Here’s the interesting thing about the NFL Draft: even after it’s over, you still can’t really tell which teams came out on top.
As of right now, every prognosticator is evaluating the strength of each team’s draft entirely on the basis of collegiate statistics and physical measurements. As scientific as those methods may sound, they are in reality crude measurements when it comes to the making of a good pro. No one really knows right now which teams drafted well. In a couple of years, after these optimistic NFL freshmen have had their first exam or two, it’ll start to clear up. In five years, we’ll have a pretty good idea of who’s made it, and who’s faded. By 2012, I can safely say, we’ll know which teams got the gems, and which teams picked a bunch of losers.
Unfortunately for me, I’m not writing this column ten years from now. I know you thought I had a time machine, but ever since Michael J. Fox left Spin City, I haven’t been able to find him to ask where the keys to the DeLorean went. So, without any hindsight to aid me, I will evaluate the draft purely on the basis of my own judgement.
2002 NFL Draft Winners
Cleveland Browns: Butch Davis got his running back, but it wasn’t T.J. Duckett. Instead, the ex-Miami Head Coach picked up a former Big East enemy in William Green. Green doesn’t have as much power as Duckett, but he’s got better hands and nimble feet. Butch also drafted a pair of fellow Davises, adding doppel-namers Andre and Andra to the Brownies. Andre, drafted in the second round, is a wide receiver out of Virginia Tech with blazing speed that Tim Couch should enjoy. Andra, stolen in the fifth, is a middle linebacker who should be a contributor for the defensive corps. The seventh round addition of Joaquin Gonzalez, one of his former players at Miami, makes Davis’ draft a dandy.
Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones loves draft day, you can see it in his surgically suctioned eye sockets. All cosmetic surgery allegations aside, the Cowboys’ draft was augmenting in more ways than one. They traded down from the sixth to the eighth slot of the first round and still got their man in Roy Williams. As if that weren’t good enough, the Boys got two guys in the second round, offensive lineman Andre Gurode and wide receiver Antonio Bryant, who could have gone in the first. Bryant, the mercurial 2001 Biletnikoff award winner, could be a huge grab if he stays out of trouble.
Oakland Raiders: The silver and black had arguably the best draft of all 32 teams. After adding an extra first rounder in compensation for the loss of Jon Gruden to Tampa Bay, the Raiders moved up to get Miami cornerback Phillip Buchanon with the 17th pick overall. Buchanon should be an excellent bookend for Pro-Bowler Charles Woodson, and has time to learn the ropes under the experienced Eric Allen. Al Davis also got the linebacker he wanted, top-rated Napoleon Harris out of Northwestern, and the freakishly proportioned offensive tackle he desired, Langston Walker out of Cal. Second round pick Doug Jolley could start immediately at TE, and seventh round QB Ronald Curry is intriguing.
San Diego Chargers: Don’t think the addition of General Manager John Butler has helped the Chargers? Think again. For the second year in a row the Bolts, once the woe-begotten club that selected Ryan Leaf, picked some electrifying players. With the fifth pick in the draft the Chargers coralled top-rated cornerback Quentin Jammer, who should start right away. In the second round the Chargers selected two players with a first round pedigree: guard Toniu Fonoti and wide receiver Reche Caldwell. Take those three and plug in Drew Brees and LaDanian Tomlinson, added last year, and Butler’s got himself a very nice nucleus of young players.
2002 NFL Draft Losers
Cincinnati Bengals: There’s a reason the Bengals haven’t been good since 1989. They draft guys like Levi Jones with the 10th pick, when they could trade down, get more picks and still draft Jones five or six picks later. It’s not as though teams weren’t trying to move up. Instead of creating a bidding war, the Bungles decided to stand pat, which is what they’ll do in the standings next year. For the tenth year in a row.
New York Jets: The NFL Draft takes place in Madison Square Garden, so naturally there are always a lot of Jets fans there. This is what they sounded like on Saturday: “J – E- T- S, Jets! Jets! Whaah?!?” Despite their chronic need of a cornerback because of the loss of both Aaron Glenn and Marcus Coleman to the expansion Texans, the Jets selected defensive end Bryan Thomas with their first round pick. In fact, the Jets failed to pick a cornerback with any of their five picks, although they did get safety Jon McGraw in the second round. Herman Edwards coached the defensive backs in Tampa Bay before he came to the Jets. He must have a lot of faith in his ability.