Projections for the first round
By Nolan Nawrocki
April 15, 2005
Although PFW typically takes the stance not to project trades on Draft Day, the desire of the Dolphins to move down is so strong that we are projecting a trade in the first round. In fact, many deals could be expected in the first round.
1. San Francisco 49ers — QB Aaron Rodgers, California
Alex Smith is the quarterback the Niners truly covet, but his agent, Tom Condon, is more concerned about finding the best situation for his client than having him be drafted first overall. The Niners began negotiations with Rodgers, Smith and Edwards in an attempt to enter the draft with a contract in hand. The true measure of whether owner John York has changed his frugal ways and truly turned over the team to head coach Mike Nolan and vice president/player personnel Scot McCloughan will be whether or not the team can strike a deal with Condon, who refuses to be bullied and does not care whether his client is the first quarterback drafted. Having a quarterback signed and in attendance for minicamp is very important to Nolan, so the Niners will select the player with whom they can strike a deal, and Rodgers’ agent, Mike Sullivan, has been far more cooperative with the Niners than either Smith’s or Edwards’ agent.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (trade with Miami) — QB Alex Smith, Utah
The Dolphins will not hesitate to draft the player with the most value if he is available, which numerous teams say will force a team interested in Alex Smith to trade up to get him. The Buccaneers do not want to give up a second-round pick, but with 11 tradeable picks in this draft (compensatory picks cannot be traded), Tampa has more ammunition than any other team to attack the draft aggressively and get the player it wants. Jon Gruden considers quarterback to be the most important position in all of sports. Smith has the mind to bring a Super Bowl championship back to the South.
3. Cleveland Browns — CB Antrel Rolle, Miami (Fla.)
Phil Savage had a hand in drafting Ray Lewis and Ed Reed in Baltimore and knows firsthand how the Miami (Fla.) swagger typically translates to the NFL. The risk factor with Braylon Edwards is far greater than it is with Rolle. Ideally, the Browns would like to trade this pick to a team interested in Edwards, and the Minnesota Vikings have enough picks to move up, but if the Browns can’t find an interested buyer, it will be very difficult.
4. Chicago Bears — RB Cedric Benson, Texas
If running backs slip and the Bears have their choice of backs, they will be trying hard to trade down, thinking they could get Benson or Carnell Williams along with the third-round pick they lost in the Adewale Ogunleye trade with the Dolphins last year. If they can’t move the pick, there is no question who the most talented back in the draft is — Benson.
5. Miami Dolphins (trade with Tampa Bay) — RB Ronnie Brown, Auburn
Nick Saban has employed his staff to do a lot of extra work on Brown, and although he is the most unproven of the three elite backs in this draft, Saban and his staff are very confident they could maximize his talent.
6. Tennessee Titans — WR Mike Williams, USC
Last year, many more teams had Roy Williams rated higher than Larry Fitzgerald, but Arizona head coach Denny Green’s familiarity and history with Fitzgerald made the difference. Titans head coach Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Norm Chow are both USC graduates. Never underestimate the power of established relationships.
7. Minnesota Vikings — WR Braylon Edwards, Michigan
There are concerns among some NFL decision-makers arising in the last week about the way Edwards is handling himself, because he is making comparisons between himself and Terrell Owens and showing more of the egotistical, overconfident side of his personality that put him in Lloyd Carr’s doghouse at Michigan as a junior. He did not distance himself from Mike Williams with his display of speed at his pro-day workout. He will be competing with Williams to be the first receiver drafted.
8. Arizona Cardinals — CB Carlos Rogers, Auburn
With the depth at the RB position in this draft and a Travis Henry trade still a possibility, the Cardinals could address their need for a runner in other spots. Cover corners like Rogers are in much greater demand.
9. Washington Redskins — CB Adam “Pac-Man” Jones, West Virginia
There is growing sentiment in league circles that Troy Williamson is the player the Redskins are eying, but Jones could be the choice by default to replace Fred Smoot if Rogers is gone.
10. Detroit Lions — OLB Derrick Johnson, Texas
Having Shaun Rogers and Dan Wilkinson in front of him would allow Johnson to make the type of impact that Brian Urlacher did as a rookie. Since Urlacher lost the big bodies in front of him, some of the luster has been lost. Teams have figured out they could pick up chunks of yardage by running at him. Don’t rule out Erasmus James in this spot.
11. Dallas Cowboys — DE Marcus Spears, LSU
When Bill Belichick took over in New England, the first piece of his defense he sought was a five-technique, selecting Richard Seymour with the sixth overall pick. With the Cowboys wanting to use more 3-4 packages, Spears would be a great fit.
12. San Diego Chargers — OLB DeMarcus Ware, Troy
Ware could just as easily be the first defensive end drafted a pick sooner, but he would be a tremendous fit as a 3-4 rush outside linebacker.
13. Houston Texans — RB Carnell Williams, Auburn
GM Charley Casserly does not have a great track record drafting offensive linemen. Knowing that the quality of tackles available in next year’s draft is going to be one of the best ever, the Texans could feel comfortable with Seth Wand for a year, especially after overpaying for Todd Wade to fill the hole at right tackle.
14. Carolina Panthers — OT Alex Barron, Florida State
Barron is a top-five talent and, in the right environment, could turn out to be a top-flight left tackle. There is some risk involved, but playing alongside Mike Wahle and Jeff Mitchell should ease his transition. Travelle Wharton could be kicked back inside to guard to give the Panthers one of the best offensive lines in football.
15. Kansas City Chiefs — DE Shawne Merriman, Maryland
After putting on 30 pounds, Merriman was out of shape at his pro-day workout after five minutes and must play with his hand on the ground. The Chiefs need a force off the edge and haven’t had one since Derrick Thomas.
16. New Orleans Saints — WR Troy Williamson, South Carolina
Questions about Williamson’s learning ability could affect his stock. The Saints love SEC speed and with Donté Stallworth struggling, Aaron Brooks could use another target. The Saints have a history of taking the best player available, regardless of need, and Williamson is not expected to be there at No. 16, which could make their decision very easy.
17. Cincinnati Bengals — DE David Pollack, Georgia
The Bengals are primed to trade down, as they did a year ago, and pick up additional draft picks. They could use more help on the defensive line, and Pollack would be ideal opposite Justin Smith to upgrade the Bengals’ pass rush.
18. Minnesota Vikings — DE Erasmus James, Wisconsin
The Vikings could use more help off the edge. Not many teams have taken Erasmus James off their draft boards because of his injury history, but he could slip primarily because of his one-year production.
19. St. Louis Rams — SS Thomas Davis, Georgia
Davis has the speed and hitting ability desired in the Rams’ defense and is said to be the object of their desires.
20. Dallas Cowboys — WR Mark Clayton, Oklahoma
Teams know exactly what they are getting with Clayton. He may not have tremendous upside, but he is going to catch 60-70 balls a year and will be a very solid pro.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars — OT Jammal Brown, Oklahoma
The Jaguars have very little depth at tackle and need to be prepared in case Mike Pearson cannot return to full form after blowing out his knee a year ago.
22. Baltimore Ravens — WR Roddy White, UAB
The perfect solution for an inaccurate quarterback is a receiver who catches anything in sight. White has the great body control to adjust to the ball.
23. Seattle Seahawks — CB Fabian Washington, Nebraska
Kelly Herndon would be best as a No. 3 cornerback. With the emphasis placed on speed in Ray Rhodes’ defense, Washington will be very difficult to pass up.
24. Green Bay Packers — FS Brodney Pool, Oklahoma
After losing Darren Sharper, the Packers have a glaring need in the secondary. Pool’s athletic ability and upside make him well worth a first-round selection.
25. Denver Broncos — OT Khalif Barnes, Washington
Mike Shanahan seems to have as much security as any coach in the National Football League and could feel comfortable continuing to build for the future. Left tackle is a position they must have resolved for 2006.
26. New York Jets — TE Heath Miller, Virginia
It’s difficult to take a chance on a player who may not be ready for minicamps in the first round, but Miller’s injuries could be seen as a blessing to a team in big need of a tight end, with there being a possibility Miller slips out of the first round because of them.
27. Atlanta Falcons — DT Shaun Cody, USC
Some teams have knocked Cody off their boards completely because of injuries, but Cody would be an upgrade over Chad Lavalais, and the Falcons need help inside.
28. San Diego Chargers — TE-WR Matt Jones, Arkansas
Teams generally do not like to take projections in the first round, and Jones is not a great practice player. However, Jones would give the Chargers a lot of flexibility to be creative offensively and would make it difficult for a lot of teams to defend him and TE Antonio Gates.
29. Indianapolis Colts — DT Mike Patterson, USC
Patterson is a big reach in the first round. Yet, Bill Polian has never been afraid of taking an undersized player in the first round even though most will say he is nuts for taking him so early. Dwight Freeney is a prime example.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers — CB Marlin Jackson, Michigan
Jackson is a big, physical cornerback with the versatility the Steelers like, and youth is needed on the edge in the Steelers' secondary.
31. Philadelphia Eagles — DT Travis Johnson, Florida State
With Corey Simon being the subject of trade talks, the Eagles need to think about the future and get help inside.
32. New England Patriots — DT Luis Castillo, Northwestern
Since Bill Belichick arrived in New England, he has never drafted anything but defensive linemen and tight ends in the first round. Some teams might consider Castillo too much of a risk to draft in the first round, but the Patriots are a team that doesn’t have to be concerned about any criticism it might receive from the public for selecting a player who admitted to taking steroids to heal his elbow. In Belichick, the people of Boston trust.