On draft day, every player is a stud that will help out the organization. Remember when E.J. Henderson was viewed as the coup of the 2003 draft or when Michael Bennett was a "gift from God" from Denny Green -- who likely would have said the same about Deuce McAllister had he not gone shortly in front of the Vikings in the 2001 draft.
The truth is that many first-round picks are busts -- even those at or near the top. A look back at just the last five drafts bears this out. Remember what you were doing when these names were called? Let's set the Way Back Machine to 2000 and move forward from there.
2000 -- Chad Pennington was the clear No. 1 QB in the draft, but then came Chris Redman, Tee Martin and Giovanni Carmazzi. Remember that particular Big Three? Oh, yeah, later in that draft a couple guys named Tom Brady and Marc Bulger got drafted. That same year Thomas Jones was the consensus No. 1 RB with Ron Dayne viewed as a strong No. 2. History taught us that maybe Jamal Lewis and Shaun Alexander would have been better choices.
2001 -- At the time, the draft was viewed as a down year for RBs. When the Vikings took Bennett, only LaDainian Tomlinson and McAllister were gone. By the time the draft was over, LaMont Jordan, Kevan Barlow, Travis Henry and Rudi Johnson all found new homes. 2001 was also the year of the "can't miss" wide receiver and everyone was jealous of future stars David Terrell and Koren Robinson. Personally, I'd have been just as happy if not moreso to get "lesser talents" taken later like Chad Johnson, Reggie Wayne or Chris Chambers.
2002 -- A draft that goes to show even if a head coach was a player's college coach, things don't always work out. Remember William Green? He got taken by former University of Miami coach Butch Davis ahead of one of his former recruits -- some guy named Clinton Portis. Tight end Randy McMichael was viewed as a reach, as opposed to lead-pipe locks like Matt Schobel, Terry Jones Jr. and Justin Peelle. There was no way DE Dwight Freeney could hang with Kalimba Edwards or Bryan Thomas. Was there? At outside linebacker, two of the top three rated players were Napoleon Harris and Raonall Smith. Only in a fantasy league could those two wind up on the same team.
2003 -- The year of the RB, Larry Johnson and Onterrio Smith were listed 1-2 by no less than hair-meister Mel Kiper, who felt Willis McGahee and Chris Brown couldn't get the job done nearly as well. Or that Anquan Boldin couldn't hold a candle to fellow Floridian Taylor Jacobs. Or that Kevin Williams is good, but he's no Jimmy Kennedy.
2004 -- Coming into the draft, for months the buzz had been about Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger -- until Phillip Rivers showed up. The latter went in the top four picks, while Roethlisberger slid past the Cardinals, Browns and Redskins to the Steelers at No. 11. While the jury is out on most of the other rookies taken last year, Roethlisberger wouldn't be traded straight up to any of the three teams listed above for their first-round pick this year -- all of which remain suspiciously high on draft day. Why? None of them have a franchise QB.
The truth of the matter is that the draft is much luck and opportunity as it is skill and savvy. While the Vikings were convinced Kevin Williams was a perfect fit for the system they run, they have also been convinced that the linebackers they've taken each of the last three years in the second round of draft day were steals and future Pro Bowlers. Like anything else, time will tell. But, history remembers where they were taken -- which is why players like Kevin Dyson (the only WR taken ahead of Randy Moss in the 1998 draft) will live in infamy.
Who's No. 1 (or No. 7)?
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