by Ryan Dodson
on April 29, 2006 @ 14:29:34
The 2006 NFL Draft may be remembered as one of the most talent-rich drafts in history, and many may consider New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush to be the steal of the draft, as he fell to No. 2 after much anticipation of going first. However, the biggest steal occurred at pick No. 37 in the second round when the Denver Broncos traded their pick to the Green Bay Packers for disgruntled wide receiver Javon Walker.
Walker, who before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament early in the 2005 season was on his way up the wide receiver hierarchy, vowed never to play for the Packers again after he held out before the 2005 campaign for a new contract. He subsequently returned to the team, minus the new contract, and promptly blew his knee out. Walker will likely line up opposite of receiver Rod Smith, which would move speedy wideout Ashley Lelie to the slot where he can run more deep routes. The Broncos thought about doing this in their pursuit of Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens, but now they have a receiver who is potentially as good, who is younger and carries much less baggage with him.
Walker had a huge season in 2004 when he caught 89 receptions for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. This breakthrough year was on the heels of a good second season, which saw him catch 41 passes for 716 yards and nine touchdowns. Walker will turn 28 in October, and despite tearing up his knee in the first game of the 2005 season, should be back into Pro Bowl form by mid-season.
The Broncos are $7.4 million under the salary cap, and they are most likely to give first-round pick (No. 11 overall) quarterback Jay Cutler a decent contract; so it's unlikely they will be able to give Walker the big contract he wants until he proves he is healthy this season. One possibility is the team giving him an incentive-laden deal with big payouts for outstanding performance.
From a fantasy standpoint, the acquisition of Walker helps quarterback Jake Plummer and Smith the most. Walker gives Smith the best complement on the other side of the field since receiver Ed McCaffrey horrifically broke his leg in the first game of the 2001 season. Plummer has also never had this many weapons at his disposal in his career. This will also help Lelie, who was completely shut down last season at the flanker position. He tallied just 42 catches for 770 yards and one touchdown last year after his first 1,000-yard season in 2004. You can expect to see his touchdown statistics coming back up to par with his catches and yardage stats merging between the past two seasons' output.
As for Walker, you can expect him to prosper in this offense with the firepower around him. Denver's offensive gameplan is very similar to the one he utilized in Green Bay, and with running back Mike Anderson defecting to the Baltimore Ravens, it leaves Tatum Bell and Ron Dayne in the backfield. Both backs are question marks, as Bell hasn't proven to be an every-down back, and Dayne had a great season in limited time last year, but he's never grasped his potential after winning the Heisman Trophy at Wisconsin. With the two questioned backs, it's possible Denver may use a more aerial approach this season, which should spread out nicely to the three receivers.
It's a win-win situation for the Broncos, and Green Bay filled their hole at receiver later in the draft with the selection of Western Michigan receiver Greg Jennings. They traded the 37th pick from Denver to Atlanta and took Boise State offensive tackle Daryn Colledge at No. 47, helping to shore up their offensive line as well.
About Ryan Dodson
Dodson is a KFFL Contributor and has been with KFFL since 2002.
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