If the preseason is a good time to look ahead, then the last week of the season should be a great time to look back. All right, let's take a look back at this year's draft.
Let's start with the Jaguars, who drafted wide receiver Reggie Williams with the ninth overall pick. Was it a good pick for the Jaguars? Well, early returns would definitely indicate the Jaguars did not get the punch from Williams they hoped they would. With one game to play, Williams has caught 27 passes for 268 yards and one touchdown. That's not what any of us had in mind when we spoke of the Jaguars' need for a playmaker at wide receiver.
Young players, of course, require time. Just look at the players who looked like busts as rookies or even through the early years of their careers but have since taken steps into or toward stardom. How about Drew Brees and Larry Johnson? Was there any guarantee Willis McGahee would ever play again? Now he's over a thousand yards and has scored 11 touchdowns in little more than half a season of full-time action. Maybe Williams will turn into that same kind of impact player next year.
Let's take a look at the rest of this year's first-round crop.
Were Eli Manning and Phillip Rivers good picks? Manning is showing signs of coming to life, but was it smart for the Giants to trade away multiple picks to draft Manning when Ben Roethlisberger wouldn't have cost them anything more than their own pick? Isn't drafting a crystal-ball business?
San Diego ended up with Rivers in the exchange with the Giants. Is that a good deal? Drew Brees has gone start to finish for the Chargers and he's led them to the AFC West title. What if he takes them to the Super Bowl?
Brees' contract voids this winter, which means the Chargers could lose Brees and find themselves with an unknown quantity at quarterback next season. All of a sudden, the Chargers would be right back to where they started. Hey, this can't be what the Chargers had in mind.
Oakland picked Robert Gallery number two and he's a good player, but couldn't the Raiders have used Roethlisberger? Arizona took Larry Fitzgerald and he's got 55 catches and eight touchdowns, but wouldn't Roethlisberger have been a better pick for the Cardinals, too?
Washington went with a safety, Sean Taylor, at number five, and the Redskins chose to trade a third-round pick and spend $8 million on Mark Brunell. Taylor's a good player but he's a safety. Roethlisberger could've saved the Redskins a lot of money and embarrassment and given the Redskins a player around whom they could've built their team for the future.
Cleveland's draft performance literally laid the groundwork for Butch Davis' demise. He traded up one spot to draft a player who would've been there had the Browns stayed where they were. Goodbye second-round pick! Then the Browns drafted a tight end, Kellen Winslow, who missed nearly the whole season with a broken leg. Roethlisberger, an Ohio guy, would've been a much better pick for the Browns, too.
Detroit went for wide receiver Roy Williams at seven. They claimed he was the number one guy on their board. Yeah, Williams has flashed some talent, but the real rookie star for Detroit is running back Kevin Jones, who the Lions picked at number 30. Jones is the top rookie rusher and may be the most exciting player the Lions have drafted since Barry Sanders. Clearly, the Lions need a new board.
Atlanta's selection of cornerback DeAngelo Hall was a no-brainer. He was just what the Falcons needed and he was great value at number eight. Unfortunately, he suffered a hip injury that has ruined his rookie season.
At 10, Houston made a great choice, cornerback Dunta Robinson. He may be the defensive rookie of the year.
Pittsburgh, at 11, came away with the plum, Roethlisberger. Wow, those Steelers sure are geniuses, right? Wrong. How about lucky? They were willing to allow Buffalo to trade up to draft Roethlisberger. Who would the Steelers have drafted if Buffalo had moved up? Offensive tackle Shawn Andrews. As it turned out, the Steelers offensive line was a strength of the team this year.
In retrospect, it is with that 11th pick of the draft that the great drama ended. Looking back on it, if they had known then what Roethlisberger would become this season, how many of the teams in the top 10 picks would've selected the rookie sensation ahead of the Steelers? Probably six; the first six. Of course, Roethlisberger would probably still be on the bench in San Diego.
Aren't they supposed to see what's going to happen? Is that the whole idea of scouting and drafting?
Linebacker Jonathan Vilma at 12 is OK and Buffalo did well at 13 with wide receiver Lee Evans, who has 46 catches for 780 yards and nine touchdowns. Evans started out slowly and there were concerns he wasn't worth the choice, but there are no complaints in Buffalo now.
Chicago made a great pick at 14 in Tommie Harris, Michael Clayton was an outstanding selection by Tampa at 15, D.J. Williams was a home run at 17 for Denver and Will Smith is a worthy choice at 18 by New Orleans. Andrews went to Philadelphia at 16 but was lost for the season to injury. Carolina made a great down-the-line pick in Chris Gamble at 28.
In final evaluation of this year's draft, the best stretch of drafting was picks 10-18. In each case – other than for the Andrews pick – value was returned and the player addressed an immediate need.