We're just a few short days away from the start of the 2011 NFL Draft which begins in primetime on Thursday night with the first round. The second and third rounds will also be in primetime, only a day later on Friday evening. Rounds four through seven will take place on Saturday.
As the real deal rapidly approaches, let's continue with our countdown of the top ten draft 'successes' and 'busts' of the Kevin Colbert era (2000-present) with the No. 3 'bust', OLB/DE Alonzo Jackson, taken in the second round of the 2003 Draft.
Now, I know some of you are going to jump down my throat for not having Jackson higher than No. 3. In fact, one longtime loyal reader, a guy who makes regular appearances on the air in South Florida and clearly knows a thing or two about the game said this recently: 'if Alonzo Jacksson is not number one on this list, then you've lost all credibility with me.' Something to that affect at least.
Well, at the risk of losing a great reader, I'm not putting Jackson at No. 1. The former Florida State defensive end was drafted with the 59th overall pick in the 2003 Draft. For us non-math majors, that's just a few picks shy of where the Steelers are picking in 2011 following their run to SB XLVIII. In other words, Jackson wasn't taken near the front end of the second round, but instead near the very end. But that doesn't really matter. If you think about it, there's really not tons separating prospects Nos. 25-75 in any given year. The cream of the crop is typically fairly identifiable. But after that, there's a big pool of guys that look a lot alike in terms of physical meausurables, college productivity, etc.
Anyway, Jackson was a big bust, but he had some stiff competition at linebacker. In 2003, his rookie year, here's who was ahead of him on the depth chart. (Age).
Inside Linebackers: James Farrior (27); Kendell Bell (25)
Outside Linebackers: Jason Gildon (31); Joey Porter (26)
That's three guys in their absolute prime, but the veteran Gildon who was playing his final year in the 'Burgh. Presumably Jackson was drafted to take over the starting duties from Gildon in 2004, or at the very latest, 2005.
Fast forward to 2004, and here's the depth chart at LB.
Linebackers: James Farrior (28); Larry Foote (24)
Outside Linebackers: Joey Porter (27); Clark Haggans (27)
Again, a year after trying to win playing over time an budding star in Joey Porter and a proven veteran in Gildon, Jackson found himself vying against Porter, and Clark Haggans, who had gradually learned the ropes of the system in the early stages of his career. Haggans was at the time in the peak of his physical prime at 27 years of age. As was too often the case during the Bill Cowher era, the older veteran got the nod over the younger player. Haggans more than held his own during the Steelers' magical 15-1 season, but it's not necessarily a foregone conclusion that Jackson wouldn't have been able to play at a sufficiently high level on that year's solid defense.
Throw in the fact that Haggans was a fifth rounder and had produced at a high level in '04, it's not too surprising that Jackson was cut before the '05 season. Haggans could be counted on to provide complimentary production opposite Porter, and at a very reasonable price. Why hang on to a second rounder and try to mold him into something as he was approaching the end of his rookie contract and ready to hit free agency for the first time? Just a smart business decision by the Steelers. And Haggans made the organization look smart with a 9 sack season during the Steelers' Super Bowl winning '05 season.
What's troublesome though is how Jackson failed to make any sort of impact elsewhere after leaving the Steelers following the '04 season. He would play just nine more games in the NFL, all in '05 with two teams -- the Giants and Eagles.
As i'll elaborate on in the next post, there's other guys worthy of being listed higher when you consider the circumstances of the team in the year they were drafted. Jackson was certainly a huge disappointment, a name that will forever be mentioned as one the all-time 'busts' in franchise history. But he doesn't belong at the top of the list like some would like you to believe.
Kevin Colbert's Top 10 Draft 'Busts'
Kevin Colbert's Top 10 Draft 'Successes'
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