Back again with Volume IV of my NFL Draft Notebook. This week, I take a look at the draft efforts of a year ago put forth by each of the 16 NFC franchises…
Dallas Cowboys: Give Jerry Jones credit for what turned out to be a fine draft. He moved down to #8 in the 1st round, still got his guy, and also managed to end up with 3 Buckeyes somehow. His "guy" was S Roy Williams from Oklahoma, who made an immediate impact as a rookie and will be a perennial Pro-Bowler. In round two, the Cowboys selected C/G Andre Gurode (Colorado) and WR Antonio Bryant (Pitt)…both of whom saw plenty of time as starters. Their 3rd round pick, CB Derek Ross (Ohio St.), was a very pleasant surprise…picking off 5 passes and establishing himself as one of the most valuable players on the '02 Cowboy defense. In the 4th, they took FB Jamar Martin (Ohio St.), who went down for the season with an injury in training camp. Their next 2 selections, S Ralph Hunter (Virginia Union) and OT Tyson Walter (Ohio St.), also managed to garner some playing time. Overall, a very solid effort.
New York Giants: Shockey. That's all that needs said, and that's all the Giants want to remember from their draft from a year ago. Their 2nd and 3rd round picks, WR Tim Carter (Auburn) and C Jeff Hatch (Penn) were lost for the season due to injuries and the 4 guys they took late were all non-factors.
Philadelphia Eagles: Many were surprised when the team widely thought to have the league's best secondary selected DB's with their 1st three selections last year. 1st round pick CB Lito Shepard from Florida was never able to make an impact, but their two 2nd round selections, S Michael Lewis (Colorado) and CB Sheldon Brown (S.Carolina) made nice contributions both on special teams and in the secondary. In the 3rd, the Eagles nabbed RB Brian Westbrook (Villanova), who the team is very high on. Westbrook contributed as a rookie and figures to see much more playing time this year with the departure of Dorsey Levens. Their four late selections made no impact whatsoever.
Washington Redskins: The ‘ole ball coach's first NFL Draft will ultimately hinge on the success of signal caller Patrick Ramsey (Tulane), as the rest of his draft class was solid but unspectacular. Second round pick Ladell Betts (Iowa) saw little time as a rook, but will be called upon to help pick up some of the slack left by a departed Stephen Davis. In the 3rd, the ‘Skins nabbed two guys they remain high on. CB Rashad Bauman (Oregon) saw some time in the dime, and WR Cliff Russell (Utah) was lost early in camp with an injury. They had split success on their two 5th round selections. TE Robert Royal (LSU) was a nice acquisition, but CB Andre Lott (Tennessee) was a disappointment. Of their 4 late picks, FB Rock Cartwright from Kansas St. has the most promise.
Chicago Bears: 1st round pick, OT Marc Colombo (Boston College), stepped right in as a starter for the Bears before he went down with an injury early in the season. Second round pick CB Roosevelt Williams (Tuskegee) was disappointing, and their 3rd round selection Terence Metcalf (Ole Miss) failed to find his way on the field, despite the woes of the Bear offensive line last year. Their 4th round pick, DE Alex Brown (Florida) was their most productive rookie. Bandied about as a potential 1st round pick in the weeks leading up to the draft…Brown slipped due to rumors of a questionable work ethic. The Bears benefited as he had a fine season. The Bears had 5 picks in the 5th and 6th rounds and made the most of them. S Bobby Gray (La. Tech), DE Bryan Knight (Pitt), LB Adrian Peterson (Ga. Southern), and TE Bryan Fletcher (UCLA) are all players the Bears on counting on increased playing time and production from in '03.
Detroit Lions: Thankfully for Lion fans, Matt Millen produced a decent draft to help counteract the disaster that was the Lions off-season free agent spending spree. Millen resisted the temptation to draft CB Quentin Jammer and instead listened to his support staff and went with QB Joey Harrington from Oregon…who showed the makings of becoming a fine NFL QB. Their 2nd and 3rd picks were both defenders from South Carolina and both showed some promise. DE Kalimba Edwards and CB Andre Goodman both had a lot to do with the obscene amount of points the Lions allowed, but both improved as the season progressed. 4th round DE John Taylor (Montana St.) was a bust, but 5th round TE John Owens (Notre Dame) and 6th round CB Chris Cash (USC) both saw plenty of time and will compete for starting roles this season. In the 7th round, the Lions took two players coming off major injuries that were drafted more for this year than last year. RB Luke Staley (BYU) and OT Victor Jones (Colorado) were both phenomenal college players that the Lions hope can recover from injuries that crippled their draft status.
Green Bay Packers: Considering what the Packers gave up to move up and select Javon Walker (Florida St.), his rookie season could not be considered a success. That being said, young WR's usually take a couple of years to develop in this league…and Walker did improve as the season went along. Many will remember him for his 100-yard game against the Falcons in the playoffs. Green Bay got mixed things from S Marques Anderson from UCLA, who they selected in the 2nd round. He was an active player that saw his share of time, but definitely had his share of struggles. 4th round selection Najeh Davenport (Miami Fla.) recovered from the unfortunate incident where he defecated in his ex-girlfriend's closet and went on to make a nice contribution at FB for the Pack…even getting some carries when Ahman Green went down. Of their 3 late selections, only DT Aaron Kampman (Iowa) made any sort of contribution.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikes took OT Bryant McKinnie, who held out until week 10, early in the 1st round and then spent 5 of their last 6 selections on the defensive side of the ball. None of those 5 players panned out as planned. 2nd round selection LB Raonall Smith (Washington St.) was lost to an injury but the others had no such excuses. McKinnie was a difference maker over the final 6 games…helping the Vikes rally to a decent finish. 4th rounder CB Brian Williams (NC St.) has the most hope of the defensive selections.
Atlanta Falcons: 1st round selection T.J. Duckett (Michigan St.) was banged up but clearly has a future as a power runner for this up and coming team. LB Will Overstreet (Tennessee) was drafted in the 2nd round as a hybrid DE/OLB for the Falcon 3-4, but was also limited due to nagging injuries. OG Martin Bibla (Miami Fla.) fit in nice as the backup guard for the Falcons, as did 4th rounder Kevin McCadam (Virginia Tech) as a backup safety. Their last 4 picks were all busts, including QB Kurt Kittner (Illinois) and WR Kahlil Hill (Iowa)…two players the Falcons thought would be able to help them offensively. Both ended up on waivers.
Carolina Panthers: It's obvious to all who had the pleasure of watching him play how bright DE Julius Peppers' (N.Carolina) future in this league is. Unfortunately, the rest of the Panther draft was not as fruitful. Early in the 2nd round, the team took RB DeShaun Foster (UCLA) who was all set to open the year sharing carries with Lamar Smith before tearing up his knee and sitting out the season. 3rd round LB Will Witherspoon from Georgia showed promise and athleticism…but the rest of the Panther draft failed to make any sort of contribution on either side of the ball. 5th rounder, QB Randy Fasani from Stanford, saw some time in relief of an injured Rodney Peete and a talent deprived Chris Weinke.
New Orleans Saints: The Saints hit and hit big on 4 of the 5 picks they had in rounds 1-4. WR Donte Stallworth (Tennessee) had an instant impact at wideout for the team…taking some of the pressure off of Joe Horn on the other side of the field. DE Charles Grant (Georgia) saw plenty of action and entrenched himself as a fixture as an edge rusher for the team. G/C LeCharles Bentley (Ohio St.) was the league's top rookie lineman and even received enough votes to be listed as a Pro-Bowl alternate. And before getting injured, CB Keyou Craver (Nebraska) jumped right in as the team's nickel back and showed the ability to make plays. Their other 5 selections were nothing to remember.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs got no production whatsoever from their '02 draft class. They had no selections until round three due to the Gruden compensation package sent to the Raiders. In the 3rd and 4th rounds they selected WR Marquise Walker (Michigan) and RB Travis Stephens (Tennessee). Both were very productive college players, and both were injured for the majority of their rookie seasons. Of their final 6 picks, just S Jermaine Phillips (Georgia), even saw the field.
Arizona Cardinals: Disaster. There's no other way to describe the Cards '02 draft effort. It all started with DT Wendell Bryant, the teams 1st round pick from Wisconsin. He held out, and made no impact after finally starting to see some time halfway through the season. 2nd round pick LB LeVar Fisher from NC St. was injured all season, and 3rd round QB Josh McCown (La.Tech) looked brutal in the limited action he saw. The team's most productive selection was 5th round pick WR Jason McAddley (Alabama), who came on when the team's top 3 WR's went down to injuries. 3rd round DE Dennis Johnson (Kentucky) also saw some time rushing the passer.
St. Louis Rams: Many were highly skeptical of Mike Martz's draft last year, and it turned out those skeptics were correct in their assessments. 1st rounder, LB Robert Thomas of UCLA, was just never able to get it going and played more like the 3rd round pick he was projected as before Martz nabbed him early. Their 2nd round pick, CB Travis Fisher (C.Florida) played well, and ended up starting after Aeneas Williams went down. Fisher held his own. RB Lamar Gordon (N.Dakota St.) showed some glimpses of talent, but struggled as a blocker and a pass receiver. They also selected Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch (Nebraska) in round three who promptly retired after being told his future was not at the QB position. The Rams grabbed another ex-college QB in Steve Bellisari (Ohio St.) in the 6th round. Bellisari was being considered as a safety/special teamer before succumbing to injury. 4th and 5th round selections G Travis Scott (Arizona St.) and LB Courtland Bullard (Ohio St.) saw limited action as reserves.
San Francisco 49ers: CB Mike Rumph (Miami Fla.) was the ‘Niners 1st round pick, and his struggles were well documented this season. Forced into action due to rampant injuries in the San Fran secondary…Rumph was targeted early and often and usually to the benefit of the receiver he was attempting to guard. The 49ers next two picks, LB Saleem Rasheed (Alabama) and K Jeff Chandler (Florida) showed promise and figure to become regular contributors for Bill Walsh. The ‘Niners had eight picks in the last 4 rounds of the draft and none really panned out except for 7th round OG Eric Heitmann from Stanford, who was one of the true late steals of the draft. Heitmann took over for an injured Dave Fiore and more than held his own as the 49ers starting LG for the entire season.
Seattle Seahawks: In my post-draft review last season, I suggested that the Seahawks give Mike Holmgren a urine test after his highly questionable tactics/selections on draft day. Holmgren surrendered selections to move up and take TE Daniel Graham. One problem. He didn't move up far enough, as the Patriots stole Graham from them with the pick before theirs. The Seahawks settled on TE Jerramy Stephens (Washington), who was decent when not injured. RB Maurice Morris (Oregon), their 2nd round pick, became a valuable return man for the team and even stole a few carries from Shaun Alexander. The rest of their draft was all reaches, and none panned out, save 6th round OT Matt Hill…who saw some time in relief of Walter Jones. 5 years after taking over the GM duties, Holmgren has now rightfully relinquished those duties with the team in a worse place than when he took over.
As always, love to hear feedback and love talking draft. Drop me a line at email@example.com
Swerb is back with Part 4 of his Draft Notebook. In this week's installment, Swerb looks at last year's draft in the NFC. Which teams scored, and which missed? Swerb looks at all of 'em.
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