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NFL Draft '99

Great expectations

James slips ahead of Williams, draws NFL spotlight

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Posted: Sunday April 18, 1999 12:19 PM

  The Colts tapped Edgerrin James instead of Ricky Williams because of the former Hurricane's pass-catching abilities. AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- Edgerrin James is supposed to replace Marshall Faulk, take handoffs from Peyton Manning and outrush Ricky Williams. Talk about pressure.

The Indianapolis Colts confounded NFL draft prognosticators Saturday when they took James over Williams with the fourth pick.

"I am somewhat surprised," James said, "because everything you read says that everybody wanted Ricky Williams."

James, the former Miami Hurricanes running back, was one of four players from Florida schools taken in the first round.

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper of Central Florida was drafted by Minnesota with the 11th pick. Two Florida Gators were selected: linebacker Jevon Kearse by Tennessee with the 16th choice, and defensive tackle Reggie McGrew by San Francisco with the 24th pick.

James, who decided to turn pro after his junior season, will be counted on to replace Faulk, a three-time Pro Bowl selection traded Thursday by the Colts to the St. Louis Rams.

"James can contribute right away," Indianapolis coach Jim Mora said. "The problem with any new player heading into the NFL and sticking him right in there is the mental part of it. Running back is a little easier to adjust to in this league. ... He can be a starter for us in that first regular-season game."

James rushed for 2,960 yards with 32 touchdowns in three years at Miami. He also had 42 receptions for 595 yards and three touchdowns, which impressed the Colts when they compared James with Williams.

"He's had exposure to the passing game, although they did not throw to him a lot," Colts president Bill Polian said. "When you see him catch the ball on film, you just know he's a guy with exceptional hands. That was the thing that tilted the balance."

Miami Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson, who also wanted James, wasn't surprised that he was taken before Williams.

"There were more than three or four teams who had James ahead of Williams," Johnson said.

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