Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

by: Michael Steffes

During his press conference earlier today, Mike Holmgren talked for a moment about the unique abilities of Brian Westbrook. He talked about his vision, his quickness, and of course his versatility. He also mentioned something that I did not recall: Holmgren coached Westbrook during Senior Bowl week. He suggested that they thought highly of Westbrook, but had no idea he would become as good as he has. In his defense, Westbrook was overlooked by many GMs.

Something about this exchange just forced me to re-examine the 2002 draft. This was probably the draft that got Holmgren's personnel powers revoked. Now, looking back on a draft is all about second guesses and what-could-have-beens, with full access to the results. To take a look . . .

Round 1 (28): TE Jerramy Stevens

The Hawks trade back and still get their guy, convinced they can change his two-cent head. Really, there wasn't anyone near this slot who screams "what were you thinking?" A couple decent linemen in Marc Columbo and Kendall Simmons were picked right after Stevens, but nothing to cry over. I am not going to review how this turned out, as Joey Porter can tell you all about it.

Round 2 (54): RB Mo Morris

Morris has never really been able to shake his backup role. In fact, you could argue that Holmgren picked him specifically to be Shaun's backup, which is a poor use of resources. Mo will probably be gone after this year. What is a killer is that Westbrook was taken a whole round later, after the Hawks had picked twice more. If you were taking a back up, well . . . uhhhh. Instead, the Hawks could have gone with Deion Branch--he would have only cost a late second at this point--or even Will Witherspoon, who could have anchored the middle for those seemingly lost years before Lofa.

Round 2 (60): DE Anton Palepoi

Ouch! Bad pick alert. Both of the guys mentioned above (Branch and Witherspoon) were also picked after Palepoi. Unfortunately, the Hawks also had access to several good tight ends after these picks like Doug Jolley, Chris Baker, and Randy McMichael. Of course, we had already solved that problem with Jerramy Stevens.

Round 3 (85): DB Kris Richard

Another wasted pick, and this one was a shame too. This was a great draft for DBs, at least in the top rounds. The Eagles took Lito Shepperd and Sheldon Brown after the Hawks picked in the first and second rounds. Chris Hope also went shortly after this pick, and he is having a nice year for Tenn. Even serviceable DBs like Dante Wesley, Coy Wire, and Brian Williams went right after Richard. However, he never stuck--anywhere.

Round 4 (120): DB Terreal Bierria

Anybody who remembers the '04 season doesn't remember Bierria fondly. He was the original "couldn't cover anybody" Seahawks safety. He was consistently beat deep. I know I have bad memories. If the Hawks hadn't taken Palepoi earlier, maybe they could have considered DE Jarvis Moss instead, who was picked a couple slots after Bierria, or if they were really bold they could have grabbed Aaron Kampman, who went shortly after the Hawks' next pick. Najeah Davenport went close by, too.

Round 5 (146): DT Rocky Bernard

They got this one right. He is no Albert Haynesworth (who went 15th in this draft), but he has been a quality DT for this team. It's too bad that, with him and Morris likely to depart after this season, this draft will have been erased from the Hawks' roster next year. That might actually be a good thing, though.

Round 5 (169): TE Ryan Hannam

Hannam played an important role as a blocking tight end on the Hawks '05 team. However, his career was cut short by a degenerative knee condition. It's hard to complain about this pick, but this draft produced a bunch of tight ends. On top of those previously mentioned, Robert Royal and Justin Peele came off the board shortly before this pick, and John Gilmore, an accomplished blocking TE, was picked shortly afterwards.

Round 5: (171) OT Matt Hill

I wouldn't ever attach a negative term like bust or wasted pick to a fifth rounder. They are always hit and miss at this point. Every team hits with some, and some never make the team. Hill never did anything in the league. He started two games in '03 and was off the team the next year. Maybe the Hawks could have chosen Marquand Manuel in this slot, who went to the Bengals 10 picks later. Then they wouldn't have had to prove to the world how bad Bierria was.

Round 6 (194): P Craig Jarret

A punter. The Hawks have been trying to find a freakin' punter since . . . well, since forever. Expect them to draft one this year, too. Maybe this pick would have been better used on Adrian Peterson (the other one) or Chester Taylor if we had still needed someone to play behind Shaun.

Round 7 (232): QB Jeff Kelly

Ah, the backup QB. Holmgren seemed to take one just about every year back then, and rightfully so. Kelly was one who never went anywhere. Ronald Curry was taken by the Raiders right after this. Wonder how he would have done as a complementary receiver in the Holmgren system? I am thinking pretty well.

Once again, it's very easy to look back on a draft and say woulda, coulda, shoulda. I am not trying to disparage Mike Holmgren as a GM. I just thought it was an interesting exercise, especially when you see what the Eagles did in this same draft, picking as they did after the Hawks. Shepperd, Brown, Westbrook, and Raheem Brock were all Eagles picks who have played well in this league, and one is a Pro Bowl guy. That is how you sustain success in this league. If only they had been able to keep their QB healthy, right?

Anyway, if you want to look at the draft yourself, Here is the link from Pro Football Reference. ~end~