Tim Couch, QB, Kentucky
New coach Chris Palmer, with the future of the organization
riding on his shoulders, takes the experienced-under-fire field
general over the rocket-armed Akili Smith.
Donovan McNabb, QB, Syracuse First-year coach Andy Reid faces an
agonizing decision. Why McNabb over Smith? McNabb reminds him of
young Brett Favre, whom Reid worked with in Green Bay.
Akili Smith, QB, Oregon
Cynics say Cincy won't pay top dollar for a quarterback, but
Smith is a franchise player, and the Bengals haven't produced a
star passer by way of the draft since Ken Anderson.
4. SAINTS (FROM COLTS)*
Ricky Williams, RB, Texas
Indianapolis gets an offer it can't refuse from Mike Ditka, who
believes that this heavy-duty, 230-pound Heisman Trophy winner is
the Saints' ticket to glory.
5. REDSKINS (FROM PANTHERS)
Champ Bailey, CB, Georgia
This rocket with high 4.3 to low 4.4 speed defends like a dream,
catches passes and returns kicks. Washington gets a three-way
player for the price of one.
Edgerrin James, RB, Miami
Dick Vermeil rode Wilbert Montgomery's legs to a Super Bowl with
1980 Eagles, and he has been looking for a workhorse back since
taking over the Rams in '97. James qualifies.
7. VIKINGS (FROM BEARS)*
Chris McAlister, CB, Arizona
Chicago, with only six picks, trades down to get more choices.
Dennis Green, who lost left corner Corey Fuller to free agency,
jumps at the chance to get this 4.38 speedster.
8. CARDINALS (FROM CHARGERS)
Torry Holt, WR, North Carolina State
This 4.45 burner is a narrow choice over middle linebacker Chris
Claiborne. Holt is expected to be a third wideout, but so was
Randy Moss for the Vikings last year.
Chris Claiborne, MLB, Southern Cal
Stephen Boyd mans the middle in Detroit, but Butkus Award winner
Claiborne is so gifted that he can play either outside
Daunte Culpepper, QB, Central Florida
Baltimore is also looking for help at wideout and cornerback,
but vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome is
intrigued with this 6'3 1/2", 255-pound tank with a big arm.
11. BEARS (FROM VIKINGS)*
Anthony McFarland, DT, LSU
Could trade up for a quarterback. Interior line isn't area of
need but getting the best on the board at his position, plus the
extra picks in the trade down, isn't a bad move.
12. COLTS (FROM SAINTS)*
Jevon Kearse, OLB-DE, Florida
"Half a dozen guys look good to us," says club president Bill
Polian. Kearse, a linebacker in college projected to rush the
passer as a weakside end in the pros, is one of them.
David Boston, WR, Ohio State
Pittsburgh had no speed at wideout last year, and quarterback
Kordell Stewart went blooey. Enter this 6'1", 215-pounder with
4.38 speed and watch the offense take off.
John Tait, T, Brigham Young
Finding a left tackle is a must. The 317-pound Tait gets the nod
over Eastern Michigan's L.J. Shelton based on mobility and
Cade McNown, QB, UCLA
Tampa Bay isn't giving up on Trent Dilfer. It's just good
drafting sense. If you can get a high-production quarterback
this far down, you take him.
Andy Katzenmoyer, MLB, Ohio State
There's a big argument between coach Jeff Fisher, who's
intrigued by the Big Kat, and Tennessee scouts, who would rather
go for defensive line help.
Damien Woody, C, Boston College
Wideout Troy Edwards is the rumor, Woody is the reality. Age and
injuries make 35-year-old Kevin Glover iffy and make the quick,
328-pound Woody a sensible need pick.
L.J. Shelton, T, Eastern Michigan
Last year's first-round pick, Mo Collins, struggled at left
tackle, and Oakland gave up an NFL-high 67 sacks. The
quick-footed 340-pound Shelton could help.
Aaron Gibson, T, Wisconsin
Are we ready for the NFL's first 400-pounder? Gibson is only 14
pounds shy. He could play tackle, with Scott Gragg moving
inside, or guard. Or both.
Ebenezer Ekuban, DE, North Carolina
Running back is top priority, but unless it can move way up, New
England won't get a top-echelon ballcarrier. The Pats will get
the pass rusher here, the runner later.
Matt Stinchcomb, T, Georgia
A smart, tough 306-pounder. With free-agent defection of left
tackle Lomas Brown, something has to be done to ensure that
quarterback Jake Plummer stays healthy.
Pat Kerney, DE, Virginia
Dallas's 1998 sack total was an anemic 34. Kerney is a
265-pounder with 4.74 speed and a nonstop motor. He's gifted
rushing off the edge and technically sound.
Antoine Winfield, CB, Ohio State
The only knock on this tough little hitter is his lack of
size--he's 5'8 1/2"--which scares people in this era of big wide
Rob Konrad, FB, Syracuse
"We could move up, or we could move down," Miami coach Jimmy
Johnson says. Or he could keep the pick and take Konrad, who
reminds him of young Daryl Johnston.
Antwan Edwards, CB, Clemson
Remember what Randy Moss did to the Pack last year? So does
general manager Ron Wolf. At 6 feet, 210 pounds, Edwards can get
physical with the Vikings' wonderboy.
Lamar King, DE, Saginaw Valley State
Jacksonville needs someone on the strong side to play opposite
Tony Brackens. King's pluses: 6'3", 299 pounds and a 4.9 40. His
minus: small college competition.
Shaun King, QB, Tulane
Terrifically productive but undersized. So's Doug Flutie. If the
Niners play it cute and trade down thinking they can get King
later, someone will beat them to the punch.
28. PATRIOTS (FROM JETS)
Sedrick Irvin, RB, Michigan State
Kevin Faulk of LSU? Amos Zereoue of West Virginia? Both have
been mentioned, but Pats prefer the bigger Irvin (223 pounds) to
replace the injured Robert Edwards.
Reggie McGrew, DT, Florida
Status of free agent Jerry Ball is uncertain. Jason Fisk is
gone. The 307-pound McGrew is an ideal strongman to take
pressure off John Randle, who'll return to tackle full time.
Troy Edwards, WR, Louisiana Tech
Long-ball threat Tony Martin was released. Coach Dan Reeves
can't believe that Edwards (5'9 1/2", 191 pounds, 4.5 in the
40), the third-best wideout on the board, is still there.
Al Wilson, MLB, Tennessee
Ferocious competitor who flies at the enemy with 4.55 speed. So
why does he fall this far? His size--6 feet, 239 pounds--worries
some. Forget it. He can play.
*Indicates a projected trade.
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS
COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS
COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER
COLOR PHOTO: TOM LYNN
Ricky's Wild Ride
The days leading up to the draft are a time to spread rumors and
misinformation, but the football world knows Saints coach Mike
Ditka's true feelings about Heisman Trophy winner Ricky
Williams. "We'll trade our whole draft for Ricky Williams,"
Ditka declared last month. When it became obvious that trading
their six picks, including the 12th choice in the first round,
to get Williams wouldn't be enough, the Saints sweetened the
pot. Last Saturday, New Orleans president Bill Kuharich called
the Browns, the Eagles and the Bengals, offering more high
picks, from the 2000 draft and beyond.
Why's Ditka so high on Williams? "I think he's a special player
who comes once in a while, like Earl Campbell was, like Walter
Payton was," he says. "I don't believe you can pass up this
running back." Williams is a mass of muscle who can run the 40
faster than your average wideout. Problem is, the teams that
have the first three picks need passers badly. That figures to
put the Saints in line to deal with president Bill Polian, whose
Colts choose fourth. "If Polian turns down two ones, two threes
and a slew of lower picks, he's nuts," says one general manager
who will draft in the top 10. If Polian waves off the Saints
(and doesn't take Williams), Ditka can take solace in knowing
that the Redskins won't say no to the Saints' blandishments.
Funny thing about Williams. In February, when his weight
ballooned about 20 pounds and he hired Master P as his agent,
his stock dropped so far that some around the league questioned
whether he was the best back in the draft. It just goes to show
how far off the mark predraft rumblings can be. At his workout
last week Williams was back at his playing weight of last
season, bench-pressing 225 pounds a linemanlike 22 times and
running the 40 in 4.48, about a 10th of a second off his best.
Last month a college scouting director for an NFL team was
looking at game tape of linebackers eligible for the draft when
he called in one of his scouts to evaluate Ohio State's Andy
Katzenmoyer. "Pretend you don't know who this is," the scouting
director said. "Watch him for a while and tell me what round you
think he should be drafted in."
The scout watched 20 or so plays in which the 6'2 1/2",
258-pound Katzenmoyer was knocked off his feet more often than
he should have been. "Late round or free agent," the scout said.
Although Katzenmoyer, a junior, entered the '98 season projected
as a top 10 selection if he chose to leave school early, his
stock dropped during a subpar year. He averaged 6.2 tackles a
game, and he had no sacks in 10 of the Buckeyes' 12 games.
Said one general manager after scouting Katzenmoyer, "He doesn't
look as instinctive as he looked in his first two years, he's
poor in coverage, and he doesn't shed blocks from guards and
centers very well."
Bill Walsh is in control of the 49ers' draft fortunes for the
first time in a decade, meaning there are only two certainties:
There's no telling what the Niners will do between now and the
time the picking ends, and the media will be filled with
misinformation. Long before Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones
transformed the Cowboys' war room into a televised traders'
paradise in the early 1990s, Walsh and his front-office
lieutenant, John McVay, turned draft day dealing, mixed with a
healthy dose of public deception, into an art form.
With a typically low drafting position and no second-round pick,
the 49ers won't be wheeling and dealing from strength. They need
loads of defensive help, most glaringly at cornerback and on the
defensive line, and there's still no clear-cut successor to
quarterback Steve Young, who'll turn 38 in October.
Two years ago Walsh, as a consultant, lobbied hard for San
Francisco to take Arizona State quarterback Jake Plummer with
the 26th pick. But instead San Francisco's front office selected
Virginia Tech's Jim Druckenmiller, a strong-armed passer
ill-suited to the West Coast offense that Walsh, as the Niners'
coach from 1979 to '88, had developed and his successors had
embraced. Plummer was taken 16 picks later by the Cardinals and
has started their last 25 games; Druckenmiller most likely will
be dumped by the 49ers soon after June 1.
This year UCLA's Cade McNown would seem to fit perfectly with
the Niners, but he figures to be gone long before they pick. The
Niners are also intrigued by Tulane's Shaun King, but the heir
apparent to Young may turn out to be mobile 6'1", 195-pound Jeff
Garcia, a free-agent signee formerly of San Jose State and the
Calgary Stampeders, for whom he was a three-time CFL All-Star
and last year's Grey Cup MVP.
They aren't top-rated at their positions and won't be drafted in
the first round, but Dr. Z is intrigued by the potential of
these five prospects.
--JOE MONTGOMERY, RB, Ohio State. Suffered a devastating knee
injury in 1996 and has come back slowly, but at the East-West
Shrine Bowl in January, he ran like a maniac. Anyone in the
market for a 223-pound north-south runner with tremendous heart
won't be disappointed.
--ROSEVELT COLVIN, LB-DE, Purdue. Too light at 258 to be an end
and too slow at 4.87 to be a linebacker, say the scouts, but he
rushes the passer with a tremendous burst. In this age of
specialization, he'll be an ideal weakside rusher.
--BRANDON STOKLEY, WR, Southwestern Louisiana. He's labeled as a
possession receiver, but he clocked a 4.49 at the combine and
averaged 18 yards a catch as a senior.
-JOHNDALE CARTY, SS, Utah State. Coverage ability is suspect,
but Ravens executive Ozzie Newsome calls him "a hitter in the
mold of Victor Green or Lawyer Milloy." He could also make a big
impact as a special-teamer.
-CRAIG HEIMBURGER, C-G, Missouri. One scouting book rates him
13th among centers and another lists him as the 30th-best guard.
The ultimate reach, but Packers general manager Ron Wolf is in
his corner. "A teeth-gritter who'll back down from nobody," he