Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
As teams in the Beast attempt to sign their 2009 rookies, let's take a look back at the division's '08 class heading into training camp. Every team found an immediate impact player in '08, but in some cases, those players came from unlikely places.
Redskins safety Chris Horton was taken in the seventh round, but he quickly became a starter. Of course, we all know the early returns on the Skins' second-round receivers -- and tight end -- are shaky at best.
We'll go team by team and see which players are prepared to make the biggest leaps in '09. And let's also find out who's feeling the heat in terms of making the roster. Special thanks to NFC West blogger Mike Sando for coming up with this idea:
2008 picks: 6
Projected 2009 starters: (2) Cornerback Mike Jenkins, a first-round pick out of South Florida and RB Felix Jones, a first-round pick out of Arkansas (I think the Cowboys want to return Marion Barber to his closer's role).
Potential starters: (1) Cornerback Orlando Scandrick, a fifth-round pick out of Boise State definitely could beat out Jenkins. He made a quicker adjustment to the NFL last season and he's shown absolutely no fear. You could also see Martellus Bennett starting when the Cowboys open with two tight ends. He'll play enough to be considered a "starter."
On the hot seat: Jenkins is definitely the guy on the hot seat. He's remembered mostly for running away from Giants running back Derrick Ward last season. Jenkins has the elite speed and athleticism, but he had to take the next step in terms of grasping the defense. I think Scandrick's the better player right now.
No longer with the team: Linebacker Erik Walden of Middle Tennessee State joined the Cowboys' South Florida affiliate -- otherwise known as the Dolphins. He played in 15 games and did a nice job on special teams.
Keep an eye out for: The steal of this draft was running back Tashard Choice in the fourth round. He kept the Cowboys afloat last season when Barber and Jones were hurt. He could become a very valuable complementary back. And he can be more than that if anyone gets banged up. It's a tremendous luxury to have a player like Choice as a reserve.
2008 picks: 7
Projected 2009 starters: (1) First-round pick S Kenny Phillips out of Miami.
Potential starters: (1) Bryan Kehl out of BYU was a fourth-round pick who made a couple of spot starts last season at weakside linebacker. He had an interception in the win over the Steelers. Depending on what happens with Michael Boley's hip injury, Kehl definitely could be in the mix. I don't see him as a starter long term, but he's not someone who will hurt you.
On the hot seat: Wide receiver Mario Manningham is a player GM Jerry Reese was really excited about. He's going to have a huge opportunity to shine in camp while rookies Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden try to figure out the offense.
No longer with the team: You might not have realized it, but former Southern Miss defensive end Robert Henderson is still on the roster. An ankle injury in the preseason knocked him out for the '08 season. I think it's obvious that quarterback Andre Woodson's days with this team are numbered. He spent last season on the practice squad -- except for one week. He's a project player who hasn't really shown a ton of improvement.
Keep an eye out for: As I've said several times this offseason, Phillips is poised to have a breakout season. I think he's a playmaker who could end up in the Pro Bowl this season. And cornerback Terrell Thomas came on strong after he was slowed by injury at the start of the '08 season. He's a playmaker who will make a valuable contribution in the nickel.
2008 picks: 10
Potential starters: Already named
On the hot seat: I don't think he's really on the hot seat, but defensive tackle Trevor Laws needs to be more productive this season. The former Notre Dame star was their top overall pick in the '08 draft. He had a fumble recovery late in the season against Dallas, but the Eagles need him to become a key part of the rotation. He's not there yet.
No longer with the team: Andy Studebaker, a defensive end out of Wheaton College is now with the Chiefs.
Keep an eye out for: I'm interested to see how former fourth-round pick Mike McGlynn, an offensive lineman, responds to a torn hamstring that he suffered in the playoffs against the Vikings. I think another former fourth-round pick, Jack Ikegwuonu, will be an interesting player to
watch in camp. The defensive back hurt his knee leading up to the '08 campaign, but the Eagles liked his potential. He could be a camp surprise.
2008 picks: 10
Projected 2009 starters: (1) Safety Chris Horton should once again be starting opposite LaRon Landry.
Potential starters: (1) If Devin Thomas has a breakout training camp and preseason, there's always a chance he could challenge Antwaan Randle El for that No. 2 receiver role. I think Thomas will be vastly improved, but I don't see him as the starter.
On the hot seat: Well, you could start with the guy we just discussed. Thomas has all the tools you want from a receiver, but we'll have to see if he can take it to the field. Second-round pick Fred Davis showed some immaturity last season. He needs to grow up and become a complementary player to fellow tight end Chris Cooley. And who knows what to expect from wide receiver Malcolm Kelly? I'm not holding my breath on him.
No longer with the team: The punter from the sixth round, Durant Brooks, is long gone. The Skins gave him every opportunity to stick, but he wasn't ready for prime time.
Keep an eye out for: I'm very interested in seeing how offensive lineman Chad Rinehart (third round) and cornerback J.T. Tryon (fourth) look in this training camp. Longtime offensive line coach Joe Bugel didn't think much of Rinehart after the season, but he's since said that the player's shown a lot of improvement in the offseason. Tryon wasn't close to contributing in '08, but secondary coach Jerry Gray says he's getting there. Those are two players who everyone will be watching closely. Right now, it seems like Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato hit on one player in the seventh round. But that can change this season.