10. New England Patriots – (LB Jerod Mayo/Tennessee) – A team-leading 65 tackles to date and likely the NFL's top defensive rookie this year as he's really solidified the Patriots' 3-4 defense. He's been all over the field this year despite the fact he's learning on the job. Mayo's stock rose mightily after the Vols season a year ago and right now in my mind he's playing the best of any defensive player drafted a year ago.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – (LB Keith Rivers/USC) - On a bad football team he's had a decent season to date, with 37 tackles, one interception and a forced fumble. He's been the only bright spot on defense. It'll be interesting to see how Rivers grows as a player under those unbearable circumstances, but he's been consistent enough that he can build upon his rookie season and maybe be a game changer some day.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars – DE Derrick Harvey/Florida) - You'd have to say he's a bust at this point. Harvey was a riser on draft day but it was clear he was going to struggle when he was the last first round pick to sign. That never works out. Right now he's been anything but worthy of being selected eighth overall and has only six tackles, one interception and one sack. The fact he's second-team should tell you all you need to know about why he's not the player the Jaguars thought he'd be.
7. New Orleans Saints – DE Sedrick Ellis/USC) - The jury is out on the USC product. He's missed some games this season but has not made the impact some thought he would. I still maintain he's going to be a good player because he's just too talented. He was the best player at the Senior Bowl. The fact he has 15 tackles in just six games tells me the best is yet to come.
6. New York Jets – DE Vernon Gholston/Ohio State - Another undersized bust, like Harvey. Gholston has been nowhere to be found and it's a good thing the Jets are riding the right arm of quarterback Brett Favre. Gholston's seven tackles as a second-team player, and the fact he's yet to sack the quarterback, tells me all I need to know. The fact is the only team that was high on him was the Jets. If they'd not selected him he might have fallen out of the top 10.
5. Kansas City Chiefs – DT Glenn Dorsey/LSU - There isn't any reason to believe Dorsey won't be everything the Chiefs believed he'd be when they took him fifth overall. To date he has 20 solo tackles, recorded his first sack on Sunday against the Chargers and is finally beginning to adjust to the speed and power of the NFL. There are some who were ready to anoint Dorsey the second coming of Ryan Sims thanks to his slow start, but he will shine a year from now if the Chiefs add a top flight pass rusher. Right now he's splitting double teams and is beginning to shed his blockers to create havoc on running plays.
4. Oakland Raiders – RB Darren McFadden/Arkansas - The biggest disappointment in the entire draft. Other than one outstanding game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2, he's been a non-factor on a terrible football team. Granted he's been injured and that was a major concern for teams that were contemplating drafting him. Right now, injuries and the fact he's a Raider have torpedoed his rookie season.
3. Atlanta Falcons – QB Matt Ryan/Boston College - Clearly the rookie of the year in the NFL ahead of fellow rookie quarterback Joe Flacco (Baltimore). Has 11 touchdowns to date and the Falcons are poised for a playoff run. His passer rating is a shade under 90 but for a rookie that's flat out impressive. I was wrong about him and he's been the shot in the arm the Falcons have needed since they parted ways with Michael Vick. Right now there's no down side in his game. He makes all the throws, limits his mistakes and the fact his team stands 6-3 at this point in the year indicates he knows how to win football games at this level.
St. Louis Rams – DE Chris Long/Virginia - One of the few bright spots for the Rams considering they've already fired Scott Linehan and the apathy in St. Louis is at an all-time high. The Rams wanted Long after they determined Glenn Dorsey couldn't make the same impact. He's been solid enough and right now his 31 tackles and four sacks indicate he's going to be a productive player for many years. How productive he is in the future will depend on what pieces St. Louis adds next year on the defensive line.
Miami Dolphins – OT Jake Long/Michigan – Next to Matt Ryan, you could not ask for a draft pick who has had more impact in the top 10 this year. What Long has done is stabilize the left side of the Dolphins' offensive line. The fact he's so skilled already as a pass blocker and run blocker is a testament to his work ethic and attitude. He acts like the best, talks like the best and is the best young tackle to come into the NFL in a decade.
He can be dominant for years to come and the fact he, along with quarterback Chad Pennington, have resurrected the Dolphins and made them contenders for the AFC East is a credit to an organization who took a future All-Pro tackle with the top pick knowing they had other needs. The Dolphins are the organization of the year to date in the NFL. Bill Parcells knows personnel and he's made all the right moves thus far. Long was the key to unlocking the Dolphins' potential, and his selection might take them from having the worst record a year ago to the playoffs in 2008.
In our continuing series looking ahead to the 2009 offseason, we've already concentrated on the…