Let the fireworks begin. In his first draft as an NFL general manager, San Diego's A.J. Smith ignored all the pre-draft hyperventilation and picked what he sees as the best player to help the struggling Chargers. Now, of course, comes the hard part: convincing the QB from a QB-rich family -- Eli may end up being better than his brother or his dad -- to sign with the downtrodden Chargers rather than sitting out a year or forcing a trade.
When they talk about Iowa farmboys, this is exactly who they're talking about. Gallery, a mountain range of a tackle, could be -- heck, at this point, he better be -- an immovable force on the left side of the Raiders' line for years to come. Rich Gannon, and Raiders quarterbacks to come, will thank Al Davis for making Gallery the pick. A guy like this can make a passing game go.
Already, prep ballplayers all over the country are applying to be ballboys at the next Cardinals' training camp. Hey, it worked for the tall and sweet-handed Fitzgerald, who did ballboy duties for Arizona head coach Dennis Green when Green was head coach in Minnesota. One question. Does Green really believe that Josh McCown is the man to throw the ball in Arizona?
Hmmmm. This looks like trade bait at this point. Rivers is good, mind you. He may be the best QB in the draft. He completed 72 percent of his passes last year. He was ACC player of the year. He set all sorts of school and conference records. He's big and strong, too. But he's not pretty to watch, and that bugs a lot of analysts. Lots of teams like Ben Roethlisberger better. Still, Rivers could stay with the Giants, eventually to take Kerry Collins' place. Or the Giants, who clearly like Manning better, could make a deal with the Chargers to swap first-round QBs because the Chargers are on the record as saying they like Rivers, too. Note to Rivers: Wait a while before you sign that lease on the New York apartment.
In his return to the NFL, new/old coach Joe Gibbs got only one pick in this draft, and he surprised many by going with the other top-ranked Miami player in the draft, the defensive one. Gibbs evidently likes the hard-hitting safety, who is as good in run support as playing free safety, to help a defense that ranked 25th in the league in '03, and it's not a bad pick at all. But Kellen Winslow Jr., the Miami TE, would have worked for this team, too. Winslow will be coming up soon, though.
Like right now. Winslow -- whose dad was one of the best TEs in NFL history -- can make a world of difference for the Browns, who had the 26th ranked offense last season and traded up to get Winslow. The younger Winslow is not a great blocker, but he's big and a very good receiver who is fast enough to outrun linebackers and stretch the defense and physical enough to fight off the line. A lot of teams had him way up, like No. 1 or 2, on their draft boards. Jeff Garcia will love this guy.
Williams and the Lions' first-round choice last season, Charles Rogers, should combine to give Joey Harrington a dangerous young receiving tandem to throw to. This is a great pick for the Lions at this point. The Lions had the worst offense in the NFL in '03. How can this not help? Yeah, the Lions still need a running game -- last season, they averaged 83.6 running yards a game, worst in the league -- but they picked up a second-round pick in swapping places with the Browns, so look for Detroit to look at some running backs there.
New coach Jim Mora Jr. did the no-brainer here, going with defense and Hall, who may not have been way high on a lot of boards, but he's somebody who fits the biggest need with the Falcons. The Falcons had the worst defense in the NFL last season, and the 29th-ranked pass defense. Hall is not big, but he's speedy and will help immediately. Plus, he gets to play with his college mate, Michael Vick. A quick note at this point of the draft: eight picks and this is only the second defensive player taken.
Well, the Jags need a wideout. Badly. But Jack Del Rio is a defensive guy, and a lot of analysts expected Del Rio to go defense with this pick, especially with all the good defensive players left on the board. But Del Rio and the Jacksonville brain trust figured the need was more acute on offense, so here's Williams, who will pair with veteran Jimmy Smith to become Byron Leftwich's main targets. He's big. He can catch. He'll help.
The Texans had to have a defensive player, and Robinson is a great pick at this point. The Texans were last in the league in pass defense, so getting help there was a priority. In Robinson, they get a player -- a guy who is fast and explosive off the line. QB Roethlisberger is still out there. But there will be a run on defense soon.
Lots of guys liked Roethlisberger more than Manning or Rivers -- certainly Rivers. The Steelers were among them, but probably figured he wouldn't be around at this point. Well, surprise! Roethlisberger may have the biggest arm of any QB in the draft, though he's not the smoothest mover out there. The Steelers have been struggling at this position for years. They thought for a while that Tommy Maddox may have been the answer. Well, not any more. Roethlisberger looks like the guy Pittsburgh wanted and needed.
Another Hurricane? Vilma is the first linebacker taken -- the first non-secondary defensive player -- and he fills a big need for the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets, who were 28th against the run last season. Vilma is not a guy who will blow you away, but he always seems to be around the ball and he's a smart player that will not be taken out of a play. Three Miami players in the first 12 picks. And these guys didn't win the national championship?
The Bills stunk in the passing game last year -- they ranked 28th -- once Peerless Price left for Atlanta and Eric Moulds disappeared into mediocrity. So GM Tom Donahoe and new coach Mike Mularkey pulled the trigger on Evans, who missed the 2002 season after a knee injury in spring practice but averaged 19 yards a catch last season for Wisconsin. Drew Bledsoe has to like this pick.
The Bears probably need help more on offense, but Harris was too high on the board at this point to ignore. The first defensive lineman taken, he's the Lombardi Award winner. The word on him is high motor, good tackler, very good side-to-side movement. He could fit right in with an organization that, historically speaking, prizes that kind of player on its defense.
Well, the TV guys were talking running back, but instead Jon Gruden & Co. go with a wideout, the fifth wide receiver and sixth receiver (counting TEs) taken in the first round. There are some questions about his speed, but with Keenan McCardell and Joey Galloway, Clayton should fit in fine in what has become a major rebuilding job in Tampa Bay.
The Eagles traded up, giving up a second-rounder to San Francisco to get to the 16th pick, to get Andrews, a mammoth right tackle who ballooned to 400 pounds at one point this offseason. Obviously, if Andrews keeps his weight under control, this can help. But now that Duce Staley is gone, are the Eagles happy with Correll Buckhalter and Brian Westbrook? There hasn't been a running back taken to this point. You gotta wonder.
We say again. How did the Hurricanes not win the national championship? The fourth player taken from Miami in the first round, Williams is a great defender against the run. There are some real questions about the Broncos going defense with this pick instead of offense. But coach Mike Shanahan has had some success finding running backs in lower spots, and he simply must not feel good enough about the offense players available at this point to go that way. Williams on the outside, Al Wilson on the inside ? that's pretty good.
Obviously, the Saints need some defense. They were 28th in the league against the pass last season. So they looked for someone who can put the rush on to disrupt the passing game and got him in Smith, the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year. The Saints have two second-round picks and are expected to go defense with them, too. When you give up almost 188 yards a game passing, you need all the defense you can get.
Is it a first round in the NFL Draft without Minnesota messing around? The Vikes swapped their first-round pick, 19th overall, to Miami, which had the 20th pick. Miami must have wanted to move up pretty badly to trade to go one spot. Whatever, the Dolphins did what they had to with this, taking the offensive line help they so badly need. That's Carey, a huge guard who helps solidify an offense that picked up wideout David Boston in the offseason.
Udeze fell a long way in this draft, making this a great pick for the Vikings -- whether they planned it that way or not. They needed a pass-rushing end, and with Udeze, they have what many figured was the best one in the draft. There are concerns about Udeze having a bad shoulder, which is probably why he fell so far. But for the long-term, this may be one of the best picks in the first round, solidifying a Minnesota front that already was pretty solid.
Arguably the best defensive tackle in the draft, Wilfork is the sixth -- sixth! -- member of the Miami Hurricanes to be taken in the first round, a record. How they didn't win the national championship ? OK, we've been over that. With big Ted Washington going to Oakland in the offseason, Wilfork could fill a big hole -- yeah, a big one -- for the defending Super Bowl champions. No running backs taken yet. That's about to change, everyone figures.
The Bills gave up a lot to move up and trade with the Cowboys to get to this pick -- forfeiting a second-rounder and fifth-rounder in this draft and a first-rounder in the 2005 draft -- and with it took a big risk in grabbing Tulane's Losman, the fourth QB taken. A lot of the thinking on this move has to do with an aging and costly Drew Bledsoe. But lots has to do with Losman's big arm, too, and his raw talent. Losman's got an attitude, evidently, so you either like him or not. He's for-sure a backup this year, at best, to Bledsoe. So this is a risk -- just like taking RB Willis McGahee was last year for the Bills.
Big kid, big need in Seattle. And still no running backs taken in this draft. Will the Bengals, who have the next pick, take an RB even though they just gave the job to Rudi Johnson after trading away Corey Dillon? We'd be a little surprised. Tubbs is not the best defensive middleman in this draft -- come on, now, we are getting toward the end of Round 1 here -- but he should fit in on a team that is retooling after the release of John Randle and Chad Eaton.
Well, the Rams traded up to take the Bengals' spot here and select the first running back taken in this draft, which turns out to be the second-longest first-round drought for a runner in the draft's history. Now the Rams have two backs who can catch the ball -- Jackson and that Marshall Faulk guy. Jackson's not especially speedy, but he's tough, and his pass-catching abilities make him a nice fit for Mike Martz's offense.
Carroll's on the short side, and he has some technical problems, but he knows how to play the position. The Packers, clearly, were taken by his speed above anything else. Mike McKenzie and Al Harris are the corners now, and if they stay, there could be some interesting competition. The Pack likes using multiple DBs, too, so Carroll will help there. This is a bit of a reach for the Pack. It's a little high for him. But ? eh.
A lot of people like Virginia Tech's Kevin Jones as the next-best RB, but the Bengals decided to go with Perry, who immediately becomes Rudi Johnson's backup. Perry is a plowhorse, not a showhorse, and that fits coach Marvin Lewis just fine. Plus, the Bengals still have a lot of picks left. At this point in the draft, we're not talking franchise-changers, generally. If the Bengals are right, though, Perry could help lead them to their first winning season since 1990.
Another trade. Houston gave up a lot to grab this pick from Tennessee. The Texans selected Babin, who should help that league-worst pass defense by putting some rush on the quarterback. Babin is a strong kid who has an awful lot of speed, too. The Texans are sticking to their plan -- defense, defense and more defense -- which is exactly what they needed to do.
The Panthers talked the 49ers out of this pick -- and down to the 31st pick overall -- to grab Gamble, a guy with not a lot of college experience but who has the skill to be a good pro corner. The Panthers need a good corner after losing Reggie Howard and Terry Cousin in the offseason. Gamble's an underclassman who could have used the extra seasoning in college. But, hey, he's a first round pick.
Man, there's more swapping going on right now than at a polygamist party. The Falcons got this pick from the Colts and selected Jenkins, a tall and rangy target for Michael Vick and a guy who will look good on the other side of the line from Peerless Price. The Falcons, for sure, could have gone defense here. They need it. But the Falcons have learned that even Vick can't do it alone. With their new West Coast offense, a helthy Vick and Jenkins, this offense is starting to look good.
Trade, trade and trade again. The fourth straight one. The Lions stepped into this spot, swapping with the Chiefs, to get their second first-round pick. And what a pick. After grabbing wideout Roy Williams with the No. 7 overall selection, the Lions grabbed Jones, a speedy guy with great moves and strength to burn. They've upgraded their poor offense to good, or better. Wow. They're the leaders in the clubhouse as best draft so far.
Not a bad move. Not a bad move at all. The 49ers dropped down twice and still got one of the better wide receivers in the draft, someone to replace Terrell Owens. Woods is not particularly fast but, then again, neither was Owens. And Woods' mouth is not nearly as offensive. There have been seven wideouts taken in the first round, plus a tight end. And we still have one pick to go.
Watson is a big TE, and the Patriots probably could use one, but ? well, Watson wasn't even the top-rated TE at this point. If you happen to be a TE, and your name happens to be Christian Fauria or Dan Graham, this is what's known as a "message." Clearly, coach Bill Belichick is looking for a little more. Watson may not be ready to step into a starting spot, but the Pats evidently see something there worth the taking. And are you going to argue with Belichick?