We live in a world of immediacy. We want everything right now, which is why we grade NFL Drafts the day after they finish, time element be damned.
But that's not really fair to the men who put in the work and make those picks, which is why people in the NFL hate those grades. For those of us who do the grading, we do so with an idea of how we think things will turn out, but we never really know. We're often as wrong as some of the teams doing the picking.
|Snagging a franchise QB like Philip Rivers in a draft-day deal helps you get an A-plus. (US Presswire)|
The only fair way to grade a draft is to wait three years. That gives players the time to develop, the time to show their teams that they made the right moves.
It's also enough time for the fair dissemination of those dreaded "bust" labels.
So in keeping with the tradition here of grading the drafts three years later, we bring you the 2004 NFL Draft grades.
Time has allowed these grades to become much more relevant than those we did the day after the 2004 draft.
Arizona Cardinals: They used the third-overall pick on receiver Larry Fitzgerald, which was a good pick. Second-round pick Karlos Dansby starts at linebacker and third-round pick Darnell Dockett is one of their best defensive players. The rest of the draft didn't produce much, although fourth-round pick Alex Stepanovich and sixth-rounder Nick Leckey have both started at center.
Grade: B This was a pretty good draft for this team, and the top three players all playing major roles now.
Atlanta Falcons: Getting corner DeAngelo Hall with their first pick was a great move, but receiver Michael Jenkins, their second first-round pick, hasn't panned out. That takes the grade down. But they did get quarterback Matt Schaub in the third round, and he brought a nice draft bounty in a trade this year. Linebacker Demorrio Williams, who is a starter, came in the fourth round. He recently suffered a pectoral injury that could keep him out for the year.
Grade: B-minus Missing on Jenkins takes the grade down.
Baltimore Ravens: They didn't have a first-round pick -- having traded it the year before for the right to draft Kyle Boller -- so this draft didn't produce much. There is not one starter from this draft on the Ravens' current roster. Second-round pick Dwan Edwards is a backup, but that's it. Receivers Devard Darling (third) and Clarence Moore (fifth) are also backups.
Grade: D Surprisingly, they didn't get much out of this draft, which is different for this organization. Even with Boller counting, it's not good.
|Buffalo's Lee Evans piled up 1,292 receiving yards in his third season. (US Presswire)|
Grade: C This grade is for hitting the first two -- at least it looked that way late in 2006 -- but some still have doubts about Losman.
Carolina Panthers: At one point, this looked like it might be a good draft, but it has just been OK. First-round pick Chris Gamble is a decent corner, but he's not an elite player. The only other starter out of this draft is tackle Travelle Wharton, and he's coming off a torn ACL. Second-round pick Keary Colbert and fifth-round pick Drew Carter will be in the mix for time at receiver, but so far Colbert has to be considered a bust.
Grade: C Unless Gamble takes his game to a new level, it's not a good draft.
Chicago Bears: The Bears got four starters out of their draft. The first four picks were all contributors to the Super Bowl team last year. The first-round pick was tackle Tommie Harris, a force in the middle of their defensive line until getting hurt last season. He's a Pro Bowl player. Second-round pick Tank Johnson is a good player when he stays away from off-the-field issues. In the third round, the Bears got speedy receiver Bernard Berrian and in the fourth round they got starting corner Nathan Vasher. Both are good players.
Grade: A When you go 4-for-4 with your first four picks, that's special, even if Johnson is an off-the-field problem.
Cincinnati Bengals: The best pick was fourth-round defensive end Robert Geathers, who they just gave a big contract this year. He has good pass-rush skills. First-round pick Chris Perry has been injury prone at running back, forcing the team to pick Kenny Irons this year. Madieu Williams, one of the team's second-round picks, has a chance to be a Pro Bowl safety. Linebacker Landon Johnson is a starter and Caleb Miller has also contributed. Fourth-round pick Stacy Andrews will compete for a starting job at left guard this season and sixth-round pick Greg Brooks will push for a job as the nickel corner along with Keiwan Ratliff, another second-round pick.
Grade: B Not hitting on Perry hurts. But getting Geathers and Williams helps offset that miss.
|After playing two games in two years, Kellen Winslow hauled in 89 passes in 2006. (US Presswire)|
Grade: C If the Soldier continues to produce, and stay healthy, grade will improve.
Dallas Cowboys: They didn't have a first-round pick, trading it to the Bills for their 2005 first-round pick, but used the first of their two second-rounders on Julius Jones, who is their starting running back. That 2005 first-round pick ended up being DeMarcus Ware, their best defensive player. The next two picks in 2004 were misses, tackle Jacob Rogers in the second round and guard Stephen Peterman in the third. Both are long gone. They did get receiver Patrick Crayton in the seventh, which was a steal.
Grade: B If you count Ware, this was a good, solid draft.
Denver Broncos: They had 10 picks, including four in the first three rounds. But the only starter on their team from those 10 picks is linebacker D.J. Williams. Second-round pick Tatum Bell was traded to Detroit and receiver Darius Watts, another second-round pick, is now with the New York Giants. The rest of the draft didn't produce anything.
Grade: D One good player out of 10 picks is a bad draft.
Detroit Lions: They had two first-round picks, and hit on both of them. Receiver Roy Williams is a heck of a player and running back Kevin Jones, when healthy, has been an effective back. The problem now is that he is coming off a serious foot injury. Second-round pick Teddy Lehman is the starting middle linebacker, but he, too, has been bothered by injuries. Third-round pick Keith Smith is a backup corner and fifth-rounder Alex Lewis has started games at linebacker.
Grade: B If Jones can return to his pre-injury form, this is a good draft. But with two first-round picks, you expect that.
Green Bay Packers: First-round pick Ahmad Carroll, recently waived by Jacksonville, never became the elite corner the Packers thought he'd be. They did get a starter in center Scott Wells in the seventh round. Fifth-round pick Corey Williams sees quality time at defensive tackle.
Grade: C- When you a blow a premier pick like Carroll, you're lucky your not in D land.
Houston Texans: First-round pick Dunta Robinson is a heck of a corner. But they also traded back into the first round to take linebacker Jason Babin and he certainly hasn't lived up to the expectations. Fourth-round pick Glenn Earl starts at safety and seventh-round pick Shantee Orr is a starting linebacker.
Grade: B-minus The Babin moves taints an otherwise pretty good draft.
|Safety Bob Sanders played a key role in the Colts' run to the Vince Lombardi Trophy. (Getty Images)|
Grade: B-minus Sanders is the only starter from this draft heading into 2007, but he's a heck of a player.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Using the ninth overall pick on receiver Reggie Williams hasn't worked out, but they did hit on some other picks. Second-round linebacker Daryl Smith is a starter, kicker Josh Scobee came in the fifth round and seventh-round pick Bobby McCray had 10 sacks last year. Second-round pick Greg Jones is the starting fullback and fifth-round pick Ernest Wilford has been a solid third receiver.
Grade: B They didn't get what they expected from Williams, but they landed some good players in this draft.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs traded their first-round pick to Detroit and moved down and picked up extra picks. They ended up with two second-round picks, but defensive tackle Junior Siavi was released last summer and tight end Kris Wilson is a backup. They did hit on fourth-round picks Jared Allen and Samie Parker. Allen is a good player at defensive end while Parker is a starter at receiver. Seventh-round pick Kevin Sampson has started at times.
Grade: C Missing on second-round picks really hurts, but getting Allen in the fourth round is a steal -- if he can stay out of trouble.
Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins got two starting offensive linemen in this draft. Right tackle Vernon Carey came in the first round and center Rex Hadnot came in the fourth round. The rest of the draft, which didn't include a second-round pick, didn't bring anything else.
Grade: C Two starting linemen is a good thing, but they didn't get much else.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings got their two starting defensive ends in this draft. They landed Kenechi Udeze with their first-round pick and got Darrion Scott in the third. That's a good job. Second-round pick Dontarrious Thomas hasn't been what they expected at linebacker. Backup running back Mewelde Moore came in the fourth round.
Grade: B-minus Getting two starting ends in one draft brings the grade up.
New England Patriots: The Patriots had two first-round picks and did a nice job with both of them. Vince Wilfork, the first of those two picks, starts at nose tackle. Ben Watson, the other first-round pick, is a starting tight end -- and a good one. But they missed on second-round pick Marquise Hill and third-round pick Guss Scott.
Grade: C They hit the two early picks, but not much after that.
|The Saints landed a premier pass rusher in Will Smith with the 18th pick. (US Presswire)|
Grade: B Getting three quality starters like Smith, Henderson and Karney is a good haul.
New York Giants: This is the draft that brought them quarterback Eli Manning. They actually drafted Philip Rivers but traded him to the Chargers for Manning. Oh yeah, they also gave them a first-round pick in 2005. Manning still hasn't lived up to the hype, but he can still be a Pro Bowl quarterback. They just gave up too much. Second-round pick Chris Snee is one of the best guards in football. They landed starting safety Gibril Wilson in the fifth round.
Grade: C Manning has to come through with some Pro Bowl years to make this grade go up.
New York Jets: First-round pick Jonathan Vilma was a hit; he's their best linebacker. But they missed on third-round corner Derrick Strait, which knocks the grade down. They made up for it getting starting receiver Jerricho Cotchery in the fourth round and safety Erik Coleman in the fifth. Coleman is one of the league's best safeties, even if he hasn't been to the Pro Bowl yet. Fourth-round pick Adrian Jones has started at tackle.
Grade: A-minus The only thing that knocks this down from an A is the Strait pick.
Oakland Raiders: This draft started with Robert Gallery, who was the second overall pick. He has been a starter since he came into the league, but he isn't nearly as good as many expected he would be. Second-round pick Jake Grove starts at center and third-round pick Stuart Schweigert is a starter at safety. The rest of the draft didn't produce much else.
Grade: C They landed three starters, but Gallery not living up to the hype hurts.
Philadelphia Eagles: They had 10 picks and got two starter from the group, one being top pick Shawn Andrews. He starts at right guard, and he's one of the best in football. But there were a lot of misses after that. Third-round pick Matt Ware, a corner from UCLA, never lived up to the expectations and was cut last year. Starting fullback Thomas Tapeh did come in the fifth round.
Grade: C They didn't do enough with all those picks.
|Ben Roethlisberger reminds us that Bob Sanders isn't the only Class of '04 pick to win the big prize. (Getty Images)|
Grade: B Getting a franchise passer ups the grade.
St. Louis Rams: They hit big on first-round pick Steven Jackson, landing him with the 24th overall pick. They made that pick though they still had Marshall Faulk on the roster. That was a nice move. The rest of the draft didn't produce one player who will start in 2007. That's not good.
Grade: C-minus Jackson was all they got. Yes, he's good. But that's not enough.
San Diego Chargers: If you're looking for a reason why the Chargers are a Super Bowl contender, look to this draft. It was loaded with players who are now major contributors to this team. This was the year they made the deal for Rivers by trading Eli Manning to the Giants. But this was a great draft for the Chargers. They got Rivers, who is their starter. Defensive end Igor Olshansky came in the second round, kicker Nate Kaeding and center Nick Hardwick in the third, linebacker Shaun Phillips in the fourth and tackle Shane Olivea in the seventh. All five are starters. In addition, backup running back Michael Turner came in the fifth round.
Grade: A-plus This draft is why this team is one of the best in football.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers blew their first-round pick on receiver Rashaun Woods, and they're still paying or it. They traded him last year and the Chargers cut him. Can you say bust? They did a nice job with their two second-round picks, getting guard Justin Smiley and corner Shawntae Spencer, both of whom have been starters. Fourth-round pick Isaac Sopoaga has been a starter at times at defensive tackle. Sixth-round pick Keith Lewis started at safety last season.
Grade: B-minus Missing on the first-round pick really hurts and drops down the grade.
Seattle Seahawks: Run stuffer Marcus Tubbs was the first-round pick, and he has been bothered by injuries. He's good when he's on the field. Second-round pick Michael Boulware has started at safety, but he will be pushed for his job this year. Third-round pick Sean Locklear is the team's right tackle and was the best pick of the draft. Fifth-round pick D.J. Hackett is a nice third receiver and good special-teams player.
Grade: C-minus Boulware's decline hurts the class.
Who is the best defensive player from the '04 NFL Draft?
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers: First-round pick Michael Clayton looked like he would be a star in his first season, but the past two years have been disasters. If he doesn't bounce back, it will really hurt this class. The rest of it didn't offer much. Among the rest of the picks, safety Will Allen is the only starter -- and he might not be next year.
Grade: F Unless Clayton comes alive, this draft class stinks.
Tennessee Titans: They didn't have a first-round pick, but did have a lot of choices. But of their 13 picks, including three in the second round, they didn't get much bang for their buck. The three second-round picks were tight end Ben Troupe and defensive ends Antwan Odom and Travis Laboy. None has been worth that pick, with Odom held back by injuries. The best pick might have been fifth-round choice Jacob Bell, who has started on the offensive line. Third-round pick Randy Starks is also a backup.
Grade: D For as many picks as they had there wasn't a lot of return.
Washington Redskins: They landed safety Sean Taylor with their first pick, and he is a very good player. They didn't have a second-round pick -- do they ever? -- but they hit on tight end Chris Cooley in the third round. He has developed into a nice pass-catching threat. The other two picks didn't bring much. They traded their second-round pick in the trade to get Clinton Portis and their third-round pick to get Mark Brunell.
Grade: C Good at the top, but not much else. Vintage Redskins.