To the pessimist, Andre King's unsuccessful desperate sideline plunge against the Steelers closed the book on a Browns season that ended too soon and at the hands of the wrong team. To me, and all of the other faithfully naïve eternal optimists, it meant that the Browns were now locked in at the 21st overall selection in the 1st round of the 2003 NFL draft and that annually comical Bungles were now officially on the clock as far as I was concerned.
I must admit that I get a bit too into the NFL draft. Possibly it's because it helps me better deal with unfulfilling endings to Browns season. Perhaps it's because I feel I need to parlay the 191 hours I spent on my couch watching college football this season into something of some meaning. Most probably, it's because I need something aside from college basketball to keep my mind occupied until baseball season opens. This is the first installment of what will be several pieces I'll be writing for this site that will focus on the fast approaching draft.
Obviously, what the Browns may do with the 21st and 53rd overall selections will be something I key on as we move closer to draft day. Right now, it's just far too early to be able to narrow it down to even a handful of players. Conventional wisdom would suggest that offensive tackle, defensive tackle, and cornerback are the three biggest needs the team has right now. We also need a free safety, tight end, and most likely a defensive end and an outside linebacker…even if Jamir Miller and either Rudd or Hambrick are brought back (don't count on it). Who the Browns target in free agency will also have a large impact on potential first day draft selections.
The college All-Star games as well as the upcoming scouting combines have a huge impact on how things will end up going down on draft day. I did get a chance to watch and then re-watch the tape of the East-West Shrine Game, which took place this past weekend. I also was able to find some phenomenal scouting reports online from the practices that took place the week before the game. As with any of those games, there were several players who dramatically improved and worsened their respective draft status with their performances (or lack thereof) during Shrine week. Let's take a look…
Helped themselves: RB Avon Cobourne/West Virginia, RB Sultan McCullough/USC, WR Jerel Myers/LSU, WR Carl Morris/Harvard, WR Walter Young/Illinois, TE Donald Lee/Mississippi St., OL Jordan Black/Notre Dame, OL Tim Provost/San Jose St., OL Todd Williams/Florida St, DL Tully Banta-Cain/Cal, DL Aaron Hunt/Texas Tech, DL Dan Klecko/Temple, CB Wes Crawley/Air Force, CB Donald Strickland/Colorado, CB Ricky Manning Jr./UCLA, S Quentin Mikell/Boise St., S Gerome Sapp/Notre Dame, S Michael Doss/Ohio St., P Andy Groom/Ohio St.
Hurt themselves: QB Ken Dorsey/Miami Fla., QB Jason Thomas/UNLV, WR J.R. Tolver/San Diego St., WR Ron Bellamy/Michigan, OL Alonzo Ephraim/Alabama, OL Kevin Breedlove/Georgia, OL Chad Setterstrom/N.Iowa, OL Morgan Pears/Colorado St., DL Cliff Washburn/Citadel, DL Nick Burley/Fresno St., LB Lawrence Flugence/Texas Tech, S Willie Pile/Virginia Tech
My initial mock draft, which follows below, will change dramatically by the time it's all said and done. There are a couple of juniors listed that may still elect to return to school for their senior seasons, and I'm not ready to start prognosticating any teams potentially trading up or down. At least not until the official draft order is set after the Super Bowl. Here we go…
- Cincinnati-DT Jimmy Kennedy,
Penn St.-Let the fun begin. If the Bungles don't trade down (which I believe they will), you can be assured that they will find a way to blow this pick. Actually, they'll probably keep the pick and select a player they could have traded down and still gotten…just as they did with Levi Jones last season. They're still too gun shy from the Akili debacle to go after Carson Palmer, and too stubborn to select Leftwich…who scoffed at the prospects of playing in Cincy. My money has them selecting the draft's top defensive player in Kennedy, a massive force in the middle. I apologize, Jimmy. Mike Brown is a joke.
- Detroit-WR Charles Rogers, Michigan St.-This pick would have been Willis McGahee had he not gotten hurt in the Fiesta Bowl, but now Rogers becomes the likely selection. It will simply be too tough to let this kid leave the state with his tools and Joey Harrington needing a go-to guy.
- Houston-DE Terrell Suggs,
Arizona St.-The nation's most dominant pass rusher this season for the Sun Devils is an ideal fit for Dom Capers 3-4 scheme in . Whether he is a DE or an OLB is yet to be determined, but who cares when you can get after it like this guy. Houston
- Chicago-QB Byron Leftwich, Marshall-No doubt this pick will be a QB for ‘Da Bears. In the end, I think it will be Leftwich over Palmer as his arm is just too good to pass on. The idea of him slinging the rock all over the revamped Soldier Field to Booker, Terrell, Robinson, and White should have Bears fans drooling.
- Dallas-CB Terence Newman, Kansas St.-Carson Palmer once again would seem to make sense here, but I feel Parcells will go after one of the available veteran signal callers (Griese, Plummer, Grbac, Vinnie, Brunell) and then take a QB a bit later if Hutchinson is not brought back. In Newman, he lands the draft's top shutdown corner, and a solid return man.
- Arizona-QB Carson Palmer, USC-The Plummer era ends, and the Palmer era begins in the desert. Palmer appears to be the prototypical signal caller with none of Jake's poor habits.
- Minnesota-DT William Joseph,
Fla.-Coach Mike Tice is on record as saying he wants either an offensive or defensive lineman with this pick. With Miami 's emergence late last season…the Vikes will bolster the D-Line this year with Joseph, a fellow Hurricane. Playing inside with Chris Hovan, they will instantly form one of the league's top duos at DT. Mount McKinnie
- Jacksonville-WR Andre Johnson,
Fla.-Dude is lightning quick, and 6'3/220 lbs. with above average hands. The Jags desperately need a compliment to Jimmy Smith and will likely take whoever they view as the top WR off the board here. A DE is also a possibility. Miami -QB Eli Manning, Ole Miss-This could be the team that trades up to grab the #1 pick from Carolina and takes Leftwich. If they stay put, they'll likely take the top QB available at #9 or hope the Jaguars pass on Andre Johnson. Cincinnati
- Seattle-DT DeWayne Robertson, Kentucky-This massive presence inside will help to repair one of the league's most porous run defenses and fill a huge need for Holmgren…who has been very questionable on draft day the past couple years.
- Baltimore-DE Jerome McDougle,
-The Ravens need a defensive end badly, and the savvy Ozzie Newsome will not let the well-rounded McDougle slip past him here. This pick also could be an offensive lineman depending on how the top ones work out at the combines. Miami Fla.
- St. Louis-OT Jordan Gross, Utah-With all the problems St. Louis had this year, the play of their tackles (with a hobbled Orlando Pace and horrible play from John St. Clair) was their biggest flaw. Pace has an opt out in his contract this off-season, and the Rams need to keep their QB's healthy. If this pick is not an offensive lineman, I'd be highly surprised.
- Washington-OG Jeff Faine, Notre Dame-The ‘Skins need help at DL as well as WR but will likely pull the top OG off the board here to help repair an O-Line decimated by injuries a season ago.
- New England-DE Will Smith,
Ohio St.-The Pats front seven is aging quickly, and Belichick will use his first of his two first round selections to take the most athletic defender off the board. Smith has yet to declare, but should seeing that he can go out on top and is a surefire 1st round selection. -OT Kwame Harris, Stanford-The Chargers also need a top flight WR, but if one of the top couple tackles is available…that is also a great need for them. Harris has yet to declare, but is immense and talented and would serve as Drew Brees' bodyguard for years to come. San Diego
- Kansas City-CB Andre Woolfolk,
-The Chief secondary needs a serious overhaul and they will most likely take the top cornerback off the board at #16. In Woolfolk, they get a seasoned shut down corner that should be a phenomenal pro player. Oklahoma
- New Orleans-CB Marcus Trufant, Washington St.-Trufaunt is a big and fast corner that fills a Big Need in the Big Easy. People threw on New Orleans at will this year during their late season collapse, and I would not be surprised to see them use both of their selections on DB's here at #17 and #18 in the 1st round. Teams just would not throw anywhere near Trufant during the second half of the season.
- New Orleans-S Michael Doss,
Ohio St.-Everything I've read says late 1st round/early 2nd round for Doss…but I just can't see him slipping that far. Dude is ready to step in and start tomorrow in the NFL, and will be one of the leagues top 10 strong safeties (like Roy Williams last year) in his rookie year. The Steelers will take him at #27 if he's there with Lee Flowers on his way out the door…so let's hope someone snags him before then.
- New England-ILB E.J. Henderson,
-A great football player that will be a steal for whoever selects him. The Pats will be tempted to take him at #14, and be ecstatic when he's still here at #19. He will fit in nicely at one of the inside spots of their 3-4 defense. Maryland
- Denver-DE Cory Redding, Texas-The Broncos will likely elect to go with either a OT or DE here as they need to shore up the edges of both lines this off-season and will probably sign Elvis Grbac to replace Brian Griese at QB.
is a seasoned and talented pass rusher from the end and will add even more quickness to the speedy Bronco front seven. Redding
- CLEVELAND-DE DeWayne White,
-The Browns biggest problem this year was an inability to pressure the QB and was the leading cause of their downfall in the collapse against the hated Stillers. White is a freak (6'3, 277, 4.68) and knows how to get to the QB. After scary freshman and sophomore seasons, he came back to earth with a mere 9.5 sacks as a junior and will hopefully slip to us at #21. Louisville
- Indianapolis-OG Vince Manuwai,
-While solid at the tackle spots on offense, the Colts weak interior of their offensive line led to most of their offensive woes this year. When you think Indy, you think offense…but it was their opportunistic defense that led them to the playoffs this year. They will gladly take the player most are projecting as the drafts top guard at #22. Hawaii
- Atlanta-WR Bryant Johnson, Penn St.-I'd be shocked if two of the Falcons top three picks are not wide receivers for Mike Vick to throw to. Bryant Johnson is a sizable polished receiver ideal for the Falcon offense. This pick could also be Taylor Jacobs or Kelley Washington.
- NY Giants-ILB Terry Pierce, Kansas St.-While the Giants probably have bigger needs on the offensive and defensive lines, Pierce is simply the best player available at this point in the draft. The Giants LB's were picked apart by Jeff Garcia in the 49ers comeback playoff win and Pierce is a nasty and athletic LB that can run, tackle, and cover. He recently declared, and could possibly play outside as well.
- Green Bay-ILB Gerald Hayes, Pitt-Either Pierce, Hayes, or Henderson has to be the pick here as middle linebacker is by far the Packers biggest need. There has been some speculation that Rex Grossman may be the pick here as well. Hayes would fit them better though. He's a leader, and has no holes in his game. He held his own against top competition all year and should be a great NFL middle linebacker.
- NY Jets-DT Jonathon Sullivan, Georgia-Sullivan had a huge year, and will likely declare to enter the draft as a junior. DT's with his talent are simply too tough to pass on this late in the 1st round despite the Jets need for help in the secondary.
- Pittsburgh-CB Dennis Weathersby,
Oregon St.-The Steelers secondary was absolutely shredded this season, and this pick is a near lock to help shore up that weakness. They can't possibly take another offensive lineman, can they? Weathersby is a big corner that they could instantly plug into the lineup across the field from Chad Scott.
- San Francisco-CB Nathan Vasher,
-Like the Steelers, the 49ers were undone thanks to their lack of depth at CB. Vasher is close to declaring, and if he does…he would provide the 49ers with another solid cover corner and an excellent return man. Both are huge needs of the 49ers. Texas
- Tennessee-RB Larry Johnson, Penn St.-A player many are expecting to go earlier finally goes off the board and provides the Titans with another power runner behind Eddie George…who may only have a couple of good years left and has developed a nasty fumbling habit over the past couple years.
- Philadelphia-TE/WR Teyo Johnson, Stanford-Johnson actually played WR at Stanford, and is likely to enter the draft as a 3rd year sophomore this year. Dude is 6'7 with freaky skills offensively and would provide Donovan McNabb with a lethal weapon in the red zone in an offense that thrives on the short pass and loves to throw to the TE.
- Oakland-DE Kenny Peterson, Ohio St.-Peterson rocketed up draft boards throughout his senior season leading up to his phenomenal performance in the Fiesta Bowl. A rock solid DE that is excellent against the run and the pass…he fills a definite need in the aging Raider front 7.
- Oakland-WR Kelley Washington,
-An injury plagued season dropped Tennessee 's draft status from the top 5 status everyone was predicting before the season started. Even more athletically gifted than Donte Stallworth, who had a great rookie season for the Saints, Washington and Joey Porter will be the future at WR for Al Davis. Washington
- Cincinnati-QB Dave Ragone,
- Detroit-OLB Karlos Dansby,
- Houston-OT George Foster,
- Arizona-DE Michael Haynes, Penn St.
- Dallas-QB Chris Simms,
- Minnesota-S Julian Battle,
- Jacksonville-DE Calvin Pace,
Jacobs, Taylor Florida
- Seattle-QB Kyle Boller,
- Baltimore-OG Eric Steinbach,
- St. Louis-CB Donald Strickland, Colorada
- Washington-QB Rex Grossman,
- Buffalo-OLB Boss
- San Diego-WR Walter Young,
- Kansas City-S Gerome Sapp, Notre Dame
- New Orleans-OLB LaMarcus McDonald, TCU
- Miami-OT Todd Williams,
- New England-RB Lee Suggs, Virginia Tech
- Denver-OT Tony Pashos,
- CLEVELAND-OT Steve Sciullo,
- Indianapolis-CB Rashean Mathis, Bethune Cookman
- Atlanta-WR Doug Gabriel,
- NY Giants-OT Brett Williams,
- Green Bay-DT
Jarrett Johnson, Alabama
- NY Jets-OG Derrick Dockery,
- Pittsburgh-RB Chris Brown,
- San Francisco-TE Jason
, Witten Tennessee
- Tennessee-WR Sam
Aiken, North Carolina
Smith, Clifton Syracuse
Onterrio Smith, Oregon
St. Terance Holt, North Carolina
I will continue to update my mock draft and draft coverage over the next 3 months. I love to talk draft. Shoot me an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or your thoughts on how things may unfold.