Who's No. 1?
Cleveland left the combine torn between two potential top picks
At the end of a long Saturday at the annual meat market that is the NFL Scouting Combine, the two prime candidates to be the first pick in the April 15 draft met in the lobby of their Indianapolis hotel. Both looked very tired. "Dog," Florida State wideout Peter Warrick said to Perm State defensive end Courtney Brown, "the process is wild, ain't it?"
Warrick was referring to the poking and prodding of the four-day combine, which gave 300-plus draft prospects their first extended exposure to their potential employers. He could have meant the uncertainty that will bedevil both players until April 15, because as the combine wrapped up on Monday, the question still remained, Who'll go No. 1?
The Browns, who hold the top pick, don't know. There's a split within the team over whether to choose Warrick or Brown, with Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington a dark horse. Funny thing is, there's a good chance that the loser in the Warrick-Brown race could fall to fourth, or lower, because the Redskins, picking second and third, are a lock to pick Arrington and could go with Alabama's Chris Samuels to solve their left tackle problem.
Warrick would give Cleveland the game breaker that second-year quarterback Tim Couch needs. "I love Tim Couch," Warrick says. Cleveland also seems ready to forgive Warrick for his illicit shopping spree last fall that led to a two-game suspension. "The reason I'm here," he said at the combine, "is to answer all those questions about my character. I'm about to become a big fish in a big fishbowl, and I've got to be clean. I will be."
However, a faction in Cleveland likes to point out that the Browns can get a solid receiver later in the draft, as they did last year when they took Kevin Johnson with the first selection in the second round, and that it's hard to find a quality defensive end who figures to play 10 years or more and has no off-field flaws. That would be Brown, a good run stuffer who also collected 33 sacks in four Big Ten seasons.
Arrington, meanwhile, will have to answer for his sometimes chippy play and explain why he got kicked out of practice last fall by coach Joe Paterno. "Coach felt he needed to make a point that day, I guess," Arrington says. "But as for any other off-field issues, teams won't find any with me. I'll bring pride to the NFL."
To the Skins, most likely. The bet here is that his teammate, Brown, will land in Cleveland.
Let's Make a Deal
Redskins, Niners Hit Jackpot
A party of Redskins coaches and scouts were in a jovial mood last Saturday night as they dined at an Indianapolis steak house. Coach Norv Turner kidded player personnel director Vinny Cerrato, telling him he'd be the most famous man in America on draft day, with lots of draftcam time. Three hours earlier Cerrato had acquired the third pick in the draft from the 49ers for the 12th, 24th, 118th and 148th choices (two first-rounders, a fourth and a fifth). Now, with the wine flowing and the filet mignon and salmon on order, Cerrato reveled in having the second and third selections in a top-heavy draft. "If there are four great players in this draft, and we think there are, we'll get two of them," Cerrato said.