Running back remains the hot position among top five
Posted: Wednesday April 13, 2005 12:20PM; Updated: Wednesday April 13, 2005 8:38PM
Ten days until the monster known as the NFL Draft cranks to life and consumes an entire April weekend, just as it does every year. We're close enough now for all the pre-draft buzz to really start humming.
Just when some of this annual pre-draft guessing game begins to make sense (Of course the Browns are going with Braylon Edwards over a quarterback, duh!), other scenarios gain momentum and challenge the few rock-solid convictions we've clung to for lo these many weeks. (What do you mean the Dolphins might pass on a running back in favor of Alex Smith? Can they do that?)
That's the draft, 10 days out. Listen to the myriad of competing voices long enough and you'll be convinced of everything, and nothing, all at the same time. In our fourth attempt at handicapping the first round, the only certainty we feel is the sense of impending information overload.
Just remember, folks, the buzz isn't always right.
Mock NFL Draft No. 4
Sure, the 49ers are hoping their phone rings with at least one nibble from a team inquiring about trading up. But Mike Nolan can't even remotely count on that scenario unfolding. There's still a chance the 49ers could opt for the draft's top prospect, Braylon Edwards. But it remains Rodgers' lead to lose.
The buzz is that Miami might just pull a stunner and select Utah quarterback Alex Smith, who the club believes has a huge upside. But with both A.J. Feeley and Gus Frerotte around, that would take some real guts on Nick Saban's part. And there's still that No. 31-ranked rushing game to consider.
We're not ruling out the Browns taking the quarterback Smith. But this much we know: New Cleveland personnel man Bill Reese loves Big Ten prospects and has a track record of selecting skill players. History also says Browns general manager Phil Savage won't pass on the draft's top-rated talent.
The Bears have been sending some strong signals that they're looking to buy themselves a Cadillac. That would change if Edwards is still available, but if not, Williams will apparently get the nod over Texas' Cedric Benson. That would cause a ripple effect starting at No. 5 with the Bucs.
Tampa Bay's top two running-back prospects are gone, so this pick is not implausible in the least. Jon Gruden has never really been real high on Chris Simms, and Brian Griese doesn't inspire confidence for the long term. Given Smith's experience in a dink-and-dunk offense, Gruden might just see him as the next Rich Gannon.
Some think the Titans could re-sign cornerback Andre Dyson before the draft, changing their first-round need to either receiver (Mike Williams?) or quarterback (Smith, if he falls to them). But until that transpires, cornerback remains the No. 1 need and Rolle remains the pick.
The Vikings could go a lot of different ways with their first of two first-round picks, but finding a big-play receiving threat to replace Randy Moss still seems the most logical place to start. Believe it or not, despite the team's depth at running back, Texas' Cedric Benson is also in the mix.
Stay tuned here, because if that long-anticipated Travis Henry deal gets done with Buffalo, the Cardinals' draft priority shifts to cornerback. Arizona would love to see Rolle still on the board in that case, but it likes Auburn's Carlos Rogers as well. If the Cardinals don't land Henry, Benson becomes the easy pick.
Because of all the blitzing in Gregg Williams' defense, the Redskins need cornerbacks who can handle playing on an island. Now that Fred Smoot is gone to Minnesota, the Redskins' board shows the perfect confluence of need and top-10 value. Maryland DE/OLB Shawne Merriman is another good option.
The Lions really aren't in love with anyone likely to be available in this spot, and if one of the top-two cornerbacks fall, there's a chance they'll get trade offers from a team (the No. 16 Saints?) wanting to move up and take one. But if Detroit sticks, it will have its choice between Johnson and Florida State OT Alex Barron.
The Cowboys covet someone who can make an impact off the edge in the 3-4 defense they'll play in sometimes this season. That's why most mocks have them going with either Merriman or Johnson. Troy State outside linebacker Demarcus Ware, a speed rusher, is another intriguing possibility.
The Chargers should have their pick between James, LSU DE Marcus Spears, Barron and speedy South Carolina receiver Troy Williamson. All would have solid value at No. 12, but the thinking is that their No. 28 pick would be spent finding help at either WR or OT.
The Texans and Barron have seemed like a marriage waiting to happen for a while now, but then again, it's that time in the old draft game when you start to question things you thought you knew. Thus, names like Georgia DE David Pollack or Merriman are surfacing as options for the Texans, too.
I can't decide whether to give Williamson to the Panthers at No. 14 and Auburn's Rogers to the Chiefs at No. 15, or vice versa. Either combination seems to work for both teams. But with no Muhsin Muhammad, and Williamson's speed so enticing, the Panthers won't be able to pass on him.
If the Chiefs make a trade for Miami cornerback Patrick Surtain pre-draft, the need pick would likely become either defensive end or receiver. But without Surtain, Rogers makes sense. He has steadily gained ground in the first round and some like him more than the smaller Adam Jones.
The Saints seem to be just out of reach in terms of landing their most coveted players, and that's why they're thought to be the most likely team to trade up in the round. They could use a big-time CB like Jones or Rogers, an OT like Barron, or a LB like Johnson. Davis is the fallback option.