Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Factors: Andre Johnson

One of the NFL's best receivers notched a -2.3% DVOA last year. Does a target-by-target breakdown show he was better than that?

15 Apr 2008

2002 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

by Sean McCormick

Remember the good old days when the draft had rules? You know, like "When there are two top quarterbacks available, at least one of them has to be good?" Or "An elite left tackle prospect is the safest pick you can make?" If you are feeling nostalgia for those easier times, let us introduce you to the 2002 draft, when those rules went by the wayside. Once again, Football Outsiders continues its annual tradition of looking back six years with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. Our draft review looks at the good picks, the bad picks, and the things every general manager knows now and wishes he had known then.

Quarterback

Conventional wisdom: There was some disagreement as to whether Fresno State's David Carr and Oregon's Joey Harrington was the better player, with some preferring Carr's pinpoint accuracy and others praising Harrington for his clutch play in big games (remember Joey Heisman, anyone?). The two were neck-and-neck at the top of most draft boards. Indeed, their careers have been near mirror images, but not in the way most people expected. Carr and Harrington have each thrown for just over 14,000 yards, they've each got a sub-60 percent career completion rates, and they've each thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. Most importantly, both Carr and Harrington have played for three teams in six years.

Highest pick: David Carr, Fresno State, first overall to the Texans.

Best player: David Garrard, East Carolina, 108th overall to the Jaguars. Before Garrard's breakout 2008 season, this entire class was looking like a wipeout. Garrard didn't impress quickly enough to keep the Jags from drafting Bryon Leftwich the following year, but he kept improving and went from steady backup to spot starter to franchise quarterback.

Biggest bust: It would be easy to peg Carr simply because he was the first overall selection, but he was drafted by an expansion team and therefore destined to get his brains scrambled in his first few seasons. Harrington was the first selection of the Matt Millen era, and in some ways he was responsible for much of what was to come, as Millen threw good money after bad by trying to add enough receiving talent to make the Harrington pick look a little better. Harrington has performed competently as a backup and spot starter in Miami and Atlanta, but he will likely never get a shot a starting job again.

Best value: Paging Mr. Garrard. Mr. Garrard, please come to the white courtesy phone.

Other noteworthy picks: Tulane's Patrick Ramsey was seen by many as a rising prospect, and Steve Spurrier liked him so much he waived the standard "needs to be an ex-Florida Gator" quarterback clause. Ramsey's career got off to a pretty good start, but it collapsed in the course of a single game when Bill Parcells and the Cowboys exposed all the holes in Spurrier's Fun-and-Gun blocking schemes. The Redskins got rid of Spurrier, but Ramsey never really recovered.

Running back

Conventional wisdom: There was no truly elite prospect at running back, but most people preferred Boston College's William Green to Michigan State thumper T.J. "Tur-"Duckett. UCLA's DeShaun Foster and Miami's Clinton Portis were also expected to receive late first-round consideration.

Highest pick: William Green, Boston College, 16th overall to the Browns.

Best player: Brian Westbrook, Villanova, 91st overall to the Eagles. Westbrook, like Tiki Barber before him, was considered too small to be an every-down back in the NFL Unlike Barber, Westbrook toiled in relative obscurity at Division I-AA Villanova, so not many pro teams were paying attention as he shattered the NCAA all-purpose yards mark. But the Eagles knew all about the local product, and they jumped on him in the third round.

Biggest bust: William Green. Cleveland coach Butch Davis passed over his former player Clinton Portis in favor of the bigger Green, and the move blew up in his face, as Portis was named Offensive Rookie of the Year. Green was largely unproductive on the field, and he was unable to shake the off-the-field problems that had plagued him throughout his college career.

Best value: Chester Taylor, Toledo, 207th overall to Baltimore. Taylor went at the bottom of the sixth round, and he has been a productive starter in both Baltimore and Minnesota. His value would look even better had some guy named Adrian Peterson not eventually become his teammate with the Vikings.

Other noteworthy picks: The Broncos selected Clinton Portis in the second round and he ran for more than 1,500 yards in each of his first two years, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Rather than renegotiating Portis' rookie contract, the Broncos traded him to Washington for star cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round pick.

Wide receiver

Conventional wisdom: After a talent-rich 2001 class, most observers thought this was a down year for receivers. The top talents were Tennessee's Donte 'Stallworth, Hawaii's Ashley Lelie and Florida State's Javon Walker. Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Bryant was considered to be the wild card, as he had arguably the most talent of anyone in the class, but had major character concerns.

Highest pick: Donte' Stallworth, Tennessee, 13th overall to the Saints.

Best player: Javon Walker. Green Bay traded first- and second-round picks to move up for Walker, and he rewarded the Packers by making the Pro Bowl in 2004 following an 89-catch, 1,382-yard and 12-touchdown campaign. Walker threatened to hold out for a new deal, but after Brett Favre applied public pressure, Walker reported to camp. He promptly tore his ACL in the first game of the 2005 season, and in the ensuing off-season the Packers traded him to Denver for a second-round pick.

Biggest bust: Ashley Lelie. Lelie was a premiere vertical threat for the Rainbow Warriors, but he was never able to develop into anything more once he reached the pros. Lelie also proved to have unreliable hands, and his career catch rate has hovered around 50 percent.

Best value: A tie between North Carolina's Ronald Curry and Notre Dame's David Givens. Both players were seventh-round choices, and both have been productive starters. Givens blew out his knee after signing a big free agent deal with the Titans, so Curry -- a college quarterback who switched positions in the NFL -- is likely to stand alone after another few seasons.

Other noteworthy picks: The Patriots drafted Louisville product Deion Branch in the second round, and Branch went on to become the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX with an 11-catch, 133-yard performance. Branch held out for a new contract before the 2006 season and was shipped off to Seattle in exchange for a first-round pick.

Pittsburgh took Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El in the second round and converted him into a receiver.

Tight End

Conventional wisdom: The star power was up at the top of the draft, where Miami's Jeremy Shockey was touted as the new breed of tight end. Colorado's Daniel Graham was a more traditional prospect. There was also terrific depth in the class, with players like Washington's Jerramy Stevens, Brigham Young's Doug Jolley, Georgia's Randy McMichael and Michigan State's Chris Baker all considered quality prospects.

Highest pick: Jeremy Shockey, 14th overall, to the Giants.

Best player: Shockey. The Giants were so desperate to land Shockey that they gave up a fourth-rounder to move up one spot rather than risk someone else trading in front of them. Shockey's not as good as his press clippings, he's been prone to nagging injuries, and his metrics have been less than stellar, but he can attack the field vertically like few tight ends in the game.

Biggest bust: Most of the top guys had their moments, but Stevens and Jolley were ultimately disappointments. Jolley had a strong rookie season and then fell off, and he's best known as the guy who caused the Jets to pass on Heath Miller. Stevens had one excellent season in 2005, but is best known either for dropping everything thrown to him in the Super Bowl, or getting kneed in the groin by Tyler Brayton, depending on which you find memorable.

Best value: Randy McMichael was a fourth-rounder out of Georgia, yet he has caught more passes and gained more yardage than any tight end in this class save Shockey.

Other noteworthy picks: The Broncos took Boise State's Jeb Putzier in the sixth round, and he started off looking like a very dangerous receiving threat. Unfortunately, you do need to be able to block at least a little bit, and Putzier proved too much of a liability in that regard to stay on the field much.

Offensive line

Conventional wisdom: Much like in 2001, teams had a choice between a raw but massive Texas tackle and a lithe, more polished pass protector from a Florida school. Mike Williams and Bryant McKinnie stood alone at the head of the class, but there were quality prospects with late first- or second-round grades like Arizona State's Levi Jones, Boston College's Marc Columbo and Florida''s Mike Pearson. Nebraska's mammoth Tonoi Fonuti and Colorado's Andre Gurode were considered the best guards, and Ohio State's LeCharles Bentley was the lone elite center prospect.

Highest pick: Mike Williams, Texas, fourth overall to the Bills.

Best player: Andre Gurode, Colorado, 37th overall to the Cowboys. Gurode has made the last two Pro Bowls at center, and his health gives him the nod over fellow two-time Pro Bowler LeCharles Bentley, whose career is in jeopardy just two seasons after signing a big free agent deal with the Browns.

Biggest bust: Williams was supposed to be a left tackle in a right tackle's body, but it turns out he wasn't even a right tackle in a right tackle's body. The Bills released him in 2006.

Best value: Atlanta got themselves a starting tackle in the seventh round when they nabbed Tulsa's Kevin Shaffer. Kansas' Justin Hartwig was a nice pick for the Titans in the sixth round.

Other noteworthy picks: People were shocked when the Bengals selected Levi Jones with the 10th pick, and they were widely ridiculed for not understanding the draft process. Six years later, Jones doesn't look like much of a reach, as he has started 79 games and been one of the better tackles in the league. People still ridicule the Bengals, though, just on principle.

Defensive line

Conventional wisdom: It was supposed to be an excellent draft for defensive linemen, and eight were selected in the first round. Julius Peppers of North Carolina was the consensus best end, but there was debate as to whether the best tackle was Peppers' teammate Ryan Sims or one of a pair of Tennessee Vols, John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth. The wild card was where undersized but highly productive Syracuse end Dwight Freeney would go.

Highest pick: Julius Peppers, North Carolina, second overall to the Panthers.

Best player: There were a lot of good ones. The immediate success of Peppers (the Panthers were in the Super Bowl one year after this draft) gave momentum to the idea of eschewing the quarterback position when rebuilding a team that has hit rock bottom. Henderson and Haynesworth have both been dominating presences in the middle of solid defenses. The Colts surprised everyone when they took Freeney with the 11th pick, but he became one of the NFL's top pass rushers and eventually the league's highest-paid defensive player.

Biggest bust: Ryan Sims, Kansas City. Scouts fell into the classic trap of overvaluing a player who played on the same line as an established elite talent. Offenses were busy worrying about Julius Peppers, and it made Sims look better on tape than he really was.

Best value: Green Bay was able to nab Iowa's Aaron Kampman in the fifth round, and he has paid off with 41 sacks, third-best in the class behind Freeney and Peppers.

Chicago made an excellent pick when they took Florida star Alex Brown in the fourth round. Brown was considered too undersized to be an every-down player, but he has been a consistent pass rush threat.

The Raiders took UCLA product Kenyon Coleman in the fifth round, and while he didn't work out with Oakland, he's proved to be a nice fit in a 3-4 defense, first with Dallas and then with the Jets.

Other noteworthy picks: UAB defensive end Bryan Thomas put together one of the great combine performances of all time, running a 4.47 40 at 267 pounds, a 4.01 short shuttle and doing 33 reps on the bench. Thomas was selected 22nd overall by the New York Jets, and though he has had one solid season as an outside linebacker in the 3-4, he has never shown the elite speed that made him a first-round pick.

Linebackers

Conventional wisdom: Northwestern's Napoleon Harris was the lone first-round talent in a weak crop of linebackers. The expectation was that this would be the weakest position group in the draft, and for the most part that expectation proved to be correct.

Highest pick: Napoleon Harris, Northwestern, 23rd overall to the Raiders.

Best player: Not a single player in this class has sniffed the Pro Bowl, but Harris, UCLA's Robert Thomas, Kansas State's Ben Leber and Georgia's Will Witherspoon have all been steady contributors.

Biggest bust: The Cardinals selected North Carolina State's Levar Fisher with the 49th pick, but Fisher only lasted two years with the team and managed only 68 tackles.

Best value: Leber and Witherspoon went within two picks of each other in the third round and they both turned out well. Leber has played for San Diego and Minnesota, Witherspoon for Carolina and St. Louis.

Other noteworthy picks: The Rams made Robert Thomas a surprise first-round pick when they took him at 31, but he lasted only three years in St. Louis. California's Scott Fujita was nice value in the fifth round for Kansas City.

Defensive backs

Conventional wisdom: This was considered to be a good group, with Texas' Quentin Jammer, Miami's Philip Buchanon and Oklahoma safety Roy Williams leading the way. Three members of the Hurricanes secondary were selected between the 17th and 27th picks, as Buchanon, corner Mike Rumph and safety Ed Reed came off the board in rapid succession. Florida's Lito Sheppard carried a late first-round grade and ended up going 26th overall to Philadelphia.

Highest pick: Quentin Jammer, Texas, fifth overall to the Chargers.

Best player: Ed Reed. Reed has been the best ball-hawking safety in the league from the moment he stepped on the field. He is a freelancer and can be beaten on double moves because he's always looking for the big play, but you can't argue with four Pro Bowls and three All-Pro selections in six years. Reed's 34 interceptions nearly double the 19 of his next-closest competitor, Roy Williams.

Biggest bust: Mike Rumph, Miami, 27th overall to the 49ers. Rumph was a big corner who couldn't run at all. San Francisco realized their mistake and moved Rumph to safety after only two seasons, and when that didn't work out, they traded him to Washington for receiver Taylor Jacobs. Rumph started only 19 games in four years and managed only three interceptions.

Best value: The Vikings were able to get great value in the fourth round when they selected North Carolina State corner Brian Williams, who played four years in Minnesota before moving on to Jacksonville. Philadelphia was able to add two starters in two consecutive second round picks when they took Colorado safety Michael Lewis and South Carolina corner Sheldon Brown back-to-back. Houston got themselves an excellent nickel back and a passable starter when they took Kansas State corner Demarcus Faggins in the sixth round.

Other noteworthy picks: Many people thought the Cowboys had landed a steal when they took troubled Ohio State corner Derek Ross in the third round. Ross had five interceptions as a rookie, but off-the-field issues quickly curtailed his career and he was out of the league by 2004.

Special teams

Conventional wisdom: It wasn't a big year for kickers and punters. The most interesting prospect was Travis Dorsch of Purdue, a first-team All-American placekicker who also won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's top punter.

Highest pick: Florida kicker Jeff Chandler, chosen fourth in the fourth round (102nd overall) by San Francisco. He played a grand total of 13 NFL games.

Best player: Baltimore chose Ohio University punter Dave Zastudil in the fourth round (112nd overall) and he did not completely suck.

Biggest bust: Dorsch. Cincinnati chose him 11th in the fourth round (109th overall) and his entire NFL record consists of one game, which happened to be one of the worst single-game performances by any punter in NFL history. After sitting for 13 weeks, Cincinnati activated Dorsch for their Week 14 game in Carolina. Steve Smith returned two of his punts for touchdowns, and Dorsch shanked another punt for a miserable 10 yards.

Best value: North Carolina kicker Jeff Reed went undrafted. Pittsburgh signed him halfway through the season and he has been kicking for the Steelers ever since. He owns a Super Bowl ring now. Seriously, NFL people, stop wasting your draft picks on kickers and punters.

Posted by: Sean McCormick on 15 Apr 2008

68 comments, Last at 23 Mar 2010, 4:38pm by Chuck Taylor

Comments

1
by Andrew Smith (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 12:09pm

First!!...Also, Will Witherspoon hasn't spent his whole career with the same team. He was traded from Carolina to St. Louis.

2
by Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabbadu (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 12:22pm

Oh, the pain of being a Lions fan...

3
by Michael Rutter (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 12:55pm

Under running back, shouldn't it be William Green to the Browns, not the Chargers?

4
by JasonK (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 12:59pm

Always an interesting review.

Just to make it easier on your audience, though, I think it would've been a good idea to link the entire draft results somewhere near the top. (Click my name)

5
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 1:14pm

The Redskins netted a good pair of running backs in the 2nd and 7th round of this draft, both of whom are still with the team. Betts is considered starter quality by some (not me) while Cartwright has really found his niche as a kick returner. Probably should have been some mention of him under spec teams. Obviously, the Skins thought more of these two backs than they did former 1st rounder Duckett whom they acquired via trade.

Good article as always.

6
by MP (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 1:15pm

As a Purdue grad who saw Dorsch play, anyone in West Lafayette could have told you he would've been a horrible pick. It always made us wonder why they even gave a Ray Guy award if a dude like Dorsch could win it. We routinely prayed that our guys would go for it on Fourth-and-20 or whatever.

In fact, "Dorsching it" was common campus parlance for screwing something up.

7
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 1:26pm

San Francisco wanted Lito Shepard, but the Eagles, who were already stacked at cornerback, took him one spot ahead of us, and in a panic we went with the next best cornerback on our board, Mike Rumph.

Ooo, I'm still bitter.

8
by J (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 1:27pm

The Ravens did quite well in this draft. Ed Reed (at the end of the first round when a safety was already taken) and Chester Taylor (taken in the 6th round), as well as one of the best special teamers. Not bad!

Now, find a franchise QB and keep him!

9
by C (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 1:31pm

The Eagles had a good draft that year, picking up two good corners (Lito and Sheldon) and a solid safety who was emerging when he suffered a serious leg injury (M. Lewis).

10
by David (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 1:55pm

Not to mention their franchise RB.

11
by Bronco Jeff (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 1:58pm

Can you guys list some previous articles of past Draft reviews?

I find them to be fascinating, if only to ridicule the poor drafting of the Broncos (I'm masochistic like that).

12
by Chad (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 2:06pm

I find it interesting, and somewhat troubling, that there are years when a college team has nearly a whole unit drafted in the same round. The Miami defensive backfield (Buchanon, Reed and Rumph) happened in '02, and the NC State D-line (Williams, Lawson, McCargo) in '06. In the '02 example, we have one collosal bust, and the verdict is still out for the '06 class (although McCargo isn't wowing anyone). If I were a GM or scout, I would be very careful about assigning a first round grade to that many members of a unit, as the potential for artificial inflation of ability is likely to have happened with one or more of said players. Does anyone know of other times that this has happened in draft history?

13
by David (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 2:09pm

The Eagles drafted CBs Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown, and SS Michael Lewis, in '02. They've been up and down lately, but that's the unit they went to the Super Bowl with, so it hasn't exactly been a failure.

14
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 2:10pm

Michael Lewis never had a leg injury - you might be thinking of J.R. Reed, but he wasn't 'emerging' - he had a passable first year for a late-round kick returner/backup safety.

Lewis was benched in 2006 due to being a liability in coverage, not resigned, and became a free agent. He's average, not special.

#10 is right, though, you could simply say "the Eagles drafted Westbrook in the third round" and it becomes a good draft.

15
by David (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 2:10pm

Oh, a college team having its whole unit drafted. Me no am read good.

16
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 2:13pm

Re #11
Click on the "NFL Draft" tag next to Sean's name at the bottom of the article. That'll take you to all of FO's "NFL Draft" category archive, where you can find the previous Draft in Review articles along with the other stuff they've done.

17
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 2:29pm

This was Millen's 2nd draft (though perhaps his first being the primary chooser of the players). His 1st draft had Backus, Raiola, and Shaun Rogers.

18
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 2:47pm

The Texans had 12 picks in that draft, including the first one in each round and 5 on the first day. The best players they selected were a mediocre guard (Chester Pitts), an adequate nickel back (Faggins) and a receiver who can look reasonably good when he gets to catch passes from a hall-of-fame quarterback in his prime with Randy Moss drawing all the coverage (Jabar Gaffney). Oh, for the days of Charley Casserly. The new management has already drafted at least three players (Williams, Ryans, Winston) who I would rather have any one of than the entire 2002 Texans class. Hell, I might rather have Fred Bennett than the entire 2002 class. In four years, Casserly drafted three genuinely worthwhile players (Andre Johnson, Domanick Davis and Dunta Robinson). Not one other selection in that time frame was much better than replacement level.

In other news, we are still looking for GMs for many teams in the forthcoming FO Reader Participation mock draft. Please email me at tomrichards8464 at gmail dot com if you are at all interested. As of today, all unclaimed teams are first come first served.

19
by SuperBears (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 2:51pm

Great article but I am surprised that you group together offensive and defensive lines. For instance, centers are rarely taken early in the draft so getting a good one in the third round isn't that much of a surprise.

20
by BC Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 3:06pm

How is Ryan Sims a bigger Defensive Tackle bust than the Cardinals' Wendell Bryant?

21
by Big Jgke (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 3:58pm

personally, i think that jerramy stevens is best known not as a guy who dropped passes in a super bowl or got kicked in the groin, but as a player who got away with anything (including rape - http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2004147460_rbstevens270....) because of his above-average talent

22
by Carlos (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 4:22pm

great article.

#12 - Another interesting example would be the Auburn backfield that had Jason Campbell, Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown (and Brandon Jacobs). An argument could certainly be made that Williams and Campbell were overrated.

RE: RB section

Perhaps this is semantics, but I would have switched the "best value" and "noteworthy pick" choices. I don't know what definition of "best value" says Chester Taylor has been worth more on a draft-pick adjusted basis than 2 years of Portis (3,000 yards at 5.5 per carry) which was converted into Bailey and a #1.

23
by Theo, Netherlands (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 4:32pm

What's the difference between Pro Bowl selections and bein 'All Pro'?? (see ed reed)

24
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 4:49pm

I don't know if you guys are interested in 2002 UDFA's as well, but Bart Scott might be one of the better players who went undrafted that year. In fact, he might be a better LB than any that got drafted period.

25
by Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabbadu (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 4:56pm

#22: It's tough to tell how Williams should be rated. He only played a few games before his run of debilitating injuries started, and he looked pretty decent in them.

#23: Pro Bowl selections just mean that they made the Pro Bowl team of their conference, while All-Pro indicates that they were selected to the hypothetical league-wide all-star team. For instance, Jeff Garcia may have gone to the 2008 Pro Bowl for the NFC, but there's no way he made the All-Pro team ahead of Brady/Manning/Favre/Romo/etc.

26
by Random Abuse (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 5:20pm

#20 that is just yet another sad reflection of this site's bias towards the Arizona Cardinals, it is almost shameful at times.

Looking back over this draft the St Louis Rams certainally put on a showcase for how not to draft if you plan to remain a contender.

Robert Thomas at #31 - With the team 3 years now in Oakland after a spell in Green Bay

Travis Fisher at #64 - Now with the Lions, possibly the only reasonably successful pick.

Lamar Gordon at #84 - 2 years in St Louis followed by three with three teams now a FA.

Eric Crouch at #95 - Never even played a game for St Louis now with Team Texas in the AAFl, apparently.

Travis Scott at #130 - Guard has never played in the NFL

Courtland Bullard at #167 - LB has 10 career tackles in two years in the league.

Steve Bellisari at #205 - DB no tackles, now a QB in the AFL.

Chris Massey at #243 - Listed as a centre but is the teams longsnapper, only player from this draft still with St Louis.

That is an impressive way to miss on almost every pick.

27
by Bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 5:35pm

#26, You're just making up names there... right? NO? OMG, that is an ugly draft. Note to self: Send Jim Irasy $10 to give to Bill Polian as a little thank-you. Additional note to self: Why so cheap? Make it $100.

28
by DP (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 6:37pm

49er fan here, just wanted to thank you for the memories of the Terry Donahue as GM era (DB Rumph in the 1st round, kicker Chandler in the 4th). Things can't get worse, now, right? Right?

29
by RandomAbuse (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 6:40pm

#27

Sadly no they are the actual draft picks from the link in #4. As I didn't recognize the names I had a quick search and wasn't really that surprised about the current team's problems after reading it.

One current player from a draft only 6 years ago is positively terrible.

30
by TomHat (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 6:48pm

So basically a few good players that no one has ever heard of and never would have guessed to pick up (dont even start pretending like the Eagles expected Westbrook to be this good), a bunch of busts, and an elite defensive line class. anyone who happened to need a defensive line in the first round gets to look like they are smart. The texans drafted a QB when they shouldve just thrown some random journeyman in there to get pounded and gotten best available player instead of best available QB, which at the time looked like Peppers.

31
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 7:04pm

#25

It should not come as a surprise that Cadillac is always hurt....as he was always hurt in college as well.

32
by Daniel (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 7:38pm

In a draft considered weak on linebackers how can Larry Foote not receive a mention in this article? He has comparable stats to Napoleon Harris and Will Witherspoon, and is a much better player than Ben Leber.

33
by Sean McCormick :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 7:56pm

Re 17: True. I should have said- the draft that made Matt Millen "Matt Millen." His first draft showed an uncharacteristic aversion to skill position players. :-)

34
by PaulH (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 8:00pm

It should not come as a surprise that Cadillac is always hurt….as he was always hurt in college as well.

Very true.

He had season-ending injuries in both his first two seasons at Auburn, and neither were freak injuries. He broke his collarbone against Alabama in the 2001 Iron Bowl on a very routine tackle from Jarrett Johnson -- now with the Ravens -- and the following year broke his leg against Florida on yet another fairly routine tackle.

Honestly, it wasn't until Cadillac started splitting up the carries big-time did he manage to stay healthy. In 2003, things were split up between Cadillac, Brown, and Brandon Jacobs -- plus you have to consider they weren't very good that year, and as a result didn't run the ball quite as much because they trailed big a good bit -- and in 2004 he split carries with Brown. It was only when Tuberville and company went the by-committee approach did Williams manage to stay healthy.

He's a great talent, to be sure, but you have to stay healthy. After an injury plagued sophomore campaign in the NFL, he suffers a very serious knee injury. I'm hoping he makes it back, but the general consensus seems to be that he will either never return, or return and be a shell of his former self.

Either way, the Bucs cannot say they were warned.

35
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 8:16pm

#33

I agree, though I do wonder if Millen was under pressure with the Lions moving to a new stadium to decide upon a "franchise" QB as well...unfortunately it was a terrible QB class.

as well...and I am no Millen apologist, but the Bobby Ross era was pretty terrible-no draft picks worth anything (1st rounders on Chris Claiborne, Stockar McDougale, Aaron Gibson...) and bad contracts (Charlie Batch, Luther Ellis). But of course Millen did just as bad of a job with fixing the mess.

36
by PhillyCWC (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 8:19pm

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Brian Westbrook is Superman.

37
by Stereochemistry (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 9:10pm

Funny story: It's Gruden's first draft with the Bucs, and their first pick isn't until the 3rd round. With it, Gruden wants to target Brian Westbrook, to replace the departing Warrick Dunn.
Instead, McKay insists the team drafts Marquise Walker, Michigan WR.

On second thought, that's not a very funny story. At all.

38
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 10:43pm

Ben Leber is a nice player, and the Vikings' old regime really screwed up when they let Brian Williams go to sign Fred Smoot. Williams is no world-beater, but he is a professional for the most part and plays hard. Smoot? The less said the better.

I am mildly dissapointed in the way Mckinnie has turned out (more so if his current mess results in a lengthy suspension), but the people who say he is overpaid are nuts. When the Vikings had competent passers and receivers, Mckinnie was just fine.

39
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 12:18am

McKinnie is a very good player who is an off-the-field headache. I don't think there is any other valid assessment of him.

40
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 8:27am

Classic Butch Davis Browns draft.

1. Big dissapointment in round 1. Check.

2. A number of NFL caliber players from the other picks (4 still on NFL rosters, 3 as starters), but none really above average. Check.

3. Guy from the "U" no longer in league. Check.

Davis's drafting wasn't as bad as most people think (3 NFL starters, six years later is probably average). He was just a really bad coach. Oh, and the free agents he signed were terrible.

41
by Herm? (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 10:32am

This article would be a good argument for leaning toward talent over need. You first have to have a great evaluation system in place and understand it not just on a scale of the draft pool, but the entire player NFL...and just take the best player available. If you don't need or are opposed to taking the best available player, trade your pick or draft him anyways. Yes there are exceptions and you have to somewhat consider need as a second tier choice, but talent trumps.

42
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 10:37am

Yeah, Yaguar, the off the field stuff is a good part of the mild disapointment, and the fact that I thought Mckinnie had the potential to be truly great. As it is, he has been very good, and if all your 1st and 2nd rounders turned out that way, you'd be in pretty good shape.

43
by Rocky the Philly Eagle (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 10:38am

RE 9 & 13:

You are forgetting that this is the year the eagles also got Westbrook.

Sheppard, Lewis, Brown and Westbrook has to be one of the best draft classes ever.

It is also exhibit #1 when some idiot talks about why drafting for need is a good idea. 9ers got Rumph because they drafted for need, the Eagles got a new young secondary and a franchise RB when they already had a Probowl secondary - Bobby Taylor, Troy Vincent, Dawkins and Blaine Bishop? & Duce Staley.

Eagles win, 9ers loose.

44
by Dean (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 10:51am

RE#30
"(dont even start pretending like the Eagles expected Westbrook to be this good)"

Actually, yeah, they did. Reid knew all about him and had personally scouted him, gone to Villanova games, etc. There's plenty of puff pieces out there about Westbrook and Reid which all suggest that yeah, Reid really did know he had the steal of the draft in #36.

45
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 11:13am

"It is also exhibit #1 when some idiot talks about why drafting for need is a good idea. 9ers got Rumph because they drafted for need, the Eagles got a new young secondary and a franchise RB when they already had a Probowl secondary - Bobby Taylor, Troy Vincent, Dawkins and Blaine Bishop? & Duce Staley."

Not necessarily. Its an example of the 49ers having a shitty scouting department. They picked in a position of need, yes, but they also didn't pick the best player available within that position.

The problem wasn't that they picked a cornerback, its that they picked a shitty cornerback when there were still good ones left.

46
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 11:47am

The problem is that they were sure they'd get Sheppard. No one was predicting the Eagles to go CB with that pick, not with the secondary they already had.

47
by JasonK (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 12:20pm

As a Giants fan, I read the 2002 draft as very typical of Ernie Accorsi's foibles as a GM. It started with a good player at the top who he completely fell in love with-- the fact that the Giants wanted Shockey was the worst-kept secret in football, and it ended up costing the team when Tennessee held the pick hostage and extorted a 4th rounder from them. (IIRC, the other guy the Giants liked was Donte Stallworth, and once he was off the board, they really really wanted to get Shockey.) This tendency for Accorsi to lock in on one guy and broadcast his intentions to the world at large, of course, was a big factor behind the Eli Manning trade in 2004.

Shockey was followed by Tim Carter, a WR distinguished more by his "measurables" than by his productivity in college. Accorsi did exactly the same thing in taking Brian Alford in 1998, Ron Dixon in 2000, and Sinorice Moss in 2006, and so far not one of them has lived up to his draft position. (Carter's biggest NFL career highlight is falling on a Burress fumble.) Hopefully the selection of Steve Smith in 2007 is a sign that Jerry Reese's approach to drafting at the WR position differs from that of his mentor.

He followed that with a reach on a small-school player, Jeff Hatch, an OT from Penn who is now out of the league. Ernie's small-school-reach tendency sometimes worked out well for the Giants (Osi Umenyiora, Will James (nee Peterson)), but just as often, it turned into disappointments like Hatch, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Ron Dixon.

The later picks were another throw-away WR (Daryl Jones) and a handful of useful backup linebackers. The Giants under Accorsi were pretty good at finding capable, if not all-star, defensive players in the later rounds (Gibril Wilson, Brandon Short, Barry Cofield). Nick Griesen was a useful with the team 4th LB for several years, and Wes Mallard and Quincy Monk both made the squad as ST contributors and hung around for a while.

48
by JasonK (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 12:23pm

Correction of hasty editing:

The last sentence in #47 should begin "Nick Greisen was a useful 4th LB with the team for several years"

49
by crack (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 1:44pm

This was the first of consecutive first round foul ups by the Vikings. (Not getting Sims after KC went over time 2002, not getting their own pick in on time in 2003) It looks like getting McKinnie was much better than getting Sims, and getting KWilliams technically one spot lower didn't hurt anything. I'll take those results.

50
by NY expat (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 2:23pm

General questions: do teams assign scouts to geographical regions, or by position? Do they try to aim more for one scout seeing the player a bunch of times and perhaps calling in the head of scouting/asst GM/GM as appropriate? or do they try to get multiple opinions from different scouts?
While the GM ultimately gets the credit or blame, it would seem to at least start with the scouting. You see teams that seem like they could do about as well if they just based their decisions on what they read in the paper, and then you have teams like the Ravens that draft consistently well (albeit with a blind spot at QB, at least so far). Sometimes it seems like what the team really needs to do is overhaul its personnel department. In some extreme cases, it almost seems like a team should just draft based on what they know and trade extras for what they don't know ... ok, that would be too much.

51
by Boesy (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 2:37pm

Re: 49

Actually, the Vikings ended up getting Kevin Williams at #9 versus #7 due to the gamesmanship of Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens who failed to turn in a trade up from #10 to take Leftwich. Jags and Panthers turned in their cards before the Vikings [who thought the trade was a done deal] reacted. They got Williams, the Ravens got Suggs - and both are pretty happy today, I'd say.

52
by Dean (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 3:00pm

RE#50

Most teams assign each scout to a different geographic territory to cut down on travel.

53
by DantesWitness (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 5:27pm

To be fair, the Bengals made the worst special teams draft pick in history to counter the fact that their supposed reach of Levi Jones actually turned out to be a very good pick. All Bengals fans know that every good decision made by the team has to be marred by a disastrous one (or ten).

54
by SteveNC (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 6:35pm

Garrard's breakout 2008 season--is that a prediction?

55
by Theo, Netherlands (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 9:40pm

Sean McCormick,
Best value: Leber and Witherspoon.
.
This Larry Foote guy (30th pick round 4) in Pittsburgh is being pretty darn good.

56
by Hummingbird Cyborg (not verified) :: Thu, 04/17/2008 - 5:39am

Seriously, NFL people, stop wasting your draft picks on kickers and punters.

How is a punter or kicker a bigger risk than the average sixth or seventh rounder? Sure, a fourth rounder is a bit much, but even in that case, fourth rounders are sporadically successful.

57
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Thu, 04/17/2008 - 9:32am

It's not exactly that they're a bigger risk, it's that there's absolutely no reason to think they'll be any better than a UDFA. Evaluating kickers and punters based on their college performance is almost impossible, so you might as well just bring a bunch into camp and see who kicks best.

58
by Yakuza Rich (not verified) :: Thu, 04/17/2008 - 11:04am

Gurode and Bentley had a bit of a unique situation. Gurode actually was drafted to be the starting center for Dallas, but after numerous injuries to the O-Line (it was so bad that one player had a career ending injury after suffering a legit heart attack) they moved Gurode back to guard, his position in college. Gurode struggled there from 2002-2004 and Dallas fans, including myself, were cursing the day they took Gurode over Bentley who was playing great in New Orleans. In 2005, Parcells moved Gurode back to center as he and Al Johnson alternated spots. Gurode wound up hitting FA at the same time as Bentley. Dallas fans (including myself) wanted Bentley and instead the Cowboys re-signed Gurode to a 1 year deal while Bentley signed with the Browns. Gurode wound up going to the Pro Bowl and Bentley hasn't played a game since suffering a knee injury in his first practice with the Browns. Morale of the story: it's got to be tough to be a Cleveland fan.

59
by Scott Bolander (not verified) :: Thu, 04/17/2008 - 3:07pm

I would submit that David Thornton who was drafted in the 4th round by the Colts (now with the Titans) is both the best LB and best vaule at LB in the 2002 draft. He will play in a pro-bowl in the next few years.

60
by langsty (not verified) :: Thu, 04/17/2008 - 7:00pm

Akin Ayodele, Andra Davis and Scott Fujita all turned out to be solid players too.

61
by John (not verified) :: Thu, 04/17/2008 - 9:32pm

Interesting article (thanks, 18to88) that briefly discusses the Freeney pick from the perspective of a Raiders' insider.

62
by Alex (not verified) :: Thu, 04/17/2008 - 11:43pm

How is a punter or kicker a bigger risk than the average sixth or seventh rounder? Sure, a fourth rounder is a bit much, but even in that case, fourth rounders are sporadically successful.

No, it's not particularly high risk, but it's very low reward. Say you get the best kicker in the league with your fourth round pick. The difference in value between that kicker and one you could find by just bringing in a bunch of UDFAs to compete for the job is miniscule, so spending a fourth round pick on a kicker is a bad idea. Fourth round picks at other positions occasionally became very good players at more important positions.

63
by pete (not verified) :: Fri, 04/18/2008 - 4:39pm

On the Special teams discussion: my team used a second round pick on a kicker in 2005 (Jets). when you consider who was taken in the 20 or so picks after him, it is difficult to argue that Nugent is better than another pick + free agent kicker. Guys like Roscoe Parrish, Frank Gore, Nick Collins, Darrent Williams (tragedy-aside) are in that group. I guess my answer is that as long as idiots are running NFL teams, special teams guys will be drafted

64
by TomC (not verified) :: Sun, 04/20/2008 - 9:49am

re: #61 -

Thanks for the tip; that was quite interesting. (I think that's also the article that MDS quotes from in his NYT blog this week). Also interesting (and funny) from SI this week is Dr. Z's take on the top prospects, based on conversations with various league sources (linked in my name). The quote on Rodgers-Cromartie is priceless.

65
by Catfish (not verified) :: Sun, 04/20/2008 - 10:56pm

Re: 43

"Sheppard, Lewis, Brown and Westbrook has to be one of the best draft classes ever."

The Eagles' draft in 2002 was certainly very good, but "one of the best draft classes ever" is a bit of a stretch. Pittsburgh in 1974 (see name) picked 4 guys who made it to the hall in Swann, Lambert, Stallworth, Webster. Westbrook et al are great, but not that great.

66
by Jonathan (not verified) :: Mon, 04/21/2008 - 2:39pm

No analysis on Quentin Jammer? He's turned out pretty good for the Bolts; flashes of being shutdown corner, and getting better at ball-hawking...

67
by sdeens (not verified) :: Mon, 06/02/2008 - 7:06pm

The best three(3) players in the entire 2002 NFL draft are as follows:

1. Brian Westbrook
2. Dwight Freeney
3. Ed Reed

these three men are more than half way there to getting into the NFL HALL OF FAME...If they each have four(4) more seasons like their past then they are ALL locks for HOF.

overall Philly obvioulsy did the best in drafting....this draft was publically know as deep in "secondary postions"..in fact Mel Kiper said it was the deepest at that postion in almost 20 years (that proved to be 100% correct BTW)...so as I recall reading Andy Reid of the Eagles stated he fully intended to look carefully at secondary players: so he drafted Lito Shepperd, Sheldon Brown and Gregg Lewis...all three have been very good and in the case of Shepperd a Pro Bowler several times...only ED REED has been better than those three guys.

an interesting story I ready 7 years ago about how the Eagles found Westbrook....Andy Reid was living near the Villanova campus, but deliberately did NOT want to waste his time or scouting department on a 1-AA Yankee conference team...but the local press in PHILLY had been covering westbrook for four years at NOVA and watching him on TV station: Philly 57 on Saturdays....and were conmplaining constantly to REID that he needs to get off his lazy duff and look at this kid, especially because he is in is back yard. The press know in Philly for years before REID joined the Eagles, that Westbrook was the best NFL potential player to come out of the city in decades..especially after he obliterated ALL the NCAA total yards records and won the Walter Payton award, people started believeing in Philly,..accept for Andy Reid, who had just come to the city a few years earlier.

so finally and reluctantly Andy Reid after being tormented by the local media, finally went to a villova game on a Saturday and was about a mile from campus..after which he was overwhelmed by what he saw and immediately informed his scouting department that WESTBROOK would be their primary pick in 2002 when they draft for a RB...they were even prepared to invest their top first round pick, but westrbook got hurt in his final college game and slipped to the third round; Reid was worried that John gruden (his special teams coach the eyar before and now the TB head coach) might take westbrook ahead of the Eagles in the third round--Reid knew that john Gruden also watched the kid at NOVA when he too was working in Philly with Reid...either way the EAGLES knew he was the best RB/player in the entire draft and were fully expecting him to be the frachise RB after Duce Staley retired.

John Gruden blew his third round pick on some WR as I recall..instead of taking Westbrook.

this sets the record straight since most of the guys posting here have it all wrong.

this is how the draft went down in 2002 for the EAGLES and why they had som much success.

in a nut shell they had field advantage on this one and the local Philly press deserves some credit for the drafting of Westbrook.

68
by Chuck Taylor (not verified) :: Tue, 03/23/2010 - 4:38pm

Does anyone check this stuff? David Garrad's breakout year was in 2007 after Jack Del Rio released Byron Leftwich and handed Garrad the job.