Mark Craig: The cursed class

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 15, 2007 - 8:27 PM

The top 10 draft choices of 2005 have made their marks -- with injuries, suspensions and poor play.

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Vikings receiver Troy Williamson

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Vikings receiver Troy Williamson has only nine catches this season, and yet he's one of the more fortunate members among the top 10 picks from the 2005 NFL draft.

Other than Browns receiver Braylon Edwards, who is tied for second in the NFL with 10 touchdown receptions, this has been a cursed season for that select group.

There have been three season-ending knee injuries, one year-long suspension and one demotion. And one player who is out of the league entirely.

The first pick overall, San Francisco's Alex Smith, runs the NFL's worst offense as one of the league's lowest-rated starting quarterbacks (57.2). The fourth overall pick, Chicago's Cedric Benson, averages 3.0 yards per carry in a heretofore failed attempt to be a workhorse running back.

And that leaves Williamson, whose:

1, Knees are intact; 2, Personal conduct isn't an issue; and 3, Is still drawing an NFL paycheck, although the Vikings had to be shamed into cutting him one last week when he left the team for an extended period because of his grandmother's death.

"Of course, I'd like to make my mark among those guys in my [draft] class," said Williamson, who has a modest 70 career catches for 986 yards and three touchdowns. "But when you look at it, you got to look at the opportunities and some of the types of systems and the things that other people do in their offenses. There's a different type of situation I'm in, or other guys are in that I'm not in."

He's right. The Vikings' offense is terrible, and the quarterback situation is worse. But Williamson hasn't lived up to expectations, either.

"It's been a lot of ups and downs, because of a bunch of stuff," said Williamson, who has only 159 yards receiving (17.7-yard average) and one TD this season.

Things could be worse.

Cornerback Pacman Jones, the sixth overall pick by the Titans, is serving his year-long suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Cornerback Antrel Rolle, the eighth overall pick by the Cardinals, lost his starting job to Roderick Hood, who was undrafted in 2003.

And then there are the unfortunate breaks. Ronnie Brown (second overall, Dolphins), Cadillac Williams (fifth overall, Buccaneers) and Carlos Rogers (ninth overall, Redskins) all suffered serious knee injuries this season.

And then there is Mike Williams, the 10th overall pick by the Lions. He failed in Detroit and was traded along with quarterback Josh McCown to the Raiders for only a fourth-round pick.

But even with his former USC position coach, Lane Kiffin, as Oakland's head coach, Williams failed again and was recently released.

"A number of things can happen to guys all of a sudden, especially when you get drafted that high," Kiffin said. "A kid is used to having no money and all of a sudden here is $13 million or whatever it is. So that can affect people, and some people can lose their motivation sometimes. I wish Mike nothing but the best of luck. We gave him a great opportunity. I stuck with him as long as I could. He wasn't able to take it as serious as he needed to be able to stay in this league and it's really a sad story."

In many cases, players closer to the bottom of the first round in 2005 have fared much better. Some of them include Patriots guard Logan Mankins (32nd), Steelers tight end Heath Miller (30), Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (11th), Chargers outside linebacker Shawne Merriman (12th) and Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell (25th).

"When I look at our class, I prefer to look at the good stuff like what Braylon is doing," Williamson said. "Yeah, you're going to have other things. Guys get in trouble, too, like Pacman. But stuff happens."

Mark Craig • mcraig@startribune.com

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