The Magnificent Seven

The NFL has invited just seven players to come to New York for the 2003 draft -- now less than two weeks away. With the Vikings sitting at No. 7 at least one of them will still be available. The guessing game is now on as to who that will be.

Back when Randy Moss was drafted in 1998, he spoke with VU shortly after being selected as was asked why he wasn't in New York for the draft. His answer was short and simple -- "I wasn't invited."

Back then, the NFL would invite about 25 players to attend and have the obligatory "grip and grin" with Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. While Moss was clearly a top 25 player -- in hindsight, he should have been a top five selection -- but the league wanted little or nothing to do with the troubled wide receiver. A million sold jerseys later, the league has a little different view of Moss.

While the league's attitude toward Moss has changed, so has its policy about inviting players to the draft. After having a couple of embarrassing moments of its own, as well as watching humiliating moments from the NBA draft -- where some invitees never get selected -- the league has greatly scaled back the number of players invited to the draft. In the process, it has set the tone as to whom the league believes will be the top players to go off the board April 26.

VU has learned the names of the seven players who will be in attendance for the draft and, with the seventh overall pick, at least one of them is guaranteed to be there when the Vikings are scheduled to make their pick.

The players are QBs Carson Palmer and Byron Leftwich, defensive linemen Terrell Suggs, Dewayne Robertson and Jimmy Kennedy, wide receiver Charles Rogers and cornerback Terence Newman.

If the draft pans out like many think it will, it's possible only Leftwich may be left when the Vikings are slated to make their pick -- the Vikes won't take him. Regardless, barring a trade, the league has decided these are the cornerstones of the future and the Vikings will be a part of the draft lottery.

* The Sporting News continues to fan the flames that the Vikings will be looking to trade down in the draft. In this week's edition, the magazine claims that Red McCombs is cash-strapped by NFL standards because of the team's horrible lease agreement with the Metrodome. TSN contends that the Vikings are on the auction block by McCombs and that recent contract signings have included deferred money that McCombs would like to stick with a new owner. Part of the story's rationale on McCombs looking to sell the team included his wish to trade down in the first round to avoid another $10 million signing bonus like the one paid Bryant McKinnie last year.
* The Vikings have 40 players -- a team record -- taking part in their offseason workout program and another handful of players are expected to arrive this week. Among them is Daunte Culpepper, who has been working out in Florida and will be arriving at Winter Park later this week to begin his offseason program with the team. In past years, many Vikings players stayed in Florida to work out at Cris Carter's compound, but that has changed since C.C. left the Vikings.
* The Bengals have been unable to swing a deal to move out of the No. 1 spot in the draft. The reason no team has been willing to swing a blockbuster deal is that, unlike most seasons, there hasn't been a clear-cut No. 1 choice. The Bungles, however, have reduced their wish list to four players -- Palmer, Leftwich, Suggs and Newman.

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