The arrest of Chicago Bears running back Cedric Benson over the weekend just added one more failure to the top of the 2005 NFL Draft class.
Benson, a player the Titans supposedly coveted before he was taken two picks ahead of them, was arrested in a boating incident in Texas for allegedly operating the watercraft while under the influence of alcohol and also for resisting arrest.
It adds just one more negative to the top of a draft class where the value seemed to come later in the first round and in the later stages of the draft. Demarcus Ware, Shawne Merriman and Derrick Johnson were success stories taken in the middle of round one, while the Tennessee Titans were just one team to mine gold later in the draft getting tackles Michael Roos in the second round and David Stewart in the fourth.
Of course, Benson has already been a bust with the Bears, not rushing for more than 674 yards in any of his first three seasons, and with the drafting of Matt Forte, combined with the off-field allegations, could be in jeopardy of losing his roster spot.
The Titans know more than anyone the pain of that 2005 draft class, having squandered their pick on Adam “Pacman” Jones. Jones brought plenty of highlight reel plays in two years with the Titans, but about 10 times as many headaches with his off-field troubles and short temper that often alienated teammates. He helped them not all last year because of a season-long suspension.
Jones’ problems, which the Titans have passed on to the Dallas Cowboys, are well documented. But he is far from the only bust from the top of the draft three years ago.
The top 10 of that draft class has produced just one Pro Bowl appearance and two 1,000-yard rushing seasons (three running backs picked), while generating three players already given up on by their original teams.
Let’s look at the first 10 picks and rate the choices. Remember, the higher the pick, the higher the expectations and harder the grade:
1) Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers: In three seasons, Smith has been awful in 2005, average in 2006 and injured in 2007. In three years, he has 19 touchdown passes to 31 interceptions. As the first overall pick in the draft, and being a quarterback entering season four, Smith is at the make or break point this season as to whether he will finally establish himself as a solid NFL quarterback or be thrown in the bust bin with Tim Couch, David Carr and numerous other first-round QBs, who couldn’t handle the pressure and expectations. Grade: D
2) Ronnie Brown, RB, Miami Dolphins: Brown appeared to be on his way with a 900-yard season as a rookie and rushing for 1,000 yards in his second season. However, a knee injury last year now has the jury out on whether or not he can become the big-time talent the Dolphins thought they were getting when they took him out of Auburn. Grade: C
3) Braylon Edwards, WR, Cleveland Browns: Who says first-round wide receivers don’t make it? Edwards is the only pick in the top 10 to actually live up to the expectations that come with being a high draft pick. He started a bit slow as a rookie with only 32 catches, but the Browns were patient with him and were rewarded with an outstanding year in 2007, as Edwards caught 80 passes for 1,289 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. Grade: A+
4) Cedric Benson, RB, Chicago Bears: The Bears have been a running football team dating back to the day of Bronco Nagurski and on through to Gale Sayers and Walter Payton. When they picked Benson, they thought they might have had the next great one on their hands, and even made another mistake by trading Thomas Jones from a Super Bowl team to give Benson more carries. Oops. Grade: F
5) Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Williams looked to be a potential star when he rushed for 1,178 yards in 2005 on his way to being NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. However, the next year, he ran for just 798 yards and now faces a long climb back after suffering a torn patella tendon in his knee early last year. Grade: C
6) Adam “Pacman” Jones, CB, Tennessee Titans: What more can be said about Jones that hasn’t already been put out there? Yes, Jones was a dynamic talent who had game-changing abilities, but no player in NFL history, save for perhaps Art Schlichter, has had more issues off the field than Jones. Talent-wise, few could argue drafting Jones, but because of the avalanche of problems … Grade: Zero.
7) Troy Williamson, WR, Minnesota Vikings: Williamson was one of the players the Titans debated seriously before selecting Jones. Williamson wound up with the Vikings and for different reasons was a wash out himself. Williamson had the size, speed and athletic ability to succeed, but dropped passes and other issues led to just 79 catches in three years. The Vikes unloaded him on Jacksonville for a sixth-round pick in February. Grade: F
8) Antrel Rolle, CB, Arizona Cardinals: The reason the Titans gave for selecting Jones over Rolle was that Rolle might eventually be a safety, and the Cardinals have plans to move him there this year. Rolle had a decent year last season with five interceptions and three touchdowns. In retrospect, he might have been a good fit for the Titans. Grade: B-
9) Carlos Rogers, CB, Washington Redskins: The third player from Auburn to go in the top 10 that year, Rogers rose up draft boards late, which many times is a sure red flag. He cracked the starting lineup in his second season, but has not been the high impact player the ninth overall pick should be and his future is in doubt after a knee injury last year. Grade: C-
10) Mike Williams, WR, Detroit Lions: Whether Williams didn’t fit Mike Martz’s system in Detroit or his conditioning and attitude were to blame, the former Southern Cal standout quickly wore out his welcome there. He started OK with 29 catches as a rookie, but has played in just 16 games the past two years. He is now getting a final chance with the Titans, after leaving Detroit, which traded him in a package deal to Oakland last year. Grade: D-