As the NFL season heads into the playoffs, Browns fans are already fully immersed in discussions of the 2005 NFL Draft. I'll write several NFL Draft related pieces between now and April, and wanted to start things off with a look at last year's draft, and this year's rookie class. Who were the top rookie performers? Who were the winners and losers of the 2004 NFL Draft?
Let's begin by taking a look at my first and second team All-Rookie squads.
QB-Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh-Rd 1
RB-Kevin Jones, Detroit-Rd 1
WR-Roy Williams, Detroit-Rd 1
WR-Michael Clayton, Tampa Bay-Rd 1
WR-Lee Evans, Buffalo-Rd 1
TE-Ben Troupe, Tennessee-Rd 2
OT-Robert Gallery, Oakland-Rd 1
OG-Jacob Bell, Tennessee-Rd 5
C-Nick Hardwick, San Diego-Rd 3
OG-Travelle Wharton, Carolina-Rd 3
OT-Shane Olivea, San Diego-Rd 7
DE-Will Smith, New Orleans-Rd 1
DT-Darnell Dockett, Arizona-Rd 3
DT-Vince Wilfork, New England-Rd 1
DE-Jared Allen, Kansas City-Rd 4
OLB-Karlos Dansby, Arizona-Rd 2
ILB-Jonathon Vilma, NY Jets-Rd 1
OLB-D.J. Williams, Denver-Rd 1
CB-Dunta Robinson, Houson-Rd 1
CB-Chris Gamble, Carolina-Rd 1
S-Sean Taylor, Washington-Rd 1
S-Erik Coleman, NY Jets-Rd 5
K-Nate Keading, San Diego-Rd 3
P-Kyle Larson, Cincinnati-UDFA
QB-Eli Manning, NY Giants-Rd 1
RB-Julius Jones, Dallas-Rd 2
WR-Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona-Rd 1
WR-Keary Colbert, Carolina-Rd 2
WR-Clarence Moore, Baltimore-Rd 6
TE-Chris Cooley, Washington-Rd 3
OT-Nat Dorsey, Minnesota-Rd 4
OG-Jake Grove, Oakland-Rd 2
C-Alex Stepanovich, Arizona-Rd 4
OG-Chris Snee, NY Giants-Rd 2
OT-Vernon Carey, Miami-Rd 1
DE-Kenechi Udeze, Minnesota-Rd 1
DT-Tommie Harris, Chicago-Rd 1
DT-Igor Olshansky, San Diego-Rd 2
DE-Reggie Torbor, NY Giants-Rd 4
OLB-Teddy Lehman, Detroit-Rd 2
ILB-Daryl Smith, Jacksonville-Rd 2& Niko Koutouvides, Seattle-Rd 4 (tie)
OLB-DeMorrio Williams, Atlanta-Rd 4
CB-Nathan Vasher, Chicago-Rd 4
CB-Jason David, Indianapolis-Rd 4
S-Madieu Williams, Cincinnati-Rd 2
S-Michael Boulware, Seattle-Rd 2 & Gibril Wilson, NY Giants-Rd 5 (tie)
Just from taking a look at the above teams, it's clear who some of the early winners were in the 2004 NFL Draft. Let's take a closer look at some of the winners and losers of last year's draft.
Arizona Cardinals - Denny Green came to Arizona with a reputation of being able to evaluate college talent, and his first effort in the land of the sun was a rousing success. Each of their first four selections have instantly developed into impact starters, and a couple more drafts like this and Green may finally have this team pointed in the right direction. In the 1st round, they went after Larry Fitzgerald, who has been as advertised … and has all the makings of becoming an impact player. In the second round, they drafted OLB Karlos Dansby from Arizona, who has been a starter from day one, a force off the edge, and made several writers NFL Pro Bowl teams. In the 3rd they drafted Darnell Dockett, a DT from Florida State that slid. Dockett has been a solid contributor inside against the run, and has also shown an ability to get to the quarterback. And in the 4th round, they nabbed Alex Stepanovich, a center from Ohio State that has also been a starter since the outset. 7th round pick John Navarre has also hung around.
San Diego Chargers - To think most of the pundits were chiding Chargers GM A.J. Smith this past spring is now laughable. Smith turned in one of the most impressive off-seasons in recent NFL history in completely rebuilding the Charger franchise. Smith plucked four starters from the draft, and that's not even counting Phillip Rivers, or the 2005 1st round pick they got from the Giants. He found a diamond in the rough in Shane Olivea, a 7th rd pick out of Ohio State, who has been a productive starter at tackle all year. Nick Hardwick, a 3rd rd pick, has started at center as well, and the pair have helped rebuild the Charger line … which was one of the worst in all of football all season. 2nd and 3rd round picks DE Igor Olshansky and K Nate Keading have also been solid contributors.
Carolina Panthers - The Panthers did little on day two, but emerged from day one with three players that project to be core guys. Chris Gamble and Keary Colbert have had excellent rookie seasons for the Panthers, and converted OT Travelle Wharton has filled in admirably at guard for the team, starting the last ten games for the team there.
New York Giants - Eli Manning has had his share of rookie struggles this season, and the Giants also gave up next year's #1 to acquire him … but a closer look shows the Giants followed up that pick with a helluva finish to the draft. 2nd round pick OG Chris Snee showed promise before being sidelined a couple weeks back, and the Giants started day two strong with the selections of DE Reggie Torbor (Auburn) and S Gibril Wilson (Tennessee) in rounds four and five. Both have been key defensive performers for the team this season. In addition, 6th round pick WR Jamaar Taylor has shown some big play ability in limited time.
Detroit Lions - Roy Williams and Kevin Jones have both been made an immediate impact for Coach Mariucci, and along with Joey Harrington, form the nucleus of this young offense. With the 2nd round selection acquired from the Browns for moving down one pick in the first … they snagged LB Teddy Lehman from Oklahoma, who has started all year for Detroit at OLB and played well. 3rd round pick Keith Smith has played in the dime, and has played well in spots, as has 5th round choice OLB Alex Lewis.
Pittsburgh Steelers - Roethlisberger.
Green Bay Packers - Tough draft for the Pack. They passed on Chris Gamble for Ahmad Carroll and then made three shaky selections in the 3rd round on CB Joey Thomas, DT Donnell Washington, and P B.J. Sander. Thomas has helped Carroll contribute to what has been an awful Packer pass defense, which is amongst the worst in the league, and has just seven interceptions to go along with 33 TD's allowed. Washington has been injured all season, and Sander was not even able to beat out Bryan Barker.
San Francisco 49ers - The 49'ers used 1st and 3rd round picks on WR's Rashaun Woods and Derrick Hamilton, who have combined for four catches this season. OG Justin Smiley has been OK n spot duty at OG, but their other 2nd round pick … Shawntee Spencer has struggled mightily starting at CB for the depleted Niner secondary. Isaac Sopoaga has missed the year due to injury, and Cody Pickett has been awful in limited duty.
Baltimore Ravens - A poor draft effort for the mighty Raven front office? Believe it. The team traded their '04 1st rounder to move up and select Akili Boller in 2003, and their second and third round picks, Dwan Edwards and Devard Darling, have been non-existent. The team selected, then waived Bowling Green's Josh Harris (now a Brown), and WR Clarence Moore, a 6th rounder from Northern Arizona … has been the only draftee to see the field.
Miami Dolphins - The Dolphins can't draft. Year in and year out they are amongst the "losers", and that is the first thing Nick Saban must change if he want to turn things around in South Beach. They dealt a 4th round pick to move up to select Vernon Carey, who had an awful camp, and has been unable to supplant any of the stiffs on the Miami OL. Will Poole has played in nickel and dime sets with mixed success and 6th round OG Rex Hadnot has filled in at OG … and those two have been the best of the lot.