Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Busts and late-round gems.
The Bills' drafts have been pockmarked, at best. They haven't reached the playoffs in a decade, which means they should have benefited from desirable draft position throughout the 2000s. Even so, the Bills haven't obtained much star power in that span. A perusal of their draft history should come with a warning to Bills fans that it shouldn't be done without antacids. Only four Bills draft picks in the 2000s went to the Pro Bowl. The lone first-round choice to wear a Bills helmet in the Pro Bowl has been running back Marshawn Lynch, who did so as an alternate and lost his job to Fred Jackson last year. Their biggest bust was tackle Mike Williams, the fourth overall selection in 2002. Williams simply didn't have the heart for football and lasted three full seasons, none of which could be deemed remarkable. Buffalo's best draft choices in the 2000s have been top cornerback Terrence McGee and solid defensive tackle Kyle Williams. McGee was a fourth-rounder in 2003 and went to the Pro Bowl as a return man. Williams was a fifth-round pick in 2006 and for the most part has started since his rookie year, but there might not be a fit for him when the Bills transform into a 3-4 defense.
The first player who comes to mind when considering Miami's recent busts is receiver and return man Ted Ginn. The ninth overall pick has come to symbolize the lost 2007 season under former general manager Randy Mueller and one-and-done coach Cam Cameron. The Dolphins had 10 draft choices in 2007, including four in the top 71, but only Ginn, defensive tackle Paul Soliai and punter Brandon Fields remain on the team. That class was a collective bust. Is it possible, however, that 2006 was worse? The Dolphins drafted five players (albeit three of them in the seventh round) and only one is on the roster. Defensive back Jason Allen, the 16th overall choice, has started 12 games in four seasons. The Dolphins have been overhauled so much under football operations czar Bill Parcells, most players on their roster haven't been around long enough to label draft gems or duds. Discoveries from previous regimes aren't with the club any longer. The Dolphins drafted guard Rex Hadnot in the sixth round in 2004. Tight end Randy McMichael, selected in 2002, might be the best fourth-round pick in franchise history. The greatest find on Miami's roster -- by far -- has been safety Yeremiah Bell, a sixth-round long shot from Division I-AA Eastern Kentucky. Bell didn't make the team as a rookie, fought his way up from the practice squad, overcame early injury problems and played in the Pro Bowl a few weeks ago.
Tom Brady not only is the greatest Patriots' draft discovery, but also the best of his generation. The 199th pick of the 2000 draft -- 16 slots after Spergon Wynn -- went on to win four AFC championships, three Super Bowls and two Super Bowl MVP awards. He's a five-time Pro Bowler and owns a few records. More recently, center Dan Koppen has proven to be a nice acquisition in the fifth round of the 2003 draft. Koppen has been New England's starter since Week 2 of his rookie season. He was named to the Pro Bowl for 2007. The Patriots also were able to spin quarterback Matt Cassel, a 2005 seventh-round pick, into the 34th overall choice in last year's draft. As for busts, the Patriots haven't been immune. They have an impressive first-round track record, but tight ends Daniel Graham and Benjamin Watson were hiccups. New England took Graham 21st overall, but he was erratic and produced one good season before leaving via free agency. Watson's tenure will be remembered similarly, but with more injuries. Wide receiver Chad Jackson was another prominent pick who flamed out. The Patriots wanted him badly enough to trade up 16 slots to snag him 36th overall four years ago. He missed his entire rookie season with a hamstring injury and left New England after three seasons with a grand total of five receptions for 83 yards.
The Jets don't have a lot of recent picks to scan. Since Mike Tannenbaum took over as general manager in February 2006, the Jets have made only 23 selections. They've drafted 13 players over the past three years. Maybe it's too soon to be slapping the bust sticker on pass-rusher Vernon Gholston, but through two NFL seasons, the sixth overall pick from 2008 has started three games and has been a healthy scratch for three games. Gholston has yet to record a sack and has made only 10 solo tackles. Kellen Clemens also falls into the failure category. The Jets used the 49th pick on him. Second-round quarterbacks are supposed to play and get paid accordingly. The Jets were so down on Clemens, they made major gambles to keep him off the field, trading for Brett Favre and moving up to select Mark Sanchez fifth last April. The Jets have had success unearthing talent in the fourth round. The list includes running back Leon Washington (2006), safety Kerry Rhodes (2005) and receiver Jerricho Cotchery (2004). The Jets made a fine selection when they used a seventh-rounder on running back Derrick Ward in 2004. But Ward didn't make the roster. The New York Giants signed him off the Jets' practice squad. He won a Super Bowl with the Giants and rushed for 1,025 yards a year later.