With the 2009 NFL Draft so close that we can almost taste the amazing potential, I think it'll be fun to look back at previous year's picks.
I will go through every selection, declare the hits and busts, and grade the selections. Today: picks 21, 22, and 23.
(Note: It's hard to grade guys in the '08 and '07 drafts, so there won't be official grades. Also, the grade will be based on how well the player played for the team that drafted him, so if the player ended up having success elsewhere, he will have a lower grade.)
2009 - New England Patriots
2008 - Rashard Mendenhall - RB - Pittsburgh Steelers
2007 - Dwayne Bowe - WR - Kansas City Chiefs
2006 - Davin Joseph - OG - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Grade: A
2005 - Fabian Washington - CB - Oakland Raiders - Grade: B-
2004 - Marcus Tubbs - DT - Seattle Seahawks - Grade: C-
2003 - Willis McGahee - RB - Buffalo Bills - Grade: B+
2002 - Napoleon Harris - LB - Oakland Raiders - Grade: C+
2001 - Deuce McAllister - RB - New Orleans Saints - Grade: A
2000 - Rashad Anderson - CB - Carolina Panthers - Grade: F
1999 - Antoine Winfield - CB - Buffalo Bills - Grade: A
Analysis: Anderson might be the most overlooked bust in NFL history. Likely because he's so irrelevant that people forgot how awful he was and how he burned out of the league (literally) in three seasons.
Three great picks were Joseph (a Pro-Bowl guard for the Bucs), McAllister (a very good running back and a fan favorite in NOLA), and Winfield (one of the most physical corners in the league, currently with the Vikings). The best of the bunch is probably Deuce due to his longevity with the team that drafted him and his continued production through injury.
Harris did well early in his career, but after being traded in a package for Randy Moss, injuries overtook his time on the field. McGahee silenced the critics who said he would be ineffective in the NFL after a gruesome knee injury while playing for Miami, as he has been a good back for both the Bills and Ravens.
Washington was a disappointment for the Raiders and he was traded to the Ravens for a fourth-round pick during the 2008 draft. However, he played very well in his first year with the Ravens and he looks to have a bright future on that defense, finally showing why he was such a high pick.
2009 - Minnesota Vikings
2008 - Felix Jones - RB - Dallas Cowboys
2007 - Brady Quinn - QB - Cleveland Browns
2006 - Manny Lawson - LB - San Francisco 49ers - Grade: B
2005 - Mark Clayton - WR - Baltimore Ravens - Grade: B
2004 - J.P. Losman - QB - Buffalo Bills - Grade: D-
2003 - Rex Grossman - QB - Chicago Bears - Grade: C+
2002 - Bryan Thomas - DE/LB - New York Jets - Grade: C+
2001 - Will Allen - CB - New York Giants - Grade: B
2000 - Chris McIntosh - OT - Seattle Seahawks - Grade: D
1999 - Lamar King - DE - Seattle Seahawks - Grade: C+
Analysis: Jones and Quinn have a lot of upside, but this pick has not been too good historically. First, the good. Lawson has been a good outside backer for the Niners, although his pass rushing is frequently questioned. Clayton has been average in his first few seasons, but had a breakout season in 2008 with consistency at quarterback in Baltimore. He now looks like he can be a good #2 or even #1 receiver for the Ravens going into the future.
Grossman, as hated as he is by Bears fans, did take Chicago to the Super Bowl and had his moments. At least he wasn't J.P. Losman who only doesn't have an F because he managed to stay in the league longer than three seasons (see Anderson, Rashard). Still, he is the biggest bust of the bunch.
Thomas is the classic example of a contract-year hero, Allen has been good for both the Giants and the Dolphins, and King spent several years with the Seahawks, although he never really developed into a star. This pick has produced some solid players, but no outstanding talent and still a few big busts.
2009 - Philadelphia Eagles
2008 - Sam Bakers - OT - Atlanta Falcons
2007 - Reggie Nelson - S - Jacksonville Jaguars
2006 - Laurence Maroney - RB - New England Patriots - Grade: C+
2005 - Matt Jones - WR - Jacksonville Jaguars - Grade: F
2004 - Vince Wilfork - DT - New England Patriots - Grade: A-
2003 - Jeff Faine - C - Cleveland Browns - Grade: B
2002 - Daniel Graham - TE - New England Patriots - Grade: B-
2001 - Nate Clements - CB - Buffalo Bills - Grade: A
2000 - Sylvester Morris - WR - Kansas City Chiefs - Grade: D+
1999 - L.J. Shelton - OT - Arizona Cardinals - Grade: C+
Analysis: Matt Jones is a classic example of why the Scouting Combine is an overrated and useless tool for measuring how a player will perform at the next level. Originally a quarterback in college, he converted to receiver and with a great combine, the Jags took him at 21. Four years later, Jones was cut after two substance abuse arrests in the last year and his NFL career is likely over.
Clements, like Winfield, was a great physical corner for the Bills and is doing well with the 49ers right now. He was the best pick of this group with his combination of top speed and great ball skills.
Maroney plays well when he isn't on the sidelines, but many Pats fans are calling him a bust. The other two Patriots picks at 21 were Wilfork and Graham. Graham struggled early in his NFL career, but got it together later on and is currently with the Broncos. Wilfork is one of the better defensive linemen in the game and a big reason why opposing offensive lines fear the Pats D-Line.
Next edition: Picks 18, 19, and 20