Reviewing past drafts: 2004

Ah, the 2004 draft. This is, alas, the last draft before I started blogging the draft, so you’ll have to rely on my somewhat hazy recollections of what I thought about the picks at the time.

The Titans came into the 2004 draft off a 12-4 season where some close regular season losses had left them with an unfavorable spin of the roulette wheel in the evenly matched top 4 of the AFC, resulting in a 17-14 loss in bitter cold at New England. GM Floyd Reese managed to keep the core of the team intact, but the Titans had a great need for depth.

The initial storyline of this year’s draft for the Titans was the sheer number of players they ended up selecting, 13 in all, of whom 12 would eventually make the team. The big reason they had so many picks was the great Jason Babin trade, where the Texans traded up to the Titans’ #27 overall slot to draft the hybrid DE/OLB. In exchange for that pick, plus the Titans’ 5th round pick, #159 overall, used by the Jaguars on T Sean Bubin, the Titans picked up the Texans’ 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th round picks.

As for the players chosen with those picks, well, after the jump:

2-40 TE Ben Troupe, Florida
Previous Pick: OLB Daryl Smith, Georgia Tech (Jacksonville)
Next Pick: RB Tatum Bell, Oklahoma State (Denver)
Previous TE: 1-32, Ben Watson, Georgia (New England)
Next TE: 2-61, Kris Wilson, Pittsburgh (Kansas City)
It’s the draft of the Ben tight ends! In addition to Watson and Troupe, future Titan Ben Hartsock was the fourth tight end chosen in the draft. This was originally the Texans’ second round pick. I thought Troupe was a serious possibility at #27, so I was initially happy with the pick as the Titans clearly needed a receiving tight end with the retirement of Frank Wycheck. Alas and alack, Troupe was never able to translate his athletic gifts into football skills. He was initially productive, with 33 and 55 receptions his first two seasons, but was surpassed on the depth chart by Bo Scaife when VY supplanted Collins early in the ’06 season and is now out of football. The best tight end in the 2004 draft was probably Chris Cooley, who went to the Redskins 81st overall.

2-42 DE Travis LaBoy, Hawaii
Previous Pick: Tatum Bell
Next Pick: RB Julius Jones, Notre Dame (Dallas)
Previous DE: 2-35 Igor Olshansky, Oregon (San Diego)
Next DE: Antwan Odom
It’s the Titans’ second 2nd round pick, and we’re not to their natural draft slot yet. This pick was acquired from the New York Jets for restricted free agent Justin McCareins; given how McCareins has performed since that trade, that was a pretty good deal for the Titans. With Jevon Kearse departing for greener pastures in Philadelphia (no pun intended), the Titans needed pass rushers. Travis never was able to establish a firm starting position with the Titans, with 20 overall but 11 of those in 2006. He had 6.5 sacks in 2005 and 6.0 in 2007 before signing with Arizona to a good free agent contract that lasted a year before he got cut. He’s apparently looking to get back after sitting out all last year with injuries; good luck with that.

2-57 DE Antwan Odom, Alabama
Previous Pick: FS Madieu Williams, Maryland (Cincinnati)
Next Pick: CB Shawntae Spencer, Pittsburgh (San Francisco)
Previous DE: Travis LaBoy
Next DE: 2-63, Marquise Hill, LSU (New England)
The reason I started doing these draft reviews with the next pick and previous pick, both overall and for the position, is I wanted to put in perspective what kind of players these guys were drafted around. Alas, when the previous pick at the position is another Titan, that’s not very helpful. Odom outperformed LaBoy in a Tennessee uniform, at least in terms of getting on the field-he started 8 games as a rookie, 9 his sophomore campaign, 2 of 4 he played in 2006 (injury), and all 16 in 2007, but 2007 was the only year he got to the quarterback, as it was then he had 8.0 of his 12.5 sacks. He departed the next offseason for greener pastures in Cincinnati, where he has yet to play a full season. He was clearly preferred to LaBoy, but was never a true impact player for the Titans.

3-71 DT Randy Starks, Maryland
Previous Pick: CB Joey Thomas, Montana State (Green Bay)
Next Pick: DT Donnell Washington, Clemson (Green Bay)
Previous DT: 3-64 Darnell Dockett, FSU (Arizona)
Next DT: Donnell Washington
Originally the Texans’ pick. When I think Randy Starks, I think one game against the Jaguars in 2007, I believe. It was a 4th and 1, and Albert Haynesworth was out for a rest/conveniently-timed injury, and replaced by Randy Starks. The Jaguars did a power run at the right defensive tackle spot, Starks ended 5 yards downfield, the 4th down was converted, and the Titans went on to lose the game. Like Odom and LaBoy, Starks departed for greener pastures after his rookie deal was up, this time in Miami. The youngest player in the NFL when he was drafted, it took Starks until the season he turned 26 to come into his own. Pity that wasn’t with the Titans. Pity more that Darnell Dockett, a far superior player, was the previous DT drafted, and who knows, maybe they could’ve still gotten Odom here.

3-92 CB Rich Gardner, Penn State
Previous Pick: DE Anthony Hargrove, Georgia Tech (St. Louis)
Next Pick: LB Keyaron Fox, Georgia Tech (Kansas City)
Previous DB: 3-89 Matt Ware, UCLA (Philadelphia)
3-85 CB Jeremy LeSueur, Michigan (Denver)
Next DB: 3-95 S Guss Scott, Florida (New England)
4-102 CB Will Poole, USC (Miami)
15 games his rookie year, 13 games his second year. 1 start, in the 2004 MASH Unit secondary. On the street after that. Time on the Seahawks roster in 2006, though no game appearances. B-U-S-T. Jeremy LeSueur, Guss Scott, and Will Poole were no better, if that’s any consolation. Didn’t think so.

4-103 DE Bo Schobel, TCU
Previous Pick: CB Will Poole, USC (Miami)
Next Pick: DT Isaac Sopoaga, Hawaii (San Francisco)
Previous DE: 4-97 Reggie Torbor, Auburn (New York Giants)
Next DE: 4-117 Robert Geathers, Georgia (Cincinnati)
Pick acquired from the Texans. Floyd Reese’s “throw lots of bodies at a position and hope one or more of them ends up good” strategy is quite evident by now. Schobel appeared in 13 games over 2 years, recorded a sack, and ended up on the street. Backup for the Colts in ’06, a little for the Cardinals in ’07, now out of football. Both Torbor and Geathers are still playing. Shaun Phillips (granted, 3-4 OLB) was the pick after Torbor. Nathan Vasher went 7 picks later, and while the Titans shouldn’t sign him, he’s still had a much better career than Gardner or Schobel.

4-124 CB Michael Waddell, North Carolina
Previous Pick: T Stacy Andrews, Ole Miss (Cincinnati)
Next Pick: CB Jason David, Washington State (Indianapolis)
Previous CB: 4-121 Bruce Thornton, Georgia (Dallas)
Next CB: Jason David
With certain exceptions (Vasher, David was a useful zone corner in Indy), addressing CB after the mid-3rd round tends to be a losing strategy. In a recurring theme, Waddell was on the street after 2 years and appeared to be out of football until playing 1 game for the Raiders in 2008. See what happens when you’re nice to a drunk guy in a bar and assume someone else’s identity? Ok, I made that part up, but Waddell was not very good. You know who’s much better? Jared Allen, who went 2 picks later. Yes, in an ideal world, the Titans draft Nathan Vasher and Jared Allen, and instead they end up with Schobel and Waddell.

5-138 G Jacob Bell, Miami-Ohio
Previous Pick: K Josh Scobee, LaTech (Jacksonville)
Next Pick: DT Rodney Leisle, UCLA (New Orleans)
Previous G: 3-94 Travelle Wharton, South Carolina (Carolina)
Next G: 5-141 Jake Scott, Idaho (Indianapolis)
The first pick about which I can say unreservedly good things! Well, mostly, at least, as Bell was forced into play at left guard as a rookie after Zach Piller’s season-ending injury and performed pretty well. He returned to the bench in 2005, showed he wasn’t a right tackle early in 2006, and then returned to left guard where he was a solid performer for the rest of that year and 2007 before signing a good free agent deal with the Rams. As far as 5th round picks go, this is pretty much a home run. Yes, it’s kind of ironic the Titans signed Scott to replace Bell, but I remind you that Scott was cheaper than Bell despite playing a harder position.

5-165 LB Rob Reynolds, Ohio State
Previous Pick: WR P.K. Sam, FSU (New England)
Next Pick: DE Shawn Johnson, Delaware (Oakland)
Previous LB: 5-160 Tony Bua, Arkansas (Miami)
Next LB: 6-182 Cody Spencer, North Texas (Oakland)
Ah, Rob Reynolds. Jim Sorgi knows him well in college. He spent two years on special teams, then had more fun with the law for a domestic incident, plus substance use issues that ended his NFL career. In terms of on the field production, he’s about what you’d expect for an average fifth round pick.

6-191 RB Troy Fleming, Tennessee
Previous Pick: C Josh Sewell, Nebraska (Denver)
Next Pick: DB Dexter Wynn, Colorado State (Philadelphia)
Previous RB: 5-162, Thomas Tapeh, Minnesota (Philadelphia)
Next RB: 7-208 Adimchinobe Echemandu, Cal (Cleveland)
Yup, spent a draft pick on a local guy. Fullback was a position of need for the Titans, so Fleming got to fill it for two seasons before mediocre blocking and a propensity to drop the fullback put Ahmard Hall on the team and him on the street. Josh Sewell made such an impact on the NFL his position isn’t even listed on the NFL’s website. The best fullback in the draft was Mike Karney, taken in the 5th round between Bell and Reynolds.

7-230 DT Jared Clauss, Iowa
Previous Pick: K David Kimball, Penn State (Indianapolis)
Next Pick: T Kevin Sampson, Syracuse (Kansas City)
Previous DL: 7-210 DE Raheem Orr, Rutgers (Houston)
Next DL: 7-234 DE Trevor Johnson, Nebraska (New York Jets)
Jared had an excellent Wonderlic score and didn’t play very much for the Titans. The Jaguars drafted Bobby McCray 19 picks later, but the 7th round was, like pretty much every 7th round, replete with players who had as little or even less of an impact than Clauss.

7-239 C Eugene Amano, Southeast Missouri State
Previous Pick: C Larry Turner, Eastern Kentucky (St. Louis)
Next Pick: OLB Colby Bockwoldt, BYU (New Orleans)
Previous C: Larry Turner
Next C: 7-243 Dominic Furio, UNLV (Philadelphia)
Like most 7th round picks, Amano didn’t have an immediate impact. He started a couple games on 2004′s injury ravaged line, but hardly played the next two seasons and I thought he might end up on the street when the Titans drafted Leroy Harris. But, he did finally crack the lineup when Kevin Mawae suffered his 2007 season-ending injury and moved in to the left guard spot the last two seasons and got a good free agent deal this season. As far as 7th round picks go, this is pretty much another home run.

7-241 TE Sean McHugh, Penn State
Previous Pick: Colby Bockwoldt
Next Pick: RB Bruce Perry, Maryland (Philadelphia)
Previous TE: 7-237 Erik Jensen, Iowa (St. Louis)
Next TE: 7-245 Courtney Anderson, San Jose State (Oakland)
So, with Erron Kinney and Shad Meier on the team, and having drafted Ben Troupe in the 2nd round, the Titans draft Sean McHugh. I’m sure there was a very good explanation for this beyond “we need another rookie tight end for Dwayne Blakely to outperform in training camp”, but I don’t remember what it was. The former Nittany Lion didn’t make it out of training camp with the Titans but did have a little bit of an NFL career, including 12 starts and 17 receptions for the 2007 Lions.

On balance, the 2004 draft class seems to occupy somewhat of a weird space in Titans history. A number of the players played, or maybe should have played, key roles on the mediocre 2005 and 2006 teams. A decent number of them are still in the NFL or could well be playing in 2010, but none really proved to be an impact player for the Titans. The 2005 and 2006 teams should have been led more by players in the 2002 and 2003 draft classes, but aside from Big Albert, those classes had their own issues (and Albert had his own issues). There are a couple picks I regarded as almost unequivocally good, but they’re late round interior offensive linemen, not really the stuff dreams are made of. This was a much better draft than 2003, but the need for great players would have to be met in another draft. Thankfully, that’s next year’s story.

This is the 6th year for which I’ve done this little exercise. For past efforts, see 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003. See also Football Outsiders’ annual 2004 draft retrospective, a prior incarnation of which is what inspired me to start posting these to the web. See also the full 2004 draft list.

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