By Jay Clemons, SI.com
2005 -- LB Shawne Merriman, San Diego Chargers (12th overall)
Analysis: True story. When I was working for the Detroit Lions three years ago, one of my many tasks was to continually update the scouting department on all the online mock drafts (yes, they're very aware of who SI.com and ESPN.com, etc. have going at No. 94 in the fourth round!!!) Anyway, on the day before the draft, the scouting director asked me who I thought Detroit should take at No. 10. My response: "This is a defensive-heavy draft. A lot of stars. You can't go wrong with DeMarcus Ware or Derrick Johnson. But my pick would be the Merriman kid from Maryland."
Obviously, the Lions didn't heed my advice, drafting WR Mike Williams out of USC, arguably the only major bust of the '05 first round.
2004 -- OT Shawn Andrews, Philadelphia Eagles (16th overall)
Analysis: Leading up to the '04 draft, some pundits likened Andrews to Aaron Gibson, a '99 first-rounder at O-tackle who literally ate himself out of the league. The knock on Andrews: His girth may have helped him at Arkansas, but it would be a detriment in the NFL. Four years later, Andrews stands as one of the decade's most promising linemen.
2003 -- WR Andre Johnson, Houston Texans (3rd overall)
Analysis: Johnson didn't really qualify as "unsung" coming out of Miami, given his top-3 draft status. But at the time, he was the consensus runner-up at wide receiver to Charles Rogers, who hailed from Michigan State, my alma mater. Using the "eyeball test," I always had the feeling Johnson, when healthy, would be a dominating presence in the NFL. As a personal preference, provided both players have similar speed and quickness, I will always choose the physical receiver with a thicker build (Johnson) to the tall, lanky one (Rogers) who may never exceed 200 pounds in his NFL career. Of course, I can be way, way wrong sometimes using that theory (see David Boston and Michael Clayton).
2002 -- OT Levi Jones, Cincinnati Bengals (10th overall)
Analysis: It would be highly disingenuous for me to say I knew Jones, a standout at Arizona State, would be a perennial Pro Bowl candidate. After all, who really watches offensive linemen in college? But, how can anyone forget the venom the ESPN draft-day crew (Mel Kiper, Jr -- I'm looking in your direction) had for the Bengals taking Jones at No. 10 in 2002. Look, it's very convenient to knock the Cincinnati brain trust over the years. But the club has a great track record in O-lineman (Anthony Munoz, Willie Anderson, etc.); and I, in turn, trusted their judgment at the time.
2001 -- OG Steve Hutchinson, Seattle Seahawks (17th overall)
Analysis: This could've been one of the biggest no-brainers for the 17th slot in NFL history. Hutchinson, a starter on Michigan's national championship team of 1997 as a freshman, may have had the best college resume for any guard in the last 30 years. And now, he anchors the best run-blocking offensive line in football (the Minnesota Vikings) ... with the next candidate for 2,000 rushing yards (Adrian Peterson).
1999 -- CB Antoine Winfield, Buffalo Bills (23rd overall)
Analysis: Charles Woodson may have clinched his Heisman Trophy in the Michigan-Ohio State game of 1997. But Winfield, a cornerback for the Buckeyes, was the runaway choice for "Best Player on the Field" on that day. With his sublime cover skills (18 career interceptions) and penchant for bone-jarring hits against the run, Winfield, in my opinion, is one of the most complete DBs in the last 30 years.
1997 -- LB/DE Trevor Pryce, Denver Broncos (28th overall)
Analysis: From the day Pryce stepped foot on Michigan's campus, and later transferred to Clemson, he had the physical makeup of a 10 to 15-year pro, barring injury. Seventy-nine NFL sacks later, Pryce can retire in peace, knowing he had a great impact on the league.
By Jay Clemons, SI.com
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