It was late Sunday night, draft weekend. I had just finished scouring the Internet for any final potential scraps of info on Michael Lehan and Antonio Garay, the final two draft selections of my beloved Cleveland Browns. I slammed a disk into my laptop and started hammering out my annual post draft analysis column.
After four years of following the same post draft ritual, the foolishness of what I was doing finally hit me.
I was about to spend three to four hours predicting how the games of 262 college kids, many of whom I had never had a chance to see play, would project onto the next level. I had read trees worth of scouting reports on most of the draftees, and seen many of them on television last season or on film this off-season. "I can do this", I said to myself.
Then, I went back and read a copy of my post draft analysis from last year. I chided the Broncos for taking Clinton Portis in the 2nd round and insisted that the Colts reached at #11 by selecting Dwight Freeney. Ouch. It was then that I disembarked on train of thought and hopped onto another..
Instead of a traditional draft evaluation, why not take a look back and grade how the 32 NFL franchises have drafted over the past 6 seasons as an indicator of likely success in 2003? I printed a draft history out for each NFL franchise dating back to the 1998 draft. I spit out the most recent team depth charts off of OurLads.com. I grabbed a couple of pens and a hi-liter and went to work.
I need some sort of base formula to make early sense of this all.. I told myself. After some internal debate, this is what I went with for players drafted from 1998-2002:
|Players drafted who are starters||6 points|
|Players drafted who are starters on other teams||4 points|
|Players drafted who have made a Pro Bowl||12 points|
|Players drafted in round 4 or later who are starters (sleepers)||6 additional points/player|
|Players drafted in rounds 1 or 2 that are no longer on team and are not starters on another team (busts)||minus 10 points|
I added each team's total points at that point to the percentage of players selected that are still on that team for final individual team totals. Amazingly the league average was exactly 50%. Omitting the Texans, the percentages ranged from Miami, (who has only 34.2% of the players picked over those 5 seasons still on their roster) to Seattle (who still has 64.4% of the players taken over that span on their team).
After a bit of tinkering, I was comfortable with the formula. I had decided that I would not strictly use it as the basis of my rankings. For the above formula obviously said nothing about the '03 draft classes, and little about last season's draft as many of the players had yet to work their way in as starters and even fewer had made the Pro Bowl. I took one more look over each team's 6 year history and tweaked my rankings using my analysis of how each team drafted over the past two seasons as well as the overall impact of the '98-'01 draft classes.
Now that you know the method to my madness, here are draft success rankings of the 32 NFL franchises over the past six years. I previously discussed the top teams, now onto those who were less successful. This list, unfortunately, includes our Cleveland Browns.
Just eighteen of the Jags forty-nine selections from the past five years are still on their team, which is one of the lowest percentages (36.7%) of any NFL team over that stretch. However, eleven of those players start for them. Two of Jacksonville's best selections from this span were their first two picks in 1998, when they selected RB Fred Taylor and S Donovin Darius. None of their other nine selections from that season remain on the team though. In '99, they landed their starting cornerbacks, Fernando Bryant and Jason Craft, in the 1st and 5th rounds and also nabbed starting center Brad Meester in the 2nd round in '00. In '01 and '02 they went DT-OT in the 1st and 2nd rounds and came away with four solid starters in Marcus Stroud, John Henderson, Maurice Williams, and Mike Pearson. In '01 they also picked S Marlon McCree in the 7th round, who is penciled in as a starter this season. In addition, 3rd round pick from '02 LB Akin Ayodele was an excellent find as he stepped right in as a starter and played at a high level for the team a year ago. The rest of the Jags selections from the past five seasons have been pretty non-descript. They swung and missed on CB Cordell Taylor in the 2nd round in '98 and WR R.J. Soward in the 1st round in '00. This year, Jacksonville selected their QB of the future when they took Byron Leftwich with the 7th overall selection. DB Rashen Mathis, their 2nd round pick, should step right in and help out in the nickel. They then went offense again with their next three picks, taking G Vince Manuwai, TE George Wrightster, and RB LaBrandon Toefield off the board.
18. San Diego Chargers
36 picks, 9 starters, 16 on team, 1 Pro Bowler, 2 busts, 1 sleeper
Favorite school: Six schools tied (2 picks)
Were it not for the Chargers disastrous drafts of '98 and '99, they'd be ranked much higher. It all started with Ryan Leaf with the 2nd overall pick in '98. As a matter of fact, the only two players they took those two seasons that are still in the league (TE's Mikhael Ricks and Steve Heiden) are on other teams. Since then, things have gotten much better for the ‘Bolts and they have drafted as well as anyone over the past three seasons. All nine of the players they drafted on the first day from '00-'02 are slated to start for the team this season. They traded the #1 pick that eventually became Michael Vick in '01, but turned the selections received into RB LaDanian Tomlinson and QB Drew Brees and also grabbed defensive starters CB Tay Cody and LB Zeke Moreno that year as well. Their top five picks from '02…CB Quentin Jammer, G Toniu Fonoti, WR Reche Caldwell, LB Ben Leber, and TE Justin Peelle all contributed as rookies and all are expected to play big roles this year as well. In this latest draft, the Chargers addressed their league worst pass defense with a vengeance, taking DB's (Sammy Davis, Drayton Florence, and Terence Kiel) with each of their three 1st and 2nd round selections. 3rd round selection, G Courtney Van Buren, is expected to push for playing time early as should ILB Matt Wilhelm, S Hanik Milligan, and FB Andrew Pinnock.
19. Dallas Cowboys
40 picks, 10 starters, 23 on team, 0 Pro Bowlers, 2 busts, 3 sleepers
Favorite school: Ohio St (4 picks)
The twenty-three players that the Cowboys still have on their team from the past five drafts is one of the highest numbers in the league, but Dallas is also one of only five teams not to draft a player who has gone to a Pro Bowl over that same stretch. The late nineties saw them nab DE Greg Ellis and OT Flozell Adams with their first two picks in '98 and DE Ebenezer Ekuban, OT Solomon Page, and LB Dat Nguyen with their first three picks in '99. CB Mario Edwards was a 6th round steal in '00, and in '02 the Cowboys had one of the league's best overall drafts. S Roy Williams was the 8th overall pick that year, and is likely to end the string of drafts with out Pro Bowl selections as soon as this year. WR Antonio Bryant will be a fixture at WR in Big D and CB Derek Ross and OT Tyson Walter, 3rd and 6th round picks from Ohio St., made immediate impacts as well. When looking for disappointments, their top selection in '00…CB Dwayne Goodrich was a bust. Also, the 2001 draft was a tough one for Dallas as their top two picks (QB Quincy Carter and S Tony Dixon) were disappointments and 7th round DT John Nix was the only starter they plucked out of that draft. With The Tuna at the helm this season, the Cowboys took CB Terence Newman at #5 overall and then grabbed C Al Johnson in the 2nd round, TE Jason Witten in the 3rd, and LB Bradie James in the 4th.
Statistically, the Rams recent drafts have not been that solid, but that is skewed a bit by the fact that they traded RB Trung Candidate and TE Roland Williams and let WR Az Zahir Hakim and CB Dre Bly leave via free agency. DE's Grant Wistrom and Leonard Little have been fixtures in the Ram defense as their 1st and 3rd round picks in '98. WR Torry Holt was the 6th overall selection on '99, and continues to develop as a weapon in the Ram offensive attack. The rest of the '99 draft, as well as pretty much the entire '00 draft were disappointing ones for St. Louis as just two players remain, and both are fringe backup players. DT Damione Lewis, S Adam Archuleta, DT Ryan Pickett, and LB Tommy Polley were the teams' first four picks in '01, and all are starters for the current Ram defense. They addressed defense early again in '02, taking LB Robert Thomas and CB Travis Fisher in the first two rounds. Outside of '00, where the top four Ram selections (Candidate, CB Jacoby Shepherd, OT John St. Clair, and OT Kaulana Noa) all failed to menace, there have been few disastrous selections. However, the Rams are one of only two NFL teams that have failed to find a starter in round four or later over the past five drafts. This past season, DT Jimmy Kennedy fell to the Rams who were happy to select him at #12 overall. LB Pisa Tinoisamoa was their 2nd round pick, and the Rams picked WR's Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald with their next two selections. CB's Shane Walton and Kevin Garrett were both thought of as fist day picks, but both were still there in the 5th round for the Rams to take off the board.
Just five of the Patriot starters are from these studied drafts, which is a lower number than any team other than the Texans. That number is a bit misleading, as the Pats have had a couple of high draft choices (LB Andy Katzenmoyer and RB Robert Edwards) succumb to injuries, and have also had another couple players (DE Greg Spires and S Tebucky Jones) leave to become productive starters elsewhere. Also, the Patriots have drafted better over the past three seasons than they did in the late nineties. The only players New England still has from the '98 and '99 drafts are starting center and '99 1st round pick Damien Woody and backup RB Kevin Faulk. The '00 draft was also a weak one for the Pats, and would have been terrible were it not for the 6th round selection of QB Tom Brady of Super Bowl MVP fame. Things started to turn around in '01, when they selected Pro Bowl DT Richard Seymour with the 6th overall selection, and followed that up by selecting their current starting OG's Matt Light and Kenyatta Jones in rounds two and four. None of last year's six picks emerged as starters last season, but all enter camp with the team this year amid higher expectations. 1st round pick TE Daniel Graham battled injuries, and WR Deion Branch did an admirable job as the team's 3rd WR. This past May, the Pats traded down and secured another 1st round selection next year, giving them four picks in the 1st four rounds in '04. They ended up taking DT Ty Warren at #13 overall, and came back and nabbed CB Eugene Wilson and WR Bethel Johnson in the 2nd. DT Dan Klecko and DE Tully Banta Cain should provide immediate help up front, and QB Kliff Kingsbury will battle last year's 4th round pick, Rohan Davey, for one of the backup QB spots behind Brady.
Despite not having a draft class in '98, the Browns have twenty-two players as well as ten starters from the '99-'02 drafts. However, they did have more total picks than any team over that stretch and have also failed to get much production from Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, and Gerard Warren…who were the 1st, 1st, and 3rd overall selections from the '99-'01 drafts. Overall, the Browns have been much better in the draft over the past three seasons under Butch Davis and Pete Garcia than they were in '99 and '00 under Dwight Clark. All they have left to show from their first draft after reentering the league are Couch, WR Kevin Johnson, and CB Daylon McCutcheon. Just one other player from that class, LB Wali Ranier, is expected to open next season on an NFL roster. In '99, WR Dennis Northcutt was their second selection after Brown, and he emerged as a threat last season. But once again, that draft has little remaining impact on the current Browns roster. Just CB Lewis Sanders and TE Aaron Shea will break camp with the team and both are expected to be reserve players at best. Things got a bit better in '00 under Butch despite the lackluster play of Warren over the past year and a half. WR Quincy Morgan was taken in the 2nd round, and has the makings of becoming a legitimate #1 wideout in this league. 4th round pick Anthony Henry picked off 10 passes as a rookie before taking a step backwards last season. RB James Jackson, S Michael Jameson, WR Andre King, and OG Paul Zukauskas all will be in the hunt for roster spots as well. And last season, the Browns took RB William Green, who came on strong in the second half of the year and quite possibly represents the future of the team more so than anyone else on this roster right now. 2nd round pick WR Andre Davis had a very solid rookie season, as did 4th rounder LB Kevin Bentley. This year, the Browns went after C Jeff Faine in the 1st round, solidifying the interior of their offensive front, which has been shaky at best since they reentered the league. In rounds two and three, the Browns took LB Chaun Thompson and CB/S Chris Crocker, two very athletic players some considered reaches at those spots of the draft. RB Lee Suggs slipped to the 4th round and was the Browns selection there. In the later rounds, long snapper Ryan Pontbriand, CB Micheal Lehan , and DE/DT Antonio Garay were how Cleveland finished things up.
It was tough to even include, and even harder to rank the Texans based on the fact that they have just two drafts and one season under their belt as the NFL's newest franchise. QB David Carr was the player the Texans elected to use their inaugural selection on, and he displayed promise as a rookie despite taking a beating behind what was a brutal Texan offensive line. Their two second round picks, WR Jabar Gaffney and OT Chester Pitts, got an immediate opportunity to start, and both produced mixed results. How well Houston did with the rest of their '02 selections will be much more evident after this season, as many of the youngsters just got a taste of playing time for the team last season. This year, they used the #3 overall pick on WR Andre Johnson, who has a rare combination of size and speed and should provide Carr with a #1 target for many years to come. They then went on to use five of their next six selections on offense as well, adding TE Ben Joppru, OT Seth Wand, RB Domanick Davis, and QB's Dave Ragone and Drew Henson to the mix. DE Antwaan Peek was selected in the 3rd round.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
38 picks, 12 starters, 23 on team, 1 Pro Bowler, 4 busts, 1 sleeper
Favorite school: Oregon St. (3 picks)
Despite having twelve starters and twenty-three players still on their roster from the '98 to '02 drafts, the Bengals come in at #24 overall thanks in large part to the many high draft selections they've had that have been complete and utter busts. In '99, their top three picks were QB Akili Smith (#3 overall), DB Charles Fisher, and DB Cory Hall. Just Smith is still in the league…and barely. Also, the six players they took in rounds 4-7 that year are all off the roster as well. In '00, they took Peter Warrick at #4 overall, and followed that up with Mark Roman in the second round…who will be in a battle for a backup spot on the roster this summer. They've been a little better as of late, but LaMont Thompson, their 2nd round pick from a year ago, did struggle and barely managed to see the field. Aside from that, their draft record has been pretty good. LB's Takeo Spikes and Bryan Simmons were their top picks in '98. DE Justin Smith and OT Levi Jones, their '00 and '01 1st round selections, have been promising early in their careers. And twelve of their thirteen overall picks from the '01 and '02 drafts should start this season on their 53-man roster. And the Bengals came through again this past season with what appears to be another very solid effort. They tried again on a QB, taking Carson Palmer with the #1 overall selection. And then in rounds two through four, they snagged three players that had all been projected as first round picks and first round talent in the months leading up to the draft. OG Eric Steinbach, WR Kelley Washington, and CB Dennis Weathersby all slipped for various reasons, and the Bengals were happy to select each of them at the tops of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounds.
The Panthers are another one of those teams that had no success whatsoever in rounds four through seven. Also, they've plucked just six of their current starters from the '98-'02 drafts. However, the six starters they did select represent the nucleus of their young and quickly improving defense. There was DE Mike Rucker in the 2nd round in '99, S Deon Grant in the 2nd round in '00, LB Dan Morgan and DT Kris Jenkins with their first two picks in '01, and DE Julius Peppers and LB Will Witherspoon last season. Also, WR Steve Smith, a 3rd round pick in '01 has made the Pro Bowl as a kick returner. Outside of that…it hasn't been pretty. Just three players remain from the '98-'00 drafts and not one player drafted in the second day has made any sort of positive impact. DT Jason Peter in '98 and DB Rashard Anderson in '00 were 1st round busts. Carolina took OT Jordan Gross off the board at #8 overall this season, and continued to address their beleaguered offense with the picks of C Bruce Nelson and TE Mike Seidman with their next two selections. CB Ricky Manning Jr. and S Colin Branch were added in the 4th and 5th for depth in the secondary. And 6'6 WR Walter Young could quite possibly pan out as a 7th round steal.
26. Detroit Lions
33 picks, 8 starters, 17 on team, 0 Pro Bowlers, 2 busts, 1 sleeper
Favorite school: Seven schools tied (2 picks)
Detroit is another one of the five NFL teams that has failed to produce a Pro Bowler from the draft since 1998. They do still have seventeen of their thirty-three picks on their roster from this span, but only QB Joey Harrington (#3 overall last season) has the makings of becoming a potential impact player. Also, in the '98 and '99 seasons, they drafted very poorly. CB Terry Fair and OT Aaron Gibson were both huge disappointments out of the 1st round those years, and just one player from those two drafts (backup DE Jared DeVries) is still on the roster. WR Germaine Crowell and LB Chris Claiborne showed flashes, but both were not brought back as free agents this off-season. In '00 and '01, they selected OT's Stockar McDougle and Jeff Backus in the 1st round. Both have had their moments, but both have also battled injuries. LB Barrett Green, C Dominic Raiola, DT Shaun Rogers, and QB Mike McMahon were also products of those two drafts. Last year, they resisted the temptation to go after CB Quentin Jammer, and made Harrington the QB of their future, a move that should work out well for them. DE Kalimba Edwards and S Chris Cash (a 6th round pick) should both start for the team this year as well, but the remainder of their draft last season produced mixed results. Charles Rogers became the latest Lion #1 pick this past April, and should produce immediate dividends for the Lion offense as well as the development of Harrington. LB Boss Bailey and DE Cory Redding were both incredible college players who slipped to the Lions in the 2nd and 3rd rounds respectively. Early on day two, they grabbed RB Artose Pinner and S Terence Holt…two players that have a chance to help this team sooner rather than later.
27. New York Giants
36 picks, 7 starters, 17 on team, 1 Pro Bowler, 2 busts, 1 sleeper
Favorite school: Miami Fla., Michigan, and Wisconsin (3 picks)
As we start to get lower on this list, the theme that becomes prevalent is a lack of second day production and few players remaining from the drafts of the late nineties. The Giants are no different. They've been pretty good with their first round selections, but after that they've struggled mightily. I think their '03 draft will end up following suit. Looking back on their 1st round picks from '98 on, all are current starters except Ron Dayne, who they may bring back. They took S Shaun Williams in '98, OT Luke Petitgout in '99, Dayne in '00, CB Will Allen in '01, and TE Jeremy Shockey in '02. LB Dhani Jones in the 6th round in '00 and CB Will Peterson in the 3rd round in '01 were also solid picks, but outside of the seven players I just mentioned, they've been absolutely horrible in their talent evaluations. This season, DT William Joseph slipped to them at #25 overall, but every single one of their remaining ten selections was considered a reach. This is starting to become a trend for the Giants. For the record, they took DE Osi Umwnyiora, TE Vishante Shiancoe, and CB Rod Babers with their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round selections.
28. New York Jets
38 picks, 7 starters, 16 on team, 1 Pro Bowler, 1 bust, 1 sleeper
Favorite school: Michigan (3 picks)
The Giants and the Jets end up back-to-back at #27 and #28. No wonder their fans are so liquor infested on draft day at The Garden. And as far as the Jets are concerned, if you were to take away the 2001 Parcells draft where they had four 1st round selections because of the Keyshawn trade, they'd be ranked dead last. That '01 draft produced DE Shaun Ellis, LB John Abraham, QB Chad Pennington, and TE Anthony Becht…all of whom are current Jet starters. They also got Laverneus Coles in that draft, who ended up turning into a 1st rounder this year, which they used to help trade up and select DeWayne Robertson. In the other four years prior to this draft that I looked at, the Jets only managed to select three current starters (OT Jason Fabini in '98, OT Kareem Mckenzie in '01, and S Jon McGraw in '02) and failed to send anyone to the Pro Bowl. Their '01 1st round pick, WR Santana Moss, has yet to make much of an impact. Their #1 last season, DE Bryan Thomas, was a huge disappointment. Fabini is the only draftee left from the '98 and '99 classes. As mentioned earlier, the Jets moved up this year to the #4 pick and went after DT DeWayne Robertson. In the 2nd, they selected LB Victor Hobson. RB B.J. Askew and QB Brooks Bollinger were also added later to add some depth at the skill positions with Vinnie and Curtis Martin nearing the latter stages of their careers.
If it seems to you like Tampa never has a 1st round pick, you're correct. They've had just two over the past six seasons: DT Anthony McFarland in '99 and OT Kenyatta Walker in '01. Based on what we've learned about the value of 1st round picks through this study, it's no surprise that Tampa comes in at #29. They've nabbed only six of their starters through these drafts, and have failed to select a player that has gone on to play in a Pro Bowl. The other four draftees that are slated to start for the defending champs come September are 1998 2nd rounder CB Brian Kelly, '99 3rd round K Martin Grammatica, '00 2nd round OG Cosey Coleman, and '01 3rd round CB Dwight Smith. WR Jacquez Green and QB Shaun King stand out as 2nd round picks from the late nineties that never really panned out. And last seasons draft class produced absolutely nothing. WR Marquise Walker and RB Travis Stephens were their top two picks, but both battled injuries and ineffectiveness. This year, the Bucs once again had no first rounder but got some good value in rounds one and two with the selections of DE Dewayne White and QB Chris Simms.
30. Arizona Cardinals
47 picks, 9 starters, 19 on team, 1 Pro Bowler, 3 busts, 2 sleepers
Favorite school: Nebraska (3 picks)
This is where it starts to get real ugly. Only Jacksonville (49) has had more overall selections than the forty-seven picks the Cards have had since 1998, yet only nineteen of those players remain and just nine of them are starters. They've also had their share of high profile busts with DE Andre Wadsworth in '98, LB Johnnie Rutledge in '99, and RB Thomas Jones in '00. Also, last year's #1, DT Wendell Bryant, held out and then looked terrible once he finally got on the field. And three of the high picks that actually ended up being decent players (CB Corey Chavous, RB Michael Pittman, and WR David Boston) are no longer here. If you're looking for positives, they have rebuilt their offensive line over the past five seasons with the selections of Leonard Davis, L.J. Shelton, and Anthony Clement. Also, WR Jason McAddley surprised as a 6th rounder last season and K Bill Gramatica has been OK since being taken in the 4th round in '00. So based on the Cardinals history in the draft, their struggles over that same time frame start to make more sense. Also, the shenanigans they pulled this year when they traded down from #6 overall to take two players projected to go in the 3rd round (WR Bryant Johnson and DE Calvin Pace) should come as no surprise to anyone. If it's any consolation, their next three picks were all guys I liked that I feel have a good chance to become productive NFL players. Those players were WR Anquan Boldin, LB Gerald Hayes, and DT Kenny King.
No team in the league has fewer than the five starters these drafts have produced for the Chiefs. And that's counting DT Ryan Sims and LB Scott Fujita, two rookies last year that both had their share of struggles, as starters. The other starters are CB Eric Warfield (7th round in '98), OT John Tait (1st round in '99), and S William Bartee (2nd round in '00). Not exactly Manning, James, and Freeney. The 2001 draft was a crucial one for an aging Chief team, and not one of those nine selections has managed to emerge as a starter. They struck out on RB prospects Rashaan Sheehee and Mike Cloud in the 2nd rounds in '98 and '99 and went back to the well this year with the pick of RB Larry Johnson, who they took after trading down as opposed to standing pat and selecting Troy Polamalu to help their horrendous secondary. LB Kawicka Mitchell and CB Julian Battle were their next two selections, and then they went for depth on the offensive line and took Brett Williams and Jordan Black off the board.
32. Miami Dolphins
38 picks, 6 starters, 13 on team, 1 Pro Bowler, 2 busts, 1 sleeper
Favorite school: Eleven schools tied (2 picks)
It wasn't tough deciding which team had made the least out of the draft since 1998. In addition to having just thirty-eight total selections over that span, only 34.2% of those picks (thirteen players) are still on the team. And just six of them are starters. When you break it down, the Dolphins have only made three good selections over the past six years. CB Patrick Surtain in the 2nd round in '98, WR Chris Chambers in the 2nd round in '01, and TE Randy McMichael in the 4th round last season. Just three of the twenty-four players they picked in '98, '99, and '00 are on the team still. They've had only two 1st round picks during this time, and they were RB John Avery in '98 and CB Jamar Fletcher in '01…both busts. They've failed to pick one second day guy that has been of any value whatsoever. And this year, they took a guy in LB Eddie Moore with their first pick that was being projected in the 5th or 6th round. Their next two selections, OT Wade Smith and OG Taylor Whitley, were far from sexy selections. Ugly.
Whew. That was, by far, the most research I've done in preparation for anything I've written. I wanted to do this for a couple reasons. Firstly, for my own personal knowledge as a guy that likes to put some time and research into the draft each season. And secondly, I thought this would be a nice piece for this site, which I enjoy contributing to. I put together a pretty cool spreadsheet when researching this piece. It lists every NFL teams draft selections over the past six seasons chronologically. It's something I'll continue to add to each year. If you'd like me to forward you the spreadsheet, just let me know via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And as always, I welcome any questions or comments.