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ESPN Insider: Sproles, Canty among day-two steals


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Sproles, Canty among day-two steals

By Todd McShay

Scouts Inc.


Lost in the fuss regarding the lack of blue-chip talent at the top of the board is the depth that the 2005 NFL draft class has to offer. More so than any draft in the last five years, teams should find quality contributors from later rounds.

The following is a list of the 15 second-day selections who I believe will make the biggest impacts as rookies:

Jason Brown, C, North Carolina

Ravens, fourth round

Brown slipped a bit on draft weekend due to his marginal athleticism, but he's a perfect fit in the Ravens' power zone-blocking scheme. He'll serve as a versatile backup at guard and center as a rookie and should become the heir apparent to starting center Mike Flynn, who will be 31 when the season begins.

Darren Sproles, RB, Kansas State

Chargers, fourth round

Sproles lacks the size of a premier NFL back, but he's too explosive to keep off the field. Not only will he vie for the starting return specialist role for the Chargers, but he also will help ease the burden on RB LaDainian Tomlinson.

Chris Canty, DE, Virginia

Cowboys, fourth round

Canty was a first-round prospect prior to his season-ending knee injury in 2004. The even bigger reason for Canty's free fall is an eye injury suffered during a bar brawl in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he was training for the combine. There is concern that Canty will never fully regain his vision, but if he does, the Cowboys could have one of the great steals of the 2005 draft. He's a perfect fit as a 3-4 defensive end, which is exactly the position he played in college under coach Al Groh, who coached under Bill Parcells.

Gerald Sensabaugh, S, North Carolina

Jaguars, fifth round

Following his breakout season as a senior, Sensabaugh showed up in terrific shape at the combine and ran an excellent 40-time (4.49) for his size. Sensabaugh, who once blocked three kicks in one game at Eastern Tennessee State prior to transferring to UNC, also had one of the best vertical jumps (46 inches) at the combine. He's still developing as a player, but he has the physical tools to emerge as a versatile starter at safety for the Jaguars in a couple of years. In the meantime, Sensabaugh should make an immediate impact on special teams.

Michael Boley, OLB, Southern Miss

Falcons, fifth round

It's not uncommon for standout mid-major linebackers to slip, but Boley's free fall was surprising. He was a three-time first-team All-Conference USA selection, producing 26.5 sacks and 53.5 tackles for a loss over that three-year span, while chipping in with more than 100 tackles in each of those seasons. Not only was Boley one of the nation's biggest defensive playmakers the last few seasons, but he also has the size/speed ratio to make the transition to the next level. Boley could eventually develop into a starter at outside linebacker for the Falcons. In his first couple of years, Boley should be a great fit as a nickel linebacker and kick-coverage guy on special teams.

Wesley Britt, OT, Alabama

Chargers, fifth round

Britt will need time to continue to rehabilitate a broken fibula that he suffered at the Senior Bowl. He also is coming from a run-oriented scheme at Alabama. However, I still think Britt was a great value in the fifth round for the Chargers. If he can return to form, stay healthy and continue to grow into his frame, Britt should develop into a starter on a Chargers offensive line that will need a youth influx over the next two seasons.

Lance Mitchell, ILB, Oklahoma

Cardinals, fifth round

Mitchell was one of the elite linebacker prospects in the country prior to a season-ending knee injury in 2003. He returned as a full-time starter in 2004 but clearly wasn't the same player. If he can return to form with more time and rehabilitation, Mitchell has a chance to develop into a starting inside linebacker for the Cardinals in a few years. If not, he was certainly worth the risk in the fifth round.

Anttaj Hawthorne, DT, Wisconsin

Raiders, sixth round

Hawthorne's free fall to the sixth round was one of the biggest story lines of the 2005 draft. Part of the problem is that Hawthorne's effort is inconsistent, on and off the field. An even bigger issue was testing positive for marijuana at the combine. Hawthorne has the size, strength and instincts to develop into a starting defensive lineman in the NFL, but the Raiders have their work cut out for them trying to keep Hawthorne clean and motivated.

Jets, sixth round

Houston lacks explosive speed and had trouble staying healthy at Tennessee, but he has the size, power and running skills to develop into a fine backup in the NFL. Houston looked like a man possessed at this year's Senior Bowl. If he continues to run with as much passion in the NFL, the Jets will have found a great short-yardage and change-of-pace back in the sixth round. Look for Houston to win the No. 3 job behind Curtis Martin and Derrick Blaylock in 2005.

Chad Owens, WR/RS, Hawaii

Jaguars, sixth round

Owens' marginal size hurt him on draft weekend and will limit him in the NFL, but he has the quickness, hands, toughness and elusiveness after the catch to surprise people in the NFL. Finding a starting punt returner and No. 4 slot receiver in the sixth round is good business for the Jaguars.

Craig Bragg, WR, UCLA

Packers, sixth round

Bragg suffered through an injury-riddled senior season, but he had 157 receptions for 2,362 yards with 15 touchdowns in the three previous seasons at UCLA. Combine that production with his impressive size/speed combination and it's easy to understand why Bragg was one of the biggest steals in this year's draft. The sixth-round selection should quickly become the Packer's No. 4 receiver and eventually could develop into a starter opposite Javon Walker.

Derek Anderson, QB, Oregon State

Ravens, sixth round

Anderson doesn't fit the new mold of NFL quarterback, but he is too talented to have slipped to the sixth round. His lack of athleticism and penchant for turning the ball over will likely prevent him from ever developing into a full-time starter in the NFL, but Anderson has the size, arm strength and intelligence to emerge as a reliable backup behind Kyle Boller.

Darrell Shropshire, DT, South Carolina

Falcons, seventh round

Shropshire is inconsistent and was a late bloomer who transferred to South Carolina in 2003. However, he has too much upside to have slipped all the way to the seventh round. If he continues to build on his impressive performances at the Senior Bowl and combine, the Falcons could have found their No. 4 "wave" defensive tackle behind Rod Coleman, Chad Lavalais and second-round pick Jonathan Babineaux.

Anthony Davis, RB, Wisconsin

Colts, seventh round

Davis' size, durability and character issues led to his draft-day demise, but we have not heard the last from him. In his first two seasons at Wisconsin, Davis rushed for 3,022 yards with 17 100-yard games. If he can stay healthy and out of trouble, Davis has a chance to develop into a change-of-pace backup running back and possibly even a kickoff return specialist for the Colts.

J.R. Russell, WR, Louisville

Buccaneers, seventh round

Russell is never going to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL, and is never going to be a huge vertical threat, but he does have the size, hands and feel to develop into a solid No. 3 or No. 4 sub-package contributor for the Buccaneers. If that's the case, he'll be a great value as pick No. 253 out of 255.

Rookie free agents

Going undrafted doesn't always spell doom for NFL hopefuls. In fact, there's a long list of NFL greats who entered the league as rookie free agents, including Warren Moon, John Randle, Priest Holmes, Kurt Warner and Jake Delhomme. That's why many front offices put great emphasis on signing "priority free agents" immediately following each draft's conclusion. These prospects are typically given between $2,000 and $25,000 as a signing bonus, and some teams even offer scouts bonuses for each free agent he signs.

Some teams obviously take this part of the process more seriously than others. There are still several top prospects who have yet to be signed, but the following are the six teams that improved their rosters the most with the additions of undrafted prospects:

Arizona Cardinals

Key additions: S Ernest Shazor, QB Timmy Chang, WR Carlyle Holliday, TE Adam Bergen and DT Tim Bulman.

Carolina Panthers

Key additions: WR Taylor Stubblefield, OT Jon Doty, DT Lorenzo Alexander and ILB Marcus Lawrence.

Miami Dolphins

Key additions: RB Kay-Jay Harris, QB Brock Berlin, RB T.A. McLendon, WR Josh Davis and TE Alex Holmes.

San Diego Chargers

Key additions: DT Derreck Robinson, OLB Marques Harris, OLB Jonathan Pollard and DC Abraham Elimimian.

Cleveland Browns

Key additions: WR Lance Moore, DE Simon Fraser, DT Larry Burt and WR/QB Josh Cribbs.

Denver Broncos

Key additions: DC Brandon Browner, OT Erik Pears and TE Wesley Duke.

Top free-agent prospects

Tennessee OT Michael Munoz made his decision to walk away from the gridiron public after he was not selected in the seven-round process, but there are several others who will attempt to forge on. The following are the five highest-rated players who will try the free-agency route into the NFL:

Ernest Shazor, S, Michigan

NFL team: Cardinals

A lack of speed and range in coverage had teams wondering if he could play safety at the next level. If not, he may need to bulk up and move to the weak-side linebacker position. Regardless, Shazor hits like a truck and is too good a football player to have gone undrafted.

Brandon Browner, DC, Oregon State

NFL team: Broncos

Browner has terrific size and was a shutdown man-to-man cover corner for the Beavers the last two seasons, but his 4.73 40-yard dash at the combine killed his draft value. The Broncos got one of the best values in the rookie free-agent pool when they signed Browner immediately following the draft. Much like Lenny Walls (undrafted free agent in 2002), Browner will use his size and instincts to overcome his lack of top-end speed.

Dan Anderson/ESPN.com

Taylor Stubblefield lacks ideal size, but he's one of the most refined WRs in this year's class. Taylor Stubblefield, WR, Purdue

NFL team: Panthers

I don't care how small or slow he is; Stubblefield is polished. In his last two seasons at Purdue, Stubblefield had 175 receptions and 19 touchdowns. He knows how to separate, his hands are outstanding and he isn't afraid to make the tough catch over the middle. It wouldn't be the least bit surprising if Stubblefield emerged as a No. 3 receiver for the Panthers in the not-so-distant future.

Ben Wilkerson, C, LSU

NFL team: Bengals

Was once considered a day-one prospect but a season-ending torn patellar injury as a senior in 2004 scared NFL teams off. Ironically, if Wilkerson can return to form, he has a good chance to eventually beat out fourth-round pick Eric Ghiaciuc for the starting center job in Cincinnati.

Kay-Jay Harris, RB, West Virginia

NFL team: Dolphins

Harris was a "risk-reward" prospect who clearly had too many risks on draft weekend. His size, speed and athleticism give him a chance to make it as a backup running back for the Dolphins, but he'll need to overcome many concerns regarding his age, durability and mental capacity.

Other top free-agent prospects by position

Jason White, QB, Oklahoma (unsigned); Timmy Chang, QB, Hawaii (Cardinals); Bryan Randall, QB Virginia Tech (Falcons); Gino Guidugli, QB, Cincinnati (Titans); Chris Rix, QB, Florida State (unsigned); Brock Berlin, QB, Miami (Dolphins); Walter Reyes, RB, Syracuse (Titans); T.A. McLendon, RB, N.C. State (Dolphins); Ray Hudson, RB, Alabama (unsigned); Keith Joseph, FB, Texas A&M (unsigned); Will Matthews, FB, Texas (unsigned); Steve Savoy, WR, Utah (unsigned); Josh Davis, WR, Marshall (Dolphins); Lance Moore, WR, Toledo (Browns); Reggie Harrell, WR, TCU (Cowboys); Carlyle Holliday, WR, Notre Dame (Cardinals); Adam Bergen, TE, Lehigh (Cardinals); Garrett Cross, TE, Cal (Packers); Alex Holmes, TE, USC (Dolphins); Dave Kashetta, TE, Boston College (Redskins); Erik Pears, OT, Colorado State (Broncos); Jon Doty, OT, Kansas State (Panthers); Kyle Wallace, OT, Georgia Tech (Giants); C.J. Brooks, OG, Maryland (unsigned); Jonathan Clinkscale, OG, Wisconsin (unsigned); Sam Mayes, OG, Oklahoma State (unsigned); Vince Carter, OC, Oklahoma (unsigned); George Gause, DE, South Carolina (unsigned); Jonathan Jackson, DE, Oklahoma (Bears); Jim Davis, DE, Virginia Tech (Jaguars); Simon Fraser, DE, Ohio State (Browns); Lynn McGruder, DT, Oklahoma (Buccaneers); Derreck Robinson, DT, Iowa (Chargers); Lorenzo Alexander, DT, Cal (Panthers); Tim Bulman, DT, Boston College (Cardinals); Marcus Lawrence, ILB, South Carolina (Panthers); Mike Goolsby, ILB, Notre Dame (unsigned); Derek Wake, OLB, Penn State (Giants); Zac Woodfin, OLB, UAB (Packers); Marques Harris, OLB, Southern Utah (Chargers); James Kinney, OLB, Missouri (Jaguars); Jonathan Pollard, OLB, Oregon State (Chargers); Aric Williams, DC, Oregon State (Eagles); Cedrick Williams, DC, Kansas State (unsigned); Abraham Elimimian, DC, Hawaii (Chargers); James Butler, FS, Georgia Tech (Giants); Matt Grootegoed, S, USC (Packers); Jamaal Brimmer, S, UNLV (Seahawks).

Stay in school

The most glaring trend from last weekend's draft has to be the message that NFL teams sent to underclassmen. Ironically, Maurice Clarett was supposed to be made the poster-child following his attempt to challenge the league's early-entry policy (a prospect must be three years removed from high school), but the Broncos beat several other interested teams to the punch when they selected him at the conclusion of day one. Other youngsters weren't as fortunate.

Underclassmen QB Alex Smith was the top overall choice, and three more underclassmen did get chosen in the top 10. However, only seven underclassmen came off the board in the first round, compared to 18 in 2004.

Here's a look at the 11 underclassmen who I believe slipped the most:

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Cal (first round, No. 24); Odell Thurman, ILB, Georgia (second round); Justin Miller, DC, Clemson (second round); Channing Crowder, ILB, Florida (third round); Justin Tuck, DE, Notre Dame (third round); Darryl Blackstock, OLB, Virginia (third round); Ciatrick Fason, RB, Florida (fourth round); Jovan Haye, DE, Vanderbilt (sixth round); C.J. Mosley, DT, Missouri (sixth round); Ernest Shazor, S, Michigan (undrafted); Brandon Browner, DC, Oregon State (undrafted).

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