1. San Francisco 49ers
Aaron Rodgers, QB, California
Comment: The Niners have narrowed it down to four players – Rodgers, Alex Smith, Braylon Edwards, and Antrel Rolle. Of course, they are still listening to trade offers as well, so their negotiations with the agents who represent those four players could be all for naught. Head coach Mike Nolan is still said to be leaning toward Rogers due to his experience in a pro-style offense and his in-state history.
2. Miami Dolphins
Ronnie Brown, RB, Auburn
Comment: The Fins still would love to trade down a few spots and replenish their cadre of later-round picks, but right now the offers aren't exactly flooding in. Nick Saban has said he'll pick the best player regardless of position; clearly, he's picking up the NFL coach-speak quickly. Saban's SEC familiarity with Brown, Ronnie's great workout, and the Dolphins' need to fill Ricky Williams' shoes make Brown their best option on several levels.
3. Cleveland Browns
Alex Smith, QB, Utah
Comment: Speaking of mastering the lingo, Browns GM Phil Savage is throwing the old "we don't need a quarterback" smokescreen with Peyton Manning-like accuracy. If the Browns are stuck with this pick, they'll probably lean Smith over Braylon Edwards, but it's also more likely that Jimmy Fallon wins an Oscar for his work in Fever Pitch than it is the Browns still hold this pick on draft day. The Bucs may trade up for Smith (or a back, or a receiver), or the Vikings may trade up to grab Edwards or Williams. Minnesota has a pair of first-rounders to offer, which may tip the scales in their favor.
4. Chicago Bears
Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan
Comment: The Bears could surprise everyone by selecting one of the running backs or even a defensive player with this pick. After all, general manager Jerry Angelo isn't keen on the idea of taking wideouts early in the draft, particularly wideouts who hail from the University of Michigan (see David Terrell). Yet when push comes to shove, we're still willing to wager that the Bears will continue to revamp their receiver corps, which started with the signing of Muhsin Muhammad during the offseason. We lean toward Edwards over Mike Williams simply because the latter is too similar to Muhammad.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carnell Williams, RB, Auburn
Comment: The Bucs are another team that has Mike Williams on its radar. There are also rumors that head coach Jon Gruden covets Alex Smith and might be willing to trade up to get him. Then again, this is the same Gruden who has been downright giddy about the progress that Chris Simms has made over the last two years. The Bucs finished No. 29 in rushing last year and had a pretty solid passing game with Brian Griese taking the snaps. Griese is back for at least one more season and Simms is waiting in the wings, so we'll be surprised if Gruden doesn't spend draft day kicking the tires of his new Cadillac.
6. Tennessee Titans
Antrel Rolle, CB, Miami
Comment: The Titans could reward Steve McNair for coming back by giving him a big-time target, but given Tennessee's success with late-round wideouts (Ty Calico was a second-round pick, Derrick Mason a fourth-rounder, and Drew Bennett an undrafted free agent) and the need to combat the Colts with quality cover men, it's unlikely they reunite USC's Mike Williams with his former offensive coordinator (and current Titans play-caller) Norm Chow. Even if Andre Dyson returns to Tennessee, the Titans will need a bigger cover corner to upgrade their undersized secondary, and Rolle fits the bill.
7. Minnesota Vikings (from Raiders)
Mike Williams, WR, USC
Comment: The Vikings will be thanking the football gods if Williams falls to them with the No. 7 pick. Mike doesn't have the speed to fill the Shaq-sized shoes vacated by Randy Moss, but he does possess freakish size and a tremendous work ethic. The big question is what the Vikings will do if Williams and Braylon Edwards are selected before they go on the clock. Reaching for Troy Williamson is one option, but the team is just as likely to trade up or down if they can't get one of the receivers they covet with this pick.
8. Arizona Cardinals
Cedric Benson, RB, Texas
Comment: The Cards are still pursuing a trade for Bills' running back Travis Henry. Recent reports indicate that the Bills want more than the Cards have offered thus far. That said, it wouldn't shock us if the two clubs reach an agreement on draft day. If Henry moves to the desert, the Sheriff's squad will not select a running back with this pick for obvious reasons. Cornerback is one area of need. If the Cards take the second-best cornerback available with this pick, we wouldn't be surprised if Redskins' coach Joe Gibbs turned in his whistle and headed back to NASCAR once and for all.
9. Washington Redskins
Adam Jones, CB, West Virginia
Comment: Once blessed with the cornerback tandem of Champ Bailey and Fred Smoot, the Redskins suddenly find themselves with the replacement duo of Shawn Springs and Walt Harris. Springs performed well as the No. 2 cornerback last season, but he might be biting off more than he can chew as the No. 1 cornerback. That's still more than we can say for the aging Harris, who no lacks starting talent. Adding a cornerback with this pick would eventually move Springs to the No. 2 spot and, more importantly, keep Walt out of the starting lineup.
10. Detroit Lions
Derrick Johnson, LB, Texas
Comment: The Lions have had good luck with the former Longhorns they've selected in the first round of past drafts. Four years ago, they picked former Texas defensive tackle Shaun Rogers. Last year, they added former Texas wide receiver Roy Williams. This year, they'll look to the Lone Star state again when they grab Johnson, who is widely considered the best linebacker available. The backup plan might be offensive tackle Alex Barron, who could move into the starting right tackle job that was vacated by Stockar McDougle.
11. Dallas Cowboys
Shawne Merriman, DE/LB, Maryland
Comment: Bill Parcells would finally confirm the rumors that he is switching to a 3-4 defense by selecting Merriman, who is considered an ideal player in that defensive alignment. One way or another, we expect the Cowboys to add a pass rusher on draft day. They could add such a player with one of their two first-round picks, or they might sign off on the trade that would bring Saints' defensive end Darren Howard to Big D. If the Cowboys pass on Merriman, a wide receiver or a true defensive end would be the likely alternatives.
12. San Diego Chargers (from Giants)
Demarcus Ware, LB/DE, Troy
Comment: Even if Antrel Rolle or Adam Jones don't slide to this spot, and the Chargers don't reach for a corner they might be able to get with their other first-round pick, the Bolts will still look for defensive help here. The versatile Ware is a small-school version of Merriman, and it doesn't hurt they know how much their AFC West rivals in Denver covet him.
13. Houston Texans
Alex Barron, OT, Florida State
Comment: The Texans couldn't land Orlando Pace in the offseason, so they'll grab the closest thing in the draft if Barron remains on the board for their selection. The questions about Barron surround his motivation rather than his ability, and you have to believe Dom Capers can light a fire under him. David Carr, Domanick Davis, and Andre Johnson will all applaud this pick.
14. Carolina Panthers
Troy Williamson, WR, South Carolina
Comment: The Black Cats would like to add some speed to their receiving corps. No. 3 wideout Ricky Proehl is on the verge of turning 93 years-old, so adding a wideout to a mix that already includes Steve Smith and Keary Colbert would be a logical move. It also doesn't hurt that the former Gamecock is from the area. After all, the Panthers could use some good P.R. in the wake of the steroid investigation that landed the team in the "60 Minutes" spotlight recently.
15. Kansas City Chiefs
David Pollack, DE, Georgia
Comment: Working under the assumption that the Chiefs will cave and send a first-day pick to Miami for Patrick Surtain, their remaining defensive needs would like up front. Pollack is emerging as the premier pass-rusher in this draft, a skill set that will make whomever KC lines up in the secondary look better.
16. New Orleans Saints
Thomas Davis, S/LB, Georgia
Comment: The Aints' fans might don the brown bags again if the team selects another defensive end with this pick. After all, this is the same team that picked Will Smith last year even though they already had Darren Howard and Charles Grant on the roster. Speaking of Howard, he is being shopped in trade talks with the Cowboys, so don't rule out the possibility of the Saints moving up to the No. 11 spot if the trade comes to fruition. Either way, this team is in dire need of a linebacker after finishing last season ranked No. 30 against the run. Davis spent some time at safety, but he was more effective as an outside linebacker for the Bulldogs.
17. Cincinnati Bengals
Travis Johnson, DT, Florida State
Comment: Bengals coach Marvin Lewis wants to stop the run, and Johnson is exactly what he needs to accomplish that task. Lewis will perform his due diligence on Johnson's character issues, and if everything checks out you can expect Marv to happily write his name on the card handed to Paul Tagliabue and immediately start drawing up schemes where the middle of the defense is plugged by the FSU rookie.
18. Minnesota Vikings
Erasmus James, DE, Wisconsin
Comment: The big man would probably be a top-five pick if it wasn't for scout paranoia over his past injuries. He missed the entire 2003 season with a hip problem, but bounced back strong last year for the Badgers. The Vikings picked a pair of defensive ends in last year's draft, but they still consider the end position to be one of the weak spots. If nothing else, Erasmus wouldn't have to go far on Interstate 94 to travel from the Dairy Land to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
19. St. Louis Rams
Jammal Brown, OT, Oklahoma
Comment: The Rams' offensive line surrendered 50 sacks last season, which resulted in quarterback Marc Bulger missing two games. Mike Martz's bunch has other holes, but the offensive line situation was a disaster last season to the point that guard Tom Nutten had to be called out of retirement. The Lambs could certainly do worse than pairing up Brown with Orlando Pace as the bookends of the offensive line.
20. Dallas Cowboys (from Bills)
Roddy White, WR, UAB
Comment: The Lone Stars lack speed in the receiving corps, and White could be the answer to their problems. Rowdy Roddy averaged 20 yards per reception for the Blazers last season, and he could become the deep threat the team lacked last season after trading Joey Galloway to the Buccaneers.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars
Carlos Rogers, CB, Auburn
Comment: With the pass rush addressed via free agency, the Jags will be ecstatic to pluck Rogers off the board this late in round one. And if for some reason Rogers is gone, Jack Del Rio will adjust his sights to Justin Miller or Fabian Washington, the next corners on the list.
22. Baltimore Ravens
Mark Clayton, WR, Oklahoma
Comment: The Ravens have addressed defensive needs via free agency, and while they do have some depth issues they'd like to address, they also want to give Kyle Boller more weapons to work with. Clayton isn't big, but he's probably better after the catch than any other receiver in his class. He'll provide play-making ability while maturing under the tutelage of Derrick Mason, with the ultimate goal of Boller-to-Clayton providing Brian Billick with years of enjoyment.
23. Seattle Seahawks
Dan Cody, DE, Oklahoma
Comment: The Hawks have a big enough need at defensive end that they won't shy away from Cody based on the information that he suffered from clinical depression and considered hanging up his cleats back in 2001. Picking Cody would finish the overhaul of the defensive line that started last year with the signing of free agent Grant Wistrom and the first-round selection of defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs.
24. Green Bay Packers
Marcus Spears, DE, LSU
Comment: The Packers have been trying desperately over the past few years to find a pass-rusher to compliment the skills of Kabeer Gbaja-Biamilla. Meanwhile, they team has yet to announce whether it will match the offer sheet signed by 2004 starting left defensive end Aaron Kampman, who might be headed to Minnesota. If the Packers pass on Kampman, they might be forced into picking his replacement with this pick. That said, Spears has the potential to be a serious upgrade over Kampman.
25. Denver Broncos
Justin Miller, CB, Clemson
Comment: Between bringing back Ian Gold and adding the entire Browns front line, the Broncos have addressed defensive concerns up front. Miller can be groomed to be Champ Bailey's running mate and can also add a dimension in the return game as well. It's like getting two draft picks in one!
26. New York Jets
Heath Miller, TE, Virginia
Comment: New offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger loves the two-tight end set, and right now the Jets don't have two tight ends worthy of seeing that much playing time. Assuming Miller gets a clean bill of health following hernia surgery, he'll do his best to help Jets fans forget they also spent a first-round pick on now-departed Anthony Becht. Of course, Herm Edwards still calls the shots, so a cornerback like Nebraska's Fabian Washington is also a consideration here.
27. Atlanta Falcons
Brodney Pool, S, Oklahoma
Comment: If the season started today, the defending NFC South Champions would be forced to find two starters in the safety mix that includes Bryan Scott, Keion Carpenter, Ronnie Heard, Kevin McCadam, and Rich Coady. Yuck! Falcons' head coach Jim Mora is a defensive-minded coach, and we expect him stick to his roots with this pick. The only alternative would probably be an offensive lineman.
28. San Diego Chargers
Shaun Cody, DE, USC
Comment: The Bolts could stand to add another wide receiver, but there should be something worthwhile in the second round and they'd love the upgrade Cody will bring to their pass rush. Funny how the Chargers have gone from having several needs to fill to now having the luxury of adding the proverbial "best player available" to a talent-laden roster.
29. Indianapolis Colts
Darryl Blackstock, LB, Virginia
Comment: There's still a possibility Channing Crowder is the selection here, but concerns about his injury history and character have bumped him down to the point where Indy might get another crack at him next round. With plenty of need on the defensive side of the ball, and holes in particular at linebacker, the athletic Blackstock seems to be a perfect fit.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers
Marlin Jackson, CB, Michigan
Comment: If Heath Miller is gone, the Steelers will hope to grab Alex Smith next round and look for some secondary assistance in round one, and the physical Jackson would fit right in with a Steeler secondary that already includes Troy Polamalu. Of course, there's always the chance that Bill Cowher scratches that converted-quarterback itch (Hines Ward, Antwan Randle El) and reaches for Arkansas' Matt Jones.
31. Philadelphia Eagles
Matt Jones, WR, Arkansas
Comment: The former Razorbacks' quarterback is making the switch to wide receiver. It's rare that a player who switches skill positions when he enters the league is picked in the top-10. Then again, it's rare that a player stands 6-6 and weighs 240 lbs., yet is able to run a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash. We'll feel even more confident in this sleeper projection if the Eagles make good on the rumors that they intend to release or trade loudmouth wideout Freddie Mitchell.
32. New England Patriots
Fabian Washington, CB, Nebraska
Comment: The Patriots won a Super Bowl by grabbing guys off the street and plugging them into the secondary, so this certainly isn't a "need" pick. However, Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick traditionally take the best player on the board, and the ultra-fast Washington not only fits that bill but also upgrades at a position where the Pats could admittedly use a few more warm bodies.
Why has Miller risen so high? Some drafts had him as a 3rd rounder originally
speed and he is a top notch PR....
if pollack goes to the chiefs, we'll see bob doing flips on video. a double whammy, so to speak.
i like the idea of drafting miller
the only other person i would like to see drafted in the first round would be brodney pool.
either way our secondary will be stronger...
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