AFC South: Andre Woolfolk
Best: Dunta Robinson, taken 10th overall in 2004, lived up to his first-round pick status for a good segment of his career. He tops three categories in the team’s record books, with six picks as a rookie, 13 in his career and two seasons leading the team in interceptions. I understood not paying him big bucks and allowing him to leave as a free agent before the 2010 season. But the Texans failed to sufficiently replace him and had a brutal pass defense last season.
Worst: Fred Bennett (fourth-rounder in 2007) had some well-documented struggles and Antwaun Molden (third in 2008) has never lived up to his initial training camp, but Vontez Davis wins the honor here. A sixth-rounder from 2004, he also got a look from Chicago and time on the practice squads in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh but never played a game in the NFL. (Nevertheless, this autographed picture of him as a Texans still goes for $15.99.)
Best: Perhaps it’s projecting a bit, because his best football is surely ahead of him, but Jerraud Powers was an excellent find out of Auburn in the third round in 2009. He was the team’s best cornerback last season before suffering a season-ending right forearm injury and looks to be the kind of piece that continues to sustain the franchise -- a real find outside of the first couple rounds.
Worst: Daymeion Hughes was a third-round pick out of Cal in 2007 who later became known as Dante Hughes. Under either name, he never proved he could cover effectively for Indianapolis. He played in 24 games in two seasons and couldn’t stick beyond that. He’s been with San Diego the past two seasons.
Best: Rashean Mathis was a little known guy coming out of Bethune-Cookman in 2003. But the Jaguars spent a second-round pick on him and got a starter from Day 1. He has started every game he’s played, and has missed just a dozen games in eight seasons. In the past two years, a new regime swept out a lot of veteran guys. But Mathis has remained a fixture.
Worst: Scott Starks was a third-round choice out of Wisconsin in 2005 who never really qualified as more than a nickelback and hardly provided what Jaguars with an answer in the secondary. He lasted five seasons and played in 54 games, but started only one and recorded only two interceptions. Sure you’d like the Jaguars to have found a gem out of Steve Smith (seventh-rounder in 2002), Chris Roberson (seventh, 2005) and Dee Webb (seventh, 2006) but expectations for all of them paled in comparison to a third-rounder like Starks.
Best: The Titans did much to bail themselves out of failed first-round picks at the position like Pacman Jones and Andre Woolfolk by hitting on Cortland Finnegan out of Samford in the seventh round in 2006. While he has dropped off since an All-Pro 2008, he still ranks as a ridiculously good find with the 215th pick.
Worst: The Titans needed Woolfolk to become a fixture in the secondary when they spent the 28th overall pick in the 2003 draft on him. But he never showed any consistency and ultimately qualified as a bust, with just 11 starts and three interceptions in four years. He failed to emerge as a player who ranked ahead of a seventh-rounder like Reynaldo Hill.
» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)
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 previous regime traded with division rival Tennessee to get Western Michigan linebacker Jason Babin with a second first-round pick in 2004 and he never became what they envisioned. The first-rounder from the next year, Florida State defensive tackle Travis Johnson, wasn’t good either. Johnson flashed some but wasn’t long-term help. Wide receiver David Anderson (seventh round from Colorado State in 2006) is a quality slot receiver, and probably the team’s best late-round pick.
The Colts traded up in 2007 to take Arkansas offensive tackle Tony Ugoh 42nd overall. He was the man to replace Tarik Glenn when he surprised the team by retiring the same year. But Ugoh lost his starting job in 2009 and was often inactive. Two third-rounders from the same draft also faded: cornerback Dante Hughes from Cal didn’t make it out of camp in 2009 and Ohio State defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock quit football in 2008. Late-round finds abound: Howard safety Antoine Bethea (sixth round) is a Pro Bowl talent; Mount Union receiver Pierre Garcon (sixth round, 2008) just had a breakout season; punter/kickoff man Pat McAfee from West Virginia (seventh round, 2009) is a consistent performer. And Indianapolis does consistently well with undrafted rookies, such as safety Melvin Bullitt and cornerback Jacob Lacey.
First-round busts have been a major reason the Jaguars haven’t broken through as a consistent contender: receivers R. Jay Soward of USC in 2000, Reggie Williams from Washington in 2004 and Matt Jones from Arkansas in 2005 are gone and safety Reggie Nelson (Florida, 2007) and defensive end Derrick Harvey (Florida, 2008) rank as major underachievers. Late-round gems? Purdue guard Uche Nwaneri was a 2007 fifth-rounder and has started a lot of games and Florida’s Bobby McCray was a good defensive end for a seventh-rounder in 2004. James Harris was ousted as the personnel chief and the team seems on a better track under Gene Smith, who was named GM about a year ago.
Any list of recent high-ranking failures has to start with first-round cornerback Pacman Jones, sixth overall from West Virginia in 2005. He was probably the best defensive football player there, but the Titans failed miserably in researching his personality. Other busts who hurt them: Ben Troupe (second-round tight end from Florida in 2004), Andre Woolfolk (first-round cornerback from Oklahoma in 2003) and Tyrone Calico (second-round receiver in 2003). Cornerback Cortland Finnegan was an All-Pro in 2008 and heads any list of recent late-round gems. He was a seventh-rounder from Samford in 2006. Tight end Bo Scaife was a sixth-rounder from Texas in 2005 and promising defensive end Jacob Ford from Central Arkansas was a sixth-rounder in 2007.
You ask, I answer. I'd like to make mailbags a regular Saturday feature during the offseason, but can only do so if I get a steady flow of entries in the mailbag. Especially good questions, of course, often result in a blog entry all their own.
And away we go...
Kevin from Portland writes: Paul- In my haste to write you after the Bush signing, I failed to recognize that Marinelli had signed on to coach for the Bears. Is there any other candidates who would be a good for this posistion for the Texans? Also, there is talk of hiring Alex Gibbs' son as our devensive backs coach. What knowledge do you have of his performance as a coach in the past?
Paul Kuharsky: The son, David Gibbs, could be great. I've heard good things from some people who know him. But I do think there is a great, big football world out there beyond one's staff, people tied to the place one used to work and relatives of people on one's staff. I touched on a lot of that in this column.
Colby in Augusta writes: Hey Paul, Love the blog this year, good stuff. My question revolves around the growing concern about the upcoming "uncapped" year in 2010. Are the owners going to be able to agree on a new CBA before 2010, and if not, can we expect them to try to make sure that 2010 is the only uncapped year and reach a new agreement after 2010?? And how exactly does this effect the smaller market teams (ie. Titans), will they still be able to put forth the money necessary to sign who they need?
Paul Kuharsky: I appreciate the kind words.
The uncapped year is a poison pill intended to make the sides reach a new agreement before it comes into play. The prevailing opinion is that if it ever gets to an uncapped year, the players will never sign on to a return to a cap. That's not good for anybody, but certainly not for small-market teams like the Titans.
I don't expect the league or the union will let it get to that point.
Jeff in Jacksonville writes: Paul I was talking to a friend of mine about Jacksonville's Huge Drop off from 07 and we starting talking about what teams next year have the possibility of being the Jags 08. Our two teams where the Bucs (Old Defense, Lost of DC, Firing of HC/GM), and Baltimore (Old Defense,Possible Lost of DC). Do you think our choices are legitimate, and if no what other teams do you see going from a Playoff team in 08 to having a losing season in 09, It happens every year so who are your candidates.
Paul Kuharsky: I think you make two good choices, though if Joe Flacco makes a nice second-year jump that could set the Ravens up for good things on offense if they draft well.
I don't assume a new coach and GM will be a bad thing in Tampa.
Two more I see as possibilities -- the Vikings could easily be a third-place team in my eyes. I just don't love anyone in that division. The Peppers stuff with the Panthers could be divisive and Delhomme's future is iffy.