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Instant impact (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday April 27, 2005 12:12PM; Updated: Wednesday April 27, 2005 6:22PM
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5. Derrick Johnson, linebacker, Kansas City: Johnson has side-to-side play-making ability, and is there any defense in the NFL more in need of playmakers than the 32nd-ranked Chiefs? Johnson already is being hailed as the next Derrick Thomas in Kansas City, and that's a little rich for any rookie. But he does play the same position, share the same first name and have the speed to run down ballcarriers all over the field. Critics say Johnson will struggle in the NFL, because he doesn't fight off blocks very well. But with his speed, how much experience does he have with that skill?

6. J.J. Arrington, running back, Arizona: Head coach Dennis Green was raving about Arrington after his impressive Combine showing, and is a staunch believer in players who have produced at every level. In the Cal running back, Green has a player who rung up 2,018 yards rushing in 2004. There are concerns about Arrington, who stands only 5-9, 214, but folks once said vaguely the same thing about the guy who Arrington will replace -- Emmitt Smith -- and that seemed to work out fine. Arrington will to get plenty of work in Arizona. Smith is retired and Green has little faith in Marcel Shipp.

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7. Mark Clayton, receiver, Baltimore: Baltimore's anemic passing game has two new additions -- Clayton and veteran free-agent signing Derrick Mason -- who add quickness and the ability to make yards after the catch. Clayton's detractors point to his less than prototypical size (5-10, 193), but he's a well-rounded receiver who can block, catch balls in traffic or in open spaces, and many considered him the most polished prospect available at his position. If teams double Mason  to negate the impact of Baltimore's new No. 1 receiver, Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller just might quickly develop an affinity for Clayton. Clayton also figures to benefit from the presence of Ravens tight end Todd Heap, who is expected to return to form as a pass-catching threat after losing almost all of 2004 to an ankle injury.

8. Troy Williamson, receiver, Minnesota: Replacing Randy Moss is not possible. But in Williamson, the South Carolina standout who went No. 7, the Vikings drafted a weapon who can provide some of the same things No. 84 did. Minnesota is confident that Williamson's blazing 4.3 speed will provide the vertical threat that it surrendered when it gave up Moss, with Nate Burleson, Kelly Campbell, Travis Taylor, Marcus Robinson and tight end Jermaine Wiggins combining to make up for much of what Moss contributed underneath. On paper, it looks good. Vikings offensive rookies have a solid recent track record of contributing quickly. In an offense that's going to throw, throw, and throw some more in 2005, Williamson appears a solid bet to become that trend's latest example.

9. Adrian McPherson, quarterback, New Orleans: In going to New Orleans in the fifth round, the former Florida State and Arena Football League talent might have gone to one of the few teams where his raw, but obvious potential could be tapped at least on a limited basis in 2005. It all depends on which Aaron Brooks shows up from week to week, but if McPherson can handle the playbook and show head coach Jim Haslett the ability to handle the mental aspects of the job, it's not a stretch to say he could leapfrog backup Todd Bouman and challenge for starting reps at some point. If McPherson flashes some of his eye-opening athleticism in the preseason, giving the Saints a taste of his talent for making plays, the quarterback decision could be more difficult than anyone imagines in the Big Easy.

10. Larry Brackins, receiver, Tampa Bay: The Bucs acknowledge that Brackins, a fifth-round pick out of tiny Pearl River (Miss.) Community College, is a project. But in Tampa Bay, where the current receiving depth chart includes only two veterans (Michael Clayton and Joey Galloway) he might end up being a short-term one. Brackins has a rare blend of size (6-5, 205), speed and athleticism, and his ability to go up and get the ball reminds some of a less polished Randy Moss. His lack of experience in a big-time college program might hurt him early, but if Tampa Bay gives him only a handful of routes to learn -- maybe using him primarily on fades and go routes to start -- he could find a productive niche in the Bucs offense this season.


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