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Post article - "Fourth Down for Harrington?"
Playbook by the numbers: 2002 draft review

Works in progress

At the conclusion of each NFL draft, opinions on every team's draft are as common as rumors about Ben Affleck's marriage plans. While these grades sometimes hold true, the general feeling in the league is that it takes three years to truly evaluate how a team's selections fared.

Quarterback will always remain the most scrutinized position on the field. High-priced signal-callers taken in the first round -- usually by struggling teams -- rarely have the luxury of taking a few years to learn the position. There have been as many bad calls made on first-round QBs as there have been from Pat O'Brien's cell phone (see Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, Tim Couch, Jim Druckenmiller and Heath Shuler). As for the first-round Class of 2002, the jury is still out.

David Carr, taken first overall by the expansion Texans, started all 16 games as a rookie and was sacked a league-high 76 times. Carr has improved each year, setting career highs in completion percentage (61.2), yards (3,351), touchdowns (16) and quarterback rating (83.5) en route to leading the Texans to a franchise best 7-9 record in 2004.

Joey Harrington has been slow to develop in Detroit. With recent free-agent acquisition Jeff Garcia waiting in the wings, this season may be the last for Harrington to live up to his No. 3 overall selection. Harrington's cause should be helped by a bevy of young playmakers. The Lions have used their last three No. 1 picks on receivers Charles Rogers, Roy Williams and Mike Williams, and running back Kevin Jones led all rookies with 1,113 rush yards in 2004.

Perhaps the most beleaguered QB of the 2002 first round is Patrick Ramsey. Ramsey paid the price for Steve Spurrier's failed NFL experiment his first two seasons, usually ending up under a pile of defensive linemen. Despite the costly acquisition of Mark Brunell last season, Ramsey has shown promise and enters training camp at the top of the depth chart. He shouldn't rest too easily, though. Despite other needs, the Redskins traded up in the first round in 2005 to take quarterback Jason Campbell.
2002 first-round quarterbacks
Player, Team Overall pick Career Record
David Carr, Texans 1st 14-29
Joey Harrington, Lions 3rd 14-30
Patrick Ramsey, Redskins 32nd 9-14

On the run

While quarterback, left tackle and rush end remain highly valued first-round positions in the draft, running backs are much like a Ben Stiller movie: With a new one coming out all the time, there's no reason to fork over a lot of cash at the theater when you can wait and watch it cheaper on DVD. With an average shelf life of about five years, very few teams want to invest huge amounts of guaranteed money on ball carriers. Both Edgerrin James and Shaun Alexander each have one year remaining on their contracts and both were the subject of pre-draft trade rumors, but neither the Colts or Seahawks found any takers for two of the league's premier rushers who could demand big contracts in 2006.

After three seasons in the league, the two first-round running backs drafted in 2002 have done nothing to help the cause of future potential first-round rushers. William Green has struggled both on and off the field in Cleveland, having yet to crack the 1,000-yard mark in a season. Many scoffed at the Falcons' decision to draft power-runner T.J. Duckett 18th overall when they had a glaring need at receiver, and, at best, Duckett has been a situational option in Atlanta and has yet to start a full slate of 16 games.

Two Pro Bowl running backs taken later in the 2002 draft, Clinton Portis (51st overall) and Brian Westbrook (91st), have proven that quality is available late. In fact, of the top 10 rushers in 2004, only four running backs were taken in the first round. In 2005, a draft-record three RBs were taken in the first five picks. That record will most likely remain since the NFL rule is that there is always value in later rounds.
2002 first-round running backs
Player, Team Overall pick Career yards
William Green, Browns 16th 2,031
T.J. Duckett, Falcons 18th 1,795

Second-day steals

Everyone loves finding a great deal. Whether it's buying a used, slightly stained Darryl Strawberry Chalkline jacket at a garage sale or finding a Fine Young Cannibals cassette in a bus station bathroom, there's nothing better than getting a bargain.

There's an NFL cliche that states that scouts and front-office types really earn their money on the second day of the draft. While the first three rounds get the attention, teams truly bolster their rosters in rounds 4-7. When the draft was shortened to seven rounds in 1994, late-round picks went from irrelevant bodies needed for training camp to a valued commodity. Two recent Super Bowl MVPs (Tom Brady and Terrell Davis) parlayed their low draft position into superstar status.

Even after the draft is done, an NFL scout's job continues. Front offices must sift through the pile of undrafted free agents to continue to address team needs left unmet in the draft. Some players who didn't hear their name called on draft weekend (i.e. Priest Holmes in 1997) can actually make more money in a free-agent bidding war than they would have as a seventh-round pick.

Notable late-round picks
Player Team Round (Year)
Tom Brady Patriots 6th Round (2000)
Marc Bulger Saints 6th Round (2000)
Terrell Davis Broncos 6th Round (1995)
Zach Thomas Dolphins 5th Round, 1996

Getting Gruden

A wise man, who might or might not have been Tom Arnold, once said, "You should never rob Peter to pay Paul." In 2002, Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer decided to rob Peter (his team's future) to pay Paul (an immediate shot at a Super Bowl). In return for two first-round picks, two second-round picks and $8 million, Glazer got Gruden and ultimately the franchise's first Lombardi Trophy.

While a championship is always a team's ultimate goal, the Bucs decided to mortgage their future for a final shot at a title with high-priced veterans who are no longer in Tampa (Warren Sapp, Brad Johnson, Keyshawn Johnson, Joe Jurevicius and John Lynch). Tampa Bay hasn't been back to the postseason, going 7-9 in 2003 and 5-11 last year.

The recent on-field struggles have been a direct result of some very unsuccessful drafts. Of their eight picks in the 2002 draft, only one (Jermaine Phillips) is on the current roster; the other seven are out of football. The Bucs selected 22 players from 2002-2004 and only 10 of those picks are on the team, and the only impact player of the group has been wide receiver Michael Clayton. The team has managed to fill post-Super Bowl vacancies through free agency, but if they want another shot at a second title, they'll need to get much more mileage out of their draft picks.

2002 Bucs-Raiders trade
Bucs received Raiders received
Rights to Jon Gruden 2002 1st Rd Pick (Phillip Buchanon)
2002 2nd Rd Pick (Langston Walker)
2003 1st Rd Pick (Tyler Brayton)
2004 2nd Rd Pick (Jake Grove)
$8 Million

June 24th, 2005, 12:11 pm
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