As long as you’re not a Oakland Raiders fan, your favorite team likely drafted names you definitely heard of on the first day of the NFL Draft. As we move into the middle and late rounds of the 2009 NFL Draft, it’s imperative (especially for IDP Dynasty owners) to target some players that could make an impact down the road. Let’s take a look at a few linebackers, defensive linemen and defensive backs that are considered “second day sleepers”. Last year, Houston LB Xavier Adibi was selected in the fourth round. Linebacker Stewart Bradley was a third-rounder in 2007. The Colts’ Freddie Keiaho was selected in the third round in 2006. Pro-Bowl CB Cortland Finnegan was a seventh-round pick in that same draft. The gems are out there, it just takes a little digging to find them. So, without further ado, some names that could jump out of the second day of the 2009 NFL Draft.
Gerald McRath (TEN; Round 4, #130 overall): With the 134th overall pick in last season’s draft, the Titans drafted Stanford Keglar, who at the time looked like a decent candidate to man the middle of the linebacking corps. They actually moved him outside, and is now a solid sleeper due to the fact that he could eventually replace Keith Bulluck. Fast forward to this draft, pick #130, and the Titans take another linebacker with plenty of upside. McRath played for Southern Miss University, and led a pretty decent defense. He, like Keglar, could move outside too. So, given the dearth of real (young) talent at LB for the Titans, put McRath on your radar if you’re looking for a LB with upside later in your rookie draft.
Scott McKillop (SF; Round 4, #146 overall): Don’t get me wrong, when you play alongside Patrick Willis, there won’t be a great number of tackles to go around. But McKillop was a tackling machine at Pitt, where he was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. He’s not the most athletic guy and has somewhat limited upside, but you can’t teach “football IQ”, and he has the proverbial “high motor”. When you’re rounding out your rookie LBs, feel free to grab this guy and stash him on your DTS, as he could easily replace the aging Takeo Spikes as a starter on the inside, or as a part-time/situational ILB replacing the aging Jeff Ulbrich. With Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson manning the edges, there could be enough action for both Willis and McKillop in the middle in a year or two.
Zack Follett (DET; Round 7, #235 overall): He won’t wow you with outstanding athleticism, especially in coverage, but he’s a tough, and has a high football IQ. At this point, he is projecting to just help on special teams, but the Lion LB corps could have some holes in the next couple of years. As a late-round flier, give Follett a shot to hang around on your DTS for a couple of years.
Jarron Gilbert (DE – CHI; Round 3, #68 overall): To say this guy is a freak of nature may be a bit of an understatement. Try searching for his name on YouTube, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The guy did play against inferior competition at San Jose State, but he’s got all the physical tools to make an impact against the best of the best in the NFL. He’s versatile enough to move inside on the Bears’ front line but could excel as an edge rusher. Bear DEs Alex Brown and Adawale Ogunleye aren’t exactly spring chickens, so there will likely be plenty of opportunities to line up opposite Mark Anderson in the very near future.
Michael Johnson (DE – CIN; Round 3, #70 overall): Two picks after Gilbert goes to the Bears, the Bengals nab the ex-Yellowjacket Johnson. Johnson was touted as one of the best talents available on the “second day”, and went to a Bengal team that has added some real impressive pieces to their team, especially on defense. Johnson had a huge senior season, posting 15 tackles for loss and 7 sacks. Definitely a guy with a ton of upside, especially since he’ll be competing against pretty average talent for playing time.
Ladarius Webb (CB – BAL; Round 3, #88 overall): ESPN’s Mel Kiper raved about this guy after the Ravens nabbed the small school wonder with the 88th overall pick. He made a comparison to Bob Sanders, as Webb could be a “tweener” defensive back that can deliver the big hit in both the passing game and supporting the run defense. The Ravens’ starters at CB are currently a couple of “burners” that really don’t offer much in the way of run support. Webb could find himself on the field a bunch if both the Ravens’ starting CBs make for a weaker run-stopping defense. Or, he could eventually spend time at safety with Ed Reed getting up there in age. Defensive back is typically an incredibly deep position, so grabbing a guy like Webb in the later rounds of your rookie draft could prove to be a huge reward.
Rashad Johnson (S – ARI; Round 3, #95 overall): The Cards really didn’t need a safety, with Adrian Wilson and Antrel Rolle firmly entrenched as the starters. But they couldn’t ignore the talent of Johnson near the end of the third round. He’s a solid defender with the ability to come up and help with run stopping as well as playing as a terrific “center fielder” in the pass game. Always nice to have some depth in the defensive backfield, though, so the Cards landed themselves a nice little player who was part of a well-coached defense. Grab him late in your draft, if you can, and stash him on your DTS in hopes that he’s a starter at some point.
Brandon Hughes (CB – SDC; Round 4, #148 overall): The Bolts may have reached a bit here, as Hughes was projecting to go later in the draft (if at all), but you can’t ignore Hughes’ physical skills and potential. Hughes could be the fourth-best CB on the Bolt roster, and could get an opportunity to play in a year or two. And assuming San Diego locks down super-stud CB Antonio Cromartie, Hughes could potentially play opposite a true lockdown corner, and would therefore have plenty of opportunities to make plays on the ball and make tackles. As a late-round flyer in a deep position, you could certainly do worse than Hughes.
Victor Harris (CB – PHI; Round 5, #157 overall): With Sheldon Brown whining about his contract, there could be an opening for Harris to line up opposite Asante Samuel for the Birds. Either way, Harris could see time as a backup/situational player. Harris had 11 INTs in his final two season for the vaunted Hokie defense of Virginia Tech. So, you know the instincts are there, he’s aggressive, well-coached, and a leader. As we’ve said before, DBs are deep, but you can grab a guy like Harris late, and perhaps see instant results.