These first-day draft picks will help their teams right away
Posted: Monday April 26, 2004 12:12AM; Updated: Wednesday April 28, 2004 4:40PM
We all know about the Big Three QBs -- Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger -- and how their arrivals will impact the Giants, Chargers and Steelers, respectively. But several other first-day draft picks also may have an immediate impact on their teams:
Lee Evans (No. 13)
A season without Peerless Price proved one thing to the Bills: the need for speed. And Evans has plenty of that, but he is also very adept at catching the ball. As a Buffalo newspaper pointed out, Evans is no Bucky Brooks, a second-round pick from North Carolina in 1994 who washed out without catching a single pass. And the Bills threw 541 of them that year. "[Evans] is appealing in his speed and his ability to make big plays," GM Tom Donahoe said. "We felt that he was a complete receiver. There are a lot of guys that are fast who struggle catching the ball. Lee is a fast guy who can catch. That's a nice combination to have."
D.J. Williams (No. 17)
While Ian Gold is mining the free-agent market, D.J. Williams is laying claim to the Broncos' weakside LB spot. Or he could play strongside, given the on- and off-field uncertainty surrounding John Mobley, who will be entering his ninth season and is facing jail time for a drunken-driving conviction. Williams also brings a winning attitude to Denver; he was 36-0 in high school and 46-4 at Miami. "[Williams] runs extremely fast," head coach Mike Shanahan said. "He's a 4.5 guy, [and has] real strong character. Coaches brag [about] him, [saying] that he's a coach on the field."
Vernon Carey (No. 19)
The Dolphins watched as Philly moved from No. 28 to snare Arkansas T Shawn Andrews at No. 16, so with the top tackles off the board (Oakland took Robert Gallery at No. 2) Miami had to rev up its efforts to land an elite O-lineman. The Dolphins swung a trade with Minnesota to garner the No. 19 pick and selected Vernon Carey, who can play either guard or tackle. John St. Clair is penciled in as the starting right tackle, with Carey behind him, but do not expect Carey to play second fiddle for long. And even if Miami opts to go with St. Clair at tackle, Carey may slide into a starting guard spot this season.
Jake Grove (No. 45)
So just what did the Jon Gruden booty land the Raiders? Either by picks or trades involving selections obtained from Tampa Bay, the Raiders now have Phillip Buchanon, Langston Walker, Tyler Brayton and this year's No. 45 choice, center Jake Grove. Regarded as the top center prospect in this year's draft, Grove should quickly make his way into the Raiders' O-line, joining Robert Gallery, the No. 2 overall pick, to help rejuvenate Oakland's line.
Travis LaBoy (No. 42), Antwan Odom (No. 57)
Don't get ahead of yourselves, Titans fans, but a Freak is back. Antwan "Freak" Odom, that is. With Jevon Kearse leaving via free agency, Carlos Hall is expected to fill his void at right defensive end; Kevin Carter is expected to play more tackle this season. That leaves Travis LaBoy and Odom, the Titans' second and third draft picks in Round 2, in line to garner a lot of PT on the left side. LaBoy was the WAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2003, and Odom is a junior who declared early for the draft. Tennessee spent eight of its 13 picks on defense, including three DEs and two DTs.
Derrick Strait (No. 76)
Postseason honors mean zilch between the lines, but you have to like the resume Derrick Strait has compiled: consensus All-American, winner of the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back, winner of the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation's top defensive player. Given that the Jets landed Strait in the third round may come as a comfort to incumbent CBs David Barrett, Donnie Abraham, Jamie Henderson and Ray Mickens -- but it shouldn't. "We feel very fortunate that Derrick was sitting there for us in the third round," GM Terry Bradway said. "A lot of people had him projected higher, as we did. But we're very pleased to have him."
B. Duane Cross is a senior producer for SI.com.