THE 49ERS and the Dolphins picked the wrong year to be selecting at the top of the NFL draft. The early book on next April's player pool: very few sure things at the top of the board, but lots of good mid-first-rounders. "This is the year to have the 12th pick, not the second," a college scout for one NFL team said on Monday. It's too early to know which players, such as fourth-year junior quarterback Matt Leinart of USC, might declare early for the draft, but here are the top five prospects who are now eligible, four seniors plus former USC wideout Mike Williams, who unsuccessfully tried to enter the 2004 draft after his sophomore season.
1. ANTREL ROLLE, CB, Miami
A player the 49ers, who desperately need a cover corner, should pick; he's a physical tackler too.
2. MIKE WILLIAMS, WR, USC Smooth, athletic and mature, but will the pros downgrade him because he missed a year of football?
3. ERASMUS JAMES, DE, Wisconsin Might develop Michael Strahan--like run-stuffing and pass-rushing skills, which every team needs.
4. CADILLAC WILLIAMS, RB, Auburn Speedster edges teammate Ronnie Brown and Cedric Benson of Texas as the top running back.
5. TRAVIS JOHNSON, DT, Florida State
Inconsistent 290-pounder could become an every-down force in the mold of the Vikings' Kevin Williams. --Peter King