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Join Date: Jun 2004
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1. San Francisco 49ers (2-14)
Aaron Rodgers* | QB | California
The 49ers have essentially narrowed the list of potential candidates down to three -- Cal QB Aaron Rodgers, Utah QB Alex Smith and Michigan WR Braylon Edwards. They would like to have a deal done prior to their 15 minutes on the clock, so the leverage game with the respective agents should start shortly, if it hasn't already. In our opinion, WR Braylon Edwards is the top-overall rated player in the 2005 draft, but the Niners need a quarterback much more than they need a receiver. Personnel officials across the country seem to be split between Rodgers and Smith as this year's top-rated quarterback, but we think Rodgers gets the slight edge because of his greater arm strength and experience in a pro-style system. Smith's rare intangibles are making this an extraordinarily difficult decision for John York (Owner), Scott McCloughan (VP of Player Personnel), Parag Marate (Director of Football Operations) and Mike Nolan (Head Coach). However, when push comes to shove we think the team will pull the trigger on Rodgers.
2. Miami Dolphins (4-12)
Ronnie Brown | RB | Auburn
The Dolphins' best bet would be trading down in order to acquire extra picks, but that scenario is unlikely. New head coach Nick Saban and his staff have addressed needs along the offensive line and throughout the defense via free agency. They also have decided that QB A.J. Feeley is their starter for at least one year, in which he will be evaluated within the new scheme. That leaves running back as the top need and Brown as the most deserving candidate. Benson might be the more powerful runner and Williams might be the most elusive, but Brown is the best overall running back in this year's draft. Brown is big, strong and fast enough to carry a heavy load in the NFL and he also possesses considerably better skills in the passing game than those of Benson and Williams.
3. Cleveland Browns (4-12)
Alex Smith* | QB | Utah
The word we are hearing out of Cleveland is that the Browns value Smith more than Rodgers. We also hear that Edwards is very much in the mix. Like the two teams ahead of them, the Browns would ideally trade down, acquire extra picks and get a better value on one of three first round offensive tackle prospects in this draft class -- Alex Barron, Jammal Brown and Khalif Barnes. Assuming, however, they get stuck at No. 3, new G.M. Phil Savage has to decide whether or not he wants to draft his quarterback of the future or go in a different direction. If Smith falls to them at No. 3, we think he'll be the choice. Smith is one of the most intelligent and consistent quarterbacks to come out of the collegiate ranks in years and he solidified a top spot in this year's draft with a recent awe-inspiring workout on campus. He will need time to develop physically and that may be the exact reason for acquiring veteran QB Trent Dilfer. If however, the 49ers wind up going with Smith over Rodgers, Cleveland would either go with Edwards or trade the pick to another team interested in him, such as the Buccaneers, Vikings, Cowboys or Chargers.
4. Chicago Bears (5-11)
Braylon Edwards | WR | Michigan
There have been rumors of the Bears wanting to trade out of this pick but we think they'll stay put and draft the offensive prospect with the biggest potential to make an immediate impact. That's why, even after signing Muhsin Muhammad to a long-term deal, nobody should be shocked if the team use this pick on a wide receiver. The Bears have enough young talent on defense, but they desperately need more playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. The team might draft one of the top three running backs, but Edwards is the best available prospect at a position with similar need. Edwards has an outstanding combination of size and speed, and he's a flat-out playmaker when the ball is up for grabs. Adding Muhammad and Edwards in one offseason could be just what QB Rex Grossman and RB Thomas Jones need.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)
Carnell Williams | RB | Auburn
The Buccaneers could go in several different directions with this pick, including RB, OT, OG, QB, WR, DT or DB. Looking at the probabilities regarding how the top of the draft board will unfold, RB is likely to be the position that the Bucs will get their best value with the fifth overall pick. While Benson is a better fit for an offense looking for a load-carrying power runner, Williams is a better fit for Jon Gruden's version of the West Coast offense. Williams still needs to improve as a blocker, but he's the shiftiest and most elusive of the top three backs (Brown and Benson) and has the hands to become a legitimate weapon as a receiver out of the backfield. It also won't hurt Williams' chances that Gruden fell in love with him while coaching him at the Senior Bowl.
6. Tennessee Titans (5-11)
Mike Williams* | WR | USC
The latest word out of Tennessee is that the Titans are working on a deal that would return DC Andre Dyson to the team. If that's the case, with Andre Woolfolk already in-house, the Titans' interests at No. 6 would shift. The team is looking long and hard at the top two quarterbacks -- Smith and Rodgers -- should one of them slip out of the top five. The Titans could also get a lot of trade offers while they're on the clock, but if they stay at No. 6 the best available athlete at a position of need in this scenario is Williams. Tyrone Calico and Drew Bennett are the only two legitimate wide receivers on the team's roster and Williams would immediately become its best player at the position. He doesn't have elite speed but he's faster than Keyshawn Johnson and he projects as much more of a vertical weapon than Johnson has been in the NFL.
7. Minnesota Vikings (from Raiders) (8-8)
Shawn Merriman* | OLB/DE | Maryland
The Vikings have few needs to address and can really focus in on the ones they do have with two first round picks thanks to the Randy Moss (Raiders) deal. Adding a blue chip wide receiver is still a need but if Edwards and Williams are already off the board by the time they pick, the Vikings can get a better value in the form of a pass rusher. Merriman has the speed, athleticism and instincts to immediately upgrade the Vikings defense as an edge rusher opposite Kenechi Udeze, and he has the frame to eventually develop into a fulltime starter.
8. Arizona Cardinals (6-10)
Antrel Rolle | DC | Miami-Fla.
We're under the strong impression that the Cardinals will get a pre-draft deal done with the Bills that will land them RB Travis Henry in exchange for OT L.J. Shelton and possibly a second-round swap. If that's the case, drafting a cornerback with their top pick becomes a necessity. From what we hear, the team likes Rolle over Adam Jones (West Virginia), primarily because of the size issue. Rolle also has the instincts, toughness and athletic ability to quickly become a solid starter in the NFL. His biggest obstacle in solidifying a potential spot in the top-10 was proving that he was fast enough to turn and run with NFL receivers. His recent 4.49 in the 40-yard dash should ease those worries.
9. Washington Redskins (6-10)
Adam Jones | DC | West Virginia
The good news for Redskins fans is that their team did a good job of upgrading its offensive personnel with the additions of OC Casey Rabach and WRs Santana Moss and David Patten. The bad news, however, is that the Redskins got significantly worse on defense thanks to the free agent departures of MLB Antonio Pierce (Giants) and DC Fred Smoot (Vikings). On top of needing starters at both of those positions, the Redskins also could use an impact pass rusher at defensive end. Without a second round pick, addressing all of those needs won't be an easy task. The team could consider Merriman if he's still on the board, but Jones is the best match in terms of value and need. Jones has the speed, toughness and confidence to develop into a shutdown cover corner in the NFL and he's also an explosive return man.
10. Detroit Lions (6-10)
Alex Barron | OT | Florida State
The Lions could use a playmaker at defensive end, but finding a replacement for the departed Stockar McDougle at right tackle is more glaring. Barron needs to become more physical, but he has the size, strength and feet to develop into a starting right or left tackle in the NFL.