NFL Quick Shots: Draft mistakes don't have to hold teams hostage

Matt Trowbridge

Recent bad drafts, conventional wisdom says, give Mike Singletary little chance in San Francisco. The Chicago Tribune wrote that taking Alex Smith No. 1 overall in 2005 set the 49ers back five years.

If that’s true, how come Tennessee went into Monday night as the NFL’s only unbeaten team? The Titans (6-0) wasted two recent high draft picks, taking Adam “Pacman” Jones No. 6 overall in 2005, two picks after the Bears took Cedric Benson. Vince Young, the No. 3 overall pick in 2006, now sits on the bench.

Teams are only held hostage by bad drafts when they tie themselves to those players, regardless of performance. The Bears took Benson, yet went to the Super Bowl when they kept playing Thomas Jones. Green Bay took Aaron Rodgers with a first-round pick, yet was willing to keep him on the bench for three years. The Chargers added Philip Rivers, a No. 4 overall pick, but became an AFC power by sticking with Drew Brees until Brees got hurt.

The only teams “held hostage” by bad draft picks are the ones who hold themselves hostage. Like the Ravens with Kyle Boller or the Bucs, for years, with Trent Dilfer.

Are the Vikings through?

FOX Sports reported Sunday that Pro Bowl defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams, the anchors of Minnesota’s defense, could be suspended after testing positive for a masking agent during a random drug test. Similar transgressions have merited four-game suspensions in the past. The Vikings have already lost middle linebacker E.J. Henderson for the season with a foot injury. The Vikings (3-4), preseason NFC North favorites, look finished.

Packers stronger in secondary

Green Bay’s defense may improve as much as Minnesota’s falters after the bye week. The Packers’ secondary has been every bit as battered as Chicago’s, but Pro Bowl cornerback Al Harris seems ready to return from a spleen injury and hard-hitting safety Atari Bigby may finally be recovered from a hamstring injury. A week of rest should also help Charles Woodson, who has somehow been one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL despite a foot injury.

Tramon Williams was a pleasant surprise filling in for Harris. If Harris returns, Williams can move to nickel back. If so, the secondary, easily Green Bay’s defensive strength, will suddenly be stronger than ever.

Will Vikes go back to Tarvaris?

If Pat and Kevin Williams get suspended, Minnesota may have passed Detroit as the most dysfunctional team in the NFC North. The Vikings’ problems all began with tying the team’s fortunes for two years in a row to unproven quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. If the season goes south, Jackson may yet get another chance. And he should get a chance; he just never should have had the first chance guaranteed to him.

“I don’t think there is any downside to stepping away when it’s best for the team,” coach Brad Childress said two weeks ago, citing Kyle Orton’s emergence as proof. “It doesn’t need to be a death knell for Tarvaris Jackson. Just a step away and a learning process. There is no shelf life on a quarterback. Everybody does it a different way.”

Matt Trowbridge’s NFL Quick Shots appear Tuesdays. He can be reached at (815) 987-1383