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2005 Defensive Rookie Fantasy Prospects
Brent Clement
July 12, 2005

Best of the Best - These players are can’t miss prospects and are competing, or already penciled in as starters as rookies. All of these prospects have a legitimate chance of defensive rookie of the year honors.

Derrick Johnson - KCC - LB

Johnson is the best LB prospect to come out of college since LaVar Arrington. Johnson bulked up as a senior to 240 lbs, and still posted career highs in both tackles with 130, and forced turnovers with 10 total. Johnson is a “weak side” LB prospect in the NFL, and will be the leading candidate from day one for the defensive rookie of the year award.

Thomas Davis - CAR - SS

Davis could play Safety or OLB in the NFL, depending on team need. Carolina drafted Davis over Derrick Johnson for his versatility and believe he is a similar prospect to the Cowboy’s SS Roy Williams. Davis is a big time hitter and better playing in the box helping out in run support than in pass coverage.

Erasmus James - MIN - DE

James is considered one of the best DE prospects in this draft. James fell on draft day because several teams infatuation with the 3-4 defense, and he is not considered a DE/OLB “tweener” prospect, but instead a true DE in a 4-3 scheme. James will make several of those teams regret passing on him for years to come.

David Pollack - CIN - DE/OLB

Pollack is an undersized DE prospect who flat out produced in college. Pollack makes up for average height and speed with excellent reaction time and relentless pursuit to the football. Pollack is penciled in as the opening day OLB starter for the Bengal’s, and will also line up at the DE on passing downs.

Future Star - These players are elite prospects who need a break to get on the field and show what they can do.

Channing Crowder - MIA - LB

Playing the same position as Zach Thomas isn’t the most ideal situation to be rookie of the year. Crowder has elite ability and will one day be one of the best middle LB’s in the NFL, but not with Thomas on the roster in front of him.

Barrett Ruud - TBB - LB

Ruud is a tackling machine and will one day take over for Shelton Quarles in the middle of Tampa Bay’s defense, but it won’t be in 2005. Ruud is a much decorated player off the black shirt defense from Nebraska, and many thought he was 1 st round material.

Dan Cody - BAL - DE/OLB

The Ravens always seem to have defensive playmakers fall into their lap come draft day. Cody in round 2, with 1 st round talent is no exception. Cody is a relentless pass rusher, who has a non stop motor vs. the run and is one of the most disciplined and intelligent players in this draft.

Antrel Rolle - ARI - CB

Rolle is a big physical corner who is best known for holding Larry Fitzgerald to 3 receptions for 26 yards in 2003. Rolle had a sub-par senior season and went from the undisputed top corner to the 2 nd CB taken in the draft. Rolle who is not related to Ravens CB Samari Rolle, will have a bone to pick with the teams that passed on him draft day.

Odell Thurman - CIN - LB

Thurman joins former Georgia teammate David Pollack in the Bengal’s LB core and the pair should both be starting before seasons end. Odell is excellent vs. the run and is an intimidating tackler. Thurman will be fighting last years rookie LB Landon Johnson for playing time early, but should eventually take the job and keep it.

Shawne Merriman - SDC - LB

Merriman is a huge LB currently listed at 270 lbs and is a ferocious hitter who can force a turnover anywhere on the football field. Merriman will play outside LB and is excellent in blitz packages and rushing the passer. Merriman will also line up at DE on obvious passing downs and with his size and strength can bury OT in his path to the QB.

Future Contributors - These players were successful on the college level, but are not in the most ideal situations to see the field in 2005, and will need a break in order to contribute right away.

Lofa Tatupu - SEA - LB

Tatupu is considered a project because of his size and speed, but has excellent instincts which could make him the next Zach Thomas. Tatupu is very physical and rarely over runs a play, and is always around the ball. He is a proto-typical “middle” LB prospect who doesn’t have the speed to play outside or agility to cover a back or TE. Tatupu may be a fantasy dream in 2006 for those who were unable to land bigger names higher in their fantasy drafts.

Justin Tuck - NYG - DE

With Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora currently listed as starters at DE, Tuck isn’t likely to start anytime soon, but could be compared to Erasmus James as one of the best DE prospects in this draft. Luckily for Tuck, teams these days rotate defensive lineman to keep starters fresh late in games, and Justin will benefit from any playing time he receives.

Demarcus Ware - DAL - DE/LB

Ware shot up NFL draft boards each day as the draft approached and was the first DE/LB taken with the number eleven overall pick. Ware is a converted DE that the Cowboys hope to use as an “outside” LB on first and second downs and rush the passer either with a hand on the ground or his LB position on third downs. Ware is the new wave of “tweener” player, who is the perfect fit for the 3-4 defense, many teams such as the Cowboys are using in 2005.

Kevin Burnett - DAL - LB

Burnett was considered a potential first rounder, who slid to the middle of round two. Burnett is 6’2”, 240 pounds, and runs a 4.5, 40 yard dash. He has freakish speed for his size and plays with a chip on his shoulder and usually ends plays with first contact. Burnett figures to join the new Cowboys LB rotation and should be a full time starter before seasons end, but may not start early on.

Matt Roth - MIA - DE

Roth is a tenacious player who has a great motor, but lacks ideal speed for the DE position. He makes up for that speed with intelligent decision making and constant pursuit to the football. Roth was another player that slipped on draft day, but should be a quality DE for many years to come, if he can keep his temper in check after the whistle.

Future Starters - These players will eventually start in the NFL and have successful careers, but are not the cream of the crop and have limitations

Adam “Pac-Man” Jones - TEN - CB

Jones was the first defensive player taken in this draft, and is considered an excellent prospect, but his punt return ability and speed bolstered his draft position. He is considered a short CB at 5’9”, but has excellent speed and leaping ability to overcome some of his height limitations. Jones also played in a sub-par conference, and was not tested by the best offensive playmakers, which also helped him on draft day.

Marcus Spears - DAL - DE

Spears is another DE that benefited from the influx of the 3-4 defensive scheme. He lacks ideal size to play inside full time, but is limited as a 4-3 DE, speed wise. Spears is best known for intercepting a Jason White pass and returning it for a TD in the 2004 National Championship game, that ended up being the difference in the game. Spears could have come out in 2004 and may have been drafted higher, but returned for his senior season and still made the 1 st round.

Carlos Rogers - WAS - CB

Rogers was an aggressive playmaker for the Tiger’s undefeated defense in 2004, and helped his draft position by returning for his senior season. Rogers is adequate in pass coverage, but is a big time hitter from his corner position, in run support. Some feel Rogers is the best CB prospect in this draft. Certainly Washington is happy to have him after Fred Smoot signed with Minnesota this off season.

Shaun Cody - DET - DE/DT

Cody was an anchor for the Trojans back to back Championship defense. Cody is an excellent gap rusher inside and has great pursuit to the ball carrier whether it be the running back or quarterback. Cody had the benefit of Mike Patterson playing next to him and take on double teams, that allowed him more freedom his senior season. Patterson also allowed Cody to move from DT, outside to DE, on specific defensive schemes. Cody has a knack for the big play and will benefit from a strong supporting cast along the defensive line in Detroit.

Best of the Rest

Defensive Linemen

Mike Patterson - PHI
Chris Canty - DAL
Chauncey Davis - ATL
Trent Cole - PHI
Travis Johnson - HOU
Bill Swancutt - DET
Brady Poppinga - GBP
Luis Castillo - SDC
Jonathon Babineaux - ATL
Anntaj Hawthorne - OAK

Linebackers

Darryl Blackstock - ARI
Kirk Morrison - OAK
Alfred Fincher - NOS
Matt McCoy - PHI
Lance Mitchell - ARI
Jordan Beck - ATL
Robert McCune - WAS
James Grigsby - KCC
Rian Wallace - PIT
Ryan Claridge - NEP

Defensive Backs

Brodney Pool - CLE
Josh Bullock - NOS
Oshiomogho Atogew - STL
Donte Nicholson - TBB
Sean Considine - PHI
Fabian Washington - OAK
Marlin Jackson - IND
Corey Webster - NYG
Nick Collins - GBP
Justin Beriault - DAL