JUDGE: Winners and losers from 2003 draft

Share This Story

Clark Judge

Now that the NFL draft is over, let's acknowledge those who deserve to be recognized — both for what they did and did not do this weekend. Baltimore is at the top of my list, primarily for drafting pass rusher ; Arizona is at the bottom, primarily for not drafting Suggs. I could go on, but why start? Let's go the scoreboard instead.

Best draft

There are a lot of things to like about Baltimore. Obrycki's. Lexington Market. Marble stoops. The ' drafts. If Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome were running the selective service in 1863 there wouldn't have been riots in New York. The guy knows how to fill a roster, and he did it beautifully by drafting , the best pass rusher in the country, with the 10th choice, then maneuvering to gain quarterback with the 19th pick. But Baltimore didn't stop there. In the third round, it picked up Georgia running back , author of eight 100-yard games last year; in the fourth, Wake Forest's Ovie Mughelli, the best blocking fullback in the draft; in the fifth, Illinois tackle Tony Pashos, a guy who could've been a second or third-round choice and who's a perfect as a right tackle; in the sixth, Notre Dame safety Gerome Sapp, an instinctive tackling machine; in the seventh, Oklahoma's Trent Smith, a two-time Mackey finalist and the best receiving tight end outside of , the ' first-round pick. I think you get the picture. Nobody does a better job running the draft than the , and they just offered a refresher course for those who forgot.

And the runner-up is ...

I loved what Detroit did. I loved what Cincinnati did. Hey, I thought the make terrific choices — especially the selection of Penn State defensive tackle , a steal with the 57th pick. But Buffalo gets the silver, with general manager Tom Donahoe once again making shrewd moves that should have the at or near the top of the AFC. OK, so I don't get the decision, either, especially when you have Travis Henry and Olandis Gary in your backfield. But I know that when teams around him for reaching for picks, Donahoe took the best player out there at the 23rd position — a guy who scored 27 touchdowns last year and who could be a franchise back. Getting defensive end in the second round was an unexpected boost: He should've been a first-round choice. Linebacker was a steal in the third: Crowell played a school-record 50 games in his career despite tearing the medial collateral ligaments in his knees twice last year. Fourth-round pick Terrence McGee is the best kick and punt returner in the draft and provides depth in the secondary. I look around now and wonder where Buffalo's holes are; two years ago they were visible to anyone who cared to look. Next job for Donahoe and assistant GM Tom Modrak: Rebuild the Detroit Tigers.

Worst draft

You wonder why the won one playoff game the past 50 years, then you see what happened this weekend. Egad. Somebody get Rod Graves out of the sun. The had a chance to take Suggs with the sixth pick, but traded down so they could choose wide receiver and defensive end at the 17th and 18th positions. Now I'm no Einstein when it comes to math, but I understand the value of someone who produced an NCAA-record 24 sacks to a team that had 21 last year. Apparently, class was out in Phoenix. The draft didn't get much better after that, but what's new? I liked Florida State's in the second round because the Cards can always try him at quarterback if he doesn't work out at wide receiver. Honest. The guy set a Florida high-school record with 11,433 career yards. I thought tackle Reggie Wells in the sixth round was a solid choice at that position, but that's about it.

And the runner-up is ...

Chicago. The could've had Kentucky's , the best defensive tackle in this draft, at the fourth spot. Instead, they traded out to take defensive end , a reach at 14; quarterback , a question mark because of his size, at No. 22; and defensive tackle Ian Scott at No. 116. That's what they gained for Robertson. Game, set, match: New York . I'll give you as a quality choice in the second round. The Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback should help Chicago, but what else turns your ignition? Wide receiver Bobby Wade? Defensive back Todd Johnson? Linebacker ? I don't know, but I think the blew it when they gave up on Robertson, and I don't think they ever recovered. Hey, they couldn't even turn in their last choice, the 261st overall, on time. Only when Jim Steeg, the league's director of special events, announced that they couldn't pass on the next-to-the-last pick did they settle on University of Pittsburgh guard Bryan Anderson.

Worst start

This one's too close to call between Arizona and Chicago, but the Cards win by a nose for switching second-round positions with New Orleans, then throwing in their fourth-rounder. Haven't these guys heard of leverage? Denver gains a mention, too, for reaching for Georgia tackle . Sure, I think he can play, but I don't think you take him with the 20th pick. Foster wasn't in the top 40 on this year's board.

Best recovery

New England regained its balance after it was outsmarted in the first round. The entered the draft with 13 choices and thought they controlled the board. Then the beat them to Robertson, and New Orleans beat them to Georgia defensive tackle Jonathan Sullivan. Heck, they couldn't even get a sniff at Oklahoma State defensive tackle , whom Minnesota chose at No. 9. So the moved one spot to take defensive tackle , whom they probably could have chosen without budging. It was an act born of desperation in a draft quickly running out of quality defensive linemen. Sure, Warren fits their scheme. It's just that he's not what the Pats had in mind when the day started. But then they returned with cornerback and wide receiver in the second round, and the draft started turning north. Wilson is a fast, physical corner who can return punts, while Johnson is a speed receiver who set a school record with 117 catches — despite missing most of 2001 with a ruptured spleen. Getting defensive tackle and Big East Defensive Player of the Year Dan Klecko in the fourth round was smart, too, if only because of his genes (his father was no ordinary Joe), and Boston College center Dan Koppen in the fifth round was a steal. The guy should become a starter some day. And let's not forget quarterback Kliff Kingsbury. When you're in the sixth and seventh rounds, you look for productivity, and he had 92 career touchdown passes at Texas Tech. I don't care that they have Tom Brady and Rohan Davey. Kingsbury makes a perfect third-stringer you can groom.

Best pick

Cornerback at the fifth spot. He was the best player in this year's draft, but the first four clubs had more pressing needs and let him slip. Dallas had chances to trade out of the fifth spot but made the smart choice in taking the Kansas State cornerback. He can run. He can tackle. He returns punts. He catches passes. He was an All-American in football and track, and he's a perfect complement to last year's first-rounder, safety Roy Williams. Dallas last year ranked 19th against the pass, had only 24 sacks and was victimized by quarterbacks who completed 58.2 percent of their passes. Somehow, I think all that is about to change.

Biggest steal

Suggs at the 10th spot. Arizona didn't have a conviction about the guy and passed on the chance to take him at the sixth position. The Cards will regret the decision. They — as well as others — were put off by Suggs' slow times in the 40-yard dash, but c'mon, guys, what are you looking for: The next Lawrence Taylor or the next Carl Lewis? All Suggs did was produce an NCAA-record 24 sacks last year, three more than the had in 16 games. As Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said, "What do people always tell you? When in doubt, roll the tape." He did, and he liked what he saw. Now he has Suggs, Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware, and Baltimore's opponents have a problem.

Strangest pick

Quarterback Drew Henson. I mean ... third baseman Drew Henson. I wouldn't be so critical if it were someone other than Houston, but could you please tell me why a club that exercised the first pick of last year's draft and a second-rounder this year on quarterbacks would want another passer? Yeah, I heard general manager Charley Casserly, too, when he said it gives the flexibility to make a trade if Henson decides to give up pro baseball. But here's what he forget to mention: Why would Henson give up baseball to sign with a team that has David Carr and ? Sure, he might've been drafted ahead of Carr if Henson didn't sign with the Yankees last year, but he did ... and that's the point. Carr is the ' franchise quarterback, with Ragone destined to be his backup. If this were, say, Dallas or Miami, I'd say give it a shot. But it's Houston, and the have their quarterback of the future. Correction: They have their quarterbacks of the future. Yeah, Henson is a terrific passer, but there's no reason for Houston to waste a pick on a position that's stacked.

Riskiest pick

Onterrio Smith, come on down. The Oregon running back has all sorts of ability, but he has all sorts of baggage, too. Yet Minnesota took a flyer on him in the fourth round, which is just perfect. Now, he and Randy Moss can spend their spare time operating as driving instructors. Smith could've been a first-round pick, but he wasn't ... and it has to do with all those strikes against him in the all-important "character" category. Sure, he ran for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. And, yes, he had an average of 5.3 yards a carry. But he's a risk, and Minnesota can't afford another screw-up.

Unhappiest pick

That would be Washington State defensive tackle Rien Long, who gave up his senior eligibility to turn pro. Long thought he would become a first-round choice. He wasn't. In fact, he wasn't even a first-day choice. He was the 126th pick. Too bad. He's a nice kid who made a bad decision. He should've stayed in school another year, then taken his chances in 2004. Instead he's a late fourth-round pick who has plenty to prove with Tennessee. "The are going to get more than their money's worth," said Long. Too bad he couldn't.

Niftiest move

Normally, I might consider New Orleans' steal of Sullivan from the and , both of whom thought he would drop out of the top 10, but the No. 6 spot is a bit high for the guy. So the award goes to Philadelphia, which traded from 30th to the 15th spot so it could take University of Miami defensive end . Don't say you're surprised. The make bold moves (Jeremiah Trotter? Hugh Douglas?) all the time, and this one should make a solid defense better. McDougle's a perfect fit for the , who lost sack leader Douglas to Jacksonville, but that's not what makes this move so slick. No, it was because the stole him from the , who were ready to trade up from the 25th position to get him. Philadelphia lost veterans Brian Mitchell and Dorsey Levens to New York; now the reply with McDougle. Touche.

Best player still out there

Somebody sign Tulane kicker Seth Marler. He was the best kicker, period, yet he went undrafted while San Diego reached for Mike Scifres in the fifth round — with the Western Illinois punter ticketed to kick off for the — and Seattle chose Nebraska kicker Josh Brown in the seventh round. I understand why you don't draft a kicker; what I don't understand is why Brown went ahead of Marler. The former Groza award winner kicked more field goals (64) than anyone in school or conference history and had only 30 of his 68 kickoffs returned last year. Senior writer covers the NFL for and can be reached at his e-mail address:
Tagged: Bills, Bears, Cowboys, Broncos, Titans, Colts, Vikings, Patriots, Giants, Jets, Eagles, 49ers, Jaguars, Ravens, Cardinals, Chargers, Texans, Dorsey Levens, Randy Moss, Tom Brady, Hugh Douglas, Ray Lewis, Roy Williams, Rohan Davey, David Carr, Anquan Boldin, Anthony Adams, Lance Briggs, Dave Ragone, Angelo Crowell, Terence Newman, Terrell Suggs, Ty Warren, Bryant Johnson, Calvin Pace, Kyle Boller, George Foster, Rex Grossman, Willis McGahee, Dallas Clark, Charles Tillman, Eugene Wilson, Chris Kelsay

More Stories From Clark Judge

More Than Sports on MSN