While every NFL draft is different, one constant remains from year to year – the expectation that all 32 teams believe that they have significantly upgraded their rosters. In rare instances, teams can be built off a couple of strong drafts, just as other teams can be set back years by having consecutive belly flops on draft day.
The 2005 draft is an example of a Ground Zero draft – where more than two-thirds of the first-round picks turned out to be busts. Unfortunately for the Class of 2005, it came on the heels on one of the most productive draft classes in recent history.
The Class of 2004 not only featured prominent talent at the top, but throughout the draft. It was the last time any pick in the top six has been traded on draft day, but it should be noted that both picks traded that year were for each other – when Archie Manning decided his baby boy shouldn't play for the Chargers. Perhaps the old man should have kept quiet. While Eli did win a championship with the Giants, the Chargers' draft in 2004 will go down as one of the best in modern NFL history – much less getting an additional bone tossed to them by the Giants in the Manning-for-Philip Rivers trade.
For the Vikings, the 2004 draft didn't reap much in the way of the benefits. None of their first four picks – Kenechi Udeze, Dontarrious Thomas, Darrion Scott and Nat Dorsey – made much an impact, but all were starters at one time or another. Even with almost nothing out of the first four selections, the Vikings still got Mewelde Moore and Jeff Dugan, who both are entrenched as NFL players five years later.
Only two teams completely whiffed on the 2004 draft – the Ravens and 49ers. They came away with virtually nothing, but the Class of '04 made an impact on everybody else in one way or another.
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Arizona – All hail Denny Green. The Cards not only got Larry Fitzgerald with the third pick of the draft, but landed linebacker Karlos Dansby in the second round and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett in the third.
Atlanta – The Falcons got DeAngelo Hall with the eighth pick and successfully traded him away, as they also did with third-round QB Matt Schaub. Despite moving talent, they still have wide receiver Michael Jenkins to show for their trouble.
Buffalo – While QB J.P. Losman never lived up to his hype, the Bills got wide receiver Lee Evans out of the deal and he remains one of the league's most dangerous deep threats.
Carolina – The Panthers got CB Chris Gamble in the first round and, while neither Kerry Colbert nor Travelle Wharton became stars, they were lineup fixtures for years.
Cincinnati – As usual, the Bengals whiffed on the first round with RB Chris Perry, but the strength of the '04 draft still held up – even for a brutal organization like the Bengals. With their second pick in the second round, Cincy got Madieu Williams, as well as starting DE Robert Geathers in the fourth round and OT Stacy Andrews in the sixth.
Cleveland – Kellen Winslow was the only star, but considering they dumped him to get a second-round pick this year, he wasn't worth the headaches.
Dallas – The Cowboys didn't have a first-round pick, but still came away with RB Julius Jones in the second round and WR Patrick Crayton on the seventh round.
Denver – It wasn't a great draft, but the Broncos had some production from first-round LB D.J. Williams and second-round RB Tatum Bell.
Detroit – The Lions finally hit paydirt on a wide receiver in the first round with Roy Williams, who yielded a first-rounder in the 2009 draft in a trade with Dallas, as well as RB Kevin Jones – who was productive until injuries finished off his Detroit days.
Green Bay – The Packers exemplify the power of the 2004 draft. First-rounder Ahmad Carroll was a complete bust, but the Packers retained their dignity in the late rounds – taking defensive lineman Corey Williams (later ransomed to Cleveland) in the sixth round and starting center Scott Wells in the seventh.
Houston – The Texans had a poor draft by this standard, but, before his injuries, Dunta Robinson was a very good cornerback – the only ray of sunlight on the rained-out Texans parade.
Indianapolis – The Colts didn't have a first-round pick, but still managed to come away with safety Bob Sanders in the second round, as well as tight end Ben Hartsock in the third round and tackle Jake Scott in the fifth round.
Jacksonville – While the Jags didn't hit the jackpot, they came away with five starters – WR Reggie Williams in the first round, LB Daryl Smith and FB Greg Jones in the second, WR Ernest Wilford in the fourth and kicker Josh Scobee in the fifth.
Kansas City – The Chiefs draft would have been a complete loss (they were without a first-round pick) if not for a "reach" in the fourth round for an obscure defensive end named Jared Allen.
Miami – The Dolphins and Rick Spielman produced only one solid player from this draft, but it was a good one – offensive lineman Vernon Carey.
New England – The Patriots had two of the last 12 picks in the first round and made the most of it – drafting DT Vince Wilfork and TE Ben Watson.
New Orleans – The Saints got their money's worth out of first rounder Will Smith, but also got solid contributions from second-round WR Devery Henderson and fifth-round FB Mike Karney.
New York Giants – Although the Giants gave up a bit to trade Rivers to the Chargers for Eli Manning, they also got guard Chris Snee in the second round and safety Gibril Wilson in the fifth round.
New York Jets – They may not have much to show for it now, but the Jets drafted three players who have cashed in nicely in the NFL – LB Jonathan Vilma in the first round, WR Jerricho Cotchery in the fourth and recent free-agent millionaire RB Derrick Ward in the seventh with one of the compensatory picks that almost made him Mr. Irrelevant.
Oakland – The Raiders typically bungle the draft and this was no exception. They took Robert Gallery with the second pick and, while he was a washout at left tackle, he is still a starter. For the second round, they did much better with center Jake Grove.
Philadelphia – The Eagles got a starter in tackle Shawn Andrews, but have little more to show for their trouble on draft day, which must please the always-passive Eagles fans.
Pittsburgh – The Steelers came away with two players, but they can't complain about either. One was franchise QB Ben Roethlisberger and the other was OT Max Starks, a player the Steelers franchised to prevent losing him in free agency – not too shabby for a third-round tackle.
St. Louis – The Rams yielded only one player from the draft, but he was a good one – running back Stephen Jackson.
San Diego – It doesn't get much better than this. The worst team in 2003, the Chargers used the first pick on Eli Manning and later traded him to get another first-rounder the following year. Entering the draft humbled by Manning's announced refusal to play for the organization, apparently the Chargers took it personally. They left the draft with DE Igor Olshansky in the second round, kicker Nate Kaeding and center Nick Hardwick in the third, linebacker Shaun Phillips on the fourth and RB Michael Turner in the fifth – an embarrassment of riches.
Seattle – The draft would have been a wash if not for guard Sean Locklear in the third round and wide receiver D.J. Hackett in the fifth.
Tampa Bay – The Bucs hit no homers here, but came away with WR Michael Clayton in the first round and Giants CB Will Allen in the fourth.
Tennessee – If not for injuries and the lack of a first-round pick, this would have been a better draft, with TE Ben Troupe and DE Travis LaBoy in the second round and DE Antwan Odom in the third.
Washington – The Redskins had two picks in the first three rounds, but made the most of it – taking the late Sean Taylor in the first round and TE Chris Cooley in the third.
As the NFL's 32 teams start dividing up the college Class of 2009, they will all enter the process hoping to get a couple of game-changers. However, regardless of how well this year's crop turns out, it will take a tall order to match up with the league-wide success enjoyed by the Class of 2004 – perhaps the best top-to-bottom draft class in the last 20 years.
While 2005 went bust, 2004 went boom
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