NFL Draft Steals
Eric Weddle, 37th overall selection, S, San Diego Chargers
Weddle came in right away and earned playing time and a starting role. He piled up 54 tackles and also had an interception and a sack. Weddle will have a chance to make a bigger name for himself as the Chargers head into the NFL playoffs. Weddle appears to have already secured a long-term stay in the league.
Zach Miller, 38th overall selection, TE, Oakland Raiders
The Arizona State product had a quality season for a struggling franchise. He was able to track down 44 receptions totaling 444 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell may have found his weapon of the future in Miller.
John Beck, 40th overall selection, QB, Miami Dolphins
Injuries allowed Beck to see action during five games, and while Beck wasn’t impressive, he had to play in a tough situation. He finished the season with 60 completions on 107 attempts for 559 yards. He threw just one touchdown to three interceptions and lost five fumbles, but as with any young quarterback, he’ll have a chance to learn and improve his game over time.
Tony Ugoh, 42nd overall selection, OT, Indianapolis Colts
A pair of major questions surrounded the Colts offense heading into the season. Could Joseph Addai carry the load and would the left tackle position be in championship form with rookie Tony Ugoh taking over. Ugoh is a large part of the reason that the answer to both has been, “yes.” Ugoh has protected Manning well during the season and has also provided room for Addai to post strong totals. Ugoh hasn’t been a complete surprise, but his play has been even better than the Colts might have hoped for. The only negative has been the fact that injury has limited Ugoh to just 11 games.
Sidney Rice, 44th overall selection, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Rice is becoming a decent option for quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, and the Vikings hope that next year he will build on his 31 receptions, 396 yard season. He caught four touchdown passes, one being a 60-yard reception against the Giants in week 12. Rice has great hands and is fast, and the team has to feel good about his future.
Yamon Figurs, 74th overall selection, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Figurs’ contribution came on special teams, where he racked up 1,138 kickoff return yards and scored a touchdown, while adding 171 punt return yards and a touchdown. Figurs may never become a top receiver, but his return talents will give him a chance to stick around.
James Jones, 78th overall selection, WR, Green Bay Packers
A Greg Jennings injury allowed Jones to receive playing time he might not have seen otherwise, and even since Jennings’ return, Jones has continued to be a favorite target of Brett Favre. Jones had 47 receptions for 676 yards and a pair of trips to the endzone during the regular season, and has given Favre an athletic down-field receiver. The Packers’ offense has been more open this season, and the team’s season-long successes is due in part to Jones’ presence and young talent.
Tanard Jackson, 106th overall selection, S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jackson showed enough to earn the starting job at free safety, and he produced. His 56 tackles are solid, but he also had a pair of interceptions, forced a fumble, and was credited with 13 passes defensed. The Buccaneers were able to play well enough to make the playoffs, and Jackson stepped up, contributing a good deal in the secondary.
Nick Folk, 178th overall selection, K, Dallas Cowboys (pro bowl)
It appears that the Arizona product has finally given the Cowboys something to rely on in the kicking game and it has helped the team to one of the league’s best records. Folk’s early career highlight has to be a game-winning 53-yard field goal against Buffalo on Monday Night Football, but Dallas has to be excited to see his entire effort so far. He’s converted 26 of 31 field goal attempts, with three of those misses coming from 50 yards or more. He has also made all 53 of his point after attempts. Folk will also represent the Cowboys in the Pro Bowl.
Mason Crosby, 193rd overall selection, K, Green Bay Packers
Crosby earned the starting role for the Packers and proceeded to convert 31 of 39 field goal attempts, with all but one miss coming from more than 40 yards. Crosby also made all 48 of his point after attempts and his strong leg will allow him to be a starter in the NFL for a long time.
Chinedum Ndukwe, 253rd overall selection, S, Cincinnati Bengals
Ndukwe may not be a permanent fixture in the Bengals secondary, but he did put up decent numbers with 45 tackles and three interceptions. He was also able to force a fumble and tally two sacks. Just two players were taken after Ndukwe in the draft, but it looks like Cincinnati may have found excellent value.
Click here to read how the 2007 first rounders performed.