Posted: Thursday December 29, 2005 12:15PM; Updated: Thursday December 29, 2005 12:39PM
Hindsight is a beautiful thing to have on your side when it comes to the NFL Draft. Looking back at what should have happened is so much easier than predicting what's going to take place. But for the second year in a row, we're taking a crack at re-doing the draft's first round, given that we know now what we wish we knew then.
There wasn't any clear-cut Ben Roethlisberger-type correction to make this time around. But we're still going by the basic tenet that rookie-season production carries the day over projection in this draft redux. In most cases we've re-ordered the first round to account for late-season realities, and reward those players who already have proven themselves NFL ready.
Here's the way things should have unfolded in New York on April 23:
Original pick: Alex Smith, QB, Utah
Maybe Smith will develop into a Pro Bowl quarterback in San Francisco, but as of this writing, he still hasn't thrown his first NFL touchdown pass. Merriman, who went 12th to San Diego, has made a bigger impact than any defensive rookie, and he looks like he'll be a playmaking force for years to come. The 49ers used four QBs this year, and could have saved money and made due by taking Ryan Fitzpatrick in the middle rounds.
Original pick: Ronnie Brown, RB, Auburn
We're not getting real tricky here. Even with Ricky Williams' renaissance, the Dolphins were wise to take the highest-rated running back on the board. It's just that after one season, you have to give the early edge to Cadillac, who started fast and is finishing strong for the first-place Bucs. Brown isn't far off the pace, and may end up being more durable. But Cadillac will be the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Original pick: Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan
Before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Cleveland's 10th game, Edwards was starting to flash some of the big-play potential that made him such a high pick. In his last three games, he caught 15 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns, to finish with a respectable 32-catch, 512-yard, three-touchdown rookie season. In retrospect, landing Troy's Demarcus Ware for Romeo Crennel's 3-4 defense would have been shrewd as well.
Original pick: Cedric Benson, RB, Texas
History has borne out the Bears weren't in desperate need of a running back, because Thomas Jones has more than done the job with a 1,273-yard rushing season. What Chicago still lacks is another playmaking receiver to pair with free-agent addition Muhsin Muhammad, who has 39 more catches than any other Bear. We're giving them Jones, who's raw but has managed 33 catches for 377 yards and four touchdowns in Jacksonville.
Original pick: Cadillac Williams, RB, Auburn
The back half of our Williams-Brown flip-flop makes sense for the Bucs, too, because we've all seen this season what kind of team Tampa Bay can be when it runs effectively. Brown hasn't been as sensational as Williams, but he put together some very good numbers in the middle third of the season.
Original pick: Adam "Pacman" Jones, CB, West Virginia
Jones was a calamity for much of this season in Tennessee, and has only recently started to contribute, mainly via his role as the Titans' punt and kickoff return man. Williams, a second-round pick in Denver, made plays from the time he walked in the door. He has missed the past two games with injuries, but he was deservedly getting some Defensive Rookie of the Year attention earlier this season.
Original pick: Troy Williamson, WR, South Carolina
Williamson could grow into a game-breaking speed-receiver threat, but he spent a good bit of this year in head coach Mike Tice's doghouse and fighting to be active on game day. Tatupu, a second-round pick, started all season in Seattle and would have made Minnesota younger and stronger at middle linebacker, where veteran Sam Cowart has been solid but far from a difference-maker.
Original pick: Antrel Rolle, CB, Miami
Rolle has been a major disappointment in the desert, appearing in only five games. Playing behind a horrendous offensive line, the Arizona running game has been non-existent. The Cardinals have just two rushing touchdowns all season, so why not give them the undrafted free agent Gado, who had three 100-yard games in his five starts? I know Dennis Green doesn't like drafting QBs high, but investing in Alex Smith might have been the wise move for the future.
Original pick: Carlos Rogers, CB, Auburn
Thurman has played and played well in the middle as a second-round pick in Cincinnati this season. He would have been a nice fit in Washington, where the Redskins lost the emerging Antonio Pierce to the Giants in free agency, replacing him with a lesser talent in Lemar Marshall. Rogers has started opposite Shawn Springs at times, but his impact has been limited thus far.
Original pick: Mike Williams, WR, USC
Selecting a receiver in the first round for a third consecutive year looked like a mistake on draft day. Now we know it was. The Lions didn't need another underachieving pass-catcher, they needed some youth who could step into the lineup and make things happen. Ware has done that in Dallas, racking up seven sacks. I know the Lions don't play a 3-4 defense, but you invent ways to get a talent like Ware on the field.