Draft Do-Overs  

 

Rivers great, but Big Ben would best serve Chargers

  • By Pat Kirwan NFL.com
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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.

Here's a harsh reality of the NFL draft: Some teams wish they could just go back in time for a second chance. This week, former personnel
executives Pat Kirwan and Michael Lombardi rewrite the drafts from 2004 to 2008.

2004: Kirwan: Shakeup among famed QB trio
2005: Lombardi: Right pick was in 49ers' backyard
2006: Kirwan: Famed trio highlights busts
2007: Lombardi: Reflecting on Raiders' failure
2008: Kirwan: Dolphins missed out on franchise QB

1. San Diego Chargers

Actual pick: Eli Manning
Do-over pick: Ben Roethlisberger

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.

2004 NFL Draft -- Round 1
Pk
Team
Player
Pos.
College
1
QB
Ole Miss
2
Robert Gallery
OT
Iowa
3
WR
Pitt
4
QB
NC State
5
Sean Taylor
FS
Miami (Fla.)
6
Kellen Winslow
TE
Miami (Fla.)
7
Roy Williams
WR
Texas
8
CB
Virginia Tech
9
Reggie Williams
WR
Washington
10
CB
South Carolina
11
QB
Miami (Ohio)
12
MLB
Miami (Fla.)
13
Lee Evans
WR
Wisconsin
14
Tommie Harris
DT
Oklahoma
15
WR
LSU
16
Shawn Andrews
OT
Arkansas
17
OLB
Miami (Fla.)
18
DE
Ohio State
19
Vernon Carey
OT
Miami (Fla.)
20
Keneche Udeze
DE
USC
21
DT
Miami (Fla.)
22
J.P. Losman
QB
Tulane
23
Marcus Tubbs
DT
Texas
24
RB
Oregon State
25
Ahmad Carroll
CB
Arkansas
26
Chris Perry
RB
Michigan
27
OLB
Western Michigan
28
Chris Gamble
CB
Ohio State
29
WR
Ohio State
30
Kevin Jones
RB
Virginia Tech
31
Rashaun Woods
WR
Oklahoma
32
TE
Georgia
*The Chargers and Giants agreed to swap Manning and Rivers as part of a draft-day trade.
» 2004 NFL Draft: All the picks

4. New York Giants

Actual pick: Philip Rivers
Do-over pick: Eli Manning

The Giants got their man, and the Super Bowl victory over the previously undefeated Patriots confirmed the trade on draft day was the right move.

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

Actual pick: DeAngelo Hall
Do-over pick: Darnell Dockett

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

Actual pick: Dunta Robinson
Do-over pick: Matt Schaub

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.
The Chiefs got great value in Jared Allen. Now the Vikings reap the benefits. (Paul Spinelli/Associated Press)

Best values of 2004 draft

Second round: Giants guard Chris Snee (No. 34), who became a Pro Bowl linemen during an era when guards didn't go in the first round.

Third round: Dockett, the 64th pick, has become a dynamic player and perennial Pro Bowl player.

Fourth round: The Chiefs got Jared Allen 126th overall, but he plays like a top-10 pick and has posted 83 sacks in seven seasons.

Fifth round: Michael Turner offered the Chargers real value at No. 154 before moving on to Atlanta. He has 45 touchdowns in 43 career starts and averages 4.7 yards per carry.

Sixth round: Defensive tackle Corey Williams, taken by the Packers at No. 179. He's now starting for the Lions.

Seventh round: Scott Wells has started 84 games at center for the Packers and allowed just 12 sacks in his career. He was the 251st pick.

Biggest mistakes

Reggie Williams (Jaguars), J.P. Losman (Bills), Marcus Tubbs (Seahawks), Ahmad Carroll (Packers), and Rashaun Woods (49ers).

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.
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.

Bad fit

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.

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