Day 2 draftees with the best chance to be successful
Football Outsiders evaluated the numbers and gave criteria for selecting a starter on Day 2 of the NFL draft. Using the criteria we came up with a list of players from the 2008 draft that could be successful late round selections, writes Bill Barnwell.
Of course, being named to this list doesn't guarantee anything -- only around 16 percent of fourth-round picks become starters in the league, while less than five percent of sixth- and seventh-round picks become anything more than roster fodder. Even if these players have a better chance of succeeding than their Day 2 brethren, their likelihood of becoming a starter isn't more than 35 or 40 percent.
In order of draft selection, here is our list.
King dropped in the draft after a dreadful second half of his junior year. After allowing only 18 catches for 227 yards through his first six Big Ten games, he gave up 32 catches for 490 yards in his final six. That screams fluke or underreported injury. He's a fast cover corner who struggles in run support, a skill set that pencils him as a "slot corner" until he packs on more muscle and can move outside. His talents are reminiscent of Fakhir Brown, the player King is likely to replace in the lineup by the end of 2009.
The 49ers lost both starting guards in the offseason when Larry Allen retired and Justin Smiley left during free agency. They drafted Chilo Rachal out of USC in the second round, but Rachal is a project and has been playing tackle in minicamp, not guard. The current center is converted guard Eric Heitmann, who could shift to guard and open a spot for Wallace. The two-time All-Big 12 center has been calling the signals for the second team in training camp, and was regarded as one of the most NFL-ready interior linemen in the draft.
The comparison with Steltz is to Gary Fencik of the Shufflin' Crew, but Steltz is more of a cover safety and less of a hitter than Fencik was. For Bears fans who had to endure Adam Archuleta and his desperate backpedal last year, "cover safety" should be two glorious words. With a wide-open competition for both safety spots in Chicago, Steltz could start immediately or serve as a valuable special teams contributor in the meantime.
The Colts have never been shy about integrating Day Two players into their roster, a situation necessitated by how the team uses a large portion of its salary cap on a few carefully chosen elite players. Tamme is the ideal replacement for the departed Ben Utecht. Considering that he picked up his MBA before leaving Kentucky, the Colts' complex playbook shouldn't faze him. Tamme is as sure of a bet to become a valuable part of his team's offensive rotation as nearly any other offensive player in the draft.
It seems impossible to think that a fourth-round pick could replace All-Pro cornerback Asante Samuel, but Samuel was a fourth-round pick, too, chosen one behind Wilhite's 129th overall. Wilhite is injury-prone, but so is everyone else in the Patriots' secondary. As a fast, undersized cornerback who gets physical with receivers on the jam, Wilhite is the quintessential Patriots cornerback and should serve as a member of the cornerback rotation.
The 6-foot-6 converted tight end has a lot to learn about the finer points of playing tackle, and with Max Starks operating under a one-year deal at right tackle, Hills isn't likely to see much playing time this year. Buffalo LT Jason Peters has shown that tight ends can become impact offensive tackles, though, and Hills could be competing for a tackle spot with backup Willie Colon in 2009.
The NFL's best-kept secret is the defense of the Tennessee Titans, where elite outside linebackers Keith Bulluck and David Thornton set the tone. The pair hasn't missed a start in three years, but they're getting older and there's little depth behind them. Keglar is a player who looks better on film than he does in shorts, but football's not played in shorts. As a player who called the plays at an upper-echelon school, Keglar could move into the middle if the injuries and legal issues of potential starter Ryan Fowler prevent him from performing at 100 percent.
• Marcus Howard, LB, Georgia (Indianapolis Colts, 5th round, 161st overall pick)
The Colts have an assembly line at outside linebacker, where players making the minimum are standard fare. When Freddy Keiaho and Tyjuan Hagler leave, Howard will be one of the guys in line to replace them, just like they replaced Marcus Washington and Cato June. After Howard does well, he'll go somewhere and be replaced himself.
It takes about five minutes of watching Owen Schmitt to become a fan of his. By the end of the year, it's a lock that Qwest Field will have a disproportionate number of fans with Schmitt jerseys drinking Jones Soda. With Seattle being one of the few teams in the league that uses a fullback in Schmitt's mold, and Leonard Weaver on a one-year deal, Schmitt should be the starter by 2009 at the latest.
• Mike Humpal, LB, Iowa (Pittsburgh Steelers, 6th round, 188th overall pick)
Humpal is your "lunch pail" sort of guy, the player who gets the most out of his limited physical ability by employing a superior work ethic. He had enough talent to succeed in the Big Ten, which bodes well for hanging at the NFL level. He might end up a strictly special teams player, but Humpal is one of those players who seems to make whatever team he is on better. Whether it's with the Steelers or elsewhere, those guys tend to stick around long enough to have solid NFL careers.