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NFL Draft: Pre-Draft News and Notes 4/20

<P>The 2005 NFL Draft is finally nearing, and teams will start doing mock drafts in participation of this coming weekends big event. Here are loads of News &amp; Notes heading into the homestretch. information on all NFL clubs, broken out by division, including the AFC East.</P><p><I>Not An Insider yet? Check out our<B> <A HREF="http://patriots.scout.com/3/PI-Promo-blip.html">Special Offer!</A></B> to get a <B>free</B> Patriots Superbowl DVD, or other gift.</I></p>

NFL Pre-Draft News and Notes 4/20
By TFY Draft Preview

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys - Sources say that the team is very high on University of Maryland DE Shawn Merriman and believe he fits what head coach Bill Parcells is looking for-speed off of the edge. Besides veteran end Greg Ellis, the team lacks any other pass rushers. The other position that the team will look hard at is wide receiver because they lack quality depth and playmakers at the position.

Dallas is said to be considering using a late round pick on former Ohio St. RB Maurice Clarett. Another player the team likes is Nebraska's Josh Bullocks, a safety they feel would be a great compliment to Roy Williams. While the 20th pick in round one is too early for Bullocks services, the team would pull the trigger were he available at the 42nd slot.

New York Giants - With no first-round selection and only four over the two days of the draft, the team could find it hard to improve through the draft. With that being the case, look for them to consider trading down to gain more selections. If they are successful doing that, look for them to target a run-stuffing defensive tackle, depth at defensive end, depth at both outside linebacker spots, depth in the secondary, and depth at wide receiver.

Philadelphia Eagles - In this space last year at this time, scout.com predicted if the Eagles traded up, it would be in order to get a chance to select University of Arkansas OL Shawn Andrews. Sources say that the Eagles will strongly look to trade again for an offensive lineman. Thought to be near the top of their list are University of Oklahoma OT Jammal Brown and University of Washington OT Khalif Barnes (both visited the Eagles recently). The team is looking for eventual replacements for starting tackles Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas. Barnes fits the prototype good citizen that head coach Andy Reid likes and he offers the ability to play both tackle spots. Brown also is a solid citizen who would fit well on the right side.

Should they keep their early second-round pick (#35 overall), look for them to target University of Arkansas QB/WR/TE Matt Jones who the Eagles flew to work out last weekend. Keep in mind head coach Andy Reid loves multi-dimensional offensive players like RB Brian Westbrook who has become a much better player than anyone envisioned coming out of Villanova University. As one source said about the Eagles and Jones, "Andy would love another toy to work with."

Other considerations on the first day are:

Southern Illinois University mammoth RB Brandon Jacobs who is the kind of multi-positional player that Reid likes.

University of Florida RB Ciatrick Fason is an intriguing player to the team. However, there seems to be a divergence of opinion on him in the organization because he only has one season as a starter.

Northwestern University DT Luis Castillo who may have dropped out of first-round consideration due to testing positive for steroids recently. The team is looking for a possible replacement for starting DT Corey Simon who could be traded.

Northern Colorado University WR Vincent Jackson who impressed the team during Senior Bowl week practices (also visited the team) and could be an eventual replacement for veteran WR Terrell Owens.

Washington Redskins - While it's a pretty good bet that the team takes a cornerback with their selection at #9, don't be surprised to see them drop down a few selections if they think they can get one of the top ones a few spots later since the next five teams behind them don't have that position as a projected need. The Redskins do not own a second-round pick and would have to wait for 67 selections after their first-round pick to make another selection. UPDATE: The Denver Broncos on Tuesday traded their first-round pick (25th overall) in the 2005 NFL Draft to Washington in exchange for three draft choices, Head Coach Mike Shanahan announced. The Broncos receive the Redskins' third-round choice (76th overall) in the 2005 NFL Draft along with the Redskins' first and fourth-round selections in the 2006 NFL Draft.

NFC North

Chicago Bears - While many have the team looking to select a running back here, do not be shocked to see them trade down for speed at wide receiver. That player who likely is at the top of their list is University of South Carolina WR Troy Williamson. He would give them a badly needed playmaker opposite veteran WR Muhsin Muhammad. General manager Jerry Angelo has a history of trading down in the draft and it wouldn't be a surprise to anyone close to the team if he makes a move to acquire more first day selections.

Detroit Lions - The Lions are in a rare position for a change to draft for value instead of need in the first round. There certainly places that they need depth and competition for incumbent starters but they can actually select the best player available. The one area where they could use competition or a possible upgrade is at defensive end opposite the much-underrated James Hall. While they have Cory Redding as a starter, he has hardly been impressive there. University of Maryland DE Shawne Merriman would give them badly needed speed off the edge at the position. The Lions like OL Dan Buenning of Wisconsin, and seriously consider taking him in the third round.

Green Bay Packers - With so many needs to fill (mostly on defense), do not be surprised if the team trades down from the #24 selection in the first round. While they own two second-round selections (#51, #58 overall and four total picks through round three), expect the team to work the phones hard to acquire as many first day selections as possible. The Packers would like to get at least a pass-rushing defensive end, defensive tackle depth, a strong-side linebacker, and possibly an eventual replacement for QB Brett Favre on the first day.

Minnesota Vikings - While the team has interest in trading up for University of Michigan WR Braylon Edwards, they will not give up the farm for him. The team knows that they have a chance to get one of the other second-tier wide receiver prospects with their second pick in the first round or look for a decent option at that position with upside later in the draft. They also are in the market for a pass-rushing defensive end and that kind of player could be another option with the #18 overall selection should they keep it.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons - The team could go in a lot of directions here. The three positions that we are told that they're targeting at wide receiver, defensive tackle, and defensive end.

If you have watched the team at all, you know how bad their passing game was last season so targeting a wide receiver with their first selection would not be a surprise. With the release of veteran DT Ed Jasper, the team has little depth past his projected replacement in second-year DT Chad Lavalais. At defensive end, the team would like to groom an eventual replacement for veteran Brady Smith. Defensive tackle is the position the team will address the first day, and they may consider Luis Castillo in round one or will later look to Ronald Fields.

Carolina Panthers - The team is expected to be strongly considering selecting an offensive lineman with their first-round selection. The early indications are that they will move Jordan Gross to right tackle from playing the left side. With that being the case, look for them to select either University of Oklahoma's Jammal Brown or University of Washington's Khalif Barnes. Should they go in that direction, veteran OL Mike Wahle can stay inside at guard.

New Orleans Saints - Sources say that the Saints are looking hard at selecting an offensive right tackle despite the free agent signing of former Eagles' OL Jermane Mayberry. It's no secret that Mayberry is better suited to play inside. The player that the team covets most to play right tackle is University of Oklahoma's Jammal Brown. Linebacker is another area the team will address in the draft's first day. During the combine, New Orleans had a trio of scouts on the finish line of the forty to personally time and watch the linebackers.

As for dealing veteran DE Darren Howard, the Saints are insistent on a first-round pick because they feel that the player that they would select with in return for his compensation should be a starting caliber type of player. They also aren't looking for a future first-round pick because they believe they are a playoff type of team that needs more front-line talent, not a developmental player.

For those who were looking Howard to be dealt to the Eagles for DT Corey Simon, don't look for it. The Saints want more than Simon in a deal for Howard and the Eagles aren't willing to give them anything more than a one-for-one swap.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers - While rumors have been rampant that the team looks to trade up to get a chance to draft University of Utah QB Alex Smith, it's possible that the team waits during the early part of the draft to see if University of California QB Aaron Rogers or a top running back will drop to them at their selection at #5 overall. If Smith goes at the first selection overall and the Dolphins wind up trading the second pick to Minnesota, it's very possible that the Buccaneers could have Rogers and one if not both Auburn University running backs drop to them. Stay tuned.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals - Sources say that the team is really only looking at two positions with their first-round selection, running back and cornerback. The team, we're told, has Auburn University RB Carnell Williams and University of Miami-Fla. CB Antrel Rolle at the top of their draft board.

Should Rolle or Williams be gone or both, Auburn CB Carlos Rogers would be the next choice. If the team doesn't wind up selecting a running back in the first round, look for them to either select one in the second round or look in to acquiring Vikings' RB Michael Bennett who was drafted by head coach Dennis Green when he was the coach in Minnesota.

San Francisco 49ers - According to an NFL source, the 49ers have had Utah QB Alex Smith at the top of their draft board from day one, not Aaron Rogers. Rogers happened to be the first to negotiate a deal first with the 49ers, which is why some believed he was the top choice. While Rogers is the most ready to play out of the two signal callers, the 49ers believe Smith has the most upside.

The problem now is to get Smith to agree to a deal before the draft. If Smith and the 49ers can't get agree to a deal, look for them to pursue trading down feverishly to acquire as many extra picks as possible to rebuild their scarce talent pool.

If they were stuck with the selection, Rogers would become a more viable selection.

St. Louis Rams - Second-year RB Steven Jackson is recovering nicely after his knee surgery in early February. Jackson has lost about 15 pounds since the season ended (now weighs around 225 lbs). Jackson's expected to be fully recovered well before training camp begins.

Turning our attention to the draft, while there is no question that the Rams need a right offensive tackle to replace veteran Kyle Turley, don't be surprised if they look for defensive back field help in the first round an offensive lineman. If University of Georgia S Thomas Davis is there at their selection (#19), he very well could be their selection. They're looking to get a big hitter in the secondary and Davis fits the bill well.

If they look for a right tackle as expected, University of Washington's Khalif Barnes is one player the organization covets. The team went so far as to jokingly ask Barnes to purposely tank his combine workout so they'd have a chance at snapping him up in round one. St. Louis also likes University of Mississippi OL Marcus Johnson, though they view him as a pure guard.

Don't be shocked if they draft a passer in the first day and if that quarterback is former Florida St. University Seminole Adrian McPherson. Though head coach Mike Martz likes Arizona St.'s Andrew Walter and feels the strong-armed pocket passer is a good fit for his offense, the scouting staff loves McPherson. Besides scouting him hard at the combine and the following weeks, the team invoked the help of Les Miller from National Scouting to check in with sources from the Arena Football League to get a better take on McPherson.

Seattle Seahawks - With their offense pretty much in tact save for some depth at a few positions, look for the team to draft defense heavy over both days of the draft. They're expected to look for depth at defensive end, cornerback, and linebacker.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills - With no first-round pick due to the trade last year with Dallas, the team will focus on depth at several positions in the draft. Also look for them to select eventual replacements for veterans DT Sam Adams and FS/CB Troy Vincent. Also look for them to address depth at cornerback where they could use nickel back.

Miami Dolphins -It should come to no surprise that the team is talking to the Vikings and Buccaneers about trading down. What head coach Nick Saban wants to do is get as many early round selections as possible in order to try to rebuild the team. Without second and sixth-round picks and only five total in the draft, Saban will continue until right up until draft time to get a deal done to get as many picks as possible.

New York Jets - As noted by scout.com earlier this year, the Jets will look strongly at selecting a cornerback with their first-round selection and not much has changed. Their other need is clearly tight end but because of medical issues concerning University of Virginia's Heath Miller, the team is expected to look stronger at selecting cornerback as top priority in the draft-even if veteran CB Donnie Abraham returns. Another area the team will focus on in the secondary is safety. Expect the Jets to draft a player at this position in the first day.

New England Patriots - While so many fans have them pegged for selecting a linebacker with their first-round pick, keep in mind that since head coach Bill Belichick took over in 200, they haven't spent higher than a seventh-round pick on that position (Tully Banta-Cain). There probably is a better chance that they select a cornerback than a linebacker with their top selection and look for linebackers later on. At some point during the draft, possibly in the late first day, the Patriots will address the offensive line. During the last Saturday in February, when the offensive linemen worked out at the combine, it was one of the few times Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick sat together in the RCA Dome to intensely watch a group of prospects.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens - It's believed that the team will look for one of two positions with this selection. Although it might be a little early to take him, the Ravens really like Tulane University wide receiver Roddy White. They're looking for a receiver who has good size and speed and White offers them both.

Should they strikeout in acquiring a veteran defensive tackle during or before the draft (namely Corey Simon), look for them to address that position on the first day for sure. The team is high on second-year DT Dwan Edwards but they're just not sure if he's a sure-fire starter at this point of his career.

Two players high on the Ravens board also include Northwestern University DT Luis Castillo and University of Mississippi OL Marcus Johnson.

Cincinnati Bengals - Look for the Bengals to draft defense almost exclusively during the entire draft. While some believe that LSU DE Marcus Spears is the best selection for them, they don't believe he's a good enough fit for the 4-3 scheme that they use. That's a common thinking around the league that we're finding. With that being the case, look for them to select the best defensive end or cornerback that falls to them at #17 overall if they don't deal the pick.

Cleveland Browns - According to an NFL source, the Browns have had University of Michigan WR Braylon Edwards at the top of their draft board from some time.

Senior Vice President and General Manager Phil Savage believes Edwards is the best overall player in the draft regardless of position and plans on selecting him if they do not deal that spot.

While the team certainly could use a quarterback of the future, Savage is using the same philosophy that Ravens have used for years which is drafting the best player regardless of position when it's their time to make the selection. He really believes in drafting for value instead of need. If it comes down to Edwards or one of the two top signal callers, we're told Edwards would be the selection and the team would look for their quarterback of the future in the second or third rounds.

Pittsburgh Steelers - While it's almost a certainty that the team will select a tight end on the first day of the draft, they're also looking for depth at cornerback and the offensive line. Those last two positions could also be addressed on the first day.

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts - While the team has no interest in re-signing veteran MLB Rob Morris, they aren't expected to address that position with their first-round pick. Instead, we're told, they plan to look at cornerback and defensive end. Should they not like what they see on the board at that spot with either of those two positions, and then they could look at selecting at middle linebacker or trade down.

Jacksonville Jaguars - The team is hoping to find a replacement for OLT Mike Pearson in this draft or possibly a starting cornerback. Auburn University CB Carlos Rogers is the player they covet closely followed by Oklahoma OT Jammal Brown. The team will take a long look at University of Oklahoma WR Mark Clayton and consider trading up for South Carolina WR Troy Williamson as they feel selecting former University of Washington WR Reggie Williams with the ninth pick last year has been a disastrous choice. Additionally, we're told Jacksonville has removed University of Oklahoma DE Dan Cody from their draft board.

Houston Texans - While the team could look for an upgrade at left offensive tackle, it's believed that Florida St.'s Alex Barron isn't high on their list of possible selections. Some believe, while he has the talent to succeed at the next level, he's doesn't have the drive to be a better ball player. Some teams believe that he lacks the "nasty attitude" to play at the next level on a consistent basis. This has been a constant theme from teams, coaches, and scouts that we're talked to over the last month or so.

The other position that the team is looking hard at is pass rush help. A player thought to be high on their list is Troy St. DE/OLB Demarcus Ware.

The team has also had discussions with the Raiders about CB Phillip Buchanon but nothing is imminent. The Texans are looking for an eventual replacement for veteran CB Aaron Glenn and are evaluating whether Buchanon is worth looking at in that type of role.

Tennessee Titans - Assuming that the team stays at #6 overall, it's a pretty safe bet that the team selects either a cornerback or wide receiver. According to a league source, the team is expected to look for a cornerback first then a wide receiver. If available expect the Titans snag Ryan Moats in round 3. The team likes Moats and Norm Chow is looking for a small elusive ball handler in the mould of Reggie Bush. Expect the Titans to work the clock hard with the 6th pick of round one, as they will do everything possible to trade down out of that slot.

AFC West

Denver Broncos - It's no secret that the team wants to trade down since there aren't many good values that they see at #25 overall at a need position. With that being the case, don't be surprised if they look for their quarterback of the future by trading down.

Auburn University QB Jason Campbell could be high on their list since he played in the West Coast offense during his final collegiate season.

Scout.com had a lengthy conversation during the NFL Combine and he told us that he really likes the West Coast offense because of all the progressions that quarterbacks go through in the offense and all the possibilities in the passing game it provides.

Kansas City Chiefs - Sources say that the two players at the top of the Chiefs' list should they stay at #15 overall are Troy St. DE/OLB Demarcus Ware and Auburn University CB Carlos Rogers. The team is intrigued with Ware's versatility and pass rush ability.

Oakland Raiders - With the team lacking a first-round selection due to the acquisition of WR Randy Moss, look for the Raiders to try hard to acquire a first-round pick using former first-round pick Philip Buchanon and possibly another pick or picks as bait. Everyone knows around the NFL that Buchanon has been a major disappointment so his value is clearly down and that's why he won't yield much alone in a deal.

Speaking of value being down, the team hasn't had much luck in getting a lot of interest in veteran CB Charles Woodson. In fact, the only team that has more than a passing interest in him was New Orleans but the Saints believe that veteran DE Darren Howard is more valuable that Woodson in a straight swap.

San Diego Chargers - Because the team was unable to address their two top needs in wide receiver and defensive end, look for the team to use both of their first-round picks on those positions. LSU DE Marcus Spears, who most believe is better suited for a 3-4 scheme, is thought to be under consideration with their first selection in the first round as is University of South Carolina WR Troy Williamson. The team is looking for speed at receiver and Williamson gives them that plus he has decent size.

For more news and notes, be sure to keep an eye on the Patriots Insider Hot News, the Daily Newswire and the Patriots message boards as we bring you the best independent Patriots news coverage on the Net.

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