Back in April, the NFL concluded the 2010 draft. This year’s draft was punctuated by the prime time debut of Round 1 at New York City’s famed Radio City Music Hall. The draft was extended over a three day period and received wide acclaim from fans and media, alike.
It is too early to say who the winners are for the 2010 draft. Some draft picks never make it out of camp; some never fulfill the promise of their rookie contract. Still others exceed the greatest expectations. It has been widely stated that the average career of an NFL player is 4-5 years. Given that, let’s take a look at the 2005 NFL Draft.
The Rules of the Game
There are as many ways to evaluate the success of a draft class as there are to evaluate players. What matters most? Years as a starter, Pro Bowl selections, All Pro selections, team wins, championships, value at selected position, value over next selection? There are a lot of criteria to consider.
I’ll leave that final determination to you. For my own purposes, I admit using a subjective mix of all of those criteria. Here is a link for you to make your own decision.
Top Dog of the 2005 NFL Draft
1. Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys used two first round selections to grab DeMarcus Ware and Marcus Spears. Ware has become a dominant defensive force in the league. He has been selected to four Pro Bowls and been named All-Pro three times. He is arguably the best player at his position in the entire NFL. Ware, to the Cowboys credit, was taken just before Chargers LB Shawne Merriman.
Spears has been solid as a 300 pound defensive end in the Cowboys 3-4 alignment, but the other crown jewel of this draft was selected in the 7th round. Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff was named All-Pro this past season and has blossomed into an elite anchor for the Cowboys. Ratliff is solid against the run and excels on passing downs. He collapses the pocket and creates havoc in the middle.
The selections of Ware and Ratliff alone would probably suffice to put the Cowboys on top, but Dallas also picked up linebacker Kevin Burnett in the 2nd round, and Marion Barber and Chris Canty in the 4th round. Canty was an excellent performer on the defensive line for Dallas during the 2008 season and garnered interest from many teams around the league when his rookie deal expired. Last year, Canty underperformed for the New York Giants, but can be expected to bounce back in a more aggressive scheme. Marion Barber leads the all members of the 2005 draft class (Cadillac Williams, Brandon Jacobs, Frank Gore, Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, Darren Sproles) with 43 rushing touchdowns.
This draft class produced 4 All-Pro selections, 7 Pro Bowl nods, and a solid core of reliable players that allowed the Cowboys defense to improve from 27th in points allowed in 2004 to 2nd in points allowed in 2009. This is a high impact draft. If the Cowboys talent on offense can match that of the defense, Dallas may get a chance to play the final game of the season at home in 2010.
Notables from the 2005 Draft
Perhaps the most memorable thing for me about this draft is the number of teams that missed on first round selections. Alex Smith (#1) has been a bust in San Francisco. He has shown signs that he may emerge, but the question marks surrounding his performance linger. Braylon Edwards (#3) washed out in Cleveland, as did Cedric Benson in Chicago (#4). Cadillac Williams (#5) has been an exceptional player in Tampa Bay (2005 Rookie of the Year), but he has suffered some of the most excrutiating injuries in the history of the game. The Titans selected Adam Jones at #6; the Jaguars selected Troy Williamson at #7; and, the Detroit Lions picked USC’s Mike Williams at #10. Only picks #8 (Antrel Rolle, Arizona) and #9 (Carlos Rogers, Auburn) emerged from this minefield. The Dolphins top pick, Ronnie Brown (#2, and one of four Auburn players selected in Round 1), has also battled health issues.
The first round wasn’t all bad. Aaron Rodgers was selected by the Packers. Heath Miller went to the Steelers. Marlin Jackson was picked by the Colts. The Atlanta Falcons chose Roddy White.
The Cowboys were not alone in drafting well in 2005. Here is a short list of teams that drafted well and their selections:
New York Giants (4 picks): Corey Webster, Justin Tuck, Brandon Jacobs.
San Diego Chargers: Shawne Merriman, Luis Castillo, Vincent Jackson, Darren Sproles.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Heath Miller, Bryant McFadden, Chris Kemeotu.