Posted: Monday June 19, 2006 10:40AM; Updated: Monday June 19, 2006 4:07PM
LaDainian Tomlinson has rushed for 7,361 yards during his five-year career.
John W. McDonough/SI
Peter King will answer your questions each week in Monday Morning Quarterback: Tuesday Edition.
Readers of this space know how much I hate grading drafts a day or two after the draft. It's like going to law school, passing the bar, and the next day someone says: You're going to be an "A'' lawyer. How in the world does anyone know who the "A'' lawyer is going to be until he or she has been out in the real world for a while?
And so I'm going to continue with my irregular series of grading drafts five years after the fact. Now we know how they've turned out and now's the time we can figure who did a great job and who stunk up the joint. The 2001 draft is the famous Vick vs. Tomlinson and Brees draft. Now you'll get to find out who won the thing, San Diego or Atlanta. The answer is: neither. They both grade out well, but they did not win it all.
(Because I'm not feeling like Jack the Ripper as I write my last column before a month break, I won't tell you who gave the Bears an "A'' for their 2001 draft. Suffice it to say I will not be so charitable to a team that hasn't retained one of its six 2001 picks ... and which made David "I Like to Drop Footballs" Terrell the eighth pick in the draft.)
Anyway, on with the show. And if you're like me, you're going to be very, very surprised at a few things -- like the pre-MarvinLewis Bengals outdrafting the in-their-prime Belichick-and-Pioli Pats. I graded teams based on three criteria, and in this order: how many of their 2001 draftees are still contributing players on the team; how many of the draftees are contributing players elsewhere; and how many second-day hits the team had.
You know what's so interesting about this list? Two things. One, some of the teams you think don't have any idea how to walk and chew gum at the same as far as personnel goes did the best job. I don't know what that says, except maybe this: Don't believe the hype. Look at the reality. Two, lots of bums got picked in this draft. I'd say the vast majority are non-contributors. Seattle had 12 picks, only one of whom will start for the team this year. I can smell the last eight New England picks from here.
I'll start with the A's and move down.
1. Cincinnati. Now this is really saying something. The impression league-wide is that Marvin Lewis rode in on his white horse four years ago and saved this team from eternal damnation. Judging by the way Jim Lippincott and MikeBrown and then-coach Dick LeBeau ran this draft, I'd say that's only about 70 percent right. The Bengals are the only team, by my calculation, that got four of its current top 10 players from this draft. Starting defensive end Justin Smith was the first pick, fourth overall, and he's been a steady starter since he held out as a rookie. Smith has contributed a good but not Freeney-like 34 sacks in five years. I can still hear the screaming for how they reached for Chad Johnson at number 36 overall; he's averaged 94 catches a year, loudly, the last three years. And they got two direct hits on Day 2: Running back Rudi Johnson (Round 4), who has rushed for 3,869 yards the last three years, and in Round 7 one of the best No. 2 receivers in football, T.J. Houshmandzadeh. How many second receivers have averaged 75.5 catches over the last two years? A great, great job by the Bengals.
2. Carolina. Then-director of football operations Marty Hurney (now the GM) should have gone straight to Vegas after the first day. Dan Morgan, Kris Jenkins, Steve Smith. Wow. And even though Chris Weinke has flamed out since a rookie year when he earned the starting job, he has started 16 games and remains a decent backup for Jake Delhomme.