Lions, Pats top the board with additions on both sides of ball
Posted: Tuesday April 27, 2004 12:10PM; Updated: Wednesday April 28, 2004 1:53PM
Lions coach Steve Mariucci (left) and GM Matt Millen have a reason to smile about first-round picks Kevin Jones and Roy Williams.
Before I get into the serious business of evaluating the draft and assigning grades, like some demented college professor, let me just drop a few of my favorite one-liners on you, courtesy of ESPN, the eyes, ears, nose and voice of Draft Central.
From Suzy Kolber, talking about the need for careful scouting ..."as each one of these quarterbacks plays for his or her team ..." Yes, it's the "her" I'm most interested in, as are all the other leering draft voyeurs.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden on his No. 1 draft choice, WR Mike Clayton: "One of those players who'll roll his fists up and fight for you." Yeah, and clench his sleeves.
Ron Jaworski, evaluating a quarterback who's "tough in the pocket." Gee, Jaws, I didn't think you knew my ex-wife.
That's it for foolishness. On with the evaluating:
DETROIT LIONS -- All they did was pick up the guy some people consider the best WR in the draft (Roy Williams) and the best runner (Kevin Jones). Oh yes, and the consensus All-American OLB, Teddy Lehman, a heart and desire guy. They only had six picks, but their last two, ILB Alex Lewis and T Kelly Butler, are both considered sleepers with potential.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS -- Let's start with Corey Dillon, whom I consider their second-round pick, since that's what he cost them. Now let's add a couple of first-round choices, DT Vince Wilfork, a big guy who inherits the Ted Washington spot and TE Ben Watson, who broke the bank at the combine, showing some serious strength (34 reps of 225 pounds) and speed (4.50). He'll fit in nicely as a slot receiver, just as Doug Jolley did for the Super Bowl Raiders two years ago, remember? Had enough? Well, their next three picks, DE Marquise Hill, SS Guss Scott and FS Dexter Reid all had the same thing in common -- outstanding on-the-field performances, as did their very productive fourth-round runner, Cedric Cobbs. And for raw potential, there's 6-foot-3, 210-pound wideout P.K. Sam, another cog in that Florida State offensive machine.
ARIZONA CARDINALS -- Here's a prediction: Larry Fitzgerald, their No. 1 draft, and Anquan Boldin, last year's rookie sensation, will catch more balls than any two receivers on the same team in the NFL. I'll take 12-5 odds and you can have the field. Waddya say? (All bets are off in case of injury). Their second round choice, OLB Karlos Dansby, is a good speed-and-pursuit guy, and if they can light a fire under their third-round DT, Darnell Dockett, they'll really have something special. I think their fourth-rounder, C Alex Stepanovich, will step in and play as a rookie, but I feel that they're kidding themselves with their last pick, QB John Navarre.
OAKLAND RAIDERS -- T Robert Gallery is the consensus choice for best player in the draft. Second rounder Jake Grove is the best center. Al Davis loves speed, so he drafted 4.45 FS Stuart Schweigert, who has great ball skills, and WR Carlos Francis, whose hand-timed 4.31 was the best 40 at the Combine. Johnnie Morant, a big, possession wideout, was projected a lot higher than the fifth round, which was where the Raiders got him.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS -- You could say that they got bullied out of the Eli Manning pick, but honest, they really got the QB they wanted in Philip Rivers, plus the Giants' No. 1 next year. Pretty good for openers, huh? The second round and 35th overall pick might have been a little high for Ukrainian-born DT Igor Olshansky, but this guy has nothing but upside ahead of him. The extra third-round choice they got from the Giants brought them the best collegiate kicker, Nate Kaeding, and their other No. 3, Nick Hardwick, is an athletic center on the rise.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS -- If you believe, as I do, that Ben Roethlisberger eventually will prove to be the best QB in the draft, then you award the Steelers a high grade. It might take a couple of years, so bear with me. Second rounder Ricardo Colclough was rated by some as the third-best CB, and if the coaches can get 6-7, 350-pound tackle Max Starks thinking mean thoughts, they might have something special there, too.
Atlanta hopes CB DeAngelo Hall will help fix their suspect secondary.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
ATLANTA FALCONS -- Into their decimated secondary steps DeAngelo Hall, the draft's top corner, and a low-rounder, Etric Pruitt, who's a good, instinctive FS, just watch. Wideout Mike Jenkins at 6-4 1/2-218 is about the same size as holdover Brian Finneran, but Jenkins is better. Outside backer Demorrio Williams is a 4.51 space-and-pursuit guy.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers -- Reggie Williams, the wideout they wanted, was long gone when they were due to step up to the plate, so what did they do? Traded down 15 spots and still got a fine receiver, Rashaun Woods -- not a burner but a polished performer who will help them right away. Plus they got a couple of extra picks, including second-round CB Shawntae Spencer, 6-1, with 4.44 speed, a guy who's a size and speed match for the new breed of wideouts. Their own second-round choice went for a teeth-gritting guard named Justin Smiley, whose biggest games came against the tougher opponents.
BUFFALO BILLS -- Wideout Lee Evans, No. 2 in total career yardage in the Big Ten, will offer instant help for Drew Bledsoe, for what? One, two, three years? And then he'll be catching the flings of this year's second draft in the first round, QB J.P. Losman, who cost the Bills a No. 5 this year and a No. 1 in 2005. So this is really a B grade on the come, and if something eventually derails Losman's bid to be the Bills' QB, then kindly turn back a few years in your charts and lower this grade to about a C-minus.
CHICAGO BEARS -- The D-line will get a spiffy new look from Tommie Harris, the draft's best interior lineman, and an intriguing second-round tackle named Tank Johnson, who runs a 4.69. That's right, it's not a misprint. Beats me how you can carry 304 pounds around that fast without getting a speeding ticket, but I'm sure that Lovie Smith will figure out something creative for this pair of youngbloods. More defensive help on the way from fourth-round CB Nathan Vasher, small but oh so tough.
HOUSTON TEXANS -- Defense, defense, defense for the first four picks, beginning with Dunta Robinson, who ranks with Hall as one of the draft's shutdown corners. Next comes Jason Babin, a 4.62 speed-rushing DE -- I'm waiting to see how his 260 pounds will fit into Dom Capers' 3-4 alignment. And then SS Glenn Earl, a 222-pound hitter.
TENNESSEE TITANS -- They traded out of the first round and still got the TE that was No.1 on a lot of boards, Ben Troupe, who will be a great fit in their attack. (Did you know that four of the 10 most highly rated tight ends were named Ben?) The next six picks were all for defense, and there wasn't one of them that I didn't like. And if Jeff Fisher is having trouble with the Sunday crossword in the Houston Chronicle, he can always call on seventh-round DT Jared Clauss, who scored 45 out of 50 on the Wonderlic, one of the highest scores ever recorded in the 200 years or so that the NFL has been giving this IQ test.
Many people were surprised the Jaguars picked Reggie Williams as high as No. 9 overall.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS -- They went very high (ninth pick) for WR Reggie Williams in the first round, but the guy is 6-3, 229 and he runs a 4.48. Second rounder Daryl Smith is an ILB with toughness and savvy, but their other second-rounder, 250-pound RB Greg Jones, is a gamble, coming back from a knee-rehab season.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS -- Kenechi Udeze is the DE everyone thought Jacksonville would pick. Best outside rusher in the draft, the scouts say. The next two picks also go for defense, which sure seems to be dominating the board, doesn't it ... defense and wideouts. If I were running a decathlon for LBs, second-rounder Dontarrious Thomas would be my entry, with a 4.54 forty, a 38 1/2-inch vertical jump and 10-foot-9 in the broad jump. Woe to the ball carrier who tries to take an angle 10 3/4 feet away from this guy and 3 1/4 feet above him. MikeTice's third-round choice is also a player with numbers, 285-pound DE-DT tweener Darrion Scott, who runs 4.75. If you say that the Vikings are trying to improve their defensive speed, then you pass the test.
BALTIMORE RAVENS -- No first-round choice. DT Dwan Edwards in the second round is an up and downer, and third-round WR Devard Darling is a medium speed guy whose game is still unpolished. So why a B-? The upside potential of sixth-round QB Josh Harris, who will be moving from shotgun to pocket, and the trade that brought in WR Kevin Johnson. When a selection is traded for a veteran, I count that as part of the draft, but you've already figured that out, right?
CINCINNATI BENGALS -- Chris Perry fills the Dillon spot, which makes sense, and then the next six picks are for guess what? That's right, defense, and I'm getting tired of writing this. Well, it figures, since Marvin Lewis is a defensive coach and it was the D that faltered down the stretch last year. My favorite of those half a dozen defensive drafts is second-rounder, CB Keiwan Ratliff, who ranked as a No. 1 on a few boards. An intriguing OT prospect is a 6-6, 342-pound track athlete named Stacy Andrews, a highly rated hammer thrower who can fling the nails a long way, too.
The Browns traded up from No. 7 to No. 6 to select TE Kellen Winslow Jr.
Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images
CLEVELAND BROWNS -- You mean they didn't take an Ohio guy, Roethlisberger, as their QB of the future, as all you draftniks predicted? No, they didn't. Well, which one did they take then?Luke McCown.Huh? Brother plays for the Cardinals. This one's a great athlete. Finished first among the QBs in three different categories at the Combine, and second in the 40 at 4.69. Yeah, right, the Combine. So they took the great free safety, Sean Taylor, right?Because they had trouble stopping the run last year? Uh, no. The free safety they picked, in the second round, was another Sean, but this one was named Jones ... from Georgia ... big and raw and ... Oh, puhleeze. So who did they pick in the first round?Kellen Winslow Jr., TE. Him? I thought he was JoeGibbs' guy. Well, you see, his agent, make that agents, are a couple of guys called the Postons, and the Redskins had some problems with this whole bunch, and .... OK, Jeff Garcia to Winslow. AFC North, here we come!
DENVER BRONCOS -- Turns out they didn't trade up for a running back after all. They traded with Cincinnati two and a half weeks ago to get their favorite LB on the board, D.J. Williams, and they needed to move there to keep the Saints from drafting him one pick later. The runner they got in the next round was Tatum Bell, a 4.37 burner but not a guy who does really tough things out there. Kind of reminds me of Trung Canidate. The secondary had to be addressed, so in the third round they got a highly regarded CB, Jeremy LeSueur.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS -- They traded down three times and they still got my favorite player in the draft in the second round, a 5-8 1/2, 204-pound ball of fire, SS Bob Sanders, who runs, hits, covers, flies to the ball, who does it all, actually. I must have read half a dozen times that if this guy were three inches taller, he'd be a first-round choice, easy. Yeah, and if I could tie a fly I'd be the fishing editor. Guaranteed, Sanders will be the star of camp, and that's all that Tony Dungy will be talking about. I also like their second pick, Ben Hartsock, a very polished TE. See, that's the third TE named Ben. The fourth one, Ben Utecht, was rated in the top 10, but he didn't get drafted.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS -- Great physicals (6-4, 321, 4.96 speed), inconsistent effort, that's DT Marcus Tubbs. A nervous pick for the first round. It gets better in the next two --Michael Boulware, the sideline-to-sideline LB who might become a SS, and a versatile G-T swingman Sean Locklear, who once played defense.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS -- Top choice, WR Michael Clayton, will add a grain of toughness to JonGruden's offense. Third-round pick, Marquis Cooper is an OLB-ILB swingman, who's undersized at 225 but can run. FS Will Allen is a smart, athletic hitter. Nothing much jumps out farther down, except for the fact that there are two Ivy Leaguers, none, alas, from dear old Columbia.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS -- A two-man draft, rookie FS Sean Taylor, who will light it up with his inspired play in all phases of the game, and veteran QB Mark Brunell, who cost them a No. 3. Interesting to see how he performs in Gibbs' offense, which might get rookie help from TE Chris Cooley, an H-back type.
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CAROLINA PANTHERS -- Their top pick, CB Chris Gamble, has lock-on skills but he might have trouble with zone schemes. Plus his tackling is not of the bone-jarring variety. I like their second-round choice, WR Keary Colbert, a sound technician. Their third-rounder, T Travelle Wharton, is a finesse-type pass-blocker.
GREEN BAY PACKERS -- How seriously did they take the threat of Mike McKenzie, their best CB, to sit out the season if he's not traded? Quite seriously, I would guess, since their first two picks were corners, Ahmad Carroll and Joey Thomas. Both were Combine stars, running 4.34 and 4.44, respectively. Now if the Pack can just find two runners for the first two legs of the NFL sprint-relay, they'll bring home the gold.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS -- D.J. Williams was gone, so DE Will Smith was their first-round draft, but do they really need another outside rusher? I guess you can't have too many of them. WR Devery Henderson is a 4.36 deep threat (no, not deep throat, you wise asses out there), and LB Courtney Watson can go inside or out, and, wait a minute, fifth-round pick, DT Rodney Leisle, is a legitimate sleeper with good agility and motor.
NEW YORK JETS -- They would have liked it if Robinson, the CB, were there, but Jonathan Vilma, a machine-like ILB, is a pretty good choice at No. 1 CB Derrick Strait has coverage skills, but why was he missing so many tackles in the Senior Bowl? Is it a concern? "A definite concern," one scout told me. Jerricho Cotchery, at 6-0, 212, is a good possession receiver to add to the mix.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES -- John Welbourn, their sturdy LG has departed in a huff, or maybe an SUV, but they gain about half a hundredweight with top draft Shawn Andrews, the 366-pound tackle, projected to guard. Lock up the cheesesteaks, Andy. Their corners are gone, so the next two drafts went to DBs, but what's that I see. Next to the names of Matt Ware and J.R. Reed are the designation, FS, and even with imagination, those initials don't come out to cornerback. Wait a minute, Ware can play CB, they say. Now that's better. At 6-2, 210, with 4.54 speed, he's a Bobby Taylor clone.
ST.LOUIS RAMS -- Steven Jackson was the top runner on a lot of boards, but he's a 240-pound grinder, a Bill Parcells-type RB (although Parcells took a pass on him). You'd think that Mike Martz would have wanted someone a little zippier to give Marshall Faulk a breather, and eventually take over for him, but this could wind up as a fine pick for the Rams. The next choice (third round), DE Tony Hargrove, is coming back from a full year of academic ineligibility, but I think they really stole one in the fifth round with SS Jason Shivers, who should be a valuable guy in the nickel and dime packages.
DALLAS COWBOYS -- With the entire spectrum of running backs to choose from, Parcells traded out of the round, picked up another No. 1 for next year and in the second round chose a breathtakingly fast (4.45) fumbler, Julius Jones. If the guy gains 1500 yards, I will personally get out of the draft rating business and go into something more sensible, such as haberdashery. Later in the second round the Cowboys took T Jacob Rogers, a converted TE. Converted tight end? What happened to the kind of guys Parcells used to draft, Bob Kratch, Karl Nelson, William Roberts, that bunch?
MIAMI DOLPHINS -- The first-round choice was Vernon Carey, the best guard in the draft, and they project him to tackle. So far so good. Now the elevator stops at four and we find CB Will Poole, who's been in trouble everywhere he's been and ran slightly faster than yours truly can run. In the next round I find a tough SS named Tony Bua who's a converted LB, and way down in the seventh there's LB Derrick Pope, whose special teams play in the Senior Bowl was really eye-catching And that's about all that stirs me on this board.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS -- I don't like this at all. Dick Vermeil is a terrific guy, and he gave me a nice sampling of his Over The Edge Napa Valley wine and I feel like a real rat, putting up a D grade here, but gee, trading out of the first round and ending up with 344-pound DT Junior Siavii? OK, the run defense was nowhere last year and this guy will plug about three different holes, but let's drop down a little farther in the second round. Is TE Kris Wilson really the answer? I mean you've got Tony Gonzalez for catching, and Jason Dunn for blocking. Do you really need a third one this high up on the board? Welbourn comes aboard from Philly, at the price of only a No. 5, and that's the best news so far.
NEW YORK GIANTS -- It's make or break. It's Eli si or Eli no. New York can be a very rough place for a young QB if he's struggling. Just ask Richard Todd. And Ken O'Brien. And Joe Pisarcik. I'll give you my take on the whole San Diego vs. the Mannings, Eli and Archie, deal. No quarterback ever took a worse beating over a prolonged period of time than Archie Manning did when he was with the Saints. I saw one game when the Rams had all those great pass-rushers, Jack Youngblood and Larry Brooks and those guys, and they actually felt sorry for Archie and they stopped hitting him and were just kind of wrapping up and letting him down easy. Do you blame Archie for wanting to protect his kid from such a thing? The only problem is that he got him away from a team that gave up 29 sacks last year, which isn't really a lot, and onto one that allowed 44, plus a lot more hurries and hits and bad things like that. The Giants O-line might have been the worst in football last season. OK, they've been bringing in people this year, not any real big boys, just guys. And they drafted a guard named Chris Snee in the second round. Will this somehow translate into a functional unit? We'll see. And Eli will have to be a wait-and-see project as well.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Paul Zimmerman covers the NFL for the magazine and SI.com. His Power Rankings, "Inside Football" column and Mailbag appear weekly on SI.com.