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Pat Kirwan: Class of 2006 will make first impact on defense

Discussion in 'American Football' started by O'reilly, Sep 2, 2006.

  1. O'reilly

    O'reilly Well-Known Member

    Aug 29, 2005
    Class of 2006 will make first impact on defense

    By Pat Kirwan
    NFL.com Senior Analyst
    (Aug. 30, 2006) -- Every spring, the enthusiasm surrounding the NFL draft is second only to playoff football. Fans and the media live to see which players their favorite team will draft, and there's the assumption they are going to have a big impact on the franchise. For many rookies, it's going to take months -- if not years -- to break into the starting lineup, but back in April we described these pro-bound players like they were program saviors.

    My first check with the draft class is the Kickoff Weekend starting lineups. Barring a serious injury in the final preseason game, it's clear how many members of the Class of 2006 were able to break into starting lineups around the league. A couple of teams like the Jets, Packers and Raiders have more than one rookie who will start in Week 1. That might have more to do with their 2005 record, which was a combined 12-36, than the youngsters' readiness.

    Stephen Gostkowski impressed the Patriots coach staff enough to give him the starting kicking job.
    When you include the kicker and punter as starters, the NFL will post 768 starters for opening weekend (32 teams times 24 starters). I have been tracking the Kickoff Weekend rookie starters for over 10 years in a row, and on average, somewhere between 15 and 25 rookies earn a starting job or receive it due to injury. Thirty-eight rookies would represent only 5 percent of the NFL starters, so I would be surprised if more than 3 percent of the Week 1 starters will be rookies.

    Sure, a number of rookies will be role players -- nickel or dime defensive backs, situational pass rushers, slot receivers or second tight ends -- but in general, before the summer camps even opened, I wasn't expecting more than 20 rookies would hear their names called coming out of the tunnel for the first game; 2006 looks like a repeat performance of the past decade, with 21 or 22 rookies getting the nod.

    Here's a breakdown of the probable rookie starters on opening day. As you might expect, the first round generates as many starters as the other rounds combined, and when it comes to what side of the ball generates more first-year starters, defense appears to win out again at almost a 2-1 ratio.

    It's assumed that running backs can make the jump from college to pro football the quickest, but this year it appears that safeties and linebackers are lining up quicker as first-year starters. Seven first-day linebackers join three safeties as probable Week 1 starters.

    1 10 DEFENSE: Ngata, Whitner, Sims, Hawk, Williams, Hali, Lawson
    OFFENSE: Ferguson, Mangold, D. Joseph
    2 4 DEFENSE: D. Jackson, Ryans, Howard
    OFFENSE: Colledge
    3 3 OFFENSE: Pope, Spitz, McQuistan
    4 1 KICKER: Gostkowski
    5 3 DEFENSE: Landry, Watkins
    OFFENSE: O'Callaghan
    6 0
    7 0

    By Sept. 10, a few more players from the pool of Pat McQuistan, Jimmy Williams, Kameron Wimbley, Charles Spencer and Antonio Cromartie could be named starters, and one or two of the mentioned starters could be dropped from the lineup.

    If 30 rookies were to be named starters, that would be an exceptional year for a draft class on opening day. I don't think we will reach that number, but I do think another 25 rookies will be significant role players, which is about average for a draft class. The average number of rookie starters will go up to the 30-35 range by the end of October, and jump close to 50 by the end of December if it's a good year for the rookie class.

    What's hard for veteran players to swallow is the reality that teams spent hundreds of millions of dollars on guaranteed portions of the 255 rookie contracts, but when the games start to count for real, less than three percent of the starters are rookies.

    Finally, not one rookie quarterback, running back, wide receiver or cornerback has been able to win a starting position with one week to go until opening day. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a good reminder of how tough it is to break into the NFL no matter what a kid did in college. Look for a few rookies to handle the punt/kick-return duties like Willie Reid (Pittsburgh), T.J. Rushing (Indianapolis) and maybe Willie Andrews (New England) -- until they struggle catching the ball, and the coach is more comfortable with an old veteran.
  2. Trumpet_Man

    Trumpet_Man Well-Known Member

    Feb 14, 2006
    Add Marcus McNeil to that list !!!

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