This week on NFL.com, we're re-doing the first rounds of the past five drafts, and 2008 is next on the docket. You'll hear this draft mentioned often. Why? Because of the two young quarterbacks selected by Atlanta and Baltimore.
This was the only time in NFL history that two rookie quarterbacks started all 16 games: Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. While the much-ballyhooed '83 Draft produced three great QBs in John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino (among six overall taken in the first round), none of them started 16 games that season. Kelly, however, went directly to the USFL. In 1986, his rookie NFL season, however, the Bills Hall of Famer did start every week ... and went 4-12.
Well, the 2007 Miami Dolphins were a lot worse than 4-12. Miami won just one game that season, leading Wayne Huizenga to hire Bill Parcells to turn the organization around. It also, of course, gave the organization the first pick in the upcoming draft. In this draft re-do, we actually leave the much-maligned 'Fins alone.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Yes, Miami still needs a QB. Is Matt Ryan worthy of a No. 1 overall pick? Is he of John Elway, Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning ilk? No. Meanwhile, Long has been nothing but an All-Pro in Miami. Good pick.
You're the Rams. You haven't had a viable No. 1 option at wideout in five years. What would you do if you had a do-over? In 2008, the Rams waited on a receiver until the second round, and got Donnie Avery to show for it. He's no longer on the team. Why not take a proven performer in Nelson, he of 15 touchdowns last year, and call it a day? Sound too high for Nelson? Maybe. But how long can the Rams go without someone who can play the position?
The jury is out on whether Ryan was worth the third overall pick in the draft. First round? Easily. But the third pick overall? That's tough. Here's the deal: The Falcons needed to put the Michael Vick era behind them quickly. Joey Harrington could not be the face of the franchise. Therefore, even though he hasn't won a playoff game, Ryan has been good enough to take in this spot and be happy about it. Now he just needs to take the next step as a quarterback.
Run DMC is great, when he's on the field. If the Raiders draft Mayo here, then they don't have to spend a 2010 first-round pick on Rolando McClain. And, with that ninth overall pick they spent on McClain, Oakland could take Jason Pierre-Paul (who went 15th), Maurkice Pouncey (18th), or Bryan Bulaga (23rd) instead. Meanwhile, they'd re-sign Michael Bush instead of letting him walk to Chicago.
Kansas City drafts Flacco here, and they don't have to sign the inconsistent and injured-too-often Matt Cassel to a six-year, $63 million dollar deal. They also don't lose to Flacco in the 2010 wild-card game. Quarterback has been an issue for this franchise since Trent Green went down to concussions. Flacco's presence provides some stability.
Gholston is the JaMarcus Russell of the 2008 draft. So, re-writing the script, the Jets get the strong line presence they wanted from Gholston by taking Chris Long, who logged 11 sacks last year. Honestly, the Jets would be a different team with a guy who can rush the passer.
Flowers is a solid pick. Sean Payton pairs Flowers with Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter (who's now in Denver) to have both sides and the slot covered for a few years. Selecting Flowers means the Saints don't have to take Patrick Robinson (who has stunk) at the bottom of the first round in '10. Instead, Payton could use that pick to select Rob Gronkowski (paired with Jimmy Graham!), safety T.J. Ward or inside linebacker Sean Lee, all of whom went shortly after Robinson in that draft.
The Jags are happy to get Avril at the 8-hole, making the Bengals overjoyed that CJ2K is sitting there at ninth. Cincinnati has never had this style of back, a real home run hitter at tailback, with James Brooks in the mid-80s probably being the closest thing. The pick could allow the team to save money spent on Cedric Benson, but in reality, having both would be an affordable luxury, considering Benson's initial deal in Cincy was modest ($520K). The two-headed monster takes pressure off Carson Palmer, and allows Marvin Lewis to play a ball-control, defensive-minded game.
If there was one thing the Patriots needed after their Super Bowl season of 2007, it was a lead back. The Giants pass rush barely had to pause on their way to Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLII. Rice's addition changes that, giving the Pats a certifiable force in both the ground and air game. Rice (2,068 total yards) outgained all of New England's backs combined (1,936) in 2011.
After Further Review
Knocked it out of the park: Several contenders, but it's tough to dispute Atlanta's very strong class as the champ. The Falcons got a starting quarterback (Matt Ryan, first round), tackle (Sam Baker, first round), linebacker (Curtis Lofton, second round), safety (Thomas DeCoud, third round), as well as a decent slot receiver (Harry Douglas, third round) and a pass rusher off the bench (Kroy Biermann, fifth round). Not a bad haul.
Baltimore got Flacco in the first (18th overall) and Rice in the second (55th overall). That's pretty solid, too.
How Did He Go There?! Award: Would you believe Stevie Johnson went 224th overall, the 17th pick in the seventh round? All he's done is post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in Buffalo.
Wasted draft: The Browns got one starter (Ahtyba Rubin) and four guys who barely played a down. Jacksonville's draft was bust central, with all five guys being underwhelming, led by eighth overall pick Derrick Harvey out of Florida. The "pass rusher" has eight sacks in four seasons.
Then there's the 49ers. After five rounds full of busts, sixth-rounder Josh Morgan wasn't bad. But he got hurt, finished 2011 on IR and now resides in Washington. Oddly, the draft might be saved from being complete junk by seventh-rounder Larry Grant, who was quite valuable filling in at linebacker last season, particularly in a big Monday night win against the Steelers when he was all over the field.
Mr. Irrelevant of 2008: Linebacker David Vobora was the only player taken from Idaho in the entire draft. That same season Vobora became the first Mr. Irrelevant to start a game as a rookie since 1994. In three years in St. Louis, Vobora started 16 games -- not great, but not bad for the last dude taken in the draft. Last year he appeared in six games for the Seahawks before a shoulder injury landed him on IR. He's currently a free agent.
Fun fact about the '08 draft: No wide receivers were taken in the first round. The Rams ended the drought by drafting Avery 33rd overall -- the second pick of the second round. The last time this happened? 1990, when Auburn speedster Alexander Wright was taken by Dallas with the first pick in the second round. Wright reportedly once ran a 4.09 40, but had one big issue, like this guy. Drove Jimmy Johnson absolutely nuts.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL