Because if you re-did that draft based on NFL performance, you'd have only one player in the new top 10 drafted that high in the actual draft: Ronnie Brown, who went to Miami second overall and is now number seven.
In fact, while this was a great draft for running backs, the folks doing the drafting had trouble telling the good ones from the bad: Frank Gore (pictured) was the first pick of the third round at 65; Marion Barber and Brandon Jacobs went back-to-back in the fourth round at 109 and 110, and Darren Sproles went later in the fourth at 130. But Cadillac Williams, Cedric Benson, J.J. Arrington, Eric Shelton and Maurice Clarett (!!) went before Gore, Barber, Jacobs and Sproles, and Vernand Morency before the latter three.
Yes, in Williams' case injuries made a difference as they did (in reverse) with Gore -- had he not been hurt so often and so badly in college, he would have have been a first-rounder. Benson flopped with Chicago and found himself in Cincinnati, where he's been close to what he was supposed to be. But overall, this is one of the years that convinced teams that they can find running backs later than the first round.
This draft also made the NFC East as competitive as it has been recently.
Dallas, with Bill Parcells still running the show, got DeMarcus Ware at 11 when everyone thought Shawne Merriman would be better; then Marcus Spears, Kevin Burnett, Barber, Chris Canty and, with the Cowboys' final pick, a defensive end from Auburn named Jay Ratliff, who has become the game's best nose tackle.
The Giants had only four picks and no first-rounder because of the trade for Eli Manning the year before.
So in the second round, they took Corey Webster, who had the interception that set up the winning field goal in the 2008 NFC title game; in the third, they took Justin Tuck and in the fourth, they got Jacobs. Those are three guys who contributed in a major way to that Super Bowl run -- Tuck could as easily have been the MVP in their upset over New England as Manning.
And Philadelphia got three starters, headed by defensive linemen Trent Cole and Mike Patterson.
Other teams made up for first-round mistakes with later picks, like San Francisco, which took Alex Smith first overall, but got Gore with the first pick of the third round. Where would the 49ers would be now if they'd taken Aaron Rodgers, who might have gone No. 1 but instead fell and fell and fell and finally got taken by the Packers at 24?
Tennessee? The Titans usually draft well and took Pacman Jones at No. 6 overall. Whoops. But in the second round, they found one of the game's better left tackles, Michael Roos.
And New England took a shot at Southern Cal's backup QB in the final found and got Matt Cassel, who saved the 2008 season when Tom Brady got hurt, then later got them a second-round pick from Kansas City.
A lot of teams couldn't figure out receivers, a problem that recurs annually.
So while the Vikings used the seventh pick on Troy Williamson, the Lions went for Mike Williams at 10 (Matt Millen's third first-round wide receiver in a row), and the Jaguars took converted QB Matt Jones at 21. San Diego found Vincent Jackson late in the second round with the 61st overall pick. In other words, a guy who's had 16 touchdown catches the last two seasons after a bunch of stiffs -- only Braylon (Mr. Dropsies) Edwards and Roddy White have stats better than Vincent.
In other words, as the 2010 draft approaches, use this draft to recognize that if the teams don't know who will succeed, how does Mel Kiper, who preaches that he knows it all. And anyone who "grades'' a draft afterward is simply going on speculation. It takes three years or more before we know if it's a success or failure.
The Top 20
1. Aaron Rodgers, QB (Originally drafted: Packers, No. 24 overall): Maybe the best way to groom a quarterback really is to sit him behind a veteran. And now we know why Ted Thompson didn't want Brett Favre back.
2. DeMarcus Ware, LB (Cowboys, No. 11 overall): Eyebrows raised when he went before Shawne Merriman. It was 50-50 until Merriman tore up his knee
3. Jay Ratliff, NT (Cowboys, No. 224 overall): A so-so defensive end at Auburn and a seventh-round afterthought. Parcells presumably knew he'd become a unique 3-4 nose tackle, one who can get off the ball and pressure the passer -- 13 1/2 sacks the last two seasons is unheard of at that position.
4. Michael Roos, OT (Titans, No. 41 overall): Left tackles are hard to find and he was left in the second round because he played at Eastern Washington. A major reason why the immobile Kerry Collins had such a good year in 2008 -- he wasn't touched.
5. Justin Tuck, DE (Giants, No. 74 overall): He fell for no good reason -- he was considered a late first-rounder by a lot of teams. He's played like a first-rounder, although injuries limited him last season. Spent the 2008 Super Bowl in Tom Brady's face and sacked him twice.
6. Logan Mankins, G (Patriots, No. 32 overall): He didn't show up as a first-rounder in many mock drafts but went with the last pick of the round. Now we know why.
7. Ronnie Brown, RB (Dolphins, No. 2 overall): Alternated with Williams at Auburn (Jacobs once was third-string to them). Injuries have hurt, but he's the guy Miami used to bring the wildcat to the NFL.
8. Frank Gore, RB (49ers, No. 65 overall): He went to Miami as a potential first-rounder but kept tearing up his knee. Seemed like a risk even as the first pick in the third round, but had 1,695 yards in his second year and has been over 1,000 every year but as a rookie.
9. Vincent Jackson, WR (Chargers, No. 61 overall): The 11th wideout taken, after the likes of Troy Williamson and Mike Williams went in the first round.
10. Lofa Tatupu, LB (Seahawks, No. 45 overall): The defensive rookie of the year in 2005, when the Seahawks won the NFC championship. His injuries are one reason Seattle has slipped.
11. Shawne Merriman, LB, (Chargers, No. 12 overall): A torn-up knee has slowed his career. So have his off-field antics. But a beast when healthy.
12. Roddy White, WR (Falcons, No. 27 overall): More consistent than Braylon Edwards, who went third, and simply much better than Williamson and Williams, classic duds. Consistency: 83 catches for 1,202 yards in 2007; 88 for 1,382 in '08; and 85 for 1,153 last season.
13. Trent Cole, DE (Eagles, No. 146 overall): Went in the fifth round as a pass rusher because he was undersized at 250. Up to 270 and a full-timer now with 42 sacks the last four seasons.
14. Kyle Orton, QB (Bears, No. 106 overall): If you find a starting quarterback this far down, it's a good pick.
15. Matt Cassel, QB (Patriots, 230 overall): Who would you rather have, Cassel or Alex Smith? Smith was taken 229 spots earlier.
16. Braylon Edwards, WR (Browns, No. 3 overall): He's not a bust and he showed signs or becoming a premier receiver again last season after his trade to the Jets. He also continued to drop the ball, but what the heck ...
17. Luis Castillo, DE (Chargers, No. 28 overall): A solid 3-4 DE. Good player on a good team.
18. Heath Miller, TE, (Steelers, No. 30 overall): The kind of player the Steelers love. Hard worker, productive, unspectacular.
19. Kirk Morrison, MLB (Raiders, No. 78 overall): We keep forgetting that Oakland's defense is pretty good. Morrison is one reason why.
20 (tie). Marion Barber, RB (Cowboys, No. 109 overall) and Brandon Jacobs, RB (Giants, No. 110 overall): Two punishing runners susceptible to injury.
The Five Worst Picks
You can't really call Alex Smith a bust because he's been hurt and got his starting job back last year for San Francisco. But he's no Rodgers. The truly bad picks are:
1. Pacman Jones CB/KR (Titans, No. 6 overall): Yes, he has talent and showed it occasionally. He was also the poster child for Roger Goodell's crackdown on malfeasors. Jobless right now.
2. Mike Williams, WR (Lions, No. 10 overall): A lot of scouts and executives knew Williams was too slow. Matt Millen didn't. Matt's gone now and so is Mike -- though Seattle's trying one last time to bring Williams back.
3. Troy Williamson, WR (Vikings, No. 7 overall): He has 87 catches in five seasons with Minnesota and Jacksonville. No hands.
4. Matt Jones, WR, (Jaguars, No. 21 overall): Everyone suddenly saw a surefire thing in a QB turned WR. Caught 65 passes in 2008 and also got himself arrested on a cocaine charge.
5. Richie Incognito, G-C, (Rams, No. 81 overall): Normally, a third-round offensive lineman can't really be a bust, especially if he starts every game he dresses for. But a guy who needs to be treated for anger management.
5a. Mike Nugent, K, (Jets, No. 47 overall): Why does any team use a second-round pick on a kicker? One of those kickers now making the rounds looking for a job.
5b. Maurice Clarett, RB (Broncos, No. 101 overall): No one really knew what Mike Shanahan was doing when he took Clarett with the last pick of the third round. We still don't. Redskins fans take notice.
Best Drafts by Team
1. San Diego: The Chargers can't get to the Super Bowl, but they've drafted wonderfully. This one was Merriman, Castillo, Jackson and Sproles at the top, four first-rounders in the re-draft.
2. Dallas: Ware, Ratliff, Barber, Spears plus Burnett and Canty, now gone as free agents. About as productive as you can get.
3. New York Giants: You can't do much more when you have no first-rounder and just four picks. Wouldn't have won that Super Bowl without Webster, Tuck and Jacobs, who all are starters..
4. New England: The last really good draft for the Patriots. Two offensive line starters in Mankins and Nick Kaczur; CB Ellis Hobbs and Cassel, who filled in well and got them a second-rounder from Kansas City
5. Philadelphia: Cole and Patterson both start on the defensive line and Todd Herremans on the OL. WR Reggie Brown and S Sean Considine also were in the group.
6. Pittsburgh: Miller topped a solid group that also included CB Bryant McFadden, who started on two Super Bowl teams and offensive linemen Trai Essex and Chris Kemoeatu.
7. Tennessee: Despite wasting the first-rounder on Pacman, the Titans got both starting OTs, Roos and David Stewart, plus TE Bo Scaife and Brandon Jones, a pretty good backup receiver for four years.
8. Seattle: Prizes at linebacker in Tatupu and Leroy Hill in the second and third round, respectively.
We haven't done this and normally it's self-evident in the standings (see Detroit and St. Louis). But Minnesota gets on this year. The Vikings had two first-round picks and took Williamson at No. 7 and DE Erasmus James at No. 18. James who arrived with knee problems, played all of 28 NFL games.
And yet Minnesota was within a coin flip of the Super Bowl last season. Sometimes you can survive a bad draft.