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We’ve spent most of our time looking at free agent signings since our… ehem, hiatus, but it brought the thought that this should really be the time to evaluate how a draft class has panned out. The former CBA put restricted free agents at about 5 years, which means most of these players should be seeing their first big free agent contract coming this year. In that light, we’ll take a look at the 2005 1st and 2nd rounds to see how they’ve preformed in their 5 year careers.

1st Round.

Let’s start by position.. Aaron Rodgers bid his time in Green Bay and came out with both guns blazing once Favre was out of the picture. He’s a Superbowl MVP and champion and just entering the prime of his career. Green Bay utilized, in my opinion, the best plan for developing young quarterbacks. Leave them under a proven veteran for a year or two, letting them acclimate to the speed of the NFL and then bring them in. Even Mike Holmgren was forced to abandon that plan, so Green Bay was lucky, but with the Iron Man Brett Favre as their initial signal caller they had an easier time of it. The man to whom Rodgers will forever be compared is Alex Smith, first overall pick. Smith continues to remain in San Francisco riding a wave of perpetual hope that he’ll turn it around. He has shown sparks of greatness, but never consistency. He’s a lot like Kyle Boller for the Ravens, except that he’s been slightly better. Certainly his numbers back that up. Jason Campbell was drafted right behind Rodgers, and has found himself without a consistent coordinator since being brought into the league. The Redskins shuffled staffs every season except the 2 years under Jim Zorn. In Oakland, this year, he should be in his 2nd year under Hue Jackson’s offense. Despite the changes, he’s managed to put up solid numbers. He never wows you in games, however, but seems to be on the road of a Kerry Collins. In the right situation, he can bring teams to the playoffs and win games, but might not ever be the guy to take over.

The pass rusher category has some big names in it. DeMarcus Ware is probably a no brainer as an elite player in this draft. There are very few who wouldn’t consider him in the elite class of pass rushers in the NFL. Shawne Merriman was a decent pickup as well. Injuries and Steroids have derailed his career, but he was a phenomenal pass rusher early on.The Vikings selected Erasmus James with the 18th pick. James is not essentially out of the league. He played til 2007 with the Vikings who managed to wrangle a 7th round pick out of the Redskins (it’s not like they were using the draft at that time anyway), who promptly cut him in 2008.

Roddy White leads the receivers in this class. His first few years were a struggle with Vick providing him the ball, but since the arrival of Matt Ryan he has developed into one of the top wide outs in the NFL. 2nd on the list is probably Braylon Edwards. Though he’s been inconsistent with his hands, his big play potential has continued to land him jobs. Currently he’s in significant legal trouble and can’t find a team to take a chance on him due to his ‘diva’ status. He’s got the talent but has been a perpetual under-achiever. The rest of the class features middle of the road guys. Mark Clayton went to Baltimore and never really developed into the player they wanted. He’s found a home in St. Louis but still looks like a slot receiver at best. Matt Jones ended up a disastrous experiment by the Jaguars and was arrested for Cocaine. He was on the Bengals in 2010 but not for long. Mike Williams has found some resurgence after disappearing for a long period of time. Pete Carroll has managed to get him in shape, but he has a long way to go before proving he was a 1st round talent. Troy Williamson is another example of a fast guy who didn’t have much else working for him. He could burn everyone, but never had the hands to be elite. He hasn’t played in the NFL since 2009. Heath Miller was the only tight end drafted in the 1st by Pittsburgh. He continues to play well in Pittsburgh, although under the radar. He’s shown excellent hands and good blocking, which the Steelers covet in their running game.

The offensive line saw some bright spots. Logan Mankins is a perpetual pro-bowl player in New England, Jammal Brown has been an above average tackle for the Saints and now Redskins, and Alex Barron has been solid in St. Louis if not standout. The class was particularly weak and there wasn’t as much of a focus on offensive line drafting as there is today. Chris Spencer, the now replacement for pro-bowler Olin Kruetz in Chicago, has been a solid center. He was good in Seattle at guard but Seattle allowed him to leave via free agency.

Running back was the heart of this draft class. Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, and Cadillac Williams have had good careers. None has developed into hall of fame type players, but Brown has been to a pro-bowl, Benson continues to produce 1000 yard seasons, and Williams – when healthy – still shows good burst.

Most of the linebackers drafted have been middle of the road talents. Thomas Davis has been a solid tackler in Carolina, Derrick Johnson has been solid in KC through shuffling schemes, and Ware and Merriman have already been mentioned as the pass rushers. Then Bengals drafted David Pollack, who was unfortunately forced to retire due to a severe neck injury. He never wowed while he was playing, but it’s still sad to see people’s careers ended in such a way.

At cornerback, the infamous Pacman Jones headlines the list, but for the wrong reasons. He was in and out the league via suspensions and now finds himself on the Bengals. His talent was immense, but he hasn’t yet been able to mature enough to use it. Behind him are Antrel Rolle and Carlos Rodgers. Rolle struggled at cornerback, but eventually moved to safety where he’s been a pro bowl player. Rodgers has been a solid number 2 corner in Washington. He recently signed with San Francisco to replace Nate Clements. Fabian Washington and Marlin Jackson have struggled since being drafted. Fabian left Oakland via trade with Baltimore, where he was very inconsistent. He recently signed with the Saints but will likely be a nickel or dime player. Marlin Jackson played cover 2 for the Colts, but was frequently passed by younger corners. He signed with Philadelphia where he’ll likely play a dime role behind Asomugha, DRC, and Samuel.

The last position drafted is the big guys up the middle. Mike Patterson is probably the most notable of them. He’s been solid in Philadelphia, if not standout. Marcus Spears and Luis Castillo found their way into the 3-4 defensive end positions, which is similar to a DT in a 4-3. Both are considered solid ends. Both remain on their teams as valuable veterans.

2005 was considered a particularly weak class, and frankly it shows. There were only 10 pro-bowl players in the 1st round and most are one time guys. Braylon Edwards found his way when Derek Anderson had his one great year, Shawne Merriman likewise before injuries and steroids. The best of the class would easily be DeMarcus Ware, Aaron Rodgers, Logan Mankins, and Roddy White and 3 of them were selected in the 20s. The Running back class is underwhelming for being the strength of the class, and most of the wide outs were dreadful.

We’ll continue this class with the 2nd round tomorrow.