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Deciding on a player a long, curious process

Pro Football

2001 Nfl Draft

April 20, 2001|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

When the cottage industry known as the NFL draft unfolds this weekend, there will be no shortage of spiked eyebrows and quizzical expressions.

This is a draft that may raise more questions than it answers.

It's a draft where the Arizona Cardinals, holding the No. 2 pick and in desperate need of defensive linemen, reportedly will select an offensive tackle they plan to move to guard because they already have two competent starting tackles.

It's a draft where almost every team in the top 10 is open to trading down for extra picks, but almost no one in the bottom half of the first round wants to trade up.

It's a draft lacking marquee players - most notably quarterbacks - but is deep in blue-collar types who will have a lasting impact.

Because of all of the above, it's a draft that appears ripe for more first-round blunders, the kind that routinely punctuated drafts of the past decade.

Here is a primer with some of the anticipated trends that bear watching when this curious draft begins tomorrow at noon.

Bigger is better

Following the lead of the Super Bowl champion Ravens, there should be a run on behemoth defensive tackles. Among the huge tackles that figure to be prominent picks are Florida's Gerard Warren (6 feet 4, 325 pounds), Georgia's Marcus Stroud (6-6, 321) and Texas' Shaun Rogers (6-4, 320).

These guys have nothing on Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa, the Ravens' two massive tackles who made running backs disappear at the line of scrimmage, though. Adams weighed in excess of 340 pounds and Siragusa was a conservative 350 as the Ravens set a 16-game record for fewest rushing yards allowed.

"Warren, Rogers and Stroud all can thank the Ravens defense," said Phil Savage, the team's director of college scouting. "Goose and Sam should get a percentage of their signing bonus because those guys all moved up the ladder because it's a copycat league. Those guys with great bulk like that, their stock has definitely gone up."

Warren, regarded the best tackle in the draft, is expected to go no later than the sixth pick to New England. Stroud should go in the middle of the round, perhaps to Buffalo. Rogers would have been in the top 15 picks if not for health issues surrounding his ankle and neck. Still, he is coveted by the St. Louis Rams, who own the 20th pick.

Trading is down

Unlike past drafts, when teams were generally vying to get into the top five, Arizona at No. 2 and Cleveland at No. 3 are eager to trade down. There are a number of reasons. One, after quarterback Michael Vick goes to San Diego on the first pick, there is no consensus on who the next few picks should be.

Two, it's double jeopardy. Making a mistake that high is bad enough. But with a $10 million signing bonus, it's a mistake that will haunt you for a while.

Economics are the motivation behind Arizona wanting to trade down from the second pick. The Cardinals don't want to pay that kind of signing bonus for a player (Warren) who carries some baggage, even though he's at a need position. Instead, they'll probably select left tackle Leonard Davis and make him a right guard for a year because they've spent two high picks on tackles in the last three drafts.

Maybe that's why the Cardinals are always in the top five in the draft, too.

The Browns are a different story. They squandered a raft of expansion-fueled picks the last two years and still have a number of holes to fill. New coach Butch Davis would like to trade down to get his former middle linebacker at Miami, Dan Morgan, and an extra pick. The Green Bay Packers, at No. 10, might accommodate him.

If Davis keeps the third pick, he likely will be torn between a running back (TCU's LaDainian Tomlinson) the team needs and a wide receiver (Michigan's David Terrell) who would put some punch in Tim Couch's passing game.

The San Francisco 49ers, picking ninth, are another team that would like to move down.

Character counts

It's a topic every draft. This year, character issues have clouded perspective on at least two potential first-rounders. One is Warren, who tested positive for marijuana while at Florida and was overweight at his personal workout, prompting questions about motivation. Those circumstances could drop him from No. 2 to No. 6, a prospective difference in signing bonus of $6 million.

Mississippi State cornerback Fred Smoot likely will be downgraded after getting arrested last month for possession of marijuana, even though chargers were dropped on a technicality. Smoot is a playmaker, though, and could sneak into the bottom of the first round.

Buyer beware

This also happens every year: High picks gone bad.

There were some 17 busts in the top 10 picks of the drafts of the 1990s. Among them were five quarterbacks (Ryan Leaf, Heath Shuler, Rick Mirer, David Klingler and Andre Ware) and four running backs (Curtis Enis, Lawrence Phillips, Ki-Jana Carter and Blair Thomas).

That's what makes this such an intriguing cottage industry.

At a glance

When: Tomorrow (rounds 1-3) and Sunday (rounds 4-7)

TV: ESPN (tomorrow, noon-7 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.), ESPN2 (tomorrow, 7 p.m. to conclusion; Sunday, 1 p.m. to conclusion)

Ravens picks: First round, 31st overall; second round, 62nd; third round, 92nd; fourth round, 126th; fifth round, 161st; sixth round, 194th; seventh round, 231st

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