On April 17, 1999, a Philadelphia radio station organized a train trip to New York for the purpose of booing the Eagles' draft pick, No. 2 overall, which folks assumed would be quarterback Donovan McNabb. In the opinion of that station and its hosts, the only pick for the Eagles was running back Ricky Williams.
The Eagles didn't share that view and took McNabb. The Philly folks still boo him, and the station's hosts still rip him from time to time, increasingly in recent years because despite leading the Iggles (as they are known locally) to five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl, he still hasn't won a title.
Yeah, Iggles fans also booed Santa Claus.
McNabb would almost surely be the No. 1 overall pick if there was a redraft of 1999. Williams? He's had one of the strangest careers in NFL history after going No. 5 to New Orleans, where Mike Ditka, then the Saints coach, gave up the rest of his picks to get his rights.
He's had five 1,000-yard rushing seasons, including last year when, at age 32, he ran for 1,121 yards and a 4.7 yards per carry average for Miami. He had 1,853 yards for the Dolphins in 2002 after being traded from the Saints for two first-round picks. But he tested positive for marijuana at least four times, "retired" in 2004, and spent time that autumn studying an ancient Indian system of holistic medicine at the California College of Ayurveda in the aptly named Grass Valley, Cal.
As far as we know, it doesn't have a football team.
In other words, Williams was worth it and he wasn't -- a boom and a bust all in one, although the Saints obviously didn't do their homework on his substances of choice.
The 1999 draft was strange.
Five QBs were taken with the first 12 picks and three were outright dogs: Tim Couch, No. 1 by Cleveland; Akili Smith, No. 3 by Cincinnati and Cade McNown, No. 12 by Chicago, a team that should not be allowed to pick a quarterback. At No. 11 was Daunte Culpepper, who had five outstanding seasons with the Vikings but tore up his knee in 2005 and hasn't been the same since.
There were other awful picks.
Start with David Boston, a "can't miss'' wide receiver who started as if he couldn't miss, then did -- both in head and body. He went to Arizona at No. 8. After the quarterbacks there were WR Troy Edwards by Pittsburgh; DE Lamar King to Seattle at 22; defensive tackle Reggie McGrew to San Francisco at 24; CB Antuan Edwards to Green Bay at 25; OT Aaron Gibson to Detroit at 27; LB Andy Katzenmoyer to New England at 28; and DE Dimitrius Underwood to Minnesota at No. 29.
Underwood walked out of the Vikings' camp almost as soon as he got there, and played only 19 NFL games, all with Dallas, after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder -- again, a lack of pre-draft research. Gibson, listed at 370 pounds, played 38 games over five seasons and became the first NFL player ever to "officially'' weigh in at more than 400 when he was with the Cowboys.
The Top 15
1. Donovan McNabb, QB (Originally drafted: Eagles, No. 2 overall): Anywhere else, a quarterback with his resume would be revered. But QBs now seem measured by Super Bowl victories and he doesn't have one. Still, a 216-to-100 TD-interception ration works for anyone and so do 3,249 yards rushing, five NFC East titles and five conference championship games. Knowing this, who wouldn't take him No. 1?
2. Champ Bailey, CB (Redskins, No. 7 overall): This was Dan Snyder's first draft, but it was run by Charley Casserly and Norv Turner, the holdover general manager and coach. Snyder later gave away Bailey in a trade for Clinton Portis, a stupid move because running backs are a lot easier to find than shutdown cornerbacks.
3. Edgerrin James, RB (Colts, No. 4 overall): Bill Polian traded Marshall Faulk to St. Louis, then took James over Williams (never accuse Polian of failing to do his homework on character). James rushed for 12,246 yards (11th on the career list) in 11 seasons. In his most productive years from 1999-2005, he teamed with Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison in as good a set of triplets as there ever has been. (Yes, Aikman, Smith and Irvin included.)
4. Torry Holt, WR (Rams, No. 6 overall): Part of the "Greatest Show on Turf.'' The Rams won a Super Bowl in 1999 and lost one they should have won in 2001. Does anyone refer to Kurt Warner, Faulk, Holt and Isaac Bruce as the "quadruplets"? Holt is looking for a job now, 80 catches short of 1,000 for his career.
5. Aaron Smith, DE (Steelers, No. 109 overall): Did anyone notice that the Steelers won two Super Bowls in the last decade? Smith is one of the main reasons. As a 3-4 defensive end, he is not supposed to be a pass rusher, though he has 44 career sacks. But the likes of Joey Porter, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley have gotten theirs because they play behind him.
6. Jevon Kearse, DE (Titans, No. 16 overall): You take him here off his rookie season, when he had 14 1/2 sacks and -- with Steve McNair and Eddie George -- led the Titans to the Super Bowl. Never got that total again, in part due to injuries and was a liability against the run both in Tennessee and in Philadelphia. But for one year, he was The Freak.
7. Patrick Kerney, DE (Falcons, No. 30 overall): The antithesis of Kearse. A steady career with four seasons of double-digit sacks, including 14 1/2 in 2007, when he went to Seattle as a free agent. A good, solid player.
8. Donald Driver, WR (Packers, No. 213 overall): Boston went eighth, then 21 receivers were taken between Holt and Driver. Only Brandon Stokley, chosen by Baltimore at No. 107, comes close to measuring up to Driver, the Packers' leading career receiver and Brett Favre's favorite target for most of the decade. He has 647 catches for 9,050 yards, 49 TDs and an outstanding yards per catch average of 14.0.
9. Antoine Winfield, CB (Bills, No. 23 overall): Another shutdown corner who went to Minnesota as a free agent in 2004. Not a huge interception total (21) because people don't throw at him.
10. Jon Jansen, T (Redskins, No. 37 overall): A right tackle, so in less demand. But a solid, durable player in a rare good draft for the Redskins.
12. Joey Porter, LB (Steelers, No. 73 overall): Porter, just released by Miami, is a classic "look at me'' player who antagonized opponents. But you can't argue with 92 sacks and 24 forced fumbles. Yes, you could catch him out of position, but an important player on the Steelers' 2007 Super Bowl winner.
13. Anthony McFarland, DT (Buccaneers, No. 15 overall): A mainstay in the middle of the DL on the 2002 champion Bucs. He also made a major contributions to the champion Colts in 2006, coming in late to plug the middle for Tony Dungy, also his coach in Tampa. Career shortened by knee injuries.
14. Mike Peterson, LB (Colts, No. 36 overall): A solid player who spent four years with the Colts, then was allowed to leave because Indy's salary-cap money was tied up in offense. Solid in Jacksonville, despite a 2008 tiff with coach Jack Del Rio.
15. Kevin Faulk, RB (Patriots, No. 46 overall): Started just 42 of the 152 games in his career. But the most durable of backs who got critical third-down first downs and a natural leader in a locker room where leadership helped win three Super Bowls. Has 418 receptions and has gotten better as he ages, averaging 6.2 and 5.1 yards a rush the last two seasons.
Special mention: Kelly Gregg, DT (Bengals, No. 173 overall): Didn't make it in a 4-3 with the Bengals but an unsung hero in Baltimore. Does he make Ray Lewis and the linebacking corps better or is it the other way around? Doesn't matter, a 3-4 nose tackle frees up the LBs to be playmakers.
The Five Worst Picks
1. Akili Smith, QB (Bengals, No. 3 overall): Picked third because of great games in the final half of his final season at Oregon. That was a fluke. The Bengals, with one scout, never discovered he was a "take the money and run'' guy who wouldn't work to improve. Became a starter his second year and immediately flopped, completing 44.5 percent of his passes. Lasted just three seasons with a 46.6 percentage and failed at a 2005 comeback.
2. Cade McNown, QB (Bears, No. 12 overall): McNown's arm was weak and he had other issues -- one of 16 UCLA athletes to plead no contest to illegally possessing a handicapped parking sticker.
3. Tim Couch, QB (Browns, No. 1 overall): Started 14 games as a rookie, the first quarterback for the new Browns in their return to the NFL. He gets the expansion team benefit of the doubt and the benefit of the doubt from injuries, notably one to his rotator cuff. He finished a five-year career with 64 TD passes and 67 interceptions, and if not for the injury, might have been a long-time career backup. Wrong place at the wrong time?
4. Dimitrius Underwood (Vikings, No. 29 overall): Isn't the scouting combine a place where they can discover if a player is bipolar?
5. David Boston, WR (Cardinals, No. 8 overall): From Ohio State and supposed to be the next Cris Carter, a Buckeye with similar skills. Had 71 catches for 1,156 yards and seven touchdowns in his second year and 98 for 1,598 and eight TDs in this third -- and at 6-foot-2, 228 pounds, many of his catches were made for highlight reels. Hurt his knee and was a me-first guy, although his father has been one of the NFL's top officials for two decades.
Best Drafts by Team
1. Indianapolis: Polian's maneuvering got the Colts James after dealing Faulk, and Peterson came in the second round. Got longtime punter Hunter Smith in the seventh round.
2. St. Louis: Rams got Faulk in a trade and Holt (pictured) in the first round, and building blocks for the best team of the early 2000s with CB Dre' Bly (Round 2, No. 41 overall) and backup safety Rich Coady in the third.
3. Washington: Snyder didn't learn that when you use picks instead of trade them, you might get a Bailey and a Jansen.
4. Pittsburgh: Strange draft. Nos. 1 and 2, WR Troy Edwards and DB Scott Shields were less than stellar. But Smith and Porter in the third and fourth were of first-round quality, and they also got journeyman backup tight end Jerame Tuman and kicker Kris Brown, now in Houston.
5. Baltimore: CB Chris McAlister, No. 1, never quite achieved his potential, although he was a good player on a great defense. The fourth-rounder was Stokley, still playing well in Denver and perhaps the best slot receiver of the decade while with Indianapolis. Another fourth-rounder, G Edwin Mulitalo, was one of the NFL's better offensive linemen before injuries got him.
6. Tennessee: The Titans got themselves an AFC championship by drafting Kearse No. 1, then followed it up in rounds 2 and3 with DT John Thornton and G Zach Piller, respectively. Piller became a solid starter.
7. Denver: A mixed bag that started with Wilson and included fourth-rounder Olandis Gary, one of the running backs from nowhere that Mike Shanahan tended to draft -- he had 1,159 yards as a rookie when Terrell Davis got hurt, then got hurt himself and did little. Defensive lineman Monte Reagor, a second-round choice, had a decent career with the Broncos and Colts.
8. Green Bay: Driver in the seventh round makes this a good draft. But Green Bay also got useful players like CB Mike McKenzie, DE Cletidus Hunt and P Josh Bidwell.