Cards, KC, Patriots winners of Day 1
Posted: Sunday April 18, 1999 01:12 AM
If you're looking at the teams that did the best job Saturday of executing a plan, I'd start with Arizona. Player personnel director Bob Ferguson said going into this draft he'd be delighted to get an offensive tackle and a wide receiver so that when the time comes, they can build up a three-receiver package. David Boston will be just that third receiver for the Cardinals.
What they didn't expect when they got rid of Lomas Brown was that L.J. Shelton, the draft's second-rated tackle, would be available when they picked. Then in the second round they protected themselves if they can't sign Jamir Miller by taking Johnny Rutledge. This is a team that made the playoffs last year and then got what they needed to in the draft.
The Patriots and Chiefs, though unsuccessful in attempts to get one of the two top running backs (Edgerrin James or Ricky Williams), followed up with excellent strategies in which they simply switched the order of their priorities.
New England traded up to get the center it wanted in Damien Woody, significantly strengthened its defense with Andy Katzenmoyer, and was still able to land Kevin Faulk at running back. Kansas City went into the draft with two glaring needs, tackle and running back. So they got the best tackle in the draft in John Tait and turned around and got Mike Cloud. Gary Stills and Larry Atkins are both highly rated defensive players as well.
The Colts' decision to select James over Williams doesn't sound quite as surprising to me after GM Bill Polian explained it to me. It was still a difficult decision to make, but they studied both players' tapes from last year and found that Edgerrin avoided tackles at a much higher rate. That means he's less subject to wear and tear, and he's also only 20 years old. The Colts felt he had better receiving and blocking skills than Ricky, and they won't hesitate to break formations and send James out wide. The Colts can also be commended for grabbing tackling machine Mike Peterson and Brandon Burlsworth, who at least two league coaches rated the best guard.
The Bears also had a great first day. They had wanted to take Cade McNown for a while, it was just a matter of how far down they could go and still get him. In McNown they get a young quarterback who's probably more ready to play now after starting four years at UCLA than the QBs that went above him, important because Erik Kramer has been hurt. Russell Davis is a good pick up for the defense, Rex Tucker fills a need on the line and D'Wayne Bates is a receiver who could have gone a lot higher.
The most interesting aspect of the draft, though, has been the presence of an expansion team. When you essentially have a need at every position, you can take the best player available at every pick. But their biggest hole after the expansion draft and free agency was receiver, which is why Chris Palmer was ecstatic to get a speedster like Kevin Johnson. Rahim Abdullah has a chance to start at linebacker, and, with Antonio Langham and Corey Fuller in tout, Daylon McCutcheon makes an obvious nickel corner who can cover the slot receiver.
The Browns focused on offensive linemen in the expansion draft and free agency (Lomas Brown, Orlando Brown, Ben Cavil) to ensure they'd have protection for their new young quarterback. Palmer said the quarterback race will be wide open in the summer and Couch could well start over Ty Detmer. Add that to the fact that they had the benefit of an extra pick in every round after the first, and the Browns are going to be able to build a contender very quickly.
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