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.
1. San Francisco 49ers
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
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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
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
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
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.
Best values of 2005 draft
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.
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
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.