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Draft dreaming

What if teams got a down-and-over on NFL Draft?

Posted: Friday November 19, 2004 4:40PM; Updated: Friday November 19, 2004 5:21PM
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If only we knew then what we know now, the NFL's 2004 draft would look oh so different. Hindsight being 20-20, I have a feeling that if everyone was on the clock again today, the timepiece that folks would be focused on would be Big Ben, aka, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger.

Call it revisionist history, but we're doing the picking all over again today. At least in the first round. We're going on bottom-line rookie-season production, and re-ordering the top of the draft to fit current-day realities.

For this exercise, we don't need the commissioner at the podium. Tell him to keep his seat and listen up. This is the way things should have gone on April 24:

Don Banks' Revised Draft
Rank Team
1 New York Giants
Original pick: Eli Manning
That's right, we're starting off with a trade, but not the one that wound up going down on draft day. We've got the No. 1 Chargers and No. 4 Giants swapping places for this simple reason: If San Diego knew quarterback Drew Brees was going to play as well as he has this season, as he approaches free agency, there's no way it would have chosen to sink all that money into Philip Rivers. So give the Giants the quarterback who's doing it now, and let some one else roll the dice on Eli Manning.
2 Oakland Raiders
Original pick: Robert Gallery
Robert Gallery has been fine as a rookie, but the Raiders love speed guys, and Williams has clearly been the draft's most impressive receiver. With him on board, to go with Doug Gabriel, Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry, Oakland would be loaded at a position that would allow it to feature that stretch-the-field vertical passing game that Al Davis loves so much. And yes, we know head coach Norv Turner runs the West Coast offense, but this is still Big Al's team and always will be.
3 Arizona Cardinals
ELI MANNING, QB, Mississippi
Original pick: Larry Fitzgerald
OK, Dennis Green. We like some of Josh McCown's qualities, too. But he's shown himself to be a middle-of-pack quarterback at best. You didn't want to take a franchise quarterback at No. 3 the first time around, but you might as well, as much as you had to pay receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Besides, you don't have a choice this time. It's Manning, and I'd advise you to not take any calls from his father.
4 San Diego Chargers
Original pick: Philip Rivers
With Brees holding the fort down nicely at quarterback, the Chargers can afford to address their sorry state of affairs at offensive tackle. Maybe Gallery hasn't wowed people yet, but he's still going to be a 10-year starter for somebody. Might as well keep the kid in California, because he's already got the necessary West Coast 'tude.
5 Washington Redskins
PHILIP RIVERS, QB, North Carolina State
Original pick: Sean Taylor
A no-brainer. Have you seen Mark Brunell and Patrick Ramsey's less-than-passing impression of a quarterback this year? If they chose Rivers today, he could be starting in time for Sunday's game at Philadelphia.
6 Cleveland Browns
Original pick: Kellen Winslow Jr.
The Chosen One, tight end Kellen Winslow, got hurt before he could contribute. We're all about winning now, playing now and producing now. Given Cleveland's situation at linebacker, Vilma, who has been a man in the middle for the Jets, is too good to pass up. Plus he's a University of Miami guy, and Butch Davis loves those. Vilma climbs five spots from No. 12 in the first round.
7 Detroit Lions
Original pick: Roy Williams
We're going to let the Lions swap spots with the Browns again, and with Roy Williams already off the board, give Detroit the other big, tall receiver who goes up and gets the ball. After a slow start due to injury, Fitzgerald (32 catches for 465 yards and three touchdowns) is starting to make things happen.
8 Atlanta Falcons
DUNTA ROBINSON, CB, South Carolina
Original pick: DeAngelo Hall
DeAngelo Hall just recently got on the field after being hurt in the preseason. So we'll give the first-place Falcons the draft's most productive cornerback. Robinson has three picks for the Texans, and hasn't looked overmatched yet.
9 Jacksonville Jaguars
Original pick: Reggie Williams
The Jags have gotten just 18 catches for 150 yards out of receiver Reggie Williams. Clayton, who went 15th to in-state rival Tampa Bay, has been the real deal, with a team-high 48 catches for 685 yards and three touchdowns.
10 Houston Texans
Original pick: Dunta Robinson
We still think Taylor is going to be a play-making machine, but after a stellar preseason in Washington, he's just starting to show up on the stat sheet. He needs to grow up a bit, but if we can get him away from that D.C. nightlife, that should help. The Texans can use him with their safety issues.
11 Pittsburgh Steelers
Original pick: Ben Roethlisberger
OK, here's our thinking: The Steelers got so ridiculously lucky having Roethlisberger fall to them at No. 11 in the real draft, they can't possibly top that in our revisionist draft. So we're giving them a pick in Winslow who they will have gotten next to nothing out of in his rookie season. See how that balances out?
12 New York Jets
Original pick: Jonathan Vilma
With no Vilma on the board, we'll award the Jets our first really big climber, Dansby. He went with the first pick of the second round, No. 33, to Arizona. But his play has warranted a rise of 21 spots to New York. He has been making plays all over the place for the much-improved Cardinals defense, with four sacks, three fumble recoveries and one interception.

13 Buffalo Bills
Original pick: Lee Evans
Nobody's saying the Bills aren't happy with Evans, who has 17 catches for 336 yards and two touchdowns so far. But Colbert, the 62nd overall pick, by Carolina, has really shined in his opportunity to replace the injured Steve Smith. The former USC receiver has 31 receptions for 510 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Remember, we're all about first-year production here.
14 Chicago Bears
Original pick: Tommie Harris
We know the Bears have Rex Grossman as their quarterback of the future. But he's hurt. And Schaub, a third-round pick of Atlanta's, lit it up in the preseason, looking poised and precise in the West Coast offense. Reporters even asked Falcons head coach Jim Mora if Schaub's play had given him any reason to consider replacing Michael Vick. Besides, how much longer can the Craig Krenzel magic last?
15 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Original pick: Michael Clayton
He's still the first running back to be selected, but he wasn't about to last until St. Louis at No. 24 in our draft. Jackson gives the Bucs instant production at a position in which they have had to endure Charlie Garner's season-ending injury and Michael Pittman's three-game suspension.
16 Philadelphia Eagles
Original pick: Shawn Andrews
The Eagles haven't been doing much run-stuffing this season, so let's give them Wilfolk, a wide-body who could help Philly plug up its most glaring hole as it makes that Super Bowl run. Guard Shawn Andrews was hurt in preseason and never made a 2004 impact.


Don Banks covers pro football for SI.com.