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NFL Draft: Take Two

5/13/2011
ESPN.com illustration

Some of us can't help fixing things.

Long ago we took the 1979 Best Picture Oscar from "Kramer vs. Kramer" and gave it to its rightful owner, "Apocalypse Now."

Halle Berry has now won Miss World 1986; forget the talk about her finishing sixth.

And don't even get us started on Jennifer Hudson.

Yet nothing needs fixing more than the NFL draft, which is the only monster event in American sports that gets breathless coverage and yet declares no winner and no loser. It's all poseurs and no closures.

Everybody leaves Radio City Music Hall giddy as a Girl Scout that they've drafted the greatest team since the 1972 Dolphins. Yet within three years, those drafts look like they were conducted by drunk chickens. But nobody ever calls them on it.

Until now.

With America's first-ever Official First Round Re-Draft, we figure out which teams know the draft and which are just daft. Talking to draft experts and using our own eyes, you'll find below the re-drafts of the first rounds of 2006, 2007 and 2008. Each draft was conducted as if you were drafting right now with the same pool of players, but now you have three years of watching them in the bank.

Maurice Jones-Drew isn't going to last long in the 2006 re-draft, but you can bet Matt Leinart will.

LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell may have gone first in the first 2007 draft, but at the Official Re-Draft, his phone never rings. (We finally had to sneak him out the back.)

The first five in the 2008 re-draft look pretty sweet now, don't they? Matt Ryan, Chris Johnson, DeSean Jackson, Ray Rice and Jamaal Charles. You remember Mel Kiper's mock draft having that?

Below you'll find re-drafts of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 first rounds. Each re-draft shows the player's new draft position, his old draft position, and how far he rose or fell. For instance, if a player (like Tennessee DB Cortland Finnegan) went 215th in the first draft but would go 15th now, he'd have a plus/minus score of +200. Some players, like former Jets DE Vernon Gholston, wouldn't be drafted at all now. So he falls from sixth overall to the last pick possible, 252nd, for a plus-minus of -246. Plus, you'll also see how your team ranked in the team plus/minus re-totals.

And what do we learn from all this?

We learn that there's a reason the re-draft champions, the New Orleans Saints, have finally become a power. They stopped wasting first-round picks (their worst, WR Robert Meachem, only fell 44 spots) and they've found more bargains than Yelp (linemen Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans, to name two -- a combined +243 -- both of whom would be first-rounders now).

We learn that the Seattle Seahawks draft like the Iraqi navy. They're the re-draft chumps, with two first-round picks who fell 160 places or more: DE Lawrence Jackson (-167) and CB Kelly Jennings (-210).

We learn that one of the biggest thefts of those three years was the Denver Broncos' choice of RB Peyton Hillis, who jumped 221 places, from the seventh round to sixth overall. Hillis was like finding the crown jewels in a Goodwill store. Too bad the Broncos then hocked the crown for a Glad bag full of dirt by trading Hillis (and two picks!) to Cleveland for the nearly extinct Brady Quinn (-233).

Easy come, hard go.

We learn that Houston Texans DE Mario Williams may have gone first in the 2006 draft, but in the -- wait, he goes first in the re-draft, too.

Lastly, we find out that over this three-year period, USC has the best publicity department in college football. The Trojans may have had a lot of players taken in those three first rounds, but no school's picks underperformed worse (Leinart, Reggie Bush, Keith Rivers and Sedrick Ellis fell a combined -382). Then again, Mark Sanchez and Clay Matthews will be counted when we get to fixing 2009-11.

Next up: U.S. presidential elections.


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Rick Reilly is the 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year. He contributes essays and commentary to "SportsCenter" and ESPN/ABC golf and tennis coverage. He's also the host of "Homecoming," ESPN's unique, one-hour interview show set in the hometowns of legendary athletes. For more Rick, check out the archive.

Feel like taking a detour from sane sports? Try Rick's new book, "Sports from Hell."