Class of 2008, Part 3: The late-round steals

| October 23, 2010

We’ve already looked at the first round and broken down rounds two and three, so to complete our look at the 2008 draft class we’re turning our eye toward the late rounds and undrafted free agent rookies.

We’ve broken the analysis down into four parts to help identify the degree of success.

First it’s Best Value Pick (like the guy pictured at left, one of the best players in the league you might never have heard of). Then it’s the guys who have succeeded and continue to do so, Current Success Stories. After that we’re looking at guys who have had a good impact, even if it hasn’t been overly flashy, with our Contributing section. Lastly we look at the guys who have landed starting roles but are having a hard time with it in the Starting But Struggling section.

It’s important to remember we’re only looking at the impact a player is having on the team that drafted him or signed him off the street (so no mention of guys like Peyton Hillis).

Round 4

Best Value Pick

Josh Sitton Did the Packers think they’d found their guard for the next ten years in round four? They may have with a guy who ranked sixth in 2009, and is currently atop of the right guard rankings this year.

Current Success Stories

Red Bryant — Really flourished this year in Seattle’s flexible 4-3 after struggling for playing time in his first two years. Currently our second-ranked defensive end against the run and eighth overall.

Contributing

William Haye — Not spectacular but solid as part of the Titans’ defensive line rotation. Has 60 quarterback pressures to date.

Starting But Struggling

Tyvon Branch — Impressed us last year to finish 16th overall in our safety rankings, but struggled this year. Currently 74th in our current rankings, giving up five touchdowns already.

Jonathan Wilhite — Nickel back for the Patriots has continued to struggle into this year, being replaced at times by safety Patrick Chung.

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Round 5

Best Value Pick

Carl Nicks — Best left guard in the league at the moment. A good pass-blocker, has been exceptional this year with his ability to seal off defenders and get to the next level against top defensive ends. Elite.

Current Success Stories

Brandon Carr — The less-praised of the Chiefs’ starting cornerbacks has nonetheless earned a starting role. Finished 19th in our cornerback ratings and can expect to be tested plenty this year.

Kroy Biermann — Good rookie year followed by increased role in Year 2, when he always seemed to produce. The 14th-ranked defensive end last year and 15th this year has 67 career quarterback pressures while being surprisingly active in run defense.

Jonathan Goff — Solely on the back of a really impressive series of displays for the Giants this year. Has a +7.2 rating for the year already.

Contributing

Orlando Scandrick — Not overawed as the nickel back for the Cowboys. Has allowed 64.71 percent of passes thrown his way complete. Worse out there.

Starting But Struggling

Jerome Felton — Not the greatest lead-blocker in the world, and that’s really showing with Detroit this year.

Tim Hightower — He burst onto the scene with plenty of touchdowns but given the chance to start has been largely disappointing and now finds his playing time dwindling. Despite his 5.4 yards-per-carry average, he ranks last among qualifying RBs this year.

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Round 6

Best Value Pick

Ahtyba Rubin — When Shaun Rogers went down injured, Rubin stepped in and stepped up for Cleveland. Our fourth-ranked run stuffing nose tackle from 2009. Hasn’t really gotten started this year.

Current Success Stories

Geno Hayes — Makes too many mistakes at times (six missed tackles already this year to go with 18 last year) but the guy has some playmaking ability. Finished fifth last year in our 4-3 outside linebacker rankings with Tampa.

Contributing

Trevor Scott — seems to have found his role with the Raiders as both an outside linebacker and nickel pass-rusher. Have to see if he can be consistently good, but some promising signs.

Starting But Struggling

John Sullivan — Struggled in his first year starting and continued to do so until injury took him off the field. One of the big reasons why the Vikings make life harder than it needs to be for Adrian Peterson.

Barry Richardson — Getting a starting gig this year with Kansas City, but looks a bit overmatched at the moment at right tackle.

Josh Morgan — On the field a lot but hasn’t done anything to suggest he should be a starting WR. Interested to see if his impact remains small, if he stays with San Fran.

Kareem Moore — Has started at FS with Washington since Week 3 this year but has looked a little vulnerable and already missed six tackles.

Pierre Garcon — Peyton Manning can work with pretty much everything, fortunately. Garcon has had some good moments, but right now looks out of his depth. Leads league in dropped passes and was streaky last year.

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Round 7

Best Value Pick

David Vobora — wowed us last year with a series of strong displays where he was a real do-it-all linebacker. Strangely benched, but we can’t believe a player this good will stay on the bench that long. Sixth-ranked outside linebacker for 2009.

Current Success Stories

Justin Forsett — When the Seahawks traded for Marshawn Lynch, we got some evidence Forsett may not be feature-back material. But he performed better in 2009 when less was asked of him. Defines elusive.

Contributing

Brandon Keith — A mixed start to life as a Cardinals starter, but no worse than anything that went before him. Given up 15 total pressures so far.

Geoff Schwartz — He has got his chance to start for the Panthers this year and has given up only nine pressures while grading positively for his run blocking. Too early to tell but making a good impression at right tackle.

Mackenzy Bernadeau — He wasn’t ready to start at left guard in 2009, but has made a much better run of things at right guard this year. Average to date, and apparently looking at a return to the bench.

Starting But Struggling

Demetrius Bell — Much better so far after a horrendous 2009, but still a below—average starter who has yet to do enough to make us forget him finishing with our third—lowest rating in 2009 despite only playing in eight games.

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Undrafted Free Agents

Best Pickup

David Hawthorne Lofa Tatupu goes down, and Hawthorne steps up and plays better than him (our fourth-ranked 4-3 middle linebacker). Forced from the middle, he’s our second-ranked outside linebacker this year. Superb player.

Current Success Stories

Davone Bess — Just a superb story since entering the league. Just how did every team pass on him over and over again despite massive collegiate production? Ranked as our ninth receiver as a rookie, 11th last year and currently third this year. For what is asked of him, he does it fantastically well.

Dan Carpenter — While not the greatest kickoff artist in the league (quite the opposite), the Miami K has finished fourth in his first two season in our field-goal gradings, and currently stands fifth this year.

Contributing

Eric Foster — Wildly inconsistent last year, is looking better this year. Has taken over the role Raheem Brock occupied with Indy and providing a better return.

Benjarvus Green-Ellis — A decent runner who has had some issues fumbling the ball. Works well in the Pats’ offense.

Mike Tolbert — Bruising fullback is now a bruising tailback with San Diego. He’s shown an ability to pick up yards after contact (currently fourth in the league, averaging 3.5 yards after contact).

Gary Guyton — He has always seemed to find his way onto the field in New England without really making a strong impression. Currently working as a nickel linebacker.

Starting But Struggling

Garrett Hartley good as a rookie, hasn’t done much else except for that Super Bowl and is now missing chip shots for fun. Needs to get better.

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