They could have had Gamble

In the 2004 draft, 27 of the 32 first-round picks are starters, and only two players are out of the league. One of them is Ahmad Carroll. Three picks later, Carolina drafted standout cornerback Chris Gamble.

When the Green Bay Packers released Ahmad Carroll last week, he joined some very unwelcome company. Carroll and Rashaun Woods are the only first-round picks in the 2004 draft who are out of the league.

In fact, 27 of the 32 first-round picks are starters with the teams that drafted them (with the exception of Philip Rivers and Eli Manning, who barely had time to put on their ceremonial hat and jersey before being traded for each other), which is exactly what you should get when in such prime draft position.

The first 22 selections in 2004 are starters.

Pick No. 23, defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs, is a top backup in Seattle.

Pick No. 26, running back Chris Perry, is on Cincinnati's season-ending injured reserve. Perry is a backup, but the Bengals had no idea Rudi Johnson would burst onto the scene in 2004 and become one of the NFL's premier running backs.

Pick No. 27 is defensive end Jason Babin, who was a starter in Houston until the Texans spent the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 draft on Mario Williams.

If not for Johnson's rise to stardom, Perry might be starting in Cincinnati. If the penny-pinching Texans had selected Reggie Bush ahead of Williams, Babin would be starting for Houston. That would have made it 29 of 32 first-round picks starting.

To be fair, with the Packers selecting at No. 25, their chances of making a first-round mistake were greater than St. Louis at No. 24, Seattle at No. 23, and so on.

Still, to come up empty with a first-round pick is an indictment on former coach and general manager Mike Sherman. For Packers fans quick to blame the current GM, Ted Thompson, for Green Bay's lack of talent, they'd be wise to remember draft blunders such as drafting Carroll, a track star who was too short, too raw and too incapable of learning from his many mistakes.

Blowing the Carroll pick hurts even more when you scroll down the draft list that's under this story. With the 28th selection, the Carolina Panthers picked cornerback Chris Gamble from Ohio State.

In hindsight, it's stunning Sherman liked Carroll more than he liked Gamble.

Gamble is 6-foot-1 and had a big-time collegiate resume at Ohio State, especially when compared to what Carroll did at Arkansas. Gamble wasn't quite as fast as Carroll, who ran a 4.26 in the 40-yard dash, but his 4.45-second clocking is plenty fast, and his 40-inch vertical leap was better than Carroll's 38.5.

In fact, the only knock I could find on him coming out of college is the Buckeyes used Gamble too much at wide receiver, which stunted his growth as a defensive back.

That hasn't held Gamble back a bit. He picked off six passes as a rookie and seven last season. This season, he has one interception giving him a 14-3 career advantage over Carroll.

The 2004 first round

1. San Diego: Eli Manning, QB - starts

2. Oakland: Robert Gallery, OT - starts

3. Arizona: Larry Fitzgerald, WR - starts

4. N.Y. Giants: Philip Rivers, QB - starts

5. Washington: Sean Taylor, S - starts

6. Cleveland: Kellen Winslow, TE - starts

7. Detroit: Roy Williams, WR - starts

8. Atlanta: DeAngelo Hall, CB - starts

9. Jacksonville: Reggie Williams, WR - starts

10. Houston: Dunta Robinson, CB - starts

11. Pittsburgh: Ben Roethlisberger, QB - starts

12. N.Y. Jets: Jonathan Vilma, LB - starts

13. Buffalo: Lee Evans, WR - starts

14. Chicago: Tommie Harris, DT - starts

15. Tampa Bay: Michael Clayton, WR - starts

16. Philadelphia: Shawn Andrews, G - starts

17. Denver: D.J. Williams, LB - starts

18. New Orleans: Will Smith, DE - starts

19. Miami: Vernon Carey, T - starts

20. Minnesota: Kenechi Udeze, DE - starts

21. New England: Vince Wilfork, DT - starts

22. Buffalo: J.P. Losman, QB - starts

23. Seattle: Marcus Tubbs, DT - top backup

24. St. Louis: Steven Jackson, RB - starts

25. Green Bay: Ahmad Carroll, CB - out of NFL

26. Cincinnati: Chris Perry, RB - injured reserve

27. Houston: Jason Babin, LB - top backup

28. Carolina: Chris Gamble, CB - starts

29. Atlanta: Michael Jenkins, WR - starts

30. Detroit: Kevin Jones, RB - starts

31. San Francisco: Rashaun Woods, WR - out of NFL

32. New England: Ben Watson, TE - starts

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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