Monday, April 28, 2008

Four Years to Grade a Draft, Says Fisher—So Here's the Grade on 2004

“Seems like every year you have to remind people, 'Why don't you grade this draft four years from now?' That is how you grade drafts." That was Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher after this past weekend’s NFL Draft. “If anybody wants to grade us, so be it.''

Well, a lot of people did, Jeff. No one gave you an A. More often it was, like, C-. Or D. But we want to be fair and play it your way. So, instead of grading the 2008 Draft, let’s take a look at the 2004 Draft, now that we have four years of perspective.

Here they are, a hefty crop of 13 guys. They weren’t losers, exactly. Well, not all of them, anyway. Some had serious contributing moments. On the other hand, not a one made it to the Pro Bowl. Take a stroll down memory lane. Players drafted by round:

2 Ben Troupe TE/FLORIDA
2 Travis LaBoy DE/HAWAII
2 Antwan Odom DE/ALABAMA
3 Randy Starks DT/MARYLAND
3 Rich Gardner DB/PENN STATE
4 Bo Schobel DE/TCU
4 Michael Waddell DB/NORTH CAROLINA
5 Jacob Bell OG/MIAMI (OHIO)
5 Robert Reynolds LB/OHIO STATE
6 Troy Fleming RB/TENNESSEE
7 Jared Clauss DT/IOWA
7 Eugene Amano C/SE MISSOURI ST

The Player Evaluation

Troupe—Showed signs of breaking out during the ’05 season, but regressed in ’06, fell off the radar in ’07, and left recently in free agency to Tampa Bay.

LaBoy—He sorta earned a starting job, but wasn’t much of an impact player. Left for Arizona through off-season free agency.

Odom—Sorta a starter and sorta a backup, but in ’07 he started to come on, recording 8 sacks. Then he left for Cincinnati in the off-season.

Starks—10.5 sacks in four seasons, with a big fat zero sacks in ’07. Nothing but yearly regression. Recently signed with the Dolphins. (Does Bill Parcells know?)

Gardner—Currently playing cornerback for Team Michigan of the All American Football League. Played for Titans in ‘04 and ‘05, latched on briefly with Seahawks in ‘06, cut by them in ‘07.

Schobel—Will reunite with LaBoy in Arizona. Two years with Titans, one year with Colts, last year with Cards, always and strictly as a fill-in.

Waddell—Scrappy guy, everyone rooted for him. Made a few good plays in ‘04, less so in ‘05, then nothing. Trying to make the Raiders’ 53-man roster is his current challenge.

Bell—Developed into a starting guard. Got so good that St. Louis lured him away recently in free agency.

Reynolds—Fill-in and special teams guy for three years. No action in ‘07. Trying to latch on somewhere.

Fleming—Had a few interesting moments for the Titans in ’04-’05. Since then it’s been practice squad stuff with Broncos and Panthers.

Clauss—He’s joined Gardner with Team Michigan of the All American Football League. Got a little playing time with Titans in ’04-’05. Tried to hang on since with Redskins and Raiders, to no avail.

Amano—Actually started five games in ’07. Versatile lineman who’s managed a decent career, but has never earned a full-time starting job.

McHugh—Picked up by Packers prior to ’04 season, then latched on with Lions in ’05 and has been with them since as a back-up.

The Grade

Exactly what should go into a grade that’s four years down the line? Probably a lot more than a snapshot grade only hours after a brand-new draft. Did the draft produce a star? Did it produce a starter? Did it produce a steady contributor? Did it produce anyone with even a temporary monster year that really helped the team? Did it produce anyone who got overlooked by the Titans and then went elsewhere to become a regular? (We’re not grading on development; we’re grading on the recognition of raw talent.)

In fact, the Titans’ 2004 draft reaped one full-time starter—Jacob Bell. It also gave us Troupe, LaBoy, Odom and Starks, who all had starts and serious playing time, with none becoming an all-down/every-down starter. All the other draftees were, or have been, essentially fill-ins, with Amano actually establishing himself with a team and having a steady career. For all practical purposes, 6 of the original 13 are out of NFL football. Of the 7 remaining, probably only Bell will continue to start, with the others needing to step up in a big way to solidify their career position.

So, how would you grade this draft?

It’s not impressive in my book. It produced some pros, but, like, isn’t that what a draft is supposed to do?

Bottom line: Four years in, and not one of these guys will be a starting player for the 2008 Tennessee Titans. That says a lot.

Grade: C-/D+

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