Anthony “Booger” McFarland
DT, Louisiana State
Numbers: 6'0 (6004) / 301 pounds / 4.84 forty-speed
2006 stats: 6 tackles, 2 assists, 1-1 tackle for loss with Tampa Bay
2005 stats:18 tackles, 9 assist, 2-6 sacks, 6-11.5 tackles for loss, 2 fumble recoveries with Tampa Bay
The player:It’s often forgotten that after the 1999 draft when Colts president Bill Polian passed on fan and media darling Ricky Williams for virtual unknown Edgerrin James, he received a firestorm of criticism. One sarcastic reporter asked him what he would have done if James wasn’t available when the Colts picked fourth. In his typical unflappable style, Polian shocked the crowd by saying he would have picked Booger McFarland. The crowd roared with laughter and jeered, but as it turned out, he would have made a good pick. McFarland -- a short, squat nose tackle type -- went to Tony Dungy and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 15th pick. There were questions about McFarland because of his short arms, but his production at LSU and his 4.84 forty at the combine vaulted him up the charts. He proved a worthwhile selection and contributed at both the nose tackle and “under” tackle positions in seven seasons with the Bucs. Although he can shoot gaps with the best of them, McFarland is better suited to play on the nose where he can occupy linemen and create confusion at the line of scrimmage. Never a big sack master (although he did record 6.5 in 2000), McFarland seems to enjoy wrestling in the middle and gives full effort until the whistle. A quiet, soft-spoken guy who leads on the field, McFarland is a team player who’ll do the dirty work necessary to win even if it doesn’t show up on his stats sheet. He’s been bothered by a few injuries, especially his hip, of late, but it’s unlikely he’s due for a big-time slowdown anytime soon.
How he fits:Last season, the Colts bit the bullet and spent big on Corey Simon because they realized they just couldn’t stop the inside run without a dominating man in the middle. Although he did the job ably, he’s out for the season with an undisclosed illness and the Colts are in trouble again. After the first five games of the year (all wins, but none truly impressive), the Colts defense is last in the league in both rushing yards allowed and yards-per-carry average (an astounding 5.2 yards a pop). Look for McFarland to play a Simon-like role. Since he’s played in what amounts to a Dungy-designed defense his entire NFL career, he should have no trouble stepping in – perhaps even as a starter – immediately. There are questions about whether he’s healthy right now and in playing condition, but it’s unlikely the Colts would have invested a second-round pick in him if he couldn’t make an impact right away. His presence as a magnet for blockers will almost certainly boost the entire defense as the other linemen will get bigger gaps and the linebackers will be given more space.
Reminds me of: The most famous player McFarland plays like is himself, but if you really need a comparison, I’d have to say La’Roi Glover.
Photo: Getty Images/Grant Halverson