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Draft class appraisal (cont.)

Posted: Thursday March 29, 2007 12:18PM; Updated: Thursday March 29, 2007 4:57PM
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The least productive class was the 2003 crop: The face of this group should be No. 2 pick Charles Rogers, the former Detroit Lions wide receiver whose career has been so tainted by injuries and drug problems that he couldn't even latch on with a team last season. Overall, 16 players in this class -- or half the prospects -- have either been outright busts or major disappointments. Along with Rogers, the notable underachievers include Saints defensive tackle Jonathan Sullivan (the sixth overall pick), former Chicago defensive end Michael Haynes (14), Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller (19) and both of the Arizona Cardinals' top picks (wide receiver Bryant Johnson and defensive end Calvin Pace, the 17th and 18th overall selections). In fact, two of the more productive players in this class -- Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman and Buffalo running back Willis McGahee -- have even faced their share of doubters.

The most star-studded class was the 2001 crop: No other class in the last 10-year window has produced more Pro Bowl players than the 14 from this group. Say what you will about the inconsistency of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, that year's top overall pick, but he has led his team to two playoff appearances and he might benefit this season from the offensive mind of new head coach Bobby Petrino. San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson (the No. 5 pick) is making a strong bid to go down as one of the best running backs in NFL history, while Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson (No. 17), formerly of Seattle, has literally raised the pay scale for players at his position by being so dominant.

Even the bottom half of that first round has produced exceptional talent. Buffalo cornerback Nate Clements, New Orleans running back Deuce McAllister, Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne and Ravens tight end Todd Heap were all selected after the 20th pick that year. The only downside to this class: Nine busts, including Chicago wide receiver David Terrell, Green Bay defensive end Jamal Reynolds and Denver Broncos cornerback Willie Middlebrooks.

The most bust-riddled class was the 1999 crop: As bad as the 2003 class was, the 1999 collection of first-rounders produced more busts than any in this study (a whopping 12). It's important to remember that this group was supposed to offer the most top-notch quarterbacks since the famed 1983 class. It has produced two Pro Bowl QBs -- Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb and Minnesota's Daunte Culpepper (now with Miami) -- but three other signal-callers from that class are already out of the league (Tim Couch, Akili Smith and Cade McNown). And those are the players that are easy to remember. Think about these names: wide receiver Troy Edwards (13th overall to Pittsburgh), defensive end Lamar King (22nd, Seattle), defensive tackle Reggie McGrew (24th, San Francisco), middle linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer (28th, New England) and defensive tackle Dimitrius Underwood (29th, Minnesota). I could go on and on but you probably get the point by now.

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