by Andy Kious

The NFL draft is quickly approaching and everyone has an opinion. Which team is picking which player or which team is going to make a random trade to move up one spot to pick a player that would most likely be available for the very next pick. Just as the seasons change, the draft reminds us how hope springs eternal. A prospect pick could mean the difference between continued mediocrity or the rise to a championship (sooner than expected).

There is a flood of information for this upcoming draft. I don’t know how nostalgic other people are, but we all idolize the past in some form or fashion. Here’s a look at the 2003 NFL Draft. Why 2003? It was 15 years ago and, as explained in the ridiculous idea that is common core math, people like the numbers 10 and 5.

The first overall pick belonged to the Cincinnati Bengals who chose Carson Palmer, the University of Southern California quarterback who won the 2003 Heisman Trophy and recently retired after a relatively successful career. Though he never won a Lombardi Trophy he was usually considered to be a top 10 ranked quarterback. Having Larry Fitzgerald for the last four years of his career probably helped that notion.

Mr. Irrelevant was a guy by the name of Ryan Hoag a wide receiver out of Gustavus Adolphus College which is a part of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Hoag, however, did have a surprisingly long career in the NFL, even if he never played a game. He spent his career bouncing from the practice squads of the Raiders, Giants, Vikings, Redskins, and Jaguars. He also had short stints in the NFL Europe, the Canadian Football League, and the United Football League. No matter how much we laugh at this guy, he was still considered good enough to drafted and be put on a NFL roster. That’s more than any armchair/Monday morning quarterback can say.

Below are some of the players from the 2003 Draft that are still active with their current team and the team that drafted them with round and pick number:

Terence Newman, Minnesota Vikings
– Drafted by Dallas Cowboys, Rnd 1 Pick 5

Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens
– Drafted by Baltimore Ravens, Rnd 1 Pick 10

Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
– Drafted by Dallas Cowboys, Rnd 3 Pick 69

I’m not sure how I should quantify success in the NFL because of all the different positions. However, most people gauge success in wins, high number stats, Pro Bowl appearances, but most importantly, in terms of championships. Even the players would rather be playing in the Super Bowl than the Pro Bowl. That means that success of a player is based on: how many times did they hoist up the Lombardi Trophy, or how many times did they oddly kiss the trophy after 40-50 other guys did the same thing and then subsequently suffer from suspicious cold sores?

I’m going to gauge success based on longevity and having a baseline of 200 games. If you rate success based of these traits, there are surprisingly only six players that played over 200 games:

Jason Witten, TE (239)
Terence Newman, DB (221)
Terrell Suggs, LB (213)
Kevin Williams, DT (203)
Anquan Boldin, WR (202)
Josh Brown, K (201)

Of the 262 picks there were just 36 players that turned out to be Pro Bowlers. That’s a player “success” rate of about 14%. We all know that not every pick is going to be a winner so take the wins where you can. There is always a much larger pool of undrafted players that can find themselves in the league. Some of the more successful or at least noteworthy are Pro Bowlers Tony Romo and Antonio Gate.

See those two names? You look at them now and think, “How could you not pick them?” or “Ryan Hoag got picked over them?” However back in 2003, they were just guys. Romo played at a small college in Eastern Illinois, even if he did win the Walter Payton Award, which is essentially the Heisman Trophy for FCS schools. Antonio Gates played basketball, not football, in college, but it seems to have worked out for him.

Overall, the 2003 draft class delivered many stars and champions. Andre Johnson, Willis McGahee, Lance Briggs, Osi Umenyiora, Terrell Suggs, Troy Polamalu, Dallas Clark, and Anquan Boldin. It also delivered such “gems” as Byron Leftwich, Seneca Wallace, Rex Grossman, Boss Bailey, B.J. Askew, and Chris Simms. All things considered and according to Jim Reineking over at the 2003 class was amongst the draft classes considered for the Five best NFL draft classes of the last 25 years. Looking more in depth at the 2003 draft, I don’t disagree.

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