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All-Pro picks explained (cont.)

Posted: Thursday January 5, 2006 2:50PM; Updated: Thursday January 5, 2006 2:50PM
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Under my numerical system, Lepsis scored highest, at 4.6, based on serious drive blocking. His negatives included a few forces, no sacks and a couple of L's. Kansas City's Willie Roaf also got a 4.6 in the area of drive blocks, at which he excelled, but when he came back off his hamstring injury, the sacks and forces started piling up. He lost out to Jones, a 3.57 grader but a high scorer in the all-important area of single pass blocking-except for a very bad day against the Giants' Osi Umenyiora.

I'm always looking for sleepers at this position. I did complete workups on Cincy's Levi Jones, Atlanta's Kevin Shaffer and the Vikings' Bryant McKinnie, whom I never much liked until this season. None of them made it -- obviously. I started looking at a pair of Packers, Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton, but gave up after three games.

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I didn't chart Ogden because he struggled so much. His strength really seems to be gone. Maybe he was playing hurt and didn't tell anybody. I didn't grade Tarik Glenn nor Orlando Pace because I didn't think they consistently showed as much as my people did.

Guard

Mike Goff and Ryan Lilja -- Goff was an accomplished drive blocker for LaDainian Tomlinson, either pulling or going straight ahead. Until this year I had never really taken him seriously. He topped the scorers at 5.0. Lilja, at 4.88, edged the Seahawks' Steve Hutchinson by two-hundredths of a point (4.86). This might seem like arcane nonsense to sane people, but believe me, I take it seriously, especially at this position. Lilja, a newcomer, a sleeper, was a little off his game against San Diego, but very solid the rest of the way. Hutchinson, whom I've picked before, was stuffed at the point more times than Lilja was.

Just for a kibbitz, here's my complete grading workup on the guards I charted, and if I didn't chart someone it means I didn't feel he was worthy. Looking at the situation with my "raw eyes," as John Madden says: Ben Hamilton, Denver, 4.75; Eric Steinbach, Cincinnati, 4.4; Alan Faneca, Pittsburgh, 4.29; Brian Waters, Kansas City, 4.22; Chris Snee, NY Giants, 4.07 (a real mauler, a comer, except that he held too much), Kynan Forney, Atlanta, 3.57, and his Falcons running mate, Matt Lehr -- because someone whose opinion I respect said, "You've gotta check this guy out" -- 2.57.

Allen is a sad memory of what he once was. His balance is going. He had trouble hitting a moving target. Oh sure, when someone is foolish enough to try to lock up with him, Allen will muscle him out of there, but his range is very limited.

Center

Tom Nalen. I really didn't want to pick him again, mainly because he started that nonsense about not talking to writers. Grades win, though, and I fought back the tears as I watched him edge, in order, Indy's Jeff Saturday, KC's Casey Weigmann, Cincy's Rich Braham, Atlanta's Todd McClure and the Steelers' Jeff Hartings. Then, while I was watching tape of some Tennessee defensive players, I saw Seattle's Robbie Tobeck get into a real hot streak. So I backed up and did a complete workup on him in the six other Seahawk games I saw and he came in at 2.33. This happens sometimes. Occasionally you get lucky and score with someone you never expected to be there.

Quarterback

Carson Palmer wasn't a lock, but I gave him the nod over Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. A magnificent year, and he made throws that required a lot of guts and savvy.

Running Back

Tiki Barber was in the hunt, along with the usual cast of characters, but that 220-yard Kansas City contest did it for me. Tiki wasn't getting much support from the air game, his offensive line was missing the starting tackles, and the blocking up front was erratic, at best, but all afternoon he was making people miss him in a game the Giants had to win. That clinched it, but when he turned in another blinder in a meaningful contest against the Raiders, he was home free.

Fullback/H-Back

Why isn't Chris Cooley better known? He's good enough as a blocker, and he's a very high quality pass catcher. I know Lorenzo Neal is everybody's darling, but I don't think he's the consistent knock 'em dead blocker he used to be. He plays the angles more often now, positions himself more carefully. He's nice to have around, but Cooley contributes a lot more.

Tomorrow -- the best of the rest.


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