Last year the big guys took center stage, with 12 linemen drafted
in the first round. This year it's the wideouts' turn: Seven have
a chance to be among the first 32 picks, and six of them stand
6'2" or taller and weigh upwards of 200 pounds. The era of the
big wideout is upon us, and defensive backs will be hard-pressed
to keep pace, especially now that the officials have been told to
crack down on pass-coverage techniques. "You're just going to
have to find bigger cornerbacks somewhere," says Scott Pioli, the
Patriots' vice president of player personnel.
ELI MANNING, QB, Mississippi
There will be trade talk right up to the announcement of the
selection, as the Giants try to move up to get this talented
ROBERT GALLERY T Iowa
They need a downfield wideout, such as Roy Williams of Texas, but
Gallery is the kind of lineman who comes along once in a decade.
LARRY FITZGERALD, WR, Pittsburgh
New coach Dennis Green says he's happy with young QB Josh McCown,
so Arizona goes with the receiver who has the best hands.
SEAN TAYLOR, FS, Miami
This is awfully high for a safety to be taken, but Taylor is the
type of player--a hard hitter with speed--who can light up a
KELLEN WINSLOW JR., TE, Miami
He's not as big as his Hall of Fame dad was coming out of
college, but he's faster and nastier. Joe Gibbs likes to collect
ROY WILLIAMS WR Texas
They wanted one of these three playmakers: Williams, Winslow or
Fitzgerald. The speedy Williams means instant touchdowns.
BEN ROETHLISBERGER, QB, Miami (Ohio)
Sure, they signed former 49er Jeff Garcia, but the plan is to let
Big Ben learn the trade for a couple of years and then take over.
DeAngelo Hall, CB, Virginia Tech
Upon his arrival new coach Jim Mora Jr. found a depleted
secondary. Hall, who's also a skilled return man, should help.
KENECHI UDEZE, DE, USC
Though their interior line is set, they need an outside rush.
Udeze, a relentless pursuer, is thought to be the best wing man
in the draft.
TOMMIE HARRIS, DT, Oklahoma
Gary Walker and Seth Payne were hurt last season, and Houston's
defense struggled. Harris will have an instant impact.
PHILIP RIVERS, QB, North Carolina State
They were ready to trade up for this deadly accurate passer (72%
as a senior), but gambled that he would still be available here.
DUNTA ROBINSON, CB, South Carolina
Miami LBs Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams are possibilities, but
Robinson, a hard-to-find shutdown corner, tops the team's wish
VINCE WILFORK, DT, Miami
This quick 344-pounder wins at the wire over WR Michael Clayton
on the theory that it's easier to find wideouts later in the
WILL SMITH, DE, Ohio State
You don't often get the second-best outside rusher this deep in
the draft. Some think the 6'3" 267-pounder is even faster than
LEE EVANS, WR, Wisconsin
The one element missing from coach Jon Gruden's offense is a
swift receiver. How does a game-breaker with 4.40 speed sound?
REGGIE WILLIAMS, WR, Washington
Coach Dennis Erickson is pushing for RB Steven Jackson, but the
front office wants help for a receiving corps that lost both
KEVIN JONES, RB, Virginia Tech
Mike Shanahan traded up hoping this quick 221-pounder would be
there. Jones will remove some of the sting from the Clinton
D.J. WILLIAMS, LB, Miami
A 250-pounder with 4.55 speed, Williams flies to the ball. That's
the kind of speed that Jim Haslett wants to inject into his
JONATHAN VILMA, LB, Miami
He's still here? Grab him. This tackling machine comes from the
same school that produced Ray Lewis, Mike Barrow and many more.
MICHAEL CLAYTON, WR, LSU
Wideout is not a need position, but this possession wideout would
be a nice complement to Chris Chambers and David Boston.
STEVEN JACKSON, RB, Oregon State
They get this pick back from the Pats, then take this slashing
233-pounder as insurance for Jamal Lewis, who is facing drug
SHAWN ANDREWS, T, Arkansas
They've mentioned Michigan RB Chris Perry, so we know who it
won't be. With Larry Allen on the decline, Andrews would be
MICHAEL JENKINS, WR, Ohio State
They could go for defense, but Jenkins, another of those
size-speed (6'4", 218 and 4.38) wonder kids, is too inviting to
CHRIS PERRY, RB, Michigan
Having shipped Corey Dillon to New England, Cincinnati snaps up
the third-highest-rated running back in the draft.
BEN TROUPE, TE, Florida
He's not a burner, but he's quick and explosive, and the Pack
would like another big guy (6'5", 262) to team with Bubba Franks.
BEN WATSON, TE, Georgia
Brandon Manumaleuna is a minimal receiving threat. Enter Watson,
who wowed 'em with a 4.50 40 and 34 reps on the bench press.
MARCUS TUBBS, DT, Texas
Rated the third-best player in the draft at his position, this
sturdy 324-pounder makes up for the loss of Robaire Smith to free
CHRIS GAMBLE, CB, Ohio State
With both starting cornerbacks gone, Philadelphia goes for a
player who can cover but whose tackling isn't NFL quality.
RICARDO COLCLOUGH, CB, Tusculum
They have to find help on defense, so coach Tony Dungy leans
toward this corner with exceptional coverage skills from a
Division II school.
TANK JOHNSON, DT, Washington
This lightning-fast finesse rusher beats out the muscle guys:
Isaac Sopoaga of Hawaii and Junior Siavii and Igor Olshansky of
RASHAUN WOODS, WR, Oklahoma State
He's insurance, in case Muhsin Muhammad becomes a salary-cap
casualty. Woods is a big guy (6'2", 202) who fights for every
VERNON CAREY, G-T, Miami
They love rookies who can play two positions, and the 6'5",
363-pound Carey is a perfect swingman. --Paul Zimmerman