Friday, April 25, 2014

Has it Been 10 Years Already? The 2004 NFL Draft Revisited

Yeah, it's definitely been 10 years. Look how skinny Roethlisberger (right) is. Eli (left) looks about the same.

By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Actually, it's been 10 years and one day since the first round of the 2004 draft, and what a first round it was.

The 2004 edition of the draft is memorable for a few reasons, not the least of which is it being the first draft to feature two quarterbacks that would go on to win multiple Super Bowls as starters.

That's right, not even the legendary quarterback class of 1983, featuring Hall of Famers John Elway, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly can match this group. The 2004 draft was also the quickest draft to ever produce two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, only taking four years to do so, and it was the obviously the same two guys.

Those two would be No. 1 overall pick Eli Manning, who was involved in some trade day drama as the Manning family refused to let him play for San Diego, ushering in a trade to New York, and No. 11 overall pick Ben Roethlisberger.

As for the Roethlisberger camp, Big Ben's agent was not pleased when he slipped past the Chargers (actually, Phillip Rivers was drafted by the Giants, but immediately traded) at No. 4. It pushed the Miami of Ohio star out of the top-10, but into a great situation in Pittsburgh.

Ed. Note: The article originally said that Roethlisberger's father was not happy. That was drawn from a video I remember watching of a man sitting next to Ben throwing a bottle of water. has since informed me, however, that was actually Ben's agent. 

Instead of competing with Drew Brees for the starting role in San Diego, Roethlisberger was thrust into the lineup for Pittsburgh when incumbent Tommy Maddox was injured in a week 2 game against Baltimore. Roethlisberger couldn't beat the Ravens off the bench that day, but he would go onto have one of the greatest rookie seasons in NFL history, leading the Steelers to a 13-0 record as a starter and the AFC Championship Game.

He would capture his first Super Bowl the following season, becoming the youngest Super Bowl winning quarterback ever, and another championship three years after that. He made a return to Super Sunday in 2010, but fell to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

As for Manning, he may be one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks in the league, but you can't deny that when he's on, he's unbelievably effective. A Super Bowl XLII win over the previously unbeaten New England Patriots proves that, and a repeat against Brady and the boys in SB XLVI gave the younger Manning his second title.

The whipping boy of this QB class? That would be five-time Pro Bowler Phillip Rivers. In all, these three quarterbacks have combined for 10 Pro Bowl appearances, five conference championships, four Super Bowl wins and two Super Bowl MVP awards.

Not too shabby, but the 2004 draft had more going for it than a trio of stellar signal callers.

The first round also featured a record seven receivers selected, including Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald at No. 3, and an astonishing 28 trades, headlined by the Manning for Rivers blockbuster.

Other notable first rounders from 2004 include the late Sean Taylor at No. 5, interception artist and Tony Romo tormentor DeAngelo hall at No. 8, Jonathan Vilma at No. 12 and massive defensive tackle Vince Wilfork at No. 21.

All in all, 15 of 32 first round picks would go on to make a Pro Bowl, but there was star power beyond the opening round in 2004.

Second round linemen Chris Snee and Nick Hardwick have turned in a decade of fine play, and former Florida State defensive tackle Darnell Dockett became a star in Arizona. Second round safety Bob Sanders was fantastic when he was on the field, and third round quarterback Matt Schaub was quite good, until he suddenly wasn't last year, for the Texans.

Defensive end turned outside linebacker Shaun Phillips was a force for San Diego until last season, when he was a pleasant surprise for the AFC champion Broncos. Digging deeper, how about that goofy white guy from Idaho State that went in the fourth round?

Yeah, one of the most feared pass rusher in the league today, Jared Allen, fell past guys like Niko Koutouvides and Keyaron Fox, to Kansas City at No. 126 overall.

The fifth round featured Pro Bowl end Antonio Smith and Pro Bowl running back Michael "Burner" Turner, who holds the unofficial title of "Most Frustrating Fantasy Football Player Ever."

Even the sixth round delivered a Pro Bowler, with punter Andy Lee, and former Packers guard Scott Wells made the Pro Bowl out of the seventh.

But any draft can have stars selected. The 2004 draft was so good and so deep, that eight future Pro Bowl players WEREN'T EVEN DRAFTED, including reviver Wes Welker, running back Willie Parker, fullback Vonta Leach, offensive tackles Tyson Clabo and Jason Peters, and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly.

Heck, Malcom Floyd has never made a Pro Bowl, but he went undrafted that year as well.

Other notable records include Ohio State's 12 players selected in the 2004 draft, while the U (Miami) set a new standard with six players taken in the first round.

It was a pretty special draft all around, and one that still shapes the makeup of the league. There is certainly a buzz around this year's draft, with some scouts saying it is the best in a decade. That may be true, but it's hard to see it being better than the draft that came exactly 10 years prior.

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