Sunday, April 27, 2003
Defensive line dominates first round
By Dave Goldberg
The Associated Press
NEW YORK - NFL teams did their best Saturday to stem the league's increase in offense. They drafted for defense, taking 11 defensive linemen in a first round also marked by an aborted trade between Minnesota and Baltimore that led to three of the quickest first-round picks ever.
Carson Palmer, the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback from Southern California, was chosen by Cincinnati, and wide receivers Charles Rogers of Michigan and Andre Johnson of Miami went to Detroit and Houston with the first three picks - ammunition for teams that need everything.
Charles Rogers, right, a wide receiver from Michigan State, holds up a Detroit Lions jersey with NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue after he was selected as the second pick overall.
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Four quarterbacks were chosen - Palmer, Byron Leftwich by Jacksonville, Kyle Boller by Baltimore, and Rex Grossman by Chicago. But no more were taken until the third round, when Louisville's Dave Ragone was taken with the 88th overall pick.
And Texas' Chris Simms, projected as a second-rounder, wasn't chosen until the last pick of the third round by Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay, becoming the sixth quarterback on their roster.
Meanwhile, running back Willis McGahee of Miami, who tore up his knee in the national championship game, was moved to tears when he was taken 23rd overall by Buffalo - although he's not expected to be at his best until 2004.
But after the first thee picks, the highlight was a run on defense like none other in draft history.
Eleven of the next 13 choices were for defensive players, eight of them defensive linemen. The only exceptions were Leftwich of Marshall, who was taken by Jacksonville with the eighth overall pick after the botched trade that might have made him a Raven, and offensive tackle Jordan Gross of Utah, taken by Carolina with the ninth pick.
With scoring last year at 43.4 points a game, highest in 20 years, why not?
"It's no secret we were going to go to the defensive side with the first pick," said Seattle coach Mike Holmgren, who chose cornerback Marcus Trufant of Washington State. "Obviously, we were looking at those big defensive lineman. We really didn't think Marcus would come to us."
"It was one of those runs," added Gil Brandt, the NFL's senior draft consultant, who spent 30 years running the Dallas Cowboys' draft. "All these guys are basically the same, but teams felt they had to have them."
Boy, did they ever.
Philadelphia traded from 30 to 15 to take Jerome McDougle, a defensive end from Miami. At that point, McDougle was the eighth defensive lineman taken, but the Eagles are a bit desperate, having lost Hugh Douglas, their best pass rusher, to Jacksonville in free agency.
Right after that, Pittsburgh went up 11 picks - from 27 to 16 in a trade with Kansas City - and took safety Troy Polamalu of Southern Cal.
The first five picks were no surprise: Palmer, Rogers and Johnson, followed by defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson of Kentucky to the New York Jets, who traded up Friday for the pick and cornerback Terence Newman of Kansas State to Dallas.
Then came the surprises.
New Orleans moved up to sixth to take defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan of Georgia, projected to go a half-dozen picks later. Minnesota then spent its 15 minutes and thought it had a trade with Baltimore. But the Ravens didn't report the trade to the league by the time the clock ran out.
Carolina quickly moved in and grabbed offensive tackle Jordan Gross of Utah, and the Jaguars took Leftwich to ensure the Vikings couldn't trade the pick to take him. Minnesota took defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who they thought they could get anyway at No. 10.
"I'm ticked," Vikings coach Mike Tice said. "I felt that would've been a hell of a deal to get your guy and two more picks."
So Baltimore ended up with defensive end Terrell Suggs of Arizona State and got Boller of Cal by trading away next year's No. 1 pick and this year's No. 2 pick to New England. Seattle got Trufant and St. Louis grabbed defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy of Penn State, who was expected to go higher.
"This has got to be the strangest first round," St. Louis coach Mike Martz said. "It was hectic, wasn't it? The picks went so quickly. It was probably about 45 seconds for about three picks. It was getting exciting."
The defensive parade continued.
New England moved up one pick to choose defensive tackle Ty Warren of Texas AM Chicago chose defensive end Michael Haynes of Penn State; the Eagles jumped up for McDougle; and the Steelers did the same for Polamalu, the first time the team has ever traded up in the first round.
Arizona, which had traded down for New Orleans' two picks, took Penn State wide receiver Bryant Johnson, then reached for yet another defensive end, Calvin Pace of Wake Forest, considered a second- or third-rounder.
Denver chose offensive tackle George Foster of Georgia; Cleveland picked center Jeff Faine of Notre Dame; and the Bears took Grossman, who left Florida after his junior season.
Buffalo, which needs defense, chose McGahee, even though it has a good starter in Travis Henry and signed Olandis Gary as his backup last week.
"We thought he was one of the top one or two players in the whole draft before he got hurt," Bills' coach Gregg Williams said. "He's ahead of progress. We thought we had a great young football player with a chance to hit a real home run with him."
McGahee, sitting in his agent's home in North Miami Beach, Fla., broke down in tears when he got the call by the Bills to tell he was the first running back taken in the draft.
"They caught me off-guard with the pick, but I'm really happy," said McGahee, who after the injury was considered a possible third- or fourth-rounder.
Indianapolis took tight end Dallas Clark of Iowa, then the New York Giants chose defensive tackle William Joseph, the fourth player from Miami selected. The Hurricanes had five first-rounders last season.
San Francisco took offensive tackle Kwame Harris of Stanford. Then Penn State had its fourth player selected, running back Larry Johnson, who went to Kansas City as insurance for Priest Holmes, who has hip problems.
Green Bay chose linebacker Nick Barnett of Oregon State and Oakland closed out the first round with two picks: safety Nnamdi Asomugha of Cal and Tyler Brayton, a defensive tackle from Colorado.
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