Let me be clear before we start this, I’m writing this with the benefit of hindsight. I know what players suffer career-ending injuries or go through tragedies that cost them their careers. Considering the first round is supposed to be the time where teams pick players who can be mainstays on their squads for the next decade, the players whose careers ended early slide out of the first round. That will be the case with many players in this draft, two of whom I’m sure you’ll notice almost right away.
Just a reminder, I made the draft selections based on the teams’ needs and rosters from 2004. I did not account for future signings.
San Diego Chargers Pick # 1
Original Pick- Eli Manning QB
New Pick- Philip Rivers QB (Drafted 4th Overall by Giants)
This selection was always going to be one of the three quarterbacks. We already know how the Manning selection turned out, so the Chargers won’t make that pick again. Rivers has had a Hall of Fame career with the team and has been the most consistent member of the three legendary quarterbacks in this draft. He may never have won a Super Bowl and his peak isn’t as high as Roethlisberger’s, but he’s meant to be the face of the Chargers.
Original Pick- Robert Gallery OT
New Pick- Ben Roethlisberger QB (Drafted 11th Overall by Steelers)
Kerry Collins was the Raiders starting quarterback in 2004 and he led the league in interceptions. Out of the 2004 quarterbacks, Roethlisberger has had the highest peak during his career. His first few years in the league culminated in a lot of wins, but he wasn’t the impressive player he is today. A year under Collins’ wing might’ve made his rise to stardom even quicker.
Original Pick- Larry Fitzgerald WR
New Pick- Larry Fitzgerald WR (Drafted 3rd Overall by Cardinals)
He has never left the Cardinals, remaining loyal to the franchise all of these years. His incredible catches, hands, and ability to produce with backup quarterbacks has made him one of the five greatest receivers of all-time. Passing up on Fitzgerald would be beyond crazy.
Original Pick- Philip Rivers QB
New Pick- Eli Manning QB (Drafted 1st Overall by Chargers)
Things come full circle for the top three quarterbacks in this draft. Manning returns to the Giants, where he was always meant to be. Considering that he has delivered the organization two Super Bowls, and has won Super Bowl MVP both times, there’s no reason to not send Manning back to the Big Apple.
Original Pick- Sean Taylor S
New Pick- Jared Allen DE (Drafted 126th Overall by Chiefs)
The Taylor selection was a stroke of genius on the part of the Redskins. He had Hall of Fame talent and top tier skills, but his untimely death means he won’t be selected here again. Instead the team will add Allen. In 2004 no Redskins defenders recorded more than six sacks. Allen had nine as a rookie alone and a whopping 136 during his career, which is the 11th most all-time.
Original Pick- Kellen Winslow TE
New Pick- Matt Schaub QB (Drafted 90th Overall by Falcons)
Before you say anything just listen to these names: Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, and Kelly Holcomb. Those were the Browns starting quarterbacks in 2004. Schaub may be remembered for his flop of a 2013 season, but before that he made two Pro Bowls and led the league in passing yards in 2009. Even if he took a few years to get going, he’d still give the Browns more stability than the guys they’ve drafted since.
Original Pick- Roy Williams WR
New Pick- Wes Welker WR (Undrafted)
Williams had a decent career, but not one fit for a first round pick. He only recorded over 1,000 receiving yards once and went for more than 800 just three times. Welker on the other hand went undrafted and then had five seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards and 100 receptions. He finished his career with 903 receptions and 9,924 receiving yards.
Original Pick- DeAngelo Hall CB
New Pick- Jason Peters OT (Undrafted)
Peters is another stud that somehow managed to fall through the cracks in 2004. The Falcons already had a starting left tackle, Kevin Shaffer, but he left the team after 2005 and Peters is just on another level entirely. Considering he’s the best talent still available and has a shot to end up in Canton one day, they Falcons have to take him.
Original Pick- Reggie Williams WR
New Pick- DeAngelo Hall CB (Drafted 8th Overall by Falcons)
This Williams was not as successful as the one the Lions drafted. He never had more than 630 receiving yards in any of his five NFL seasons. Hall, on the other hand, went to three Pro Bowls, finished his career with 43 interceptions, and played for 14 seasons. The choice is obvious.
Original Pick- Dunta Robinson CB
New Pick- Vince Wilfork DT (Drafted 21st Overall by Patriots)
Robinson did end playing ten seasons in the NFL but wasn’t the defensive force the Texans were looking for. On the other hand, Wilfork went to five Pro Bowls, was a Second Team All-Pro three times, and a First Team All-Pro once. A behemoth in the middle of the defensive line, Wilfork recorded 559 combined tackles during his 13-year career.
Original Pick- Ben Roethlisberger QB
New Pick- Steven Jackson RB (Drafted 24th Overall by Rams)
Surprised? You should be. In 2004 the Steelers had a crowded backfield with Jerome Bettis, Duce Staley, and rookie Willie Parker. Parker went on to become a Pro Bowler and three-time 1,000 yard rusher but injuries derailed and ended his promising career. Jackson ran for 1,000 yards in eight consecutive seasons and put up over 15,000 yards from scrimmage during his career. I loved Parker and he was a great player when healthy, but the future of the backfield is better in Jackson’s reliable hands.
Original Pick- Jonathan Vilma LB
New Pick- Karlos Dansby LB (Drafted 33rd Overall by Cardinals)
Vilma was more than worth a first round selection, but he retired after 2013, a year in which he only played in one game. Dansby, on the other hand, is still playing and has turned into one of the most consistent linebackers to ever play. He is a member of the exclusive 20-20 club and has 90 or more combined tackles in each of the last 11 seasons. Vilma only played in the league for ten.
Original Pick- Lee Evans WR
New Pick- Chris Snee OT (Drafted 34th Overall by Giants)
Talentwise, the 2004 Bills weren’t too bad, but the offensive line needed some help. Snee usually played at right guard, but the Bills weren’t stable at the left guard position. Frankly though, Snee would’ve been an upgrade for the team at either guard spot.
Original Pick- Tommie Harris DT
New Pick- Darnell Dockett DT (Drafted 64th Overall by Cardinals)
Harris was a really good pick that paid off for the Nears in the long run, but they could’ve done even better with Dockett. In 11 NFL seasons, Dockett made three Pro Bowls, the same as Harris, and recorded 40.4 sacks to go along with 459 combined tackles. This decision isn’t meant to be a knock on Harris, it’s just praising Dockett.
Original Pick- Michael Clayton WR
New Pick- Michael Turner RB (Drafted 154th Overall by Chargers)
Clayton was a one hit wonder in his rookie season, but Turner produced several good seasons during his time in the NFL. Admittedly, it took him time to finally take off, but he was a First Team All-Pro in his first season as a full-time starter. Turner put together three 1,000 yard rushing seasons and ran for ten or more touchdowns in all five of his seasons as a starter.
Original Pick- Shawn Andrews OG
New Pick- Shaun Phillips LB (Drafted 98th Overall by Chargers)
Andrews was a good player, but injuries limited him to just three seasons as a full-time starter. Phillips was capable of playing outside linebacker or defensive end. He had eight seasons with seven sacks or more and a grand total of 81.5 through 11 seasons. He would’ve been a great pass rusher for the Eagles.
Original Pick- D.J. Williams LB
New Pick- Jonathan Vilma LB (Drafted 12th Overall by Jets)
Vilma flashed his talent almost immediately, winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2004. He went on to make the Pro Bowl in 2005 and in two other seasons as well. Vilma recorded over 100 combines tackles six times during his career, including 169 in 2005. His final year in the league was 2013.
Original Pick- Will Smith DE
New Pick- Kellen Winslow TE (Drafted 6th Overall by Browns)
Not picking Smith here is controversial. He was a really good player, but I’m giving the Saints offense a weapon instead. Winslow put together five solid seasons in the league, including one 1,000 receiving yard season. Maybe he could act as a security blanked for Aaron Brooks.
Original Pick- Vernon Carey OT
New Pick- Randy Starks DT (Drafted 71st Overall by Titans)
Starks played 12 seasons in the NFL. During that time he made two Pro Bowls and recorded 42 sacks. Starks actually joined the Dolphins in 2008 and had the best years of his career with them. Why move away from a match that worked so well?
Original Pick- Kenechi Udeze DE
New Pick- Will Smith DE (Drafted 18th Overall by Saints)
Udeze finished his NFL career with 11 sacks. Smith finished with 67.5 and 457 combined tackles. The Vikings got unlucky that in real life smith went two picks ahead of them. Honestly, this redraft doesn’t do him justice, he’d probably should go higher again.
Original Pick- Vince Wilfork DT
New Pick- Tommie Harris DT (Drafted 14th Overall by Bears)
With Wilfork, Dockett, and Starks gone, Harris is the best defensive tackle remaining. Through eight seasons Harris made three Pro Bowls and recorded 31.5 sacks plus 226 combined tackles. The Patriots will still have a strong presence in the middle.
Original Pick- J.P. Losman QB
New Pick- Nick Hardwick C (Drafted 66th Overall by Chargers)
We’re back to improving the Bills offensive line. The team did have a major quarterback problem, but the Losman pick didn’t exactly work out for them. Trey Teague, the Bills starting center in 2004, retired after 2005. Hardwick was a Pro Bowl center who played in the league for over a decade.
Original Pick- Marcus Tubbs DT
New Pick- D.J. Williams LB (Drafted 17th Overall by Broncos)
Williams didn’t live up to his number 17 overall selection, but he had a very consistent and productive career. In 11 seasons he recorded 897 combined tackles, 22.5 sacks, and 37 passes defensed. The Seahawks needed that kind of stability in the middle of their defense.
Original Pick- Steven Jackson RB
New Pick- Daryl Smith LB (Drafted 39th Overall by Jaguars)
This draft was loaded with good linebackers. The Rams needed a linebacker to move in and replace one of their subpar players. Smith was never a Pro Bowl level player, but he finished his career with 1,085 combined tackles, 30.5 sacks, and 12 interceptions
Original Pick- Ahmad Carroll CB
New Pick- Scott Wells C (Drafted 251st Overall by Packers)
The Packers got lucky and picked Wells in the seventh round of the draft. Seeing as that wouldn’t happen again I have them taking him now. He played for them for eight of his 11 seasons and earned a Pro Bowl nod in his final season in Lambeau.
Original Pick- Chris Perry RB
New Pick- Benjamin Watson TE (Drafted 32nd Overall by Patriots)
The Bengals had Rudi Johnson, they didn’t need to draft Perry. But if they were concerned about the offense, then drafting Watson would’ve helped a lot. Watson, who is still playing in the NFL, has never been a great tight end, but he’s been extremely consistent.
Original Pick- Jason Babin DE
New Pick- Jason Babin DE (Drafted 27th Overall by Texans)
Babin wasn’t a bad selection, he was just a late bloomer. Both of his Pro Bowls came after leaving Houston, but he would’ve been a big contributor on the team if the front office had shown more patience. Babin finished his 12-year career with 64.5 sacks and 372 combined tackles.
Original Pick- Chris Gamble CB
New Pick- Chris Gamble CB (Drafted 28th Overall by Panthers)
Gamble kicked off his career with a bang. As a rookie he recorded six interceptions and then added seven more in his second season. The interception totals fell after that, but Gamble was still putting in work, recording three seasons with three interceptions and one with four. He spent all nine years of his career with the Panthers and is the franchise’s leader in career interceptions.
Original Pick- Michael Jenkins WR
New Pick- Jerricho Cotchery WR (Drafted 108th Overall by Jets)
This draft was full of busts at wide receiver, and Jenkins was certainly one of them. While Cotchery was never a great receiver, he was a good player. He played in the league for 12 seasons and recorded over 800 receiving yards in four separate seasons.
Original Pick- Kevin Jones RB
New Pick- Tyson Clabo OT (Undrafted)
I’m re-doing another one of the Lions selections. 2004 was the team’s right tackle’s (Stockar McDougle) final season with the team and his last year as a starter in the league. Clabo, who made the Pro Bowl in 2010, was a starter for eight of his nine professional seasons. From 2008 to the end of 2013 he missed just one game.
Original Pick- Rashaun Woods WR
New Pick- Lee Evans WR (Drafted 13th Overall by Bills)
Terrell Owens left the 49ers for the Eagles during the 2004 offseason. Consequently, the team had no receivers hit the 700 yard mark in 2004. Evans, like Cotchery, was never a great receiver, but the need is so intense here that the team would settle for a player like Evans. He crossed the 1,000 receiving yards mark twice in his career and in eight seasons he recorded just over 6,000 yards.
Original Pick- Benjamin Watson TE
New Pick- Chris Cooley TE (Drafted 81st Overall by Redskins)
The Patriots ended up winning the Super Bowl in 2004, just like they had in 2003. It’s hard to improve a back-to-back Super Bowl champion, but I’ll try. The Patriots had Daniel Graham as their reliable tight end during this time, but the team could improve at this position. With Watson off the board, Cooley is the best remaining tight end. During his nine seasons Cooley made the Pro Bowl twice and recorded over 730 yards and 55 receptions five times.
Best remaining: Sean Taylor S, Bob Sanders S, Shawn Andrews OG, Max Starks OT, Andy Lee P, Nathan Vasher CB, Antonio Smith DE, Willie Parker RB, Malcom Floyd WR, Roy Williams WR, Mike Adams S, Vonta Leach FB
Out of all the names remaining from the 2004 draft, none are bigger than Sean Taylor and Bob Sanders. Those two safeties were headed on paths to greatness, I’d even say they had the potential to rivals legends Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu. Unfortunately, their careers didn’t last. Sanders went to two Pro Bowls, was a two-time First Team All-Pro and won the 2007 Defensive Player of the Year award. He played eight years in the NFL, but only played in more than six games twice, his two great seasons.
Taylor’s story is even more tragic. He made two Pro Bowls and was a mastermind on the football field but was also a feared hitter on the same level as Ray Lewis in terms of the terror he struck into offensive players. Midway through his fourth season he was shot and killed. I struggled with what to do with these two players, not wanting to disrespect their greatness but also wanting to follow the rules I used in previous redrafts.
Shawn Andrews and Willie Parker were two other notable players who saw their careers end early because of injuries. That’s why they also are in the best remaining category and weren’t selected.
Of course, this class is famous for the three big-name quarterbacks it produced. Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger will always be the faces of the 2004 draft, but people forget Matt Schaub also went to two Pro Bowls before a poor season relegated him to backup positions. This class is also famous for the incredible number of receivers that were taken in the first round and busted. Go back and see for yourself, there’s a ton of them.
Ironically Wes Welker wasn’t drafted, and he was the second-best receiver in this class behind Larry Fitzgerald. Jason Peters also wasn’t drafted, neither were Willie Parker, Tyson Clabo, Malcom Floyd, Vonta Leach, and Mike Adams. That’s a pretty solid undrafted class.
Ultimately, this class produced a legendary trio of quarterbacks, but also a strong group of tight ends and a deep group of defensive linemen.
If you enjoy hearing from the legends of pro sports, then be sure to tune into “The Grueling Truth” sports shows, “Where the legends speak”
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