At first glance from the title of this article, it might seem obvious that the Green Bay Packers would have been filled with regret had they passed on quarterback Aaron Rodgers during the 2005 NFL Draft. After all, he has turned into a future Hall-of-Famer as a two-time Most Valuable Player with seven Pro Bowl appearances. Following in Brett Favre’s footsteps was no easy chore and Rodgers’ personality was the perfect fit for that role.
However, Green Bay did not have to pick a quarterback in 2005 despite Rodgers’ fall from potential first overall pick to pick number 24. At the end of the day, choosing the best player available, even when he might not see the field for a few seasons, was far and away the best draft choice of Ted Thompson’s managerial career in Green Bay. But it was not always the most popular choice and Thompson could have gone multiple directions with his first pick in the draft.
Had he done so — or had Rodgers never fallen to the 24th pick at all — the entire Packers franchise and fan base may be looking back with a profound dismay. Here are some of the notable alternatives that were linked to Green Bay leading up to the draft and how they fared in their pro careers.
Talk about some luck. Had Rodgers not dropped toward the end of the first round, the Packers, like they had been for several years to that point with Favre’s career indecisiveness, could have still looked at the quarterback position.
The most widely-predicted option was Jason Campbell, soaring up draft boards after an undefeated season with the Auburn Tigers. Campbell was selected immediately after Rodgers by Washington and would have an inconsistent four-season stay in Washington before being traded to the Oakland Raiders and quickly losing his starting job. He would be a journeyman spot starter for the remainder of his nine-year career.
The other alternative? How about Charlie Frye? The Akron Zip’s name was floating around late-first to early-second round territory in late April, but ultimately landed in the beginning of the third round to Cleveland. Frye made 18 starts in his first two seasons with the Browns before losing the starting role to Brady Quinn and being traded to Seattle. With just five pro seasons, Frye’s career was not nearly as successful as some had pegged.
The Defensive Backs
Yikes! This was a group of players commonly associated with Green Bay’s 24th pick. The results speak for themselves.
- Fabian Washington - According to Bob McGinn after the draft, Green Bay liked Washington but the Nebraska cornerback was taken immediately before the Packers by the Oakland Raiders. A speedster with a 4.29-second 40-yard dash, Washington’s athleticism was not enough for a long pro career. He totaled six interceptions in six seasons with the Raiders and Baltimore Ravens before calling it a career.
- Marlin Jackson - A tweener safety-cornerback at the next level, the former Michigan Wolverine Jackson was selected 28th overall by Indianapolis. Like Washington, Jackson was a rumored Packer target who did not have a long NFL career, lasting just five seasons with 32 career starts and four interceptions.
- Brodney Pool - A safety out of Oklahoma, Pool was another player the Packers showed interest in. Drafted early in the second round, 34th overall by the Browns, Pool was a potential piece to fill a role in the back end of the Packers’ secondary. While a solid player, Pool was never a Pro Bowl performer despite making 67 starts over his seven-year career in Cleveland and New York. Green Bay, however, struck gold with another safety, Nick Collins, later on in the second round.
A number of players at other positions on the defensive side of the ball also stuck out in the pre-draft process. But none will ever be remembered for anything close to what Rodgers has achieved already in his career.
- Odell Thurman - One of Green Bay’s 30 visitors for a workout prior to the draft, the Georgia linebacker was a standout in his rookie year after being drafted by Cincinnati in the second round. But off-the-field issues centering around substance abuse and assault derailed Thurman’s career, leading him to be listed as one of the Bengals’ all-time draft busts. He was finished after just two years in the league.
- Luis Castillo - Versatility along the defensive line was Castillo’s calling card and he was a rumored target of Green Bay coming from Northwestern. But the selection of Rodgers dropped Castillo to 28th overall as the choice of the San Diego Chargers. Castillo started 79 of 82 games over his seven-year career as a solid but unspectacular pro player in the 3-4 defense.
- Erasmus James - The Wisconsin Badger slipped in the draft a little bit, but would have been difficult for the Packers to pass on if available. There was some disgust when the Minnesota Vikings took him 19th overall as a presumed pass-rushing demon. But the success James had in college never carried over to the NFL as he recorded just five sacks over a four-year pro career.
Weighing all alternatives, the Packers made an undoubtedly wise decision to select Rodgers in 2005. The short-term wait for Rodgers to start at quarterback paid long-term dividends and significantly influenced the trajectory of the franchise. For as great as the Rodgers pick was, bypassing him would have produced a polar opposite result in Green Bay.