Grading the 2003 NFL Draft: AFC

The 2003 NFL Draft was one of the more anti-climatic of this decade. The first pick, USC quarterback Carson Palmer, was told of his impending selection before draft day even came. But that doesn’t stop the surprises from happening in the draft. ALl 32 teams saw players, and while some have been contributors and, in some cases, superstars, while others haven’t amounted to the “potential” that they were supposed to have. Each team will be evaluated here, three years after the draft, to see how well they actually did in selecting talented players to help their team.

Baltimore Ravens
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 10 (10th overall)
Key Picks: Terrell Suggs, DL (10th overall); Kyle Boller, QB (19th overall); Musa Smith, RB (77th overall)
Notes: Boller was the starter in Baltimore for the past two seasons, but will now be sitting behind the veteran Steve McNair, traded for in the offseason from Tennessee. Boller was showing signs of life towards the end of last season but we will see if this affects him. Suggs has been everything they expected of him, but injuries have slowed him down a bit. Smith came in and replaced Jamal Lewis admirably when needed.
Grade: B-

Buffalo Bills
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 23 (23th overall)
Key Picks:
Willis McGahee, RB (23rd overall); Angelo Crowell, LB (94th overall); Terrence McGee, DB/KR (111th overall)
Notes: McGahee has been the jewel of this draft for the Bills and for much of the league. Injured in his last collegiate game, he was a risk but paid off well. So well, in fact, that former starter Travis Henry was traded to Tennessee before last season and McGahee was made the lone back in their system. Crowell stepped in well for injured Takeo Spikes last year, and McGee is a solid DB who has made splashes in the return game.
Grade: A-

Cincinnati Bengals
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 1 (1st overall)
Key Picks: Carson Palmer, QB (1st overall); Eric Steinbach, OL (33rd overall); Jeromi Johnson, FB (118th overall)
Notes: The transformation of Cincinnati from the Bungles to the Bengals can be traced somewhat to the selection of Carson Palmer. He was arguably the best QB in the league last season, only his second full season as starter. He will be recovering from a serious knee injury, but if he stays on course will be awesome. Johnson is one of the best blocking FB’s in the league and opens doors for Rudi Johnson. Steinbach is a solid OL starter.
Grade: A-

Cleveland Browns
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 21 (21st overall)
Key Picks: Jeff Faine, C (21st overall); Chris Crocker, S (84th overall)
Notes: Faine and Crocker were important pieces for the Browns rebuilding, but not in the way you think. Both were traded this offseason, and that has amounted to the most value. To be fair, Faine was a solid center for the Browns, who picked up LeCharles Bentley from the Saints and had no need for Faine, so they sent him to Bentley’s old team. Crocker got the Browns a 4th round pick from the Falcons.
Grade: C

Denver Broncos
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 20 (20th overall)
Key Picks: George Foster, OL (20th overall); Quentin Griffin, RB (108th overall)
Notes: Foster is a starter for the Broncos and is solid on the line, but the biggest pick for the Broncos was Griffin, who became another in a long line of RB’s over the past 10 years who the Broncos have added to their team depth and have had success. Whether it’s the scheme or the back, Griffin had some great games for the Broncos. Adrian Madise, a WR taken in the 5th round (158th overall), is still with the team offering depth and challenging for playing time.
Grade: B-

Houston Texans
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 3 (3rd overall)
Key Picks: Andre Johnson, WR (3rd overall); Domanick Davis, RB (101st overall)
Notes: Johnson is prime for a breakout season, and with Moulds pairing with him, he’s got the opportunity to perform with less pressure on him. QB David Carr is improving, slowly but steadily and has developed a relationship with Johnson. Davis has been a top back in the NFL for three seasons now, and he was a tremendous value in the 4th round. Davis’ presence was a factor in their passing up on Reggie Bush, so he must prove himself again, but he’s right below the top tier of RB’s.
Grade: A-

Indianapolis Colts
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 24
Key PIcks: Dallas Clark, TE (24th overall); Michael Doss, S (58th overall); Cato June, S/LB (198th overall)
Notes: Clark is one of the most underrated pass-catching TE’s in the game, a shadow below names like Gates, Gonzalez, and Shockey. But he’s a viable target who’s earned QB Peyton Manning’s trust. Doss and June have been solid contributors to a much improved defense. Indy was able to get good value for June in the 6th round.
Grade: B+

Jacksonville Jaguars
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 7 (7th overall)
Key Picks: Byron Leftwich, QB (7th overall); Rashean Mathis, DB (39th overall); LaBrandon Toefield, RB (132nd overall)
Notes: Bonus points for the presence of mind to realize that Minnesota’s time had expired and to get their pick up there quickly. And even more points for pulling a quality starting QB in Byron Leftwich out of it. Mathis has been a good starter for the Jags and has contributed in special teams as well. Toefield has been solid in his coverage for Fred Taylor when he’s out with injury and has talent to start for other teams in the league.
Grade: A

Kansas City Chiefs
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 27 (27th overall)
Key Picks: Larry Johnson, RB (27th overall); Kawika Mitchell, LB (47th overall); Jordan Black, OL (153rd overall)
Notes: We are a long ways from wondering what the Chiefs were doing selecting Johnson when they had Priest Holmes, the best RB in the league. However, after seeing what he’s done in his career and Holmes’ declining health, Johnson looks like the steal of the draft. The Bills took Willis McGahee, who was injured, four spots higher. Black is a good lineman and Mitchell is a part of the LB corp that is seeing some slow improvement.
Grade: A

Miami Dolphins
Highest Pick:
Round 2, Pick 17 (49th overall)
Key Picks: Wade Smith, OL (78th overall)
Notes: Smith was the only pick of note still making a decent contribution to the Dolphins. Saw playing time as a rookie and is developing into a solid lineman. Their first selection, LB Eddie Moore (49th overall), was traded this offseason to the Saints.
Grade: C-

New England Patriots
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 13 (13th overall)
Key Picks: Ty Warren, DT (13th overall); Eugene Wilson, S (36th overall); Asante Samuel, CB (120th overall); Dan Koppen, C (164th overall)
Notes: This NE Draft class is the epitome of what makes them so good at this. Value for their picks. Warren at 13 was a good start, a guy who came in and is playing well for them in three seasons. Wilson was a stud in the back and is still showing signs of growth and improvement. Samuel is their number one corner now with Ty Law gone, and Koppen is a starter who succumbed to injury last season.
Grade: A

New York Jets
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 4 (4th overall)
Key Players: Dewayne Robertson, DT (4th overall); Victor Hobson, LB (53th overall)
Notes: The Jets were able to get themselves some defensive starters in Robertson and Hobson. They will rely on Robertson more now because of the loss of Abraham via trade, and he’ll need to step it up to accomodate that loss. Brooks Bollinger (200th overall) saw some time in the starting lineup, but isn’t more than a future backup for a team.
Grade: B

Oakland Raiders
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 31 (31st overall)
Key Players: Nnamdi Asomugha, CB (31st overall); Tyler Brayton, DL (32nd overall); Doug Gabriel, WR (167th overall)
Notes: Asomugha has seen development as a cover corner and is becoming less of a liability for the Raiders. Brayton is benefiting from the presence of Warren Sapp on the line, and he’ll continue to get better as he develops more strength and some more moves off the end. Gabriel is another receiving option in a very talented corp.
Grade: B+

Pittsburgh Steelers
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 16 (16th overall)
Key Picks: Troy Polamalu, S (16th overall)
Notes: The defending Super Bowl champions didn’t get a lot of good help, but the one player they did get is a probable all-pro who’s nose for the ball and playmaking ability is almost unrivaled at the sfety position. Polamalu is a beast in the defensive backfield that teams will scheme to specifically avoid. He’s the class of the Steelers draft.
Grade: B-

San Diego Chargers
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 30 (30th overall)
Key Picks: Terrence Kiel, S (62nd overall)
Notes: Their first round selection, CB Sammy Davis, was traded to San Francisco for WR Rashaun Woods in this offseason. Drayton Florence, anotehr CB, has been competing hard for a job in the secondary, and is learning the nuances of NFL coverage. Terrence Kiel is the best player from ths draft class, he has playmaking abilities as a safety and a knowledge of the game which makes it easy for him to read defenses.
Grade: C+

Tennessee Titans
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 28 (28th overall)
Key Picks: Andre Woolfolk, CB (28th overall); Tyrone Calico, WR (60th overall); Chris Brown, RB (93rd overall)
Notes: Woolfolk has been counted on to be a solidfying figure in the turbulent Titan defense as people keep coming and going. Calico has the potential to explode, and needs to develop a good relationship with new QB Vince Young. Brown is amazing when healthy, which he has proven not to be very often. DT Rien Long (126th overall) has moved into the lineup and is playing solidly for Coach Fisher.
Grade: B

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