Many media outlets like to give out grades in the days following the draft, associating the selected players with the designated needs of each team. Teams like New England and Philadelphia have been given their A’s andA-’s, while the Oakland Raiders helped set the curve by bringing up the rear with an F. But go back and look at the draft grades foor 2005, where the Carolina Panthers were praised, despite the fact that the only playmakerleft from 2005 is Thomas Davis, their first round pick. And so, we are reminded of the futility of grading a draft the week it happens. We are not alone in this understanding, but for TSS’s blog I’ve decided to approach grading the draft based upon the success and failure of 5 years ago. The great drafts have gone to the Super Bowl, won MVP’s andbeen resigned to long term deals. The poor drafts have flared out, been cut, or washed up on some other team’s depth chart. My grades are based upon the level of production compared to where they were drafted. For example: A Top 10 pick should be a pro bowler, while a 6thround draft pick can be judged a success if they are even in the league. So, without further audeu, the Grades for the 2004 NFL Draft, five years later.
Grade: A+ to A-
The San Diego Chargers: Grade- A+
The Chargers came into the 2004 NFL Draft with the knowledge that the #1 overall pick, Eli Manning, would not sign with them. Andthey also knew that the New York Giants desperately wanted Peyton’s baby brother. With that knowledge in mind, the Chargers went to work. They got their franchise Quarterback (Phillip Rivers), a very good 3-4 Defensive End (Igor Olshansky), their kicker (Nate Kaeding), their starting OLB (Shaun Phillips) and Center (Nick Hardwick). The Chargers also picked up some key players on the second day with Michael Turner and Shane Olivea in the 5th and 7th. The Chargers easily came away with the best class in the 2004 season.
Arizona Cardinals: Grade- A+
The Arizona Cardinals Super Bowl run of 2008 was completely based upon the success of their draft in 2004. Larry Fitzgerald was selected 3rd overall after the Rivers-Manning Fiasco, and has become one of the best receivers in the game (and put together the best post season by a receiver ever). At 33 in the 2ndround the Cards selected Karlos Dansby. Their eventual defensive surge was completed with the 3rd and 5thround picks (Darnell Dockett andAntonio Smith). Alex Stepanovich, Nick Leckey and John Navarre all failed to land starting roles in Arizona for long, and none are with the Cardinals. But with 4 key starters coming from the draft, it is clear that the 2004 class was a key building block to the new heights Arizona reached in 2009.
New York Giants: A-
With Eli Manning, a Super Bowl MVP, Chris Snee, a key member to the Super Bowl offensive line, and Gibril Wilson in the 5thround, the New York Giants made key additions to their team in 2004 which led to the Super Bowl ring in 2007. The Giants take a bit of a hit because they traded a lot to get Eli, but he has since proven the trade to be worthwhile. The rest of the draft ended up being nothing but depth and practice squad fodder, but the three starters were key members to a Super Bowl run, and that gives you an A regardless of the cost.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Grade- A-
The Steelers picked up their franchise QB at 11 with Big Ben coming out of Miami (of Ohio). But after Roethlisberger, the rest of the 2004 draft was a huge dissapointment. Still, credit where credit is due, a franchise Quarterback is worthy of an A Grade all on his own. Ricardo Colclough washed out at Corner, and Max Starks (despite his huge pay day) has been a mediocre at best offensive tackle. The rest of the draft is gone with the wind, unknown depth and practice squad players who never really made an impact on the two Super Bowl runs the Steelers have made since.
Indianapolis Colts: Grade B+
The Colts used their first pick on a small safety out of Iowa named Bob Sanders. Now a defensive player of the year
and a contributer to the 2006 Super Bowl, Bob Sanders at 44 was a steal. Ben Hartsock a TE was a contributor but never really came out as a top tier receiving weapon. Gilbert Gardner and KendyllPope came next. both OLB’s are gone and neither really made an impact. In the 4th, the Colts selected Jason David, who was a contributing Corner but never a play maker, while in the 5thround the Colts drafted Jake Scott. Von Hutchins and Jim Sorgiare both backups who, drafted where they were in the 6thround, were very good picks.
Chicago Bears: Grade- B+
The Bears made some key pick ups, and selected some members of their 2006 Super Bowl run who are still on the squad today. Tommie Harris is the marquis player of the draft, going at 14 overall. Their 2ndroundpick, Terry Johnson, was a waste, but 3rd round receiver Bernard Berrian continues to be a very viable #2 receiver for the Vikings. Craig Krenzel performed adequately for a late 5thround pick, but the rest of the 2nd day went without notice.
St. Louis: Grade- B
Steven Jackson at 24 was a huge steal, and was the first running back taken in the draft. Jackson teamed up with Marc Bulger in the last Playoff run before the two coaching changes since. After Jackson, the draft becomes unimpressive with Tony Hargrove out of the league and most of the 2nd day being long gone. Brandon Chillar was selected in the 4thround, and has been another key element to a dissapointing St. Louis squad. But with Jackson at the front (much like the Pittsburgh draft), you can’t discredit this class.
New England: Grade- B
The Pats draft class began with a Bang and ended with a Wimper. Vince Wilfork, the Rock upon which Bill Belichick’s church of defense has been constructed, was selected 21st overall. But after Wilfork, the bottom fell out. Ben Watsonwas serviceable, but never great. Marquise Hill could have helped turn the class aroundbefore his tragic death. The rest of the class, forgotten about including such highs as Guss Scott, P.K. Sam and Christian Morton.
New York Jets: Grade- B
The Jets had a draft full of mediocre talent, andwhen half your players are decent, your grade is a B in my book. At the top of the draft came 4-3 MLB Johnathan Vilma, who would still be in New York if not for the Eric Mangini era. Jerricho Cotchery and Adrian Jones in the 4thwere both solid picks, with Erik Coleman in the 5th becoming a great selection, and in the 7thround, future New York Giants running back Derrick Ward was selected out of Ottawa.
Washington: Grade- B-
The Redskins selected two key starters out of 4 picks. Sean Taylor was on his way to becoming one of the best safeties in the league before his murder, and Chris Cooley has been a reliable target for Jason Campbell, and will contibue to be an important element to the Washington West Coast Offense. The other two picks, Mark Wilson and Jim Molinero (in the 5th and 6th) are relative nobodies who did not contribute to this class much at all.
Oakland Raiders: Grade- B-
Yes, there was a time whent he Oakland Raiders had more than 5 draft picks and actually used some of them for solid players. Robert Gallery was a great pick, if waaaay to high and then used in the wrong position. At Guard, Gallery is solid. Jake Grove out of Virginia Tech is a solid center, andStuart Schweigert in the 3rd round was a decent pick up, who if not for injuries and poor coaching could have developed into a solid starting safety. The rest of the draft was unimpressive, but with two solid offensive linemen at the top of the draft, a better coached team could have turned this into one of the better classes.
New Orleans: Grade- C+
Will Smith was selected 18th overall, and has become a key member of a problematic defensive unit in New Orleans. and Devery Henderson has been a very solid #2 receiver for years. Now that the Saints have re-stabalized from the Jim Haslett era, we can really see the impact of the 2004 Draft. These two picks help left a mediocre draft into a solid one, with Mike Karney bringing up the rear in the 5thround and providing another contributing special teamer. Courney Watson and Rodney Leisle have not been usefull picks, and Watson in particular in the 2ndround was a bit of a dissapointment.
Cincinnati Bengals: Grade- C+
Chris Perry was a bust among busts, but after him there were a series of great picks. MadieuWilliams in the secondround, Landon Johnson in the 3rd, Robert Geathers and Stacy Andrews in the 4th were all huge selections. Without Perry bringing down this class, the Bengals could have had one of the better classes of the draft. Keiwan Ratliff, the 49th overall pick at Corner Back, failed to make an impact in the league as well, but the sheer success of the 2nd day makes this a tolerable draft in the long run.
Carolina Panthers: Grade- C
The Panthers selected Chris Gamble in the first, and he made this class. Michael Gaines, Drew Carter and Keary Colbert (7th, 5th and 2nd round picks) all contributed to the Panthers and other teams, but none really developed into top tier players. Still, the selection of a very solid corner at the tail end of the draft makes the 2004 class for the Panthers at least a feasible one.
Tampa Bay: Grade- C
The Buccsselected Michael Clayton in the first round, andhas produced far below the level most would have wanted. But he still plays for the team which drafted him, a feat of note in this first round. Marquis Cooper has been a journeyman backup for half the league, andWill Allen has shown flashes of being a very good 3rd round pick. However the rest of the Tampa Class were non-entities who wafled around and never contributed, bringing about an average year for the Buccs.
Cleveland: Grade- C
Kellen Winslow, when healthy, was the best young Tight End in the game. Unfortuantely he injured his knee in the first pre-season game of his career, then crashed his motorcycle in year 2. But years 3 and 4 were solid, and Winslow earned himself a trip to a Pro Bowl in 2007. Sean Jones was a solid safety for 4 years before being allowed to walk by the Manginiregime. Beyond the two at the top, the rest of the draft was fillers anddepth who never made it in Luke McCown (now in Tampa with Winslow), and Joe Echemandu being the more bizarre highlights of the class.
Seattle: Grade- C-
The Seahawks picked up a solid wall of flesh in Marcus Tubbsin the first round, as well as vastly under-achieving players in the 2nd and 5th (Michael Boulware and D.J. Hackett). Sean Locklearwas a very good 3rd round pick, but the draft itself is less than thrilling. Neither Tubbs nor Locklearhave really become the tops of their positions, even on the team itself. But bothare solid depth players, just like D.J. Hackett has been in his journeyman career throughout the league.
Tennesee: Grade C-
The Titans drafted a starting defensive lineman for Cincinnati, a starting defensive lineman for Carolina, a starting defensive lineman for Miami and a series of scrubs. If Travis Laboy, Antwan Odom, randy Starks and the rest of them would have stayed in Tennessee, this would be an A. But with all that decent talent leaving for other teams, andthe failure of first round Tight End Ben Troupe, this is a particularlly underwhelming draft class for the usually spot on Tennessee Titans.
Miami: Grade C-
Will Poole, Rex Hadnot and Vernon Carey highlighted a very successfull backup class for the Miami Dolphins. Bubt none turned into stars or big name playmakers. Derrick Pope in the 7th, Tony Pape in the 6th and Tony Bua in the 5th never really made it onto the field, and help give the Dolphins a slighlty below average class in 2004.
Buffalo: Grade C-
JP Losman highlighted this class at pick 22, and now he can’t even buy his way into a QB competition. Lee Evans has been an amazing pick up, but he was the only thing that saved this otherwise empty squad from obscurity. also int he line up, Tim Anderson, Tim Euhus, Dylan McFarland andJonathan Smith. Names unfamiliar to anyone outside of the city of Buffalo, and probably unknown to most inside the city as well.
Houston: Grade- C-
The Texans selected franchsie Corner Back Dunta Robinson, who has been an on and off star in the defensive secondary. Jason Babin had potential but never lived up to it, the same with Vontex Duff andGlenn Earl. Beyond those first four selections (including Babinin the first round 17 spots after Robinson) the draft was forgettable. The key here has been inconsistency, with Dunta being its posterchild. If Robinson can continue in form and play like the Franchise Player he is, this could bump up to a solid C.
Philadelphia: Grade- D+
Shawn Andrews was selected 16th overall and has been a very good offensive lineman. None of the other players did anything in this league. Including 2 fourthround picks, 2 sixes and a wopping 3 7thround picks. Not a one of them every ammounted to much in their NFL careers.
Detroit: Grade- D+
Roy Williams was never the Wide Receiver the Lions hoped for, but he was productive. Kevin Jones couldn’t stay healthy, and Teddy Lehman in the 2nd was an “ok” linebacker. But he’s the only player from the 2004 class still on the squad.
Atlanta: Grade- D
DeAngello Hall was a special talent, but his attitude and talent never allowed him to reach his potential withthe Falcons. Then he was paid a lot of money for 6 months of work in Oakland before traveling to Washington to replace Shawn Springs. Michael Jenkins has been a consistent dissapoinment, with the rest of the class being cut or lost to practice squads anddepth charts.
Dallas: Grade- D
Julius Jones started this draft at pick 43, a solid running back for the Cowboys who was sent abroad due to the deep group of runners the Cowboys now have (Barber being the new leader). Patrick Crayton, usefull and talented but never great, came out of the 7thround and was clearly one of the best picks of the 2004 draft. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, everyone between 43 and 216 was a wasted pick, and none of them contributed. OT Jacob Rogers was cut in 2006, and was an epic failure as a 2ndround pick.
San Francisco: Grade D
Rashaun Woods was a huge bust at 31, but Justin Smiley, Shawntae Spencer and Isaac Sopoagaall contributed to depth and as backups. Andy Lee was a great punter, but for a draft which included 10 picks, this San Fran draft was greatly dissapointing, Derrick Hamilton andWoods, both supposed studs at receiver, ended up flopping horribly and hurt the San Francisco receiving corp for the better part of the last 5 years.
Green Bay: Grade- D-
Ahmad Carroll was a potentially amazing pick, who got totally burned like a bad peice of toast. He busted, and took the rest of the class with him. The only thing that saved this group was Corey Williams, who’s 6thround selection was eventually turned into a 2ndroundpick from the Cleveland Browns.
Baltimore: Grade- D-
Dwan Edwards, the Defensive Tackle out of Oregon State, is still a solid member of this great defense, but Devard Darlin? Josh Harris? Clarence Moore? None of these guys ever did anything in the league, and it is unquestionable that the offensive failures of the 2004 (and other) drafts eventually cost Brian Billick his job in Baltimore.
Minnesota: Grade- D-
Kenechi Udezewas their first round pick, and he contributed to a level, but has never been the real force the Vikings hoped for. Mewelde Moore was perhaps the best pick of the draft, that should tell you just how poor the 2004 year was for Minneosta.
Kansas City: Grade- D-
Jared Allen saves this from an F, as he netted them a slew of picks and has become the best young defensive End in the league. Every other pick of the draft was terrible.
Denver: Grade- F
D. J. Williams, Tatem bell, Darius Watts, Jeff Shoate, Matt Mauck, Bradlee Van Pelt. All names on the Denver Draft Board in 2004. Yeah, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that Shanny got fired.