Cowboys make strides with solid draft

Owner Jones is pleased

Chargers, Browns, Raiders also make strong moves

April 22, 2002|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

After a pair of painful 5-11 seasons, Jerry Jones' Dallas Cowboys made the most of their moments on the clock this weekend.

The Cowboys' maverick owner was wheeling and dealing once again as he pulled off the 30th and 31st draft-day trades of his 14-year reign on Saturday. The trade results spilled over into yesterday's fourth round and possibly vaulted the Cowboys into a contending position in the NFC East this season.

Collecting three of the first 63 picks in the NFL draft, the Cowboys added safety Roy Williams of Oklahoma, guard Andre Gurode of Colorado and wide receiver Antonio Bryant of Pittsburgh. When they got cornerback Derek Ross of Ohio State with the 75th pick in Round 3, Jones was ready to do some crowing.

"We feel we've come out of here with three No. 1 picks and a fourth guy [Ross] with early second-round skills," Jones said.

The Cowboys weren't the only non-playoff team to make a strong move over the weekend. The San Diego Chargers, out of the postseason the past six seasons, took three potential starters at the top of the draft and signed free-agent linebacker Donnie Edwards to a five-year contract to gain ground in the AFC West.

The Cleveland Browns finally got a running back they can win with in the first round, a playmaking receiver in the second and a tight end they traded up for in the fourth.

Then there were the Buffalo Bills, who spent the fourth pick of the draft on massive offensive tackle Mike Williams of Texas and followed it up by trading for three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Bledsoe. They shouldn't be 3-13 doormats this season.

There were plenty of winners in the draft, more than a few losers and quite a few teams that simply broke even. Here's an early projection on some teams that gained and lost ground in the draft.

Winners

San Diego: The Chargers' reclamation job proceeded at a fast pace on Saturday when they took cornerback Quentin Jammer (Texas) in the first round, and 6-foot-4, 349-pound guard Toniu Fonoti (Nebraska) and wide receiver Reche Caldwell (Florida) in the second.

New coach Marty Schottenheimer wanted a physical bump-and-run cornerback he could team with Pro Bowler Ryan McNeil to face big receivers like the Oakland Raiders' Tim Brown and the Denver Broncos' Rod Smith in the division. Jammer fell to the Chargers with the fifth pick when the Detroit Lions decided to take quarterback Joey Harrington with the third choice.

The powerful Fonoti, who doesn't turn 21 until November, will be an immediate starter at guard. For now, at least, Caldwell is penciled in as the No. 3 receiver after a very productive season at Florida (63 catches for 1,059 yards and 10 touchdowns).

Dallas: The Cowboys traded down two spots to the eighth pick in the first round to get Williams, who promises to be an impact player in their depleted secondary. They got Gurode with the 37th pick and traded into the bottom of the second round to get Bryant, considered to have first-round talent.

Bryant will join Joey Galloway and Rocket Ismail to give the Cowboys a solid receiving corps. The Cowboys also picked up 5-11, 245-pound fullback Jamar Martin (Ohio State) as a lead blocker for running back Emmitt Smith.

Cleveland: Running back William Green of Boston College, taken with the 16th pick, gives the Browns their first real running game since returning to the league in 1999. Last year, Cleveland ranked last in rushing.

"In this division [AFC North], you've got to be able to run the football and control the clock," coach Butch Davis said.

The Browns did better than that. They got quarterback Tim Couch a speedy receiver in Andre Davis of Virginia Tech, a solid tight end in Darnell Sanders of Ohio State, and a possible starting guard in Melvin Fowler of Maryland.

Oakland: The Raiders pumped up their 18th-ranked defense with two excellent picks in the first round, taking cornerback Phillip Buchanon (Miami) and outside linebacker Napoleon Harris (Northwestern). They added a solid tight end, Doug Jolley of BYU, in the second round.

Losers

Seattle: The Seahawks wanted a tight end in the first round, but traded down from the 20th pick to the 28th and lost Colorado's Daniel Graham when New England traded up to get him. The Seahawks settled for Jerramy Stevens, a Washington junior who pleaded guilty last June to misdemeanor hit-and-run and had other legal problems dating to his high school days.

In the second round, the Seahawks took Oregon's Maurice Morris as a backup for running back Shaun Alexander, and Nevada-Las Vegas defensive end Anton Palepoi, who missed half of last season with a partially torn knee ligament.

Atlanta: The Falcons' most pressing need was at wide receiver, but they didn't get around to taking any until the sixth and seventh rounds. They took power running back T.J. Duckett of Michigan State in the first round even though they had Jamal Anderson and Maurice Smith both returning.

Anderson and Smith both have had knee injuries, though, and now Anderson, a hero of their Super Bowl season, likely will be cut.

Tampa Bay: The Buccaneers surrendered their first- and second-round picks for hiring Jon Gruden away from the Raiders. It was an expensive price to pay for a team with little offensive talent after wide-out Keyshawn Johnson.

Gruden did his best, though, and got wide receiver Marquise Walker of Michigan in the third round and running back Travis Stephens of Tennessee in the fourth. That won't begin to make up for the team's offensive deficiencies.

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