Draft Do-Overs  

 

Smith-over-Rodgers sent 49ers, Packers on opposite paths

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, Michael Lombardi rewrites 2005.

I love the do-over concept. In fact, when I worked in the league, before we started preparing for a draft, we went back and reviewed the prior ones to find where we might have made mistakes. Ultimately, we wanted to avoid repeating those mistakes.

Some might view this as second-guessing, but in reality it's research. For example, how did DeMarcus Ware slip to the Cowboys with the 11th overall pick in 2005? It wasn't due to his evaluation on film, as he was universally well-liked. He fell because of the perception of the appropriate spot for him to be taken.

That brings me back to what I wrote about last week. I hate when teams say, "I love him at 11, but not at two." And as legendry 49ers coach Bill Walsh would always say, it doesn't matter where they go, it matters how they play. That analogy applies to the selections below.

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 Francisco 49ers

Actual pick: Alex Smith
Do-over pick: Aaron Rodgers

The new organization, under the direction of then-coach Mike Nolan, had the best player in its backyard, but passed on Rodgers and went with Smith. The 49ers are still looking for their franchise signal-caller. Quarterback mistakes are costly, and this one eventually cost Nolan his job.

2. Miami Dolphins

Actual pick: Ronnie Brown
Do-over pick: DeMarcus Ware

The Dolphins were also starting a new regime with Nick Saban in control, which included a shift to a 3-4 defense. But instead of picking a centerpiece for the defense like Ware, Miami went running back with Brown. Ware would have fit perfectly into the new scheme. Meanwhile, Brown has struggled to stay healthy and be the main runner in Miami.

3. Cleveland Browns

Actual pick: Braylon Edwards
Do-over pick: Logan Mankins

The Browns benefited from 16 touchdowns from Edwards in 2007, but his inconsistency catching the football forced the team to trade him to the Jets for essentially a third-round pick in 2009 -- Jets fans owe former coach Eric Mangini a huge thank you for that deal, as well as helping New York to move up to take QB Mark Sanchez in 2009. If the Browns were looking for the best player in the draft, regardless of position, Mankins would have been the better choice. Is third overall too early to take a guard? It's never too early to add a Pro Bowl player.

2005 NFL Draft -- Round 1
Pk
Team
Player
Pos.
College
1
QB
Utah
2
RB
Auburn
3
Braylon Edwards
WR
Michigan
4
Cedric Benson
RB
Texas
5
Cadillac Williams
RB
Auburn
6
Pacman Jones
CB
West Virginia
7
Troy Williamson
WR
South Carolina
8
DB
Miami (Fla.)
9
DB
Auburn
10
WR
USC
11
OLB
Troy State
12
Shawne Merriman
OLB
Maryland
13
Jammal Brown
OT
Oklahoma
14
DB
Georgia
15
OLB
Texas
16
Travis Johnson
DT
Florida State
17
David Pollack
LB
Georgia
18
Erasmus James
DE
Wisconsin
19
OT
Florida State
20
DE
LSU
21
Matt Jones
WR
Arkansas
22
Mark Clayton
WR
Oklahoma
23
Fabian Washington
CB
Nebraska
24
QB
California
25
QB
Auburn
26
C
Ole Miss
27
WR
Alabama-Birmingham
28
Luis Castillo
DE
Northwestern
29
Marlin Jackson
DB
Michigan
30
TE
Virginia
31
DT
USC
32
G
Fresno State
» 2005 NFL Draft: All the picks

4. Chicago Bears

Actual pick: Cedric Benson
Do-over pick: Michael Roos

The Bears already had Thomas Jones as their starting running back, and Benson never took the starting job. Roos would have given the Bears the left tackle they so desperately needed and would be a centerpiece on a line currently lacking one.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Actual pick: Cadillac Williams
Do-over pick: Frank Gore

The Bucs wanted to pick a full-time back to carry the ball and wear down the opposing defense in Jon Gruden's offense. Williams flashed that ability, but Gore lasted until the third round and would have better suited their needs. Both players have durability concerns, but Gore is by far the better runner.

6. Tennessee Titans

Actual pick: Pacman Jones
Do-over pick: Trent Cole

Jones proved to be a risk not worth the taking here. In two years, he had four interceptions and four punt-return touchdowns, but all the off-the-field problems resulted in being suspended for Year 3. Cole would have filled the void created when Jevon Kearse left after the 2003 season and been a nice complement to Kyle Vanden Bosch to give the Titans a great defensive line.

7. Minnesota Vikings

Actual pick: Troy Williamson
Do-over pick: Vincent Jackson

The Vikings traded Randy Moss for this pick, hoping to replace his speed with another burner in Williamson. However, Williamson never developed, and the pick was wasted. Jackson would have provided the speed and playmaking ability the Vikings wanted.

8. Arizona Cardinals

Actual pick: Antrel Rolle
Do-over pick: Justin Tuck

Rolle was drafted to play corner but had to move to safety because of speed concerns. He eventually left as a free agent, signing with the Giants. Tuck would have given the Cardinals a talented defensive lineman who could rush the passer and impact the game, something Rolle was never able to accomplish.

9. Washington Redskins

Actual pick: Carlos Rogers
Do-over pick: Roddy White

The Redskins hoped Rogers would be a shutdown corner, but he has been extremely inconsistent in coverage. White would have given Washington the playmaker it needed to help fellow first-round pick QB Jason Campbell become a consistent performer.

10. Detroit Lions

Actual pick: Mike Williams
Do-over pick: Jay Ratliff

The last thing the Lions needed was another receiver, especially one who was fat and out of shape. Ratliff would have provided a blue-chip player, something this talentless team really needed.

The Giants got a steal by drafting bruiser Brandon Jacobs with the 110th overall pick.
The Giants got a steal by drafting bruiser Brandon Jacobs with the 110th overall pick. (Jim O'Connor/US Presswire)

Best values of 2005 draft

Second round: The 45th overall pick brought the Seahawks Lofa Tatupu, a solid middle linebacker who contributed immediately.

Third round: The Jets found a solid run-down defender in Sione Pouha at No. 88 overall, and he has helped anchor their defensive line when Kris Jenkins was injured.

Fourth round: Both the Giants and Cowboys found tough, hard-nosed runners, one right after the other. Marion Barber went to Dallas at 109 and New York picked Brandon Jacobs at 110. This was too close to call as to who got the better player.

Fifth round: The Niners might have started off the draft badly, but finding nose tackle Ronald Fields 137th overall helped them install their 3-4 defense.

Sixth round: The Titans landed Bo Scaife with the 179th pick, and he became their franchise player at tight end. Scaife has great hands, runs great routes and has been a key receiver in Tennessee.

Seventh round: When the Patriots took QB Matt Cassel, who never played at USC, many wondered what they were doing. But little did everyone know, New England ended up getting the steal of the draft with the 230th choice, and a player who could fill in for Tom Brady. Now Cassel is enjoying his career as the Chiefs' starter.

Biggest mistakes

There can be no bigger blunder than having the first overall pick and missing on that choice. Alex Smith proved to be the wrong quarterback for the Niners, and they have paid a huge price for this mistake.

Best team draft

Dallas Cowboys: Take a bow, Big Tuna. Bill Parcells and the Cowboys had a draft that helped set the stage for winning in future years. Parcells was able to bookend Pro Bowl players in DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff in the first and seventh rounds, respectively. The Cowboys also found Barber and defensive lineman Chris Canty in Round 4. Clearly, a great draft.

The Packers also had a great draft, not because they found their usual late-round sleepers, but due to the fact that they landed the best quarterback in the draft with the 24th overall pick in Rodgers. Now they call themselves Super Bowl champions.

The heir apparent to Randy Moss, Troy Williamson (above) was not. And the Vikings' 2005 draft didn't get any better after that.
The heir apparent to Randy Moss, Troy Williamson (above) was not. And the Vikings' 2005 draft didn't get any better after that. (Leon Halip/US Presswire)

Worst team draft

Minnesota Vikings: When the Vikings traded Randy Moss they were not starting over, but rather reconfiguring their team. However, that process suffered a huge setback by missing on Williamson and their other first-round choice, defensive lineman Erasmus James. They also missed on second-round guard Marcus Johnson. It kept getting worse for the Vikings in every round.

Also, the Texans got off to the wrong start by taking defensive lineman Travis Johnson in the first round. He rarely played and was eventually traded to San Diego. After that, they failed to land a player who had an impact as a starter on their team.

Fooled us all

The 2005 draft was not filled with talented players at all positions. The teams picking in the top 10 got fooled into thinking they were getting a great prospect. However, as I wrote above, each team in the top 10 would have been better off making another pick.

Bad fit

Cedric Benson was never going to be a player in Chicago with Thomas Jones as a leader in the locker room and on the field. Benson needed to get cut before he would realize his career was in danger of being wasted. He found success with the Bengals, who have made the running game fit his style. Benson was also willing to make the necessary sacrifices to become a solid player.

Fell to the right team

Heath Miller fell to the 30th pick in the first round, and the Steelers got a Pro Bowl tight end who could excel at both run blocking and making plays in the passing game. Miller fits perfectly in the offense, allowing the Steelers to take advantage of his toughness and versatility.

Makes sense after all

When the Packers selected Rodgers in the first round, most wondered why, as starter Brett Favre was still playing well after leading the Packers to the playoffs a few months earlier. However, general manager Ted Thompson made the right call, and his faith and patience in Rodgers was rewarded with a Super Bowl XLV victory. Now we all know why Thompson made the pick.

Follow Michael Lombardi on Twitter @michaelombardi

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