Passing on Chambers still haunts Packers

Dolphins wide receiver, Ferguson have taken two separate paths

For the ultimate example of hitting and missing in the NFL draft, see Green Bay Packers wide receiver Robert Ferguson and Miami Dolphins wide receiver Chris Chambers. Both were selected in the second round by their respective teams in 2001 and both have gone in distinctly different directions in their pro careers.

For Packers fans, looking back on the 2001 draft is a painful memory. Green Bay kicked it off by trading up to take defensive end Jamal Reynolds 10th overall. In a pre-draft trade, the Packers swapped the 47th overall pick for the 41st pick with San Francisco, which the Packers used to select Ferguson, the ninth receiver taken in the draft. Though Ferguson was a junior with only one season under his belt at Texas A&M, then outgoing-GM Ron Wolf and incoming GM Mike Sherman elected to take him instead of Chambers, who was taken 52nd overall by Miami (10th receiver selected) and had set all kinds of receiving records in four seasons at the University of Wisconsin.

Wolf and Sherman said at the time that they thought about taking Chambers, but felt that Ferguson was physically stronger coming off the line of scrimmage against defensive backs. They also liked that the 6-foot-1 Ferguson is two inches taller than Chambers.

Five years later ... ouch. That pick still hurts Packers fans. The sting of the Wolf-Sherman miss will only be a little more painful when the Dolphins and Packers meet on Sunday at Dolphin Stadium. Ferguson has been in the training room more than some of the team's trainers while Chambers has become a fantasy football favorite. He enters Sunday's game having caught a pass in each of his last 53 games. Ferguson has a grand total of five catches for 31 yards this season.

Ferguson has been riddled with injuries since one of his first minicamps with the Packers, and has struggled to be the go-to receiver that Wolf-Sherman felt he would be. Ferguson's career thus far peaked in 2003 when he caught 38 passes for 520 yards. Since then his stats have gone down while his injury totals have increased.

Despite his setbacks, Ferguson has maintained an attitude of an all-pro, but has had no luck with injuries. His latest setback is a sprained foot that he sustained Oct. 2 against Philadelphia, which may sideline him for the rest of the season.

"I feel bad for him, I really do," Packers quarterback Brett Favre said. "The talent obviously is there. What I tell people all the time about Fergie is I don't think there is anyone who wants it as bad as him. No one studies as much as he does. No one works as hard as he does. No one has the ‘I'm going to make the play' every time. That doesn't always happen. I know Fergie has caught a little bit of heat, but that has never affected him. I like his work ethic and the way he approaches the game.

"He keeps having setbacks, which has nothing to do with him. After a while, you kind of get lost in the shuffle. … You get down on yourself and you start questioning, ‘Is it me?' Whether it's here or somewhere else, he can have a great career. He can be a feature receiver. His string of luck has to turn good at some point."

Meanwhile, Chambers has gradually reached Pro Bowl status as Miami's top receiver. He has missed just two games since 2001 and has never caught less than 48 passes (rookie season). Last year, Chambers snagged a career-high 82 passes for 1,118 yards and earned a trip to Hawaii in February. He has 4,866 total yards receiving for his career.

Packers fans can only wonder what might have been if Wolf-Sherman would have taken Chambers instead of Ferguson. Favre to Chambers? The draft can be cruel.


Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.


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