Draft evaluations reflect a variety of criteria, not the least of which is a rookie's potential for long-range contribution.
The focus of this one is on immediate impact.
Here's a top-five list of teams, displayed in alphabetical order, that figure to receive the greatest amount of help from draft picks and why:
The Ravens have multiple choices who should contribute right away, which is pretty remarkable for a team without a first-round pick. Their top selection, former Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle (second round, 43rd overall), brings the speed and aggressiveness that should fit perfectly into the Ravens' attack-oriented defense. Former Alabama defensive tackle Terrence Cody, another second-rounder, has the size (more than 350 pounds) and strength to be a dominant force in the middle. He'll be a nice complement to standout nose man Haloti Ngata.
One or both of the tight ends selected in the third and fourth rounds -- Ed Dickson, from Oregon, and Dennis Pitta, from BYU -- should find a place in the offense. They catch the ball well, and provide the necessary depth if Todd Heap continues to struggle to stay healthy. David Reed, a fifth-rounder from Utah, provides another pass-catching threat for a team that needs as many as it can get.
The Bengals offense should be instantly better with the addition of tight end Jermaine Gresham, a first-round pick from Oklahoma. Gresham is a good blocker, catches the ball well and is capable of stretching the defense. Those qualities should go a long way toward helping to make Carson Palmer a more effective passer. The Bengals gave Palmer two other weapons -- wide receivers Jordan Shipley (third round, Texas) and Dezmon Briscoe (sixth round, Kansas) -- with a good chance of making their presence felt this season. Second-rounder Carlos Dunlap, a defensive end from Florida, is an extremely talented athlete capable of being a big-time playmaker. However, he also has enough character concerns that make him a big-time risk.
They selected more than one player who can make a noticeable difference this season, but it's hard not to focus on Ndamukong Suh, the second overall pick of the draft. He is going to provide the run-stuffing bulk the Lions have been desperate to find in the middle. Suh also has a great deal of athleticism and instincts that should allow him to make a strong impact while he learns Jim Schwartz's scheme. Former California running back Jahvid Best, the Lions' other first-rounder, is probably going to share time with Maurice Morris early in the season before steadily becoming the featured back. Best is a multi-faceted player who can contribute as a runner, receiver and kick returner. Former Iowa cornerback Amari Spievey, selected in the third round, doesn't have the best cover skills, but he's good enough and has a sufficient amount of range to find his way onto the field as a rookie.
First-round pick Rolando McClain, a linebacker from Alabama, should do plenty to help improve the NFL's 29th-ranked run defense in 2009. He is an extremely physical player who uses his exceptional instincts and considerable lower-body strength to consistently plug holes. Defensive tackle Lamarr Houston, a second-rounder from Texas, should also enhance the Raiders' run-stopping ability by tying up blockers to give McClain and other linebackers room to make plays. Offensive tackles Jared Veldheer (third round, Hillsdale) and Bruce Campbell (fourth round, Maryland) will compete for a starting job and, at the very least, provide depth. The Raiders topped off what has the potential to be one of their best drafts in a long time by making a trade with the Washington Redskins for quarterback Jason Campbell, who should supplant JaMarcus Russell.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers used both of their first-round picks on one and quite possibly two immediate starters for their offensive line: Tackle Anthony Davis, from Rutgers, and guard Mike Iupati, from Idaho. Davis, who is remarkably quick off the ball, is expected to replace Adam Snyder at right tackle from the start of the season. With Joe Staley on the left side, the 49ers figure to have a good chance of upgrading the pass protection for a team that has allowed the NFL's most sacks in the last three seasons (150).
Iupati's impressive combination of size, strength and athleticism should allow him to push David Baas for the starting spot at left guard, and probably take over for him during the season. Second-rounder Taylor Mays, a safety from USC, could also crack the starting lineup. He is the kind of player-coach Mike Singletary prefers to have at the position -- a big hitter who he can play close to the line of scrimmage.
The wait continues
The Washington Redskins insist they aren't going to trade defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. The Buffalo Bills insist that running back Marshawn Lynch isn't going anywhere. Yet, before, during and after the draft, there has been constant speculation about potential deals being made for the disgruntled players.
Interestingly, media and fans in both cities seem convinced that, despite the denials, the new decision-makers of those clubs are determined to send Haynesworth and Lynch packing. It makes sense that the Redskins, who have switched to a 3-4 defense, no longer are a good fit for Haynesworth, a 4-3 tackle. It makes even more sense that the Bills, after making running back C.J. Spiller their first-round draft pick and with Fred Jackson on the roster, no longer have room for Lynch.
And it's easier to believe that neither team has been able to find a satisfactory trade offer than it is that they simply feel they're better off not dumping those unhappy players. No one is going to be anxious to give away a whole lot for someone else's headache. True, the Miami Dolphins did to get wide receiver Brandon Marshall from the Denver Broncos. But it could be argued that Marshall is much more of a difference-maker than Haynesworth or Lynch.
Clear quarterbacking statements
By selecting Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen in the second round and Cincinnati's Tony Pike in the sixth, the Panthers effectively said they have no faith in Matt Moore being the long-term replacement for Jake Delhomme. The Panthers tried to sell the notion that Moore was their guy after cutting Delhomme, but most league observers weren't buying it. And when they surprisingly found themselves with the chance to land Clausen, they took it. The selection of Pike seemed to add insult to injury for Moore.
By not choosing a quarterback until the seventh round (Levi Brown of Troy), the Bills effectively said they think they can get away with having Trent Edwards as their starter and either Ryan Fitzpatrick or Brian Brohm as their primary backup for at least another season. Although it's quite possible the Bills didn't see a quarterback worth taking after the St. Louis Rams made Sam Bradford the top pick of the draft, they apparently are quite serious in their belief that new coach Chan Gailey can get better production from Edwards and the other quarterbacks than their predecessors.
By the way, this was one coach's theory about why Clausen wasn't drafted higher: "When one team that needs a player at a certain position passes on a guy, you'd be amazed at how many other teams will pass on him just because they assume that something must be wrong with the guy or else another team would have taken him. It happens a lot."
One and done on offensive tackles
A total of 19 offensive tackles were selected during the draft.
However, according to multiple player-personnel evaluators in the league, if a team didn't get one of the four tackles taken in the first round, it likely failed to get one worth drafting.
If you believe that, then the only worthwhile players the draft offered at the position were: Trent Williams, Oklahoma (fourth overall, Washington); Russell Okung, Oklahoma State (sixth overall, Seattle); Anthony Davis, Rutgers (11th overall, San Francisco), and Bryan Bulaga, Iowa (23rd overall, Green Bay).
I'm sure there are at least 15 people who would disagree, but only time will tell.
Milledgeville: Fame and infamy
So I happened to be flipping through TV channels the other night when I came across the movie, Pretty Woman, and heard the Julia Roberts character, Vivian, tell the Richard Gere character, Edward, the following when he asked where she called home: "Milledgeville, Georgia."
In the countless times that movie has been watched through the years, I'm guessing that hardly anyone paid much attention to the reference to such an obscure town. Then, last month, Ben Roethlisberger changed all of that.
For the record, the 20-year-old woman whose sexual-assault allegations resulted in Roethlisberger receiving a six-game suspension, was born the same year that Pretty Woman was released.