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Forgotten First Rounders: 2005

Just over a month since the 2012 draft and football fans everywhere are chomping at the bit to see their new 1st (or 2nd) round prospects in camp. It’s at this time of year when every 1st round rookie is a future All Pro player and every second-year 1st round pick is on the verge of a huge break out year. Of course, history tells us that more than half of the guys taken in the 1st round of last month’s draft will fail to live up to their (lofty and unrealistic) expectations. Despite the years of hype in college, the hundreds of blog posts and articles, the thousands of hours of discussion both in the paid media and on the internet, many of the 2012 1st round picks will be forgotten just 5-7 years from now – unless your team is unlucky enough to have taken such a player.

While there are a few busts who will end up being remembered for a long time (Ryan Leaf for example), most 1st round flops – even top 10 picks- tend to be forgotten within a decade. Leaf is one of the few rare exceptions, due to his forever being linked to Peyton Manning. Even JaMarcus Russell is probably a guy who will be forgotten in time, outside of Oakland and the yearly pre-draft “Top-10 Bust” type articles.

The 2005 draft wasn’t even a decade ago, and already a number of its first round selections have been either forgotten entirely or, if they’re still around, provoke a “that guy was a 1st rounder?” type reaction. This particular draft class has a number of memorable (for now) 1st round busts and mediocrities: Alex Smith, Cedric Benson, Pacman Jones, Troy Williamson and Mike Williams were all top 10 picks and will probably all be forgotten by the end of the decade (other than Smith, the others might be forgotten much sooner). However, there was a stretch of 8 picks which produced a nearly unparalleled list of forgettable players:

Travis Johnson – DT – 16th overall – Houston Texans

He never really asserted himself as an interior lineman in Houston, and spent just 4 uneventful years in Houston before heading to San Diego for parts of 2 seasons and washing out of the league after 2010. Surprisingly, he was more productive than most of the 2005 DT class which was one of the worst in the last 20 years.

David Pollack – DE – 17th overall – Cincinnati Bengals

An injury bust, Pollack looked like he was headed for a nice career as a pass-rusher before a neck injury ended his career just 2 weeks into his second season.

Alex Barron – OT – 19th overall – St. Louis Rams

Barron wasn’t an especially bad player, being a near full time starter for 5 of his 6 seasons in the league. However, being a mediocre starter who took too many penalties on a mediocre (at best) line isn’t good enough for a top 20 pick. One has to wonder how long Barron would have survived on a deeper roster or one which had fewer qualms about dumping marginally productive and overpaid players regardless of draft status.

Marcus Spears – DL – 20th overall – Dallas Cowboys

Spears isn’t a bad player by any means, but being a productive run plugging 5-technique isn’t particularly flashy. He’s definitely a successful pick and has been a quality player but once his career is over, he will fade quickly from memory. Still, he will probably end up being in the top third of the 2005 1st rounders when everything is said and done.

Matt Jones – WR – 21st overall – Jacksonville Jaguars

Jones should serve as a cautionary tale and reminder that very raw guys with freaky size/speed and guys with position changes shouldn’t be overdrafted. While it was drugs that doomed his career, Jones’ on-field contributions wouldn’t have kept him around even had he stayed clean.

Mark Clayton – WR – 22nd overall – Baltimore Ravens

Like Spears, Clayton has enjoyed a decent but forgettable career. Other than a decent 2006 season (67 catches, 939 yards, 5 TD’s) he was underwhelming in Baltimore before moving onto St. Louis and tearing up his knee. Clayton is a good example of the “average” successful 1st rounder, especially outside of the top 10. Ravens fans probably consider him a disappointment, but given the very weak overall draft class, Clayton might actually end up in the top third of the 1st round in terms of success.

Fabian Washington – DB – 23rd overall – Oakland Raiders

A classic Al Davis pick, Washington was taken well before many draft prognosticators had him going and his 1st round selection seemed based solely on his 40 yard time. He played just 3 years in Oakland before heading to Baltimore for 3 years and ending up out of football last year after a brief stint on the Saints’ injured reserve.

Johnson, Pollack, Barron, Spears, Jones, Clayton, Washington – more than a fifth of the 1st round and all taken consecutively. Barring something very unexpected from Spears, this string of picks is already on their way to being long forgotten.

Of course, the next player selected, 24th overall, will be remembered for quite awhile – QB Aaron Rodgers.

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