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Day 1 winners and losers

Posted: Saturday April 23, 2005 7:04PM; Updated: Sunday April 24, 2005 5:09PM
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NEW YORK -- The winners and losers from Day 1 of the 2005 NFL Draft:


Matt Jones
Even without a true position, Matt Jones didn't have to wait too long to be drafted.

1. Matt Jones: The draft's X-factor jumped at least a dozen slots higher than folks expected, going to those dice-rolling Jaguars at No. 21. Me? I like the moxie. These draft picks do cost money, but teams shouldn't treat them like they're newborns and handle them so delicately. If you have a conviction about a guy, go get him. The draft's history is rife with underestimations and teams that looked silly because they went by someone else idea of round value.

Jones is a 6-foot-6 collegiate quarterback who projects to receiver or tight end or H-back in the NFL. He's a freak athletically, a former basketball player with Randy Moss-like jumping ability. Sure, he could be a flop if he can't handle any of the above positions. But in this age of versatility, when former college quarterbacks can turn into useful NFL weapons -- see Antwaan Randle-El -- Jones isn't a mere novelty pick.

2. Green Bay: Please, no more calls in the Brett Favre-successor sweepstakes, we have a winner. A potential franchise quarterback in the No. 24 slot is not a bad day's work, Mike Sherman and Co. One man's trash is another man's treasure.

We're not saying the Packers weren't expecting Aaron Rodgers to be there, but did you notice they didn't have R-O-D-G-E-R-S on the back of that Green Bay No. 1 jersey that he posed with on the podium alongside Paul Tagliabue? Which is better than hastily ironing on the letters and forgetting the D anyway.

3. Minnesota Vikings: No. 7 pick Troy Williamson was the draft's speediest receiver and a talent whose stock kept rising as April approached. His presence will stretch the field for the Vikings, giving them a reasonable facsimile of Moss, who was traded to Oakland. Williamson does different things for Minnesota than Nate Burleson or Kelly Campbell or Travis Taylor or Marcus Robinson.

The Vikings capped their great first round by taking Wisconsin defensive end Erasmus James at No. 18, who some felt was the best pass rusher in the draft. James was projected to go a bit higher by a good number of pundits, and he gives the Vikings another pressuring threat to go with Pro Bowl defensive Kevin Williams, and last year's No. 1, defensive end Kenechi Udeze.

When you factor in the five new defensive starters the Vikings acquired in free agency this year -- cornerback Fred Smoot, linebacker Napoleon Harris, linebacker Sam Cowart, defensive tackle Pat Williams, and safety Darren Sharper -- Minnesota is the league's most improved team.

4. Demarcus Ware, defensive end, Troy: The Cowboys took Ware at No. 11, making him the first defensive lineman taken. This qualifies as a pretty meteoric rise for a player who wasn't a big-name talent last fall. Ware's speed made him stand out, starting at the Combine, where he caught the eye of 3-4 defensive teams searching for an edge rusher at end/linebacker.

The Cowboys passed up the more celebrated 3-4 end/linebacker Shawne Merriman of Maryland in order to nab Ware. He also beat out the likes of Florida State defensive tackle Travis Johnson, Georgia defensive end David Pollack, Wisconsin defensive end Erasmus James, and LSU defensive end Marcus Spears.

5. Logan Mankins, guard, Fresno State: Never heard of him (hey, at least I'm honest), but anybody who squeaks into the first round and winds up falling into the laps of the two-time defending Super Bowl champions is a winner in my book.

Mankins might even find himself with a starting job for Bill Belichick's boys, given that veteran guard Joe Andruzzi signed with Cleveland in free agency.