all rookie team" is the exposure and playing time that is required. Is Trent Edwards the best QB? Probably not but he got more play than say Quinn, Kolb and Fat Raider.

The rookies that impressed me the most this year...

All Day Peterson
C.Johnson physically, but he was too raw
David Harris
Patrick Willis
Reggie Nelson

Give Steve Breaston and Ahmad Bradshaw some props for their return ability too.

45
by where are you? (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 9:15pm

Where is raiderjoe to talk about the legendary JaMarcus Russell and why he should be on the team (or, as raiderjoe might say, "legnedray JaMacrus Rusesl an why he shold be on taem")?

46
by Peter Koski (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 9:27pm

#39 - Wow. How many tackles do you want to take away for being on a bad team? He still has 30 tackle MORE than the next player.
"I think he’s been playing well, but he doesn’t seem to move the way I feel like a great ILB should. "
Is he moving too fast to be an ILB? Have you even seen Willis play? He had a cast on one hand for most of the season.

Mebane has been good, but how much is because Kerney/Peterson are getting double teamed?

47
by Gerry (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 9:41pm

Nathan, I haven't seen Ugoh play much in the pros, but being here in Fayetteville, I saw him in college.

He is an incredible run blocker.

As for pass blocking, it would not surprise me that he struggles a bit. Houston Nutt treated passing like it was something only done with kidney stones, and like it was equally enjoyable to that. As such, he probably has lots to learn technique-wise and lots of reps to get to where he is maxed out.

He may end up being a good pass blocker. Or not. What I know is that he wasn't taught to be one in college.

48
by John Morgan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 9:54pm

#46 Tackles are not a good indication of play. And yes, being on a bad team drastically inflates tackle totals (more run plays against, more total offensive plays against, less tackles made by linemen, less quality linebackers to make tackles). You might note that the other two tackle leaders on the Niners are DBs - that's not a good sign.

Mebane is the most consistently double teamed player on the Hawks roster. Peterson is almost never double teamed, for one, he's a linebacker. Kerney has recently been given some double teams, but that's from a back, rarely an additional offensive lineman. Bernard may be hurt, but you wouldn't match him against a center and hope that center doesn't get destroyed. If anything, Mebane consistently forcing double teams has helped the other Hawks linemen. Kerney's sack explosion correlates pretty nicely with Mebane starting (12 since week 7.)

49
by Gerry (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 10:00pm

I forgot to add-- I think that the main reason McFadden did not win the Heisman this year is due to the dropoff in the Arkansas offensive line in the absence of Ugoh. It seemed that in the early part of the season especially, the holes that had been there the year before weren't. By the end of the year, the line play improved, but the lack of Ugoh cost D-Mac some big games early in the season. If he had big games early on, he would have been the runaway frontrunner.

50
by Peter Koski (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 10:07pm

#48 - I know how flawed tackles are as a statistic. If you haven't seen Willis play, then the only way to illustrate how good he is is to use a flawed stat. I can name five better players on Seattle's defense than Mebane, two of whom are going to the pro bowl(Kerney, Peterson, Tapp, Tatupu and Trufant). Willis doesn't have that luxury.

51
by Raiderjoe (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 11:18pm

Have to disagree with writer of article when he pick G Olsen instead of Z Miller. Z Miller much better player. Stats same but Z Miller stats are better because he play for team that pass less.
Guarnatee Z Miller have better career than G olsen, not just this year. J Russell, J Fargas, J Porter, R Curry, Z Miller, and maybe D Mcfadden to form next great offense in NFl. Probably best Raiders offense since 1983

52
by Aten (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 11:35pm

Greg White?

53
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 11:41pm

I'd just like to have a quick gloat on the part of both myself, for drafting no fewer than three all-rookies (Adams, Grubbs and Satele) for the Bucs in this year's FO Reader Mock Draft and my team's Kubiak-Smith brain trust, for following up their stellar 2006 draft with a starter and an honourable mention from their first three picks. Fred Bennett has been an absolute godsend: for a fourth round rookie corner to be that much of an upgrade over the guys he replaced says something very good about him (and something very bad about Faggins, Sanders and the gang, unfortunately. It's a pity Robinson went down so soon after he entered the line-up, because that denied the Texans their first prolonged period of competent play from both corner spots since 2004. The knock on Bennett coming into the league was that he was a good cover guy who didn't like to get physical, despite his size. Someone's obviously had a word with him about that, because he's been hitting pretty well this season. If it saves having to pay crazy money for Samuel or Trufant, or stand pat and take Thomas Terrell instead of trading down for desperately needed extra picks, the pick will have been doubly valuable.

Ugoh was tremendously impressive against Mario Williams last time out, though I guess it was a good match-up for him in the sense that Williams is more of a bull-rusher than a speed guy.

54
by Bob in Jax (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 11:48pm

How cool is it that 2 of the 4 special teams all-rookie players are from that bastion of special teams greatness -- the Steelers! Maybe there is is hope for them, yet.

Good article, Mr. Tanier. I would have liked to have seen Chad Nkang mentioned, but I realize that there are only so many hours with which to watch football.

55
by Raiderjoe (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 12:26am

is C Gocong considered rookie or not? He didnt lay last year so this like his rookie year. wouldnt mind Raiders getting Gocong in couple years. Gocong xcould be good backaup to T Howard.

56
by Raiderjoe (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 2:02am

re45

J Russell not on team becaue he not get enough playinf time in 2007. 2008 is season he shine a

57
by Bill Barnwell :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 2:03am

56 is my favorite Raiderjoe comment ever. Please tell me Raiderjoe is drunk.

58
by Nathan (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 3:11am

re: Ugoh

As a pass blocker, bull rushers don't do very well against him (girth/strength).

It's speed. Speed to the outside, and he's toast. It makes sense what the Ark fan said about the lack of passing in college for him.

I have no doubt he could become a very good pass blocker.

He just can't handle speed to the outside, and needs a double team for pass protection if it's a pass rusher right now.

He still deserves hall of fame consideration for not being Charles Johnson.

Oh.. And to those who say Manning has something to do with Ugoh being good.

1. It has something to do with pass protection, which makes how bad he is against speed rushers noticeable.

2. It has little to do with him in Run Blocking. Maybe very very minor, but the guy runs people over. Screens, Normal Runs.

I'd love to see some Ugoh stats with runs on his side. I've never seen a Colts O-Lineman bowl people over. We use deception, not brute force, and it's been welcome to say the least.

I think the closest thing to him I've seen on the Colts was Ironhead Craig Heyward. ;)

59
by Arson55 (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 3:17am

I'm sorry, but Folk should be the kicker. He is far more consistent. Crosby is hitting them at 78.4%. Folk is making his field goals at 85.7%. Crosby has missed 6 times at less than 50 yds. Folk has missed once inside of 50.

Yes, Crosby's kickoffs are longer, but when it comes to field goals Folk is way better.

60
by Nathan (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 3:23am

Irrational Charles Johnson / Kwame Harris thread?

61
by Nathan (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 3:27am

I’m sorry, but Robo-Punter should be the punter. He is far more consistent. Daniel Sepulveda is has pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line 27 times. Robo-Punter has yet to kick a punt outside the 1.

Yes, Sepulveda was called Robo-Punter by Non-FO readers, but Robo-Punter is Robo-Punter.

62
by Raiderjoe (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 3:29am

re57 Not drunk but drinming Sieera Nevads excited for future of Raiders team.
good things ni future with J russell, J fargas, and D McFadden who is player Raiders probably going to draft. IS like young Eric Dickerson. If younger poster and havent heard of him , he is hall of fame Rb great with Rams and Colts. Raiders he play too but at end of season when slowing down. Mcfadden like clone of E Dicklerson
Mcfadden and Russell t put the attack back inthe silver and black attack. A Davis see that keey t winning once again deep pass so Raiders get huge arm Qb first and then Rb and then also get WR too. J Porter okay like that, R Curry for shorter routea but Raidesr need oen more deep threat. J Lee Higgins god but need more work andtime. Maybe Raiders sig Bern Berrian in draft. Bern Berian to burn C Bailey and d Bly and T law and A cromartie all next year. Great sesaons in 2008. Berrian come home to play in Bay area.

63
by where are you? (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 3:35am

"56 is my favorite Raiderjoe comment ever. Please tell me Raiderjoe is drunk."

Isn't he always drunk when he posts here? Isn't that like saying, "Please tell me water is wet"?

"2008 is season he shine a"

What is he going to shine in 2008? A shoe? Thank you, raiderjoe, for always making your posts so humorous.

64
by Bobman (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 4:50am

42 Thanks. I did not know. Hopefully he'll get his wheels back and tear up the league next year.

You bring up a good problem with the Colts: how much credit does the RB owe Manning when the D has to be so concerned about the pass? How much credit does the OL get when he gets the passes off before a sack? But we have seen this season (the middle 2-game funk) that Manning cannot do it alone and supporting cast is important--take away HOFer Harrison and the Colts O struggles but still is capable of 30 pt games, but take away Ugoh and the Colts O was downright ordinary.

And Tom Moore... I can't say enough about how valuable he is. I live in abject terror of him retiring.

65
by Balaji (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 5:12am

I don't think I've ever been excited about a punter, but after the past few years of Chris Gardocki and his 30 yard kicks, I love the Sepulveda kid. Now if only the Steelers could actually make a tackle when covering an opposing kick returner. Baby steps, I guess.

66
by Otis Taylor 89 (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 9:47am

Why is there a fullback on the team? Having a fullback is so 70's. Most teams barely use them - you might as well put a rookie nickel DB on the team as everyone plays them, some teams all game.

67
by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 11:19am

64- I think saying that "Manning can't do it alone" is unfair because the Chargers game was riddulous. Throwing passes to Dungys boy isn't even fair.

68
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 11:27am

Otis:

More like so 90's but the point still holds.

Regarding Hall, the GB running flourished with Grant and Hall playing in tandem. With Hall out the Packers have broken some long runs but most of the time runs are limited gains. And that can be tied directly to the replacement, Kuhn. The guy is a half step slow so too often gets met in the backfield on blocks, doesn't have Hall's explosive hit, and too often lunges at opposing players. It's a dramatic fall off.

with the Packer line being mediocre at best on run blocking Hall's talents really make a difference. If he doesn't come back for the playoffs expect the entire burden to fall on Favre as the run game will be MIA.

69
by Herm? (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 11:52am

If you notice in another thread this week, Raiderjoe uses a strikethrough to communicate his distaste for the San Diego Chargers. I don't know if he's drunk, but he sure likes to omit the word "the" from his sentences. And his verbs are often in the wrong tense. This spelling thing is fairly new, though. Wouldn't you agree, Alexsmithjoe?

70
by TireSlasher (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 1:18pm

Leon Hall is NOT an All-Pro. Are you even watching these games - or just looking at the stats and filling in the blanks? How he managed to snatch five picks is one of life's great mysteries. As a Bengals season ticket holder, I have witnessed with my own eyes how truly terrible Leon Hall is. He is slow, confused and completely over-matched by the opposition on a weekly basis. This guy is a bust of the highest order and will be out of football in three or four years. Hell, he's not even the best rookie defensive back on the Bengals. That would be Chinedum Ndukwe.

71
by Jason M. (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 1:20pm

The greatest thing about the Steelers getting Sepulveda to replace Gardocki is not having to hear announcers say "...and Gardocki has never had a punt blocked" every single time he came into the game.

72
by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 1:40pm

70- Thank you.

Aaron Ross is better than Hall and Revis but I don't think even Ross has been THAT good. I don't see any of those rookie CBs turning into a Champ Bailey or Chris Mccalister. Ross reminds me of a solid Aaron Glenn that played for the Jets/Cowgirls.

I remember a Bengals game a few weeks ago where Leon Hall was targeted and just embarassed on a corner route on the left side of the field. Maybe the Browns or Steelers game, but they specifically targeted him and he bit on the fake like a fish.

This is the same guy that was burned by 4.8 40 yard dash Dwayne Jarret in the Rose Bowl last year repeatedly.

I don't think Hall has some potential and can correct his reads as he gets older/smarter but he certainly wasn't anything impressive this year. 5 picks can easily be wiped away by the poor reads and abuse that he took.

I also think people are genetically predisposed to bashing defensive backs where as they are predisposed to hyping up running backs.

DB's and O-Lineman are mainly noticed for the "bad" plays ( and are therefore bashed). Where as DE's and Running backs and receivers to an extent are more known for the plays that they do make ( and hyped).

On that note I think Reuben Droughs is a running back but horribly bad, where as Reggie Nelson has played safety very well for a rook.

73
by shake n bake (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 4:45pm

I knew Ugoh struggled at times in pass protection, but hearing that it's against the speed rush actually makes me feel better. If you've seen how he moves in the run game it's obvious that he has the athleticism to do anything asked of a LT. Technique work and practice should fix the pass pro problems. Especially since he has had/will have two top speed rushers to practice against Freeney and Robert Mathis

74
by MDZ (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 5:37pm

#73
Ugoh has looked better in pass protection since he's returned. Most rookies improve greatly as they get experience under their belt, but I think the injury may have helped Ugoh quite a bit. He was able to remove himself and learn more about the Colts scheme and the fundamentals of pass protection without having to worry about the minutiae of playing the next opponent. He unquestionably has the athletic ability to be a very good pass blocker, he just needs coaching and seasoning to get there.

75
by Splat (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 8:26pm

70 - Hall has struggled at times, sure, but to call him horrendous at this point is going a bit overboard. The Bengals have been obliterated at linebacker this season and have been blitz heavy to try to hide their deficiencies (I believe I read in a espn stats article they are the most-blitzing team this season). Most times I saw Hall get burned he was on an island with his receiver in man coverage and bit on a double move. Not entirely unexpected for a rookie cornerback, I'd say. He's also been impressive to me shedding blocks in run support and he's been a sure tackler. If he's out of the league in 5 years I'll be suprised.

76
by Aerogopher (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 8:56pm

In baseball, if a player doesn't get enough games, they are still considered a rookie the following year. I don't see why this idea couldn't be considered for football with regards to awards and such. At least guys who were injured in preseason and didn't play in any games should be considered for rookie of the year awards.

77
by Aerogopher (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 9:01pm

I would like to put forth the Vikings rookies as being the best group in 2007: Peterson, Sidney Rice, McCauley, Robison and Aundrae Allison who ran a kickoff back 104 yards. Any argument? I guess Spielman's record with Minnesota is quite a bit better than when he was with Miami so far.

78
by AlexSmithJoe (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 9:46pm

One last thought on the Staley/Ugoh thing: there are two separate issues here. First, there's the question about which is actually better, which is more debatable than Tanier's proclamation about it being such an easy choice would have you believe. Second, there is the omission of Staley completely from the honorable mention section, which is borderline absurd.

Re 39 (Patrick Willis)

I think he’s been playing well, but he doesn’t seem to move the way I feel like a great ILB should. I am not expecting him to be a supposed “sideline to sideline” MLB like Urlacher and Tatupu...

I don't know what Willis footage you've been watching, but he is a "sideline to sideline" MLB.

...but he just seems to be assignment correct and a sound tackler, which is awesome, but not a special player.

I find this statement comical because Mike Singletary would disagree. He specifically used the word "special" when describing Patrick Willis a month ago. Gonna have to go with the Hall of Famer's judgment about a linebacker versus a random comment post on the internet.

Chad Johnson also had some colorful comments on Willis.

79
by jetsgrumbler (not verified) :: Sun, 12/30/2007 - 12:18pm

you could make a good argument that the jets rookies have been the best. revis has been pretty good, and harris has been absolutely amazing.

revis is ok in coverage, but he is also an amazing open field tackler and effective blitzer. i haven't seen enough of hall or ross to make a comparison, though.

as for harris, he has single-handedly transformed the jets 3-4. with jonathan vilma, the defense was historically bad; with harris taking over for vilma, the defense has ranged from mediocre to good. also, the article notes his 119 tackles. what's even more impressive about this number is that he did it in half of a season.

80
by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 12/30/2007 - 1:34pm

I'd agree with the Vikings having the best draft.

Aaron Ross is good. He is a good blitzer, good in man to man coverage and has the added bonus of at least average hands. I'd put him on the roster over both Hall and Revis who were targeted repeatedly. I didn't see teams go after Ross and abuse him over long stretches the way Revis/Hall were.

AD is easily the roy, and I'd give the defensive roy to David Harris. Michigan lost Branch, Harris, Woodley, Hall, Burgess and Harris has been the best player of a talented Michigan draft class. Harris is smart, a leader, and a tackeling machine on the field. He would sort of remind me of a more athletic Antoinio Pierce.

81
by Vendark (not verified) :: Sun, 12/30/2007 - 5:25pm

#79: Harris didn't do it in half a season. He only started half a season, but he has played in every game. He had 25 tackles through week 7.

82
by Packer Pete (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2007 - 12:06pm

I think I might take James Jones over Calvin Johnson at WR. Jones had two more fumbles (consecutive drives in the first Bears game), but Johnson has surely dropped far more passes. I saw several Lions games this season, including the two against the Pack, and Johnson consistently dropped passes. In yesterday's season finale, he dropped at least two, including an early 3rd and short where he dropped an 8-yard pass that hit him in the numbers while wide open on a crossing route.

Jones got off to a quick start, but certainly tailed off around midseason. However, the Packers started to regularly go to 4 and 5 receiver sets, limiting the number of balls to any one receiver. Jones, though, had less drops the entire season than Johnson had in his two games against Green Bay. Still, you could pick either one.

83
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 01/01/2008 - 9:50pm

I like what I see Physically from CJ, but he has messed up his fair share and is still really raw.

Do I think he will correct those problems? Certainly, rookie wideouts traditionally contribute much and the guy must be learning a lot in the mad scientists offense.

Long term I'd take Johnson, but the guy has had his flaws this year.

Jemarus Russels stock should have gone down this year after we saw more of Dwayne Bowe, his team make it to the title game the year after him, and Brady Quinns former team fall off the face of the earth without him and some later round draft picks.

84
by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 01/03/2008 - 10:40pm

I forgot Adam Carriker. It is hard to remember a DT on a defense that stunk, but it wasn't because of him. I thought he played really well.