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.
1. San Francisco 49ers
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
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
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.
4. Chicago Bears
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
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
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
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. (Jim O'Connor/US Presswire)|
Best values of 2005 draft
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.
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.
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. (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.
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