Sometimes it is hard to believe a player has been in the league for as many years as they have. Most of the time, kickers and punters have the longest NFL careers, mainly because they see the least amount of time on the field and less damage to their body. Some quarterbacks stand the test of time – Brett Favre is the name that comes to mind on the never ending quarterback. But Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have both been in the league for double-digit years now.
Looking back at the 2002 draft, it is crazy to think that less than half of the picks in the first round are still in the league. First overall pick David Carr never had an offensive line in Houston and now is the backup in New York for Eli Manning. Carr is still making money and will only see action in mop-up duty or if something happens to Eli. Chances are Carr will stay on the sideline the rest of the season and probably for his career. I don’t see him ever being a starting quarterback in the league again. The second overall pick in that draft, Julius Peppers, is one of the best pass rushers in NFL history. He has 105 sacks and is a huge factor on Chicago’s defense. The Bears boast one of the best defenses in the league this season and Peppers is a big reason why that is. He makes opposing quarterbacks think twice about taking too long in the pocket and even though he doesn’t get the sack every snap, Peppers affects every down he’s on the field for. Another big-time pass rusher taken in this draft was Dwight Freeney. He remains with the team that drafted him that night, the Colts. He has taken down quarterbacks 103.5 times in his career, just behind Peppers. The fact two great defensive linemen were taken just 10 picks apart.
This draft also saw some good defensive backs go in the first round, mainly Ed Reed and Quentin Jammer. Both remain with the same teams that drafted them, the Ravens and Chargers respectively. Reed continues to be a ball hawk on defense despite getting up there in age. A few other notable players from the first round were Lito Sheppard, Jeremy Shockey, Albert Hayneswroth and offensive lineman Marc Colombo. We all know Haynesworth has had some troubles, but when he has his mind in the game he can be one of the best run stoppers in the league. He was a huge free agent bust for the Redskins, but that was never a good fit for him. He went where the money was and didn’t fit into the defensive scheme there, which led to his ineffectiveness. Jeremy Shockey has had a nice career but he never developed into the player many scouts thought he’d be.
How about the rest of the draft you say…the second round wasn’t filled with too many big names besides Clinton Portis. One of the remaining guys still playing though is Deion Branch. Drafted by the Patriots, he now finds himself back in New England after some back and forth travel to Seattle. Branch has never surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in a season, but is a great role player on any offense. That’s why he’s still in the league and contributing to some extent. The Patriots take mediocre players and make them better because of the offense. A late rounder that is still in the league is Brett Keisel, who has become a staple on Pittsburgh’s d-line.
Obviously there were some great players in this draft that are no longer active in the NFL, but what about some of the busts? Carr is still in the league and can be viewed as a bust considering he was the top pick in the draft. Joey Harrington never made the Lions a contender and eventually became a backup for his last years in the league. Any time a team banks high on a quarterback in the draft they want them to be the face of the franchise. Harrington never developed into the savior of Detroit and is now out of the league. The Lions had to wait for Matthew Stafford to finally blossom into a good quarterback last season for this franchise to get back to the postseason. I know the Lions needed a quarterback and a reason to give fans hope, but imagine if they decided to go with a playmaker on defense, like Dwight Freeney instead. Imagine what track the Lions would have been in if they went a different route? If only franchises could rewind and make a different choice, but as they say hindsight is 20-20. It’s also fun to look back on the analysis from Mel Kiper Jr. on this draft a decade later.
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