Monday, April 28, 2003

Winners and losers in 2003 draft



By BOB MATTHEWS
Rochester, N.Y. Democrat and Chronicle

The Cincinnati Bengals shocked the football world and had a productive draft.

New England's Bill Belichick showed the patience a coach-GM with a long-term contract can afford to have.

The Minnesota Vikings lost track of time again.

And Buffalo's Tom Donahoe defied logic by selecting a first-rounder who might never play.

Here are some highlights and lowlights of the 2003 NFL draft:

Best drafts - by Cincinnati, Baltimore and Dallas.

I'm not sold on Heisman Trophy-winning QB pick Carson Palmer as the No. 1 overall pick, but a lot of NFL people think he'll become a superstar. Second-round Cincinnati pick offensive guard Eric Steinbach and third-round wide receiver Kelley Washington were rated first-rounders by some experts entering the draft. So was DB Dennis Weathersby, who dropped to the first pick in the fourth round after being shot a week earlier. The Ravens added two valuable commodities in the first round: a legitimate pass rusher (Terrell Suggs) and a potential starting quarterback (Kyle Boller). Third-round RB Musa Smith was projected higher on many lists. The Cowboys added top-rated CB Terence Newman, top-rated TE Jason Witten and a center who could start immediately in Al Johnson.

Most courageous pick - Willis McGahee by Buffalo. My theory is that the dozen or so players Donahoe figured could have helped immediately (including the blue-chip pass-rushing defensive ends) were taken before his No. 23 overall pick arrived so he selected the player who might be the biggest help in the future.

Assuming McGahee sits out the 2003 season to strengthen his rebuilt knee, at the very least he'd be attractive trade bait prior to or during the 2004 draft, which projects to be weak on running backs for the second straight year. At best, McGahee returns 100 percent and becomes one of the top five RBs in the NFL and the Bills could afford to let Travis Henry walk in a year or two.

Potential great picks - QB Byron Leftwich by Jacksonville, DT Dewayne Robertson by the New York Jets, WR Taylor Jacobs by Washington, RB Chris Brown by Tennessee and QB Rex Grossman by Chicago. The Jaguars have gone as far as they can with Mark Brunell at QB. I believe Leftwich will be a better NFL QB than Palmer and should be ready to start by 2004 at the latest.

The Jets desperately needed a run stuffer and the way Robertson's stock soared in the week prior to the draft, it will be a surprise if the No. 3 overall pick isn't the immediate solution to the problem.

Not all of Florida's wide receivers have panned out for former Gators coach Steve Spurrier in Washington, but Jacobs might. The Redskins should be entertaining with second-year QB Patrick Ramsey throwing to speedsters Jacobs, Laveranues Coles (the former Jets star is the equivalent of a first-round pick after signing as a free agent) and Rod Gardner. Tennessee needed a strong backup running back for Eddie George and Brown filled a need and could have been a steal at No. 93 overall. The Bears have been searching for a stellar starting QB for a long time and Grossman could be the man. The big question in Chicago is how many games into this season he'll replace Kordell Stewart.

Second guess - The Houston Texans picked WR Andre Johnson No. 3 overall, figuring second-year QB David Carr needs a quality deep-threat receiver. But before Carr can throw deep, he needs some protection. Trading down and winding up with a few first-round caliber offensive linemen might have been a wiser move (but definitely wouldn't have impressed Houston's fans as much or sold as many tickets).

Strangest move - Arizona trading the No. 6 overall pick to New Orleans, giving up the chance to select DT-DE Terrell Suggs and winding up with DE Calvin Pace No. 18. The Cardinals had only 21 sacks last season. Suggs had 24 for Arizona State and Pace had eight for Wake Forest. Pace's selection was not applauded by Arizona fans. Vice president football operations Jeff Graves said of Pace, "There are a lot of other unknowns who have been successful in the NFL." Unfortunately for fans in Phoenix, not many of them have been Cardinals.

Houston taking Columbus Clippers third baseman Drew Henson in the sixth round. How can a second-year team justify wasting a pick on a player who repeatedly says he has no interest in abandoning his baseball career? And the Texans already have a young franchise QB in Carr and selected Ragone in the third round.

Most embarrassed team (again) - The Minnesota Vikings. They botched up their first-round pick for the second straight year. They wanted to trade down in the first round to wind up with a few extra later picks, but time expired during negotiations with Baltimore and by the time they got their act together, they'd blown a shot at the No. 8 pick, too. Minnesota finally chose DT Kevin Williams No. 9 overall and bragged that they wound up with the player they wanted all along and now won't have to pay him as much money. Williams' agent immediately nixed that notion and hinted a long holdout could be coming.

A tardy trip to the podium cost the Vikings a shot at the No. 6 pick last year. They wanted DT Ryan Sims but were beaten to the punch by Kansas City. Minnesota wound up picking OT Bryant McKinnie No. 7 and he missed most of his rookie season as a holdout.

Most patient drafter - Belichick. New England entered the draft with 13 picks, including Nos. 14 and 19 overall, and wound up with nose tackle Ty Warren (No. 13 overall) and DB Eugene Wilson (No. 36 overall despite being rated a third-rounder on many lists) as their first two picks. What doesn't show up on the team's list of draft booty is the first-round pick in 2004 obtained Saturday from Baltimore. The Patriots now have two first-round picks and two second-rounders and three fourth-rounders in next year's draft, which most NFL observers expect will be better and deeper than the 2003 draft was.

Offense sells tickets, defense wins games - Here's the breakdown for the first two rounds of the 2003 draft:

First round - 14 offense, 18 defense.

Second Round - 11 offense, 21 defense

Totals - 25 offense and 39 defense.

Top football factory - The Miami Hurricanes have supplied 13 first-round picks in the last three NFL drafts, including four this year. Five more are projected for 2004.

Most disappointed drafted players (expected to be selected much sooner) - QB Dave Ragone No. 88 by Houston, QB Chris Simms No. 97 by Tampa Bay, Weathersby No. 98 by Cincinnati, RB Onterrio Smith No. 105 by Minnesota, RB Lee Suggs No. 115 by Cleveland, DT Rien Long No. 126 by Tennessee and QB Ken Dorsey No. 241 by San Francisco (13th QB selected).

The last pick - Ryan Hoag by Oakland. The wide receiver is a bit of a project. He played one year of high school football and went to Wake Forest to play soccer. He transferred to Gustavus Adolphus College to play football and caught 144 passes for 2,142 yards and 29 TDs against suspect competition. The scouting report says he is "raw and needs to learn to run routes." If he makes the Raiders, watching Jerry Rice and Tim Brown would be a good lesson.

Compared to Syracuse LB Clifton Smith, "Mr. Irrelevant" Hoag was fortunate. Smith, projected by some as a fifth-round pick, wasn't selected at all. SU had only two players chosen. Thirty-nine schools had more players picked, including Hawaii, Marshall, South Florida, Utah and Wake Forest.

Flunked Draft 101 - Of the 45 underclassmen who declared for the 2003 draft, only 20 were picked in the first three rounds Saturday. Most of the rest should have stayed in school.




NFL DRAFT
A lifetime lived in 8 days
Day Two sees team turn focus to defense
Team adds fullback to mix
2 more Bearcats selected in draft
Five Buckeyes headed to NFL
Winners and losers in 2003 draft
Were there really 12 QBs better than Ken Dorsey?
Colts say draft went according to plan
With McGahee pick, Bills start new soap opera
Giants bolster defense through draft
Texans select Drew Henson
2003 NFL Draft selections
Team-by-team draft

REDS
Reds 7, Padres 5
Daugherty: Bob Boone
Larkin boosts Lopez, who then boosts Reds
Reds notebook: Larkin won't rush return

MORE BASEBALL
NL: Millwood throws no-hitter
AL: Blue Jays rally to beat Royals
Notes from Sunday's games

HORSE RACING
The Kid still has dreams
Idaho horse heads to the races
Frankel's horses pass workouts

PREP SPORTS
Kentucky insider: Madden eager for her return
Prep polls and leaders
Schedule and results

NHL PLAYOFFS
Flyers shut out Senators 2-0

NBA PLAYOFFS
Pierce walks his talk as Pacers fall

GOLF
Couples wins his first in 5 years

TENNIS
A furious finish follows sluggish start for Agassi

AUTO RACING
Busch ends slump at Auto Club 500

REMEMBERING...
Joe B. Hall enjoys the simpler things these days

PLAN YOUR DAY
Monday's sports on TV, radio

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