Grading the 2003 NFL Draft: NFC

From the moment the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Carson Palmer with the first overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, the expectations were high. After sitting for his first season behind then starter Jon Kitna, Palmer had a breakout performance last season, earning him a Pro-Bowl spot and his team a division crown. His season ended in injury, but I will tell you that the hopes are very high in Cincinnati.

After three seasons, though, many of those other players selected have made impacts for the teams that drafted them, or maybe even for teams other than those who selected them. Whatever the case may be, three years has given most of us enough time to fairly evaluate most of the selecitions. We can grade a team’s performance and get a pretty accurate idea of who was worth it and who wasn’t. Here is a look at all 16 NFC teams.


Arizona Cardinals
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 17 (17th overall)
Key Picks: Anquan Boldin, WR (54th overall); Bryant Johnson, WR (17th overall)
Notes: Top to bottom this draft was mediocre for the Cards, but they were able to select one of the best receivers in the NFL today in Boldin. Johnson has been a viable third receivnig option and Calvin Pace (18th overall) is making a shift after an injury-plagued 2005 to linebacker.
Grade:
B-

Atlanta Falcons
Highest Pick:
Round 2, Pick 23 (55th overall)
Key Picks: Bryan Scott, DB (55th overall); Justin Griffith, FB (121st overall)
Notes: Three solid seasons of improvement for Scott, who heads over to New Orleans now to patrol their defensive backfield. Got Griffith out of this draft, a key cog to their highly rated running attack. Griffith is one of the best blocking FB’s in the NFL.
Grade: B-/C+

Carolina Panthers
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 8 (8th overall)
Key Picks: Jordan Gross, OT (8th overall); Ricky Manning Jr., CB (82nd overall)
Notes: Gross has been an all-pro on the line, and has seen his stock as one of the league’s best steadily increase. Ricky Manning was huge in their 2003 run to the Super Bowl, but has since left for Chicago and faced some legal issues. Picked up some decent bench players, but no one else of significant worth. Extra points for presence of mind to pick while the Minnesota Vikings weren’t able to make their pick at number 7 to take Gross 8th.
Grade: B+

Chicago Bears
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 14 (14th overall)
Key Picks: Michael Haynes, DE (14th overall); Rex Grossman, QB (22nd overall) Charles Tillman, DB (35th overall); Lance Briggs, LB (68th overall)
Notes: This draft did much to strengthen the Bears’ defense, as they selected Haynes, a member of the DL rotation and a solid lineman. They also selected Lance Briggs, who had a breakout season last year and is a solid compliment to Brian Urlacher. Tillman is a solid contributor on defense, and they also selected Rex Grossman, who’ll be competing for the starting job. Also mentionable is safety Todd Johnson (100th overall) and WR’s Bobby Wade (139th overall) and Justin Gage (143th overall)
Grade:
A-

Dallas Cowboys
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 5 (5th overall)
Key PIcks: Terence Newman, CB (5th overall); Jason Witten, TE (69th overall)
Notes: Although not much value was received for their late round selections, they were able to secure two impact players on the first day of selections with Newman and Witten. Newman has been solid at corner and in the return game as well, and Witten is an Pro-Bowl TE who is big, strong, and physical with soft hands and a nose for the end zone.
Grade: B

Detroit Lions
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 2 (2nd overall)
Key Picks: Charles Rogers, WR (2nd overall); Boss Bailey, LB (34th overall); Terrence Holt, S (137th overall)
Notes: Rogers was the big pick of this draft, but has had injury problems in each of his first three seasons. He, like all of Detroit’s skill position players, have the question of consistency hanging over them. Bailey has been a disappointment, although a solid player, not the quality that made him a projected first-rounder. Holt has contributed on defense, and Artose Pinner (99th overall) has played a little at RB when injury has needed him to.
Notes: C-

Green Bay Packers
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 29 (29th overall)
Key Picks: Nick Barnett, LB (29th overall)
Notes: Barnett is the only real beneficial player the Pack were able to select in this draft. He’s been solid as a playmaking linebacker and should finally receive some help with A.J. Hawk coming in. Hunter Hillenmeyer (166th overall), the second linebacker taken by the Packers is now in Chicago, and DE Kenny Peterson (79th overall) is only a bit player for the defense. No value anywhere else on the board.
Notes: C+

Minnesota Vikings
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 9 (9th overall) originally 7th, forfeited to 9th
Key Picks: Kevin Williams, DT (9th overall); E.J. Henderson, LB (40th overall); Nate Burleson, WR (71st overall)
Notes: Burleson had begun to emerge as a top receiver for the Vikings, but has left for Seattle in the offseason. They pick up Steve Hutchinson for the same price, so it might be considered a wash. Williams still anchors that defensive line. Henderson was considered to be “first-round” talent and has contributed solid play with lapses that show a need to continue to learn and grow. The “missed pick’ episode drops their rating very low as two teams were able to get their picks in before the Vikings.
Grade: C-

New Orleans Saints
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 6 (6th overall)
Key Picks: Johnathan Sullivan, DT (6th overall); Jon Stinchcomb, OT (37th overall)
Notes: Sullivan has never contributed much to the Saints on the field, and has been considered a “headache” off it. He was traded just this off-season to New England for WR Bethel Johnson. Stinchcomb, another Georgia product and yougner brother of Matt, who plays for Tampa Bay, was seriously injured last season and it has yet to be seen what his recovery will produce.
Grade: D+

New York Giants
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 25 (25th overall)
Key Picks: William Jospeh, DT (25th overall); Osi Umenyiora, DE (56th overall); David Tyree, WR/KR (211th overall)
Notes: Jospesh has been in the discussion of the rotation inside, but it’s Umenyiora who has broken out. He was a Pro-Bowl player last season and has emerged to make formidable bookends with Michael Strahan. David Tyree is one of the best returners in the league and is now currently the highest-paid, recently signing a new five-year deal this offseason. OL David Diehl (160th overall) and WR Willie Ponder (199th overall) have also contributed.
Grade: A-

Philadelphia Eagles
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 15 (15th overall)
Key Picks: Jerome McDougle, DE (15th overall); L.J. Smith, TE (61st overall); Billy McMullen, WR (95th overall)
Notes: McDougle is a key component of the defensive line along with Jevon Kearse and lead one of the strengths of the team. Smith, a TE, has become one of Donovan McNabb’s favorite targets and has nice receiving hands with above average blocking skills. McMullen will be a factor in the race for a starting WR position.
Grade: B+

San Francisco 49ers
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 26 (26th overall)
Key Picks: Kwame Harris, OL (26th overall); Anthony Adams, DT (57th overall); Brandon Lloyd, WR (124th overall)
Notes: Harris has struggled as a starter, but he’s slowly learning the offense and blocking schemes. Will be a factor in OL position battles and provide depth and either tackle spot. Adams is the starting NT and has become comfortable with the 2-4 scheme. Lloyd, a talented but troubled receiver, was traded to Washington this offseason, but the 49ers do have a starting WR from this draft, former Notre Dame QB/WR Arnaz Battle (197th overall).
Grade: C+

Seattle Seahawks
Highest Pick:
Round 1, Pick 11 (11th overall)
Key PIcks: Marcus Trufant, DB (11th overall); Ken Hamlin, DB (42nd overall); Seneca Wallace, QB (110th overall); Josh Brown, K (222nd overall)
Notes: Trufant is a solid cover corner who plays well within the zone and is decent in man coverage. Hamlin has been a rock for the team until an incident last season took him out of the Super Bowl run. Watch out for Seneca Wallace, who’s been performing incredibly in the preseasons and in NFL Europe. Could be the future somewhere else if not in Seattle. Hard to draft a solid kicker, and Seattle got a good one in Josh Brown, still with the team.
Grade: A-

St. Louis Rams
Highest PIck:
Round 1, Pick 12 (12th overall)
Key Picks: Jimmy Kennedy, DT (12th overall); Pisa Tinoisamoa, LB (43rd overall)
Notes: Kennedy was highly touted and hasn’t given the Rams much, being plagued with injuries. And when healthy, still hasn’t been too much of a factor for them up front. Tinoisamoa has been the opposite, a good value pick who is a starter and a high-energy player for the Rams. Also got a pair of receivers in Kevin Curtis (74th overall) and Shaun McDonald (106th overall) who are solid with Issac Bruce and Torry Holt.
Grade: B

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Highest Pick:
Round 2, Pick 32 (64th overall)
Key Picks: Chris Simms, QB (97th overall)
Notes: Not a good draft for Jon Gruden and the Bucs. All they really got out of it is a quarterback who will be hold, at least temporarily, the starting job going into this season and a short leash. Simme begun to show signs of strength at the end of last season, but it will remain to be seen if they stick with him. Their first selection in this draft, DE Dewayne White, has had a lot of trouble working his way into the D-line rotation.
Grade: C-/D+ (depending on Simms’ development)

Washington Redskins
Highest Pick:
Round 2, Pick 12 (44th overall)
Key Picks: Derrick Dockery, OG (81st overall)
Notes: 3 picks? That’s all the Redskins had in this draft, and we can’t even say they got value for what little they did have. Jacobs isn’t doing anything productive and will be buried further now with the acquisitions of Brandon Lloyd and Antaan Randle El. Dockery is a depth selection who is standing strong in the competition for a job on the line, and he’s the only viable talent received in this draft.
Grade: F

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