Teams stick to script with picks to fill needs

Analysis: Jets try desperately to make a trade but fail, while perhaps the Browns would have been better off dealing their No. 1 selection.

April 16, 2000|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

When the NFL draft finally began yesterday, the posturing -- and the trading -- finally stopped.

All those rumored draft-day deals? Vanished with the pre-draft rhetoric.

The team that tried the hardest -- and had the most ammunition -- failed to get an elite pick. In the last two days, the New York Jets made runs at the Cincinnati Bengals, Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers, teams that held picks 4 through 8.

Rebuffed, the Jets filled their needs as best they could. They got a pass-rushing defensive end in Shaun Ellis at No. 12, an outside linebacker in John Abraham at No. 13, a quarterback in Chad Pennington at No. 18 and a tight end in Anthony Becht at No. 27.

Conspicuous by its absence was a wide receiver to replace departed wide-out Keyshawn Johnson. The players the Jets coveted most were defensive tackle Corey Simon and wide receiver Plaxico Burress.

In a first round that fell remarkably to form, only a few teams -- notably the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans -- went away from need.

In the end, 16 offensive players, 14 defensive players and one kicker went in the opening round. The most targeted position was linebacker with six picks. The defensive line, running back and wide receiver all produced five picks.

Roll call for the first round:

1. Cleveland, DE Courtney Brown, Penn State.

The Browns reached terms with Brown's agent before the draft started, then waited 13 minutes before announcing the pick. Did they want the TV time? Or did they shop the pick? As good as Brown is -- and he'll be a great pro -- he will not single-handedly turn Cleveland around. The Browns missed the boat by not trading down to fill a lengthy list of need positions.

2. Washington, LB LaVar Arrington, Penn State.

The easiest pick in the draft. After Dana Stubblefield and Dan Wilkinson, the Redskins finally have a force who can cure their ailing defense. Offensive coordinators will have to game-plan against Arrington's unique skills. He is a gifted pass rusher with the ability to drop into coverage, and he makes everybody else on defense better.

3. Washington, OT Chris Samuels, Alabama.

Samuels solves a lingering problem at left tackle for the Redskins. But remember, quarterback Brad Johnson made 18 starts last season with Andy Heck at left tackle. Will they regret not taking Peter Warrick?

4. Cincinnati, WR Peter Warrick, Florida State.

The Bengals gave quarterback Akili Smith a big-play weapon after resisting overtures from the New York Jets, who would've liked Warrick to offset the loss of Keyshawn Johnson. With Warrick and Darnay Scott, the Bengals have a first-rate receiving tandem.

5. Ravens, RB Jamal Lewis, Tennessee.

The risk factor notwithstanding, the Ravens giddily rolled the dice with Lewis, a junior who had injuries his last two years at Tennessee. The Ravens fielded just one trade-down call while on the clock -- from Green Bay -- and easily passed on the offer. Their priority, once defensive tackle Sam Adams agreed to terms, was a running back who can pound his way through the red zone. If Lewis stays healthy, it was a good risk.

6. Philadelphia, DT Corey Simon, Florida State.

After sending out signals Friday that they preferred wide-out Travis Taylor, the Eagles went for the chalk pick and help on defense. Because coach Andy Reid and Ravens coach Brian Billick are friends, the Eagles were promised the chance to match any offer the Ravens got at No. 5 and snare Simon.

7. Arizona, RB Thomas Jones, Virginia.

The Ravens had concern the Cardinals might choose Lewis over Jones, who has been linked to Arizona for weeks. The Cardinals did their best to keep their objective secret: they didn't bring any of the top running backs in for a pre-draft visit. Then they went for Jones, the consensus choice as the best back available this year.

8. Pittsburgh, WR Plaxico Burress, Michigan State.

Instead of picking a quarterback (Chad Pennington) to replace Kordell Stewart, they got Stewart a bigger target to throw to. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Burress had started to slide on numerous draft boards because of perceived immaturity. But not on the Steelers' board. They brought him in twice for visits this month, and never seriously considered Pennington.

9. Chicago, LB Brian Urlacher, New Mexico.

The Bears made a pre-draft offer for the Ravens' fifth pick -- possibly for Burress -- then selected the versatile Urlacher, a safety in college. With a rare combination of size (6-3, 250) and speed (4.6), he will play strong-side backer for the Bears.

10. Ravens, WR Travis Taylor, Florida.

The Ravens' calculated gamble that Taylor would last till the 10th pick was a bold stroke. Rated as the second-best receiver on most draft boards, Taylor offers size, speed and polish from a passing program. Billick liked his run-after-the-catch ability. Billick's offense is revitalized.

11. New York Giants, RB Ron Dayne, Wisconsin.

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