Of course, there are no do-overs when it comes to the NFL draft. You simply live with the picks you make, whether they work out or not. But what if teams could go back and rewrite history? This week, NFL.com will do just that by looking at each draft from 2004 to 2008 and assign do-overs based on what we know now. Today, Pat Kirwan rewrites 2004.
I remember the 2004 NFL Draft vividly. I did my show on Sirius NFL Radio from Radio City Music Hall and witnessed the introduction of what might go down as the greatest quarterback class in NFL history. Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger already have three Super Bowl championships between them, which eclipses the famed trio of 1983 -- John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.
Those three turned out to be Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks, and only time will tell if Manning, Rivers and Roethlisberger eventually get to Canton. The biggest lesson 2004 offered was to never pass on the chance to draft a franchise quarterback, which is something several teams are still regretting seven years later.
1. San Diego Chargers
Rivers has had an outstanding career and is the main reason for the Chargers' run of success. But unlike Roethlisberger, he hasn't won the big one. Bottom line: Roethlisberger has been to three Super Bowls and come up with two rings. The guy is a winner.
2. Oakland Raiders
Actual pick: Robert Gallery
Do-over pick: Philip Rivers
What didn't happen with the second pick will haunt the Raiders for a decade. Even though they still had Rich Gannon, he was 38 years old, and Oakland needed to look to the future -- which was not Marques Tuiasosopo or Kerry Collins, whom they acquired in 2004. Gannon threw 68 passes in 2004 to end his career. Can you imagine if the Raiders had selected Rivers? Maybe they would be 8-2 against the Chargers instead of 2-8.
3. Arizona Cardinals
Actual pick: Larry Fitzgerald
Do-over pick: Fitzgerald
Although they got a great player in Fitzgerald, this was another team with a QB question at the time. Their starter in 2003 was Jeff Blake, but they opted to pass on Rivers and Roethlisberger. At least Fitzgerald has been one of the game's top receivers during his career -- maybe the best.
4. New York Giants
5. Washington Redskins
Actual pick: Sean Taylor
Do-over pick: Taylor
In 2007 the Redskins had to cope with the unfortunate death of Taylor, who was playing like a perennial Pro Bowl safety at the time. I can't fault Washington for taking him, but the underlying issue is that with Patrick Ramsey the starting quarterback in 2003, they might regret not taking Big Ben.
6. Cleveland Browns
Actual pick: Kellen Winslow
Do-over pick: Lee Evans
The Browns were looking for a game-breaking receiver, and Evans is a solid guy who is still playing in Buffalo. Winslow, meanwhile, had to be shipped to Tampa Bay because he just wasn't a good fit with the new Cleveland coaching staff. Evans has gone through multiple changes but just keeps performing.
7. Detroit Lions
Actual pick: Roy Williams
Do-over pick: Steven Jackson
The Lions got a few good years out of Williams, but ultimately traded him. While their top running back at the time was Shawn Bryson, they passed on Steven Jackson, who has 10,618 yards of total offense and 54 touchdowns since coming into the league.
8. Atlanta Falcons
Dockett has turned into one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the NFL. Hall was out of Atlanta after four years and just 17 interceptions. With the Falcons in a 4-3 defense now, Dockett could have been a great three-technique, which just might have made coach Mike Smith's defense dominating.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars
Actual pick: Reggie Williams
Do-over pick: Will Smith
Williams was nothing short of a bust. Smith would have answered their pass rush problems, which became even more of an issue in future years as they drafted pass rushers who just couldn't get to the QB. With the selection of Smith, Jacksonville could have avoided drafting Derrick Harvey (first round) and Quentin Groves (second round) in 2008.
10. Houston Texans
The Texans needed a cornerback and Robinson is a good player, but the organization didn't want to pay him when his rookie contract was up. Imagine if they had just drafted Schaub instead of trading two second-round picks for him and switching spots with the Falcons in the first round in 2007. The Falcons got better as a team with that compensation package. If only Houston had those picks ... and Schaub.
|The Chiefs got great value in Jared Allen. Now the Vikings reap the benefits. (Paul Spinelli/Associated Press)|
Best values of 2004 draft
Best team draft
San Diego Chargers: It was close between the Chargers and Cardinals. Arizona's first three picks were Fitzgerald, Karlos Dansby and Dockett, and the team came back in the fifth round for DE Antonio Smith, now a starter for the Texans.
The Chargers get the nod, though, when you consider they wound up with Rivers and picks that turned into Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding, to go along with Igor Olshansky, Nick Hardwick, Shaun Phillips and Turner.
|The Raiders' draft was filled with all sorts of bad, beginning with Robert Gallery at No. 2 overall. (Paul Jasienski/Associated Press)|
Worst team draft
Oakland Raiders: Not only did the Raiders pass on Rivers and Roethlisberger, they also passed on Matt Schaub three times. Gallery turned out to be a guard instead of the left tackle they had hoped to get. Second-round pick Jake Grove was shipped to Miami. Third-round choice Stuart Schweigert finished up his career with four interceptions. In the end, we all have bad drafts, but the search for a franchise quarterback should always take precedent.
The 49ers also deserve to be acknowledged. When they took WR Rashaun Woods in the first round, receivers Bernard Berrian, Jerricho Cotchery, Devery Henderson, and Patrick Crayton were all still available and could have even been drafted in a later round. The next three players taken after Woods were TE Ben Watson, Dansby and Snee.
Fooled us all
The 2004 draft had its share of heartaches with the tragic death of Sean Taylor and the diagnosis of Vikings first-round pick Kenechi Udeze with leukemia. The one guy that I thought would be a much better player than he turned out to be was Gallery. He dominated in college, but it didn't take then-Raiders coach Lane Kiffin long to see that the struggling tackle had to move to guard.
Jonathan Vilma is not only a fine football player, but a high-character guy who was a perfect fit as the middle linebacker in the Jets' 4-3 defense. However, when Eric Mangini came to town and switched to a 3-4 scheme, Vilma was no longer a fit. The former first-round pick has since flourished in New Orleans in the scheme he was originally drafted to play in.
Fell to the right team
Roethlisberger fell to 11th overall, and there the Steelers were waiting for him. Pittsburgh had a great defense and power run game to provide Big Ben with the support he needed to flourish. Bill Cowher kept Roethlisberger's pass attempts between 20 to 25 a game for two years, and Roethlisberger led his team to the AFC title game as a rookie and a Super Bowl in his second season.
Makes sense after all
I saved the best for last. With all the notoriety the big three quarterbacks get from this draft, it sometimes goes unnoticed that Schaub was the 90th pick by the Falcons. They parlayed Schaub into a switch of first-round picks (No. 8 to 10) and second-round selections in 2007 and 2008 in the trade to Houston. Schaub finished fourth in the NFL last season with 4,370 yards. In four years with the Texans, he has thrown for 14,424 yards and 77 touchdowns.