Late-round rookie gems (cont.)
Oakland -- Louis Murphy (4th round, 124th overall)
Darrius Heyward-Bey was the premier receiver selection for the Raiders, but coach Tom Cable at one point cited Murphy as the most impressive rookie during OTAs. If Heyward-Bey and Murphy both hit it big, the Raiders could be well on their way to glory with JaMarcus Russell and Darren McFadden in the backfield as well.
The Raiders passed on several offensive linemen that could have helped the offense in order to get Murphy. He has not disappointed with great study habits and a knack for making plays and big catches.
He also is cut from the classic Raiders mold, with superb speed and size (6-2, 203 pounds).
Philadelphia -- LeSean McCoy (2nd round, 53rd overall)
While there are questions on just how effective Brian Westbrook will be coming off ankle surgery and still not fully participating in drills, the Eagles do not seem too concerned. McCoy is the reason why.
Fans may be clamoring for the club to find an experienced backup, but McCoy has the front office confident he will be in the mix and able to contribute. The fourth all-time leading rusher in Pitt's history, McCoy has done nothing but impress coaches, fans and, especially, quarterback Donovan McNabb with his great instincts and ability to find space.
Pittsburgh -- Keenan Lewis (3rd round, 96th overall)
Mike Tomlin clearly has been impressed with the plays and attitude Lewis has brought to the world champs. You can't get a better start to your NFL career than that.
He won't be in the rotation to start the year, but Lewis will get every chance. In Pittsburgh, it's all about making plays, which is Lewis' strong suit. Another of his strengths is one that cannot be taught: size (6-foot, 208 pounds). He already has drawn comparisons to current Steelers corner Ike Taylor. Several observers of Steelers activities this summer say Lewis was clearly the most impressive of any rookie.
St. Louis -- Dorell Scott (4th round, 103rd overall)
Versatility is the key if you are an NFL interior defensive lineman and Scott has got it. He can play gaps, a 4-3 or 3-4. He's strong enough to take on two blockers and clog running lanes.
The one thing that slowed Scott from shooting up the draft board was a knee injury his senior season that limited production. He came along late in the year for Clemson, though, and the Rams feel they finally have found a guy who can step right into the rotation, stop the run and put pressure on quarterbacks.
San Diego -- Louis Vasquez (3rd round, 78th overall)
The Chargers have not given the starting right guard position to Vasquez just yet, but they're dropping a lot of hints that Vasquez is everything and more than they imagined he'd be.
Norv Turner consistently has complimented Vasquez's athletic ability considering his size (6-5, 333 pounds), while teammates have talked about the professionalism and attitude Vasquez has brought from Texas Tech.
He'll battle it out with former Pro Bowler Kyle Forney, but don't bet against Vasquez. He could be another of those mid-round gems that pays off for a dozen years or more.
San Francisco -- Glen Coffee (3rd round, 74th overall)
Coffee clearly does not read press clippings -- especially those that said the 49ers drafted him to be a slow-to-develop, little-used backup to Frank Gore.
Make no mistake, Gore is the man. And Coffee has some skills that need polishing -- namely footwork, cutting and vision in traffic.
But Niners coach Mike Singletary is going to love this kid, if he doesn't already. Coffee came into off-season drills and mini-camp determined to make an impact and force his way onto the field. He's done a good job of it.
He's tough, willing to put his head down and scratch out every inch of turf. In space, he's proved capable of going the distance. He also is a high-character player.
Seattle -- Deon Butler (3rd round, 91st overall)
While No. 4 overall pick and monster talent Aaron Curry was doing all the interviews during off-season work and minicamp, Butler stole the show on the field. When you hear things like 4.28 speed, it's almost impossible to believe that it's real. But there are a lot of believers in Seattle now, after seeing this guy up-close.
It may be awhile before Butler becomes a starter, but his skills are too explosive to keep off the field. The Seahawks have been in need of a big-play receiver. If he puts in the work on his route-running and adapts to the NFL game, they've found their guy.
Tampa Bay -- Sammie Stroughter (7th round, 233rd overall)
Perhaps the longest of shots to make it big, don't bet against Stroughter. Already in drills and minicamp, Stroughter has showed polished pass-catching ability.
He has hands, speed, instincts and the ability to make plays. If it translates when the pads come on and the games are real, Stroughter could be the perfect slot complement to Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton.
The only thing he does not have is size (5-9, 189 pounds), but he has long arms for his height, and with a pair of 1,000-yard seasons at Oregon State, he proved he's unafraid to go over the middle.
Tennessee -- Jared Cook (3rd round, 89th overall)
No one should be happier about the production Cook could bring than quarterback Kerry Collins. For all the things the Titans do well, they still lack a receiving threat who can go upfield.
Cook is that guy, and the opportunity is there. The Titans often use two-tight-end sets and, though Bo Scaife is the regular, Alge Crumpler has fought injuries and is not the player he once was. During minicamp, no one made as many dazzling catches as Cook. He's a one-trick pony right now, but that trick -- catching balls and keeping the middle of the defense honest -- is exactly what the Titans need.
Washington -- Kevin Barnes (3rd round, 80th overall)
Fred Smoot's production has steadily dropped. He loves to talk trash and bark, and is a popular figure. But more and more, the eight-year veteran has not been backing it up.
Barnes wowed coaches during OTAs. Yeah, it's a whole different world come Sundays in the fall, but Barnes should threaten for playing time in Nickel packages, certainly, and maybe more. He also has the size to compete with the NFC East's bigger receivers.
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