NFL Nation: 2008 NFL Draft

On Early Doucet's unusually long run

March, 10, 2013
Wide receiver Early Doucet might not feel like a success story following his release from the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday.

Doucet struggled with drops and lost playing time last season, after all. Those were negatives, but the bigger picture looks upon his Cardinals tenure more favorably.

Consider that Doucet's departure from the Cardinals leaves NFC West teams with four players from the 28 they selected in their 2008 NFL draft classes.

Chris Long (St. Louis), Calais Campbell (Arizona), Red Bryant (Seattle) and Larry Grant (San Francisco) comprise that short list. Grant played three seasons with St. Louis before re-signing with San Francisco. That places Doucet on a shorter list of 2008 picks lasting five years with the teams that drafted them.

NFC West teams drafted Long, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Lawrence Jackson, Kentwan Balmer, Donnie Avery, John Carlson, Chilo Rachal, Campbell, John Greco and Reggie Smith before the Cardinals selected Doucet.

Doucet never became a regular starter, but Fitzgerald and Boldin were well-established as franchise cornerstones when he arrived. And after Arizona traded Boldin in 2010, the team used a third-round choice for Andre Roberts.

Doucet was scheduled to earn $2 million in salary and workout bonus in 2013. He is 27 years old and could help a team as a slot receiver, in my view.

Doucet has 1,213 yards receiving from the slot since 2008, third on the Cardinals behind Boldin (1,352) and Fitzgerald (1,221) over that span, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He also has 14 drops on those plays, matching the total for Boldin (eight) and Fitzgerald (six).

Vernon Gholston's anticipated release from the New York Jets comes three years after the Ohio State defensive end dominated at the NFL scouting combine.

Gholston tied offensive lineman Jake Long for a combine-high 37 repetitions in the bench press. He clocked 4.67 seconds in the 40-yard dash as a 266-pound defensive end.

The Jets drafted Gholston sixth overall in the 2008 draft. They tried him at outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme, but Gholston has made no impact. As Rich Cimini notes via ESPN Stats & Information, Gholston has none of the 3,267 regular-season sacks NFL players have collected since 2008.

In retrospect, the Seattle Seahawks were much better off selecting Lawrence Jackson even though Jackson was, by all accounts, a disappointment before the team traded him to Detroit. Two other NFC West teams, St. Louis and Arizona, came out much better with defensive ends Chris Long and Calais Campbell, respectively.

The chart shows defensive ends NFL teams selected in the first three rounds of the 2008 draft. I limited the chart to college defensive ends expected to fill similar roles in the NFL. Two defensive tackles in that draft class, Red Bryant and Kentwan Balmer, wound up playing defensive end.

Some on the list -- Jackson, Derrick Harvey and Phillip Merling come to mind -- never projected as elite pass-rushers. Cliff Avril, the last defensive end listed, has the most sacks. Long is probably the best all-around defensive lineman on the list, and he is improving.