Draft will put out a father-son vibe

ON THE NFL

April 18, 2004|By KEN MURRAY

THEY ARE ALL SONS OF FAMOUS FOOTBALL FATHERS — The bloodlines will be unmistakable when roll call is taken next weekend in the NFL draft. Eli Manning, Kellen Winslow Jr., Quincy Wilson and Jarrett Payton will share a common ground.

They are all sons of famous football fathers - some more famous than others.

Wilson and Payton, running backs from West Virginia and Miami, are sons of two former Chicago Bears' stars. Otis Wilson, a linebacker, and the late Walter Payton, a running back, were marquee players on the Bears' Super Bowl-era teams.

Wilson didn't hesitate when asked at the scouting combine which son had the tougher job escaping his father's shadow.

"I think Jarrett, hands down," said the 5-foot-9, 225-pound Wilson, projected as third- to fourth-round pick. "His dad is a Hall of Famer. Then he's at Miami, and it's a running back factory. You have [Willis] McGahee and [Clinton] Portis. He really had to overcome a lot more than me."

Still, Wilson acknowledged it was difficult at times forging his own identity.

"I'm proud in a way, but it's a burden sometimes, because sometimes that's all people know you as, like, `Hey, Little Otis.' But I made a pretty good name for myself," he said.

Winslow, a tight end from Miami, won't exactly follow in the footsteps of his Hall of Fame father, although Kellen Sr. was also a tight end. The elder Winslow played with uncommon grace in San Diego. Winslow Jr. plays with abandon and attitude.

"He was more fluid, smooth," the son said. "I'm more of a [Jeremy] Shockey type guy. I use my quickness and speed."

Winslow and Mississippi's Manning (son of Archie, brother of Peyton) are top-five picks in a draft that will be punctuated by father-son flashbacks.

Other tandems include Florida offensive tackle Max Starks, son of former Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Ross Browner; Florida guard Shannon Snell (Ray Snell, Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard); Colorado State quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt (linebacker Brad Van Pelt, New York Giants); and Florida running back Ran Carthon (Maurice Carthon, Giants).

Carthon's father is the offensive coordinator in Dallas, where the Cowboys need a running back. The thought of playing for the Cowboys doesn't tickle the young Carthon.

"It's kind of hard to say how that would work out," he said. "Me, as a player, I'd be able to differentiate between my father and my coach. But I don't know if people in the organization would see it that way."

Changing on the run

One year after they reached the Super Bowl with a punishing ground game, the Carolina Panthers will have a virtually new offensive line. Only one starter from last year's Super Bowl - center Jeff Mitchell - will be return at the same position.

Gone are guards Kevin Donnalley (retired) and Jeno James (Miami as a free agent), and left tackle Todd Steussie (released). Right tackle Jordan Gross will move to Steussie's old spot.

The projected new guards are Bruce Nelson, a second-round pick last year, and Travis Claridge, signed last week.

Costly divorce

The best offensive lineman in Cowboys history is hitting the road - apparently for good. Eight-time Pro Bowl guard Larry Allen, who had a falling out last season with coach Bill Parcells, visited Oakland and Detroit last week to explore the possibility of a trade.

The Cowboys, who gave Allen permission to line up a new team, want at least a third-round pick, and preferably a second. If Allen departs before June 1, the Cowboys take an $8.2 million salary cap hit in dead money. If he leaves after June 1, they absorb only a $2.06 million hit this year and a $6.2 million loss in 2005.

Chaos control

What are the San Diego Chargers doing? Since the end of the season, they've dumped their best receiver (David Boston), best defensive end (Marcellus Wiley) and eight of their top 11 offensive linemen. They have just one interior lineman among their regulars with more than two years' pro experience.

Things are so bad one anonymous player reportedly asked the NFL to take control of the team because of mismanagement.

Two-minute warning

Former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett visited Dallas last week along with Michigan's Chris Perry and Notre Dame's Julius Jones.

The Cowboys, picking 22nd, are fourth in a line of teams that want running backs in the draft. The Lions, who would trade down from the sixth pick if they choose a runner in the first round, Denver Broncos (17) and New England Patriots (21) are also in the running back market.

The Cleveland Browns probably will accept a conditional future draft pick for quarterback Tim Couch, because the most the Green Bay Packers are willing to give them is a fifth-rounder. If Couch goes to Green Bay and has to replace Brett Favre, the conditional pick would go up. Not good odds.

The Washington Redskins, who have the fifth pick, are infatuated with Winslow, and there would be a certain symmetry to that choice. Coach Joe Gibbs was offensive coordinator in San Diego in 1979, when the Chargers traded up to take Kellen Winslow Sr. with the 13th pick.

Compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

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