1 WHAT WERE THE BILLS THINKING?
Last week the Bills signed free-agent running back Olandis Gary, a 1,000-yard rusher with the Broncos whom Buffalo acquired as insurance I for rising star Travis Henry. A second-round draft pick in 2001, Henry was the league's fifth-leading rusher last season, with 1,438 yards. In April the Bills rewarded him with a contract extension through 2005, and at the recent NFL meetings coach Gregg Williams said he had even bigger plans for his Pro Bowl back. "We'd like to get Travis more 25-plus-carry games," Williams said. "We want to exert our will more offensively. Travis is the back to do it."
Or is he? On Saturday the Bills shocked the league by using the 23rd pick in the draft to select Miami's Willis McGahee, Considered a top five pick during a record-breaking season with the Hurricanes last fall, McGahee tore up his left knee in the national championship game in January and underwent reconstructive surgery. He was still projected as a late first-round choice, but he was expected to go to a team that had multiple first-round selections or was in need of a marquee running back. "True to our philosophy," Bills president Tom Donahoe said on Sunday, "we took the best player on our board." But if the best player on the Buffalo board was a quarterback, would Donahoe have taken him, knowing that he had prolific passer Drew Bledsoe? "Probably," Donahoe said.
Regardless of what they say now, the Bills have to be thinking of trading Henry as soon as McGahee takes the field, presumably in 2004. Which is strange. Donahoe, who joined the organization in January 2001, has done a terrific job of rebuilding a team that went to four Super Bowls in the 1990s, but the Bills had more areas of concern—an outside pass rusher, for one—that they could have addressed with the 23rd pick.
2 WHY DID CHRIS SIMMS SINK LIKE A STONE?
The Texas quarterback expected to go no lower than early in the second round, yet he lasted until the final pick of the third round, and the 97th selection overall, going to Tampa Bay. Teams graded Simms down for playing poorly in big games and for throwing a hard-to-catch ball. Though the Bucs have a crowd at the position, Simms will benefit greatly from getting to work with quarterback maestro Jon Gruden, and he'll be able to sit and learn for at least a couple of seasons.
3 WERE THE VIKINGS THAT INCOMPETENT?
Picking seventh, Minnesota had a deal to swap positions with the Ravens (No. 10), but neither team could reach a league official to certify the trade before time expired. The Jaguars and the Panthers rushed their picks to the podium, jumping ahead of the Vikings to select Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich and Utah tackle Jordan Gross, respectively. But here's what's important: The Vikings got the defensive lineman they wanted, Oklahoma State's Kevin Williams, and because of the salary scale for draft picks, they might get Williams for $3 million less than they would've had to pay at seven.
4 WILL THE JETS BE SECOND-GUESSING THEMSELVES?
The Jets wrung their hands before deciding not to match the Redskins' $35 million offer sheet to wideout Laveranues Coles, who got a $13 million signing bonus as part of a seven-year deal. But now New York will have to pay its top pick, Kentucky defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson, in the neighborhood of $12.5 million to sign. "To us," says Jets general manager Terry Bradway, "receiver is a replaceable position. Defensive linemen are hard to come by."
5 WHO WERE THE BIGGEST WINNERS AND LOSERS?
The Ravens got two of the top 10 players on their board, sackmaster Terrell Suggs of Arizona State and quarterback Kyle Boiler of Cal, though the cost to get Boiler (a second-round choice plus a 2004 first-round pick) was steep for a player whose value was based on one breakout season. The Bengals selected USC quarterback Carson Palmer, then followed with a guard ( Iowa's Eric Steinbach) and a wideout ( Tennessee's Kelley Washington) in rounds 2 and 3 who were rated as first-rounders on some teams' boards. In the fourth round Cincinnati added Oregon State cornerback Dennis Weathersby, a low first-round prospect before he was wounded in a drive-by shooting last week. Doctors expect Weathersby to be recovered by July. The Cardinals, meanwhile, had a chance to take a sure thing ( Suggs) but traded out of the sixth spot for a pair of mid-first-round picks, which they used to take Penn State wideout Bryant Johnson and Wake Forest defensive end Calvin Pace. Though Arizona addressed a couple of needs, Pace was projected as a third-round choice by some teams.