Rounds 4-7 of the draft yielded several potential diamonds in the rough
The second day of the NFL Draft is when the selections take the stakes to a higher level. Not in terms of money, but Sunday's make-or-break picks are the ones that can lift a team from also-ran status into playoff contention.
The NFL landscape is littered with Sunday selections who are difference-makers: Domanick Davis, Rudi Johnson, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Dante Hall, Marc Bulger -- and those are just a handful since 2000. And of course there is the two-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady.
So who are some of the potential diamonds in the rough among this year's final 159 picks?
CB Will Poole, USC: Pick No. 102 to the Miami Dolphins
"I think the biggest reason [Poole] slipped was because of the poor workouts," said Dolphins GM Rick Spielman. "He didn't workout as well as everybody thought he would. He had gotten sick and had some kind of a viral infection where he lost 10-11 pounds for his first workout. He worked out again, had better Indy numbers [at the Scouting Combine] with the vertical jumps and all of that; ran a little faster but he wasn't a burner. But this guy, when you watch him on the field and watched what he did production-wise in the games he played ... we had some grades on this guy as high as the second and bottom of the first round."
If Poole's minicamp workouts are what the Dolphins expect, free agent Terrell Buckley's days are numbered -- with or without a new contract. Poole is a good cover corner, which should pay dividends in the AFC East.
T Stacy Andrews, Ole Miss: Pick No. 123 to the Cincinnati Bengals
"[Andrews] is a first-round athlete," Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander said. "He may be the least experienced player ever drafted. If he can progress to where we want him to be, he can be a very good player. If he doesn't, then he's a fourth-round pick."
Andrews, a former track athlete and brother to No. 16 pick Shawn Andrews (Eagles), did not play full-time for the Rebels until his senior season; he has taken 70 snaps in his high school and college career. Andrews is a world-class throw of the hammer and discus who is turning down a shot at the Olympics. He came out for football for the first time in 2002 but was redshirted. In 2003, he played sparingly in only five games. Andrews is a project, but at 6-foot-6 and 340 pounds, the Bengals are hoping to build around his physical skills.
RB Cedric Cobbs, Arkansas: Pick No. 128 to the New England Patriots
"Cedric is a guy that has a lot of talent and has had some big time production at Arkansas," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. "He missed a little bit of time but we feel like at that point in the draft that he was a real good value there with the pick. He is an explosive guy that runs well. He can run with power and basically came in and had big production as a freshman and was a four-year producer at Arkansas when he was healthy."
Given the champs added Corey Dillon this offseason, Cobbs will have the opportunity to potentially develop into the franchise's back of the future. Cobbs finished his career with 589 carries for 3,027 yards (5.1 avg.), 26 touchdowns and 26 catches for 138 yards and a TD. But unlike many recent New England players, he does have off-field baggage: arrested for DWI and marijuana possession in 2002.
S Gibril Wilson, Tennessee: Pick No. 136 to the New York Giants
"There were other safeties up there, but [Wilson] was the fastest," Giants GM Ernie Accorsi said. "And because of that, our big question with him is, Can he track the ball? We can see him as a weak or strong safety. We were not looking for an 'in the box, play close to the line of scrimmage, run-defend only' safety. That's not what we were looking for. We were looking for someone that can do that but who also had the ability to play free safety and play centerfield. And because of his speed, we picked him. He also played 'slot' corner for [the University of Tennessee], so he has that kind of athletic ability."
Wilson was a second-team All-SEC selection two years after transferring to Tennessee from City College of San Francisco. Last season he had 114 tackles, including three sacks, and intercepted three passes. There is no reason for Giants incumbent safties Omar Stoutmire and Shaun Williams to panic, but they will hear footsteps over the next few seasons.
DT Chad Lavalais, LSU: Pick No. 142 to the Atlanta Falcons
"[Lavalais] will play nose [tackle]," Falcons GM Rich McKay said. "[Rod] Coleman will play under [tackle]. What you want is to have at least three guys to be able to rotate because there are a lot of snaps and you want to have three and, depending on what transpires in Ellis [Johnson]'s situation, it would be great to have four [defensive tackles]. In Tampa, we did it most years with three and they literally moved around. And so that wouldn't mean that Chad wouldn't be capable of playing some under tackle, but there will be some rotation going on."
Could this prove to be the steal of the draft? The Falcons envision Lavalais floating along the defensive line, which means they can pick and choose the most to get the maximum production from him. Playing for a national championship team did not give Lavalais a bump in scouts' eyes (his "measurables" -- 40 time, vertical jump, etc. -- as McKay call them), but he may prove to be a very effective player for the new-look Dirty Birds.
RB Michael Turner, Northern Illinois: Pick No. 154 to the San Diego Chargers
"Michael is so big and so strong, he's a guy that's fast when he gets going," Northern Illinois head coach Joe Novak said. "He's fast in the second 50 yards. He can learn pass blocking and he's big enough to protect the pocket passer. He belongs among the best seniors or draft-eligible players in the country."
Turner ranks 13th on the all-time NCAA rushing list with 4,941 yards -- and he is sure-handed, fumbling the ball only twice in his last 508 carries. Turner will have an opportunity to compete with Leon Johnson (4 carries for 26 yards last year), Jesse Chatman (8-17 with 5 catches for 54 yards) and Andrew Pinnock for playing time beind LaDainian Tomlinson (413 touches for 2,370 yards and 17 TDs). "My job is to help out LT," Turner said. "He's been carrying the ball a lot, and my job will be to give him a breather and contribute when I'm in there. It's a great opportunity to learn first-hand from a great back."
WR Triandos Luke, Alabama: Pick No. 171 to the Denver Broncos
Luke ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds at the Scouting Combine, and Denver head coach Mike Shanahan admitted the combination of Luke's Senior Bowl week and his overall speed helped bolster his stock in the Broncos' minds. "We liked the way he handled himself at the Senior Bowl, and the way he played throughout the season," Shanahan said. "There's a big upside with his speed."
Luke is a speedy wide receiver whose numbers as a senior (32 catches, 432 yards, four TDs) did not match his potential. Luke's receptions and yardage dropped, which he attributed to the changes in the system necessitated by two coaching shifts, from Mike DuBose to Mike Price and from Price to Mike Shula.
RB Troy Fleming, Tennessee: Pick No. 191 to the Tennessee Titans
"We've seen him play successfully as both a fullback and a running back," Titans GM Floyd Reese said. "I think we're going to be real open-minded and bring him in and just see where he excels. He's a big, strong, heavy kid. We're anxious to get him in and let him do some different things and see what he does well."
Fleming, a native of Franklin, Tenn. (about 20 miles from Nashville), ran a 4.49 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine. He was primarily a fullback for the Volunteers because of the glut of blue-chip tailbacks on the Tennessee roster. Fleming finished his college career with 84 carries for 342 yards and a touchdown, plus 73 catches for 492 yards and five TDs.
QB Jeff Smoker, Michigan State: Pick No. 201 to the St. Louis Rams
"Jeff's a guy that actually we've been kind of watching for the last couple of years," Rams head coach Mike Martz said. "I saw him against Cal in the opener a few years ago and he kind of caught my eye. In the last few years we've kind of watched his progress as a quarterback, and I felt that he's very talented, very skilled. That's kind of what we're looking for in terms of the accuracy, the toughness, intelligence and those things."
However, the Rams did address Smoker's admitted sustance abuse addiction. "Obviously this is something that we feel like he was able to fight through and move on with his life, and if we didn't feel good about that, then obviously there would have been a lot more hesitation if we were to take him," Martz said. Smoker was suspended for the last five games of the 2002 season after admitting to his problem, but returned in 2003 under the watchful eye of Spartans head coach John L. Smith to throw for a school-record 3,395 yards with 21 TDs and 14 INTs.
QB Cody Pickett, Washington: Pick No. 217 to the San Francisco 49ers
"I think that he fits along the same lines of what we have been doing recently at quarterback," 49ers GM Terry Donahue said. "It is a position that you constantly want to stock and upgrade. One of the reasons that we really wanted to take another quarterback this year was that I feel strongly that there are going to be eight practice squad players now. With the additions to those practice squad players it gives you a chance to redshirt a quarterback. I really believe that you should always be developing a quarterback in your organization. With the additional practice squad players, that gives you the luxury to develop a young quarterback."
The Niners now have four QBs, including Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey and Brandon Doman, and Pickett is as well-armed as Rattay -- and better than Dorsey and Doman. Pickett, a 58 percent passer, finished his college stint with 9,946 yards, 53 TDs and 14 300-yard games. Last season, he played through a torn pectoral muscle and still completed 257 of 454 passes for 3,043 yards and 15 TDs to earn second-team All-Pac-10 honors.
RB Quincy Wilson, West Virginia: Pick No. 219 to the Atlanta Falcons
"Tim [Ruskell, the Falcons assistant GM] and I saw him [Wilson] play live this year against Miami and he was a fun player to watch," McKay said. "He's a high-effort, high-motor, reckless, tough guy. So it will be interesting to see how he does. ... Quincy Wilson comes in and competes with [James] Fenderson and it's going to be an interesting competition because Quincy is a good running back, but he's going to have to do something on [special] teams. That's the way he's going to have to do something if he's going to make it."
The son of former Chicago Bears great Otis Wilson, Quincy won't see a lot of touches simply because the Falcons have T.J. Duckett and Warrick Dunn at tailback. However, he can make an impression over the next few years on special teams and then possibly step into the backfield roatation when Dunn exits. The Falcons will also have to work on his ball control; 11 fumbles (seven for turnovers) in 2003.
DE Bobby McCray, Florida: Pick No. 249 to the Jackonville Jaguars
"Good size, speed and some pass-rush ability. We'll let him come in and compete," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said. Well, when you're a lowly compensatory pick there's not a lot that is going to be said.
McCrary is 6-foot-6, weighs 251 pounds and has speed from the outside (9 1/2 sacks last year). Yeah, I think he can compete -- and make the roster. He ran a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash, and the Jaguars need help at defensive end -- a position many expected Jacksonville to address with their first-round pick (No. 9 overall). As it is, McCrary was the only DE the Jags selected among their 10 draft picks.
B. Duane Cross is a senior producer for SI.com.