Rounding up is the goal for McGahee, Adamson

ON THE NFL

Pro Football

April 13, 2003|By KEN MURRAY

There are probably not two more divergent paths to this month's NFL draft than those followed by running back Willis McGahee and quarterback Rob Adamson.

McGahee, who set the single-season rushing record at Miami last year, was a certain top-five pick until he ravaged his left knee in the fourth quarter of January's Fiesta Bowl, tearing three ligaments.

Adamson delivered Mount Union (Ohio) College's second consecutive Division III national title last season, but wasn't regarded highly enough to warrant an invitation to the NFL's scouting combine in February in Indianapolis.

For all their differences, McGahee and Adamson now have one thing in common: They're both working hard to sell themselves in anticipation of enhanced draft position.

McGahee, who has enjoyed a seemingly miraculous rehabilitation from major knee reconstruction, is attempting to squeeze back into the first round. Adamson, 25-0 as a starter at Mount Union, is simply trying to squeeze into the second day of the draft and avoid the free-agent route.

Said Adamson: "It's a lot easier to cut a free agent than a guy you drafted."

Despite his combine snub, Adamson went to Indianapolis anyway to meet coaches and executives at the suggestion of his Dayton-based agent, Ron Todd. "I thought it was genius, and I'm a marketing major," Adamson said.

At nearly 6 feet 4 and a solid 214 pounds, he apparently made a good impression. Adamson held three workouts in March, one conducted by Cleveland Browns quarterback coach Carl Smith and another by Ravens scout T.J. McCreight.

"They wanted me to do the same stuff that I wanted to show, the deep outs and test my arm strength," Adamson said. "They wanted to see me throw on the run, move a little in the pocket and gather myself, then throw."

Adamson said he didn't throw as well as he can, but got positive feedback in each instance. Since then, Todd has sent tapes of those workouts to about 10 teams. Because Mount Union ran a pro-style offense, Todd said Adamson's "learning curve will be faster."

The only concession Adamson makes to the rest of the quarterbacks in this year's draft is the competition level he faced. But he says he is confident he can make the quantum leap to the NFL.

"Teams are probably going to think they're getting me for developmental [reasons], but they'll be pleasantly surprised as far as my knowledge of football, my arm and how well I can play," he said. "Their initial thought, yeah, may be the practice squad and NFL Europe. But I might be able to skip the process."

Meanwhile, agent Drew Rosenhaus is assuring teams that McGahee will sign with the team that picks him, even though he could wait for the 2004 draft. And McGahee is telling everyone that he will play in 2003, even though the typical recovery time for an injury like his is 18 months.

McGahee got favorable reviews at an April 4 medical re-check in Indianapolis, and he's planning a private workout in Miami five days before the April 26 draft. A good workout might elevate him from the second round - where he is now projected - into the first, perhaps by a team with two first-round picks.

Offseason winners

With all but a handful of viable free agents signed, it's clear that the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons have made the biggest strides of the offseason.

The Bills substantially improved a defense that ranked 29th against the run by adding linebackers Takeo Spikes and Jeff Posey and massive defensive tackle Sam Adams. The loss of wide receiver Peerless Price is minimized by the fact that they recouped a No. 1 pick and have promising second-year man Josh Reed ready to take his place. That should put the Bills, 8-8 last year, in the thick of the AFC East race.

The Falcons upgraded their little-play receiving corps by getting Price and MarTay Jenkins as new weapons for quarterback Michael Vick. Just as important, they improved their secondary by adding cornerbacks Tyrone Williams and Tod McBride, both from Green Bay, and safety Cory Hall. If Price is truly a No. 1 receiver, the Falcons could be a Super Bowl contender.

Trading places

Unless some team decides it has to have quarterback Carson Palmer or wide receiver Charles Rogers, it appears the Cincinnati Bengals will have to keep their No. 1 pick and take Palmer for the future.

Detroit Lions president Matt Millen, who wants Rogers with the second pick, is worried someone will jump in front of him to get the Michigan State receiver. "Personally, I think somebody's going to go get him," Millen said.

The Houston Texans, with the third pick, will not be the team that jumps up, though. They'll take wide receiver Andre Johnson or cornerback Terence Newman or trade down.

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