Plenty of D-linemen to go around
By Mel Kiper
April 26 | Editor's Note: ESPN.com draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. offers his thoughts on each pick in the first round. Be sure to check out Mel's updated Top 100 list to see which players are still on the board.
1. Cincinnati Bengals -- Carson Palmer, QB, USC
I said all along that the Bengals should take Palmer if they felt he was was the next Troy Aikman or Drew Bledsoe, and they obviously think he is. Palmer had a tremendous senior season, throwing for 3,639 yards and 33 touchdowns under offensive coordinator Norm Chow. He has it all physically (6-5¼, 235), is mobile for a man his size and has a great arm. There has been some question about the lack of fire and emotion he displays, but people said the same things about Aikman coming out of UCLA. There is no doubt Palmer is a QB in the mold of Aikman and Bledsoe.
2. Detroit Lions -- Charles Rogers, WR, Michigan State
In Charles Rogers, the Lions got a potential go-to receiver for Joey Harrington, and this was the only way they could go. He has terrific size, tremendous athletic skills and great leaping ability. Rogers still put up good numbers (68 receptions, 1,351 yards, 13 TDs) despite some turmoil in the Michigan State progam, and the questions about his concentration we're obviously not a huge concern. He will make the routine catch look easy and his 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash is the kind of speed you look for in an elite receiver.
3. Houston Texans -- Andre Johnson, WR, Miami-Fla.
Johnson is a wideout with size (6-2, 230) and speed (4.4 in the 40), and there are not many receivers out there with that kind of physical prowess. Route-running could be a question, but the fact of the matter is that he was a major factor in every game last season. He has the toughness to go across the middle and make the tough catch, has great hands and is only going to get better.
4. New York Jets -- Dewayne Robertson, DT, Kentucky
The Jets got the guy they wanted. Robertson has been compared to Warren Sapp, and while Robertson didn't dominate like Sapp did at Miami, he didn't have as much of a supporting cast. Robertson constantly played through double and triple-team blocks, and with a 4.8 in the 40 he has the quickness to close on the ball from any angle on the field. The film will tell you all you need to know about Robertson.
5. Dallas Cowboys -- Terence Newman, CB, Kansas State
There was a concern about a shoulder injury that came up in an April checkup, but Newman is a great physical talent. He has Champ Bailey-type versatility and could be a factor in the return game and on offense, but there is no doubt he is a shut-down corner. He was a Big 12 sprint champion and has blazing recovery speed, and he can fill a big need for the Cowboys.
6. New Orleans Saints -- Johnathan Sullivan, DT, Georgia
Sullivan isn't as physically gifted as former UGA standouts Marcus Stroud and Richard Seymour, but his production and consistency are much better. Sullivan has a great motor and tremendous energy, but there will be some questions about why a team with a need at cornerback selected a defensive tackle.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars -- Byron Leftwich, QB, Marshall
Leftwich is one of the most accurate throwers I have seen in the last 20 years and everyone knows about his passing skills, but what makes him special is the intangibles. He has the leadership and charisma to galvanize his teammates, and he showed how tough he is by playing through a painful leg injury during his senior season.
8. Carolina Panthers -- Jordan Gross, OT, Utah
He played all over the offensive line in college, but Gross will be a right tackle in Carolina. He is an experienced, well-coached player who will be an immediate hole-filler for the Panthers, protecting the QB and helping out a runing game that added Stephen Davis to the mix this year.
9. Minnesota Vikings -- Kevin Williams, DT, Oklahoma State
I has Williams rated as one of the fastest-rising players during draft week, and he gives the Vikings a solid player to put next to Chris Hovan in the middle of that defensive line. Williams is up to about 305 pounds, but showed with a 4.8 time in the 40 that he has retained his quickness and closing speed. Minnesota also saves some money by passing on the No. 7 slot and taking Williams at No. 9.
10. Baltimore Ravens -- Terrell Suggs, DE, Arizona State
Ozzie Newsome and his staff know how to pick good football players, and they got a great value in Suggs. Not long ago, people were talking about him possibly being the No. 1 pick, and this could end up being one of the best picks in the draft. Suggs can not only get after the quarterback, he can also get out and play in space and has earned some comparisons to Lawrence Taylor.
11. Seattle Seahawks -- Marcus Trufant, CB, Washington State
Trufant has experience and is an underrated player because he didn't get a lot of publicity at Washington State. He has great size, and his cover abilities will allow him to play in any coverage schemes. He really helped himself with an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl.
12. St. Louis Rams -- Jimmy Kennedy, DT, Penn State
Kennedy slid down a little because of an unimpressive workout, but he was more produtive this season than Dewayne Robertson. Kennedy fills a need for the Rams, but I was surprised that St. Louis didn't try to move up and go after Marcus Trufant.
13. New England Patriots -- Ty Warren, DT, Texas A&M
Warren will fit nicely into New England's new 3-4 scheme. He had a high-ankle sprain last season and durability is a concern, but Warren has the talent, athletic ability and physical prowess to be a force if he stays healthy and plays at 100 percent.
14. Chicago Bears -- Michael Haynes, DE, Penn State
Haynes didn't get a lot of attention and was underrated coming into the draft, but he was flat-out productive. He led the Big Ten in sacks last season and set a school record for forced fumbles, and he helped himself with two sacks and two forced fumbles at the Senior Bowl. Haynes also has good speed, clocking in at 4.71 in the 40 while carying 270 pounds.
15. Philadelphia Eagles -- Jerome McDougle, DE, Miami (Fla.)
McDougle is not extremely tall and does not have long arms, but his natural pass-rush skills still got him plenty of sacks over the last two seasons. He comes from a great program, and when McDougle is on top of his game he can get after the quarterback as well as anyone.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers -- Troy Polamalu, S, Southern California
This guy is a heat-seeking missle, a terrific tackler with great instincts aginst the run. He can step in and upgrade the Pittsburgh secondary immediately with his enegy and ability to intimidate. Polamalu is a tough, hard-nosed player.
17. Arizona Cardinals -- Bryant Johnson, WR, Penn State
Johnson has great size, but he was inconsistent catching the ball until last season. He still couble-clutches the ball at times and could be coached up in that area, but if the consistency is there Johnson can take care of a major need for the Cardinals.
18. Arizona Cardinals -- Calvin Pace, DE, Wake Forest
Pace was a linebacker and quarterback in high school who got bigger and stronger throughout college. He is one of the best athletes in the draft at defensive end and has a lot of pass-rush potential, but he was not dominant in every game last season. Pace has great talent, but this may have been a little early to take him off the board.
19. Baltimore Ravens -- Kyle Boller, QB, California
I had Boller on my overrated list, but he does have size, arm strength and 4.6 speed. Jeff Tedford helped Boller make the most of his talent in his senior season, and now it's up to Brian Billick to make sure he doesn't revert back to some bad habits. I have some concerns about his accuracy -- he completed less than 50 percent of his passes in college -- and his progression in his reads, but his physical skill are obvious.
20. Denver Broncos -- George Foster, OT, Georgia
Foster was rated a top-10 pick at the beginning of last season, but a wrist injury suffered in a car accident hampered him for most of the season. He has size and is a tough kid with a mean streak. Foster tends to lunge at defenders and is sometimes caught off-balance, so he could use some coaching in that area, but he has the tools to help a Denver team that drafted a quality offensive lineman early for the first time in a long time.
21. Cleveland Browns -- Jeff Faine, C, Notre Dame
Faine fills a huge need for the Browns. I had him rated as one of the top 13 players in the draft and getting him in this spot is a major bargain. Faine is a finisher with an attitude and started 35 straight games to end his career, and I expect him to be a solid NFL anchor for 10-12 years and he will be a Pro Bowler.
22. Chicago Bears -- Rex Grossman, QB, Florida
The Bears have Kordell Stewart, but he will only be a bridge to the Rex Grossman era. Grossman led the nation in total offense and passing efficiency in 2001, but he striggled last year behind a bad offensive line and without the benefit of receivers who left early for the NFL. Grossman has the arm strength to play in the Windy City, though, and he also has the swagger and attitude to lead a team.
23. Buffalo Bills -- Willis McGahee, RB, Miami
The Bills have Travis Henry and Olandis Gary on the roster, so this is a pick for the future. Buffalo GM Tom Donahoe won't let McGahee rush his rehab from major knee surgery, and the Bills will put him on the shelf for a year and let him get healthy for the possibility that he could be their running back in 2004. This guy put up huge numbers and has great skills when healthy, and he would have been a top-three pick had he remained healthy.
24. Indianapolis Colts -- Dallas Clark, TE, Iowa
Clark is my top-rated tight end even though he has played there for only two seasons. He is a multi-dimensional athlete who ran in the 4.6 range in the 40 at around 250 pounds, and that speed combined with his good hands and runing ability after the catch make him a factor in the middle of the field. The only question will be his blocking ability.
25. New York Giants -- Wiliam Joseph, DT, Miami (Fla.)
The Giants hit the jackpot last year with Jeremy Shockey, and they are going back to Miami in search of another gem. Joseph was a potential top-10 pick at the beginning of the season, but dropped after getting just five sacks in 2003. Still, he is the big, quick run-stopper New York needs.
26. San Francisco 49ers -- Kwame Harris, OT, Stanford
Harris is physically gifted but inconsistent. He dominated in some games last season, but at other times looked mediocre against players he should have dominated. Harris needs to get stronger and more motivated, and this is a roll-of-the-dice pick. The 49ers are taking a chance on an underachiever who could be a Pro Bowler or a bust.
27. Kansas City Chiefs -- Larry Johnson, RB, Penn State
Johnson is a multi-talented player who can catch the ball out of the backfield. He gained over 2,000 yards last season behind a line that did not have a standout player, which speaks to his hard-charging running style. And this pick shows that the Chiefs are concerned about the health of Priest Holmes' hip. I was a little surprised, though, that Kansas City didn't try to improve it's defense.
28. Tennessee Titans -- Andre Woolfolk, CB, Oklahoma
A former wide receiver who is still raw technically at corner, Woolfolk has the speed and hands to do damage and make plays after interceptions. He also has the athletic ability to block punts and help on kick coverage, but he will likely spend the upcoming season in a nickel or dime role and compete for significant playing time -- perhaps even a starting spot -- in his second year.
29. Green Bay Packers -- Nick Barnett, LB, Oregon State
Barnett led the Pac-10 conference in tackles and had terrific workouts. He tackles well has all the physical skills to be a good player, and with his productivity it is not a shock to see him taken here as the first linebacker off the board.
30. San Diego Chargers -- Sammy Davis, CB, Texas A&M
The Chargers got an experienced corner who made 36 consecutive starts to end his career. He played tighter coverage last year and took better advantage of his athletic skills, and with a 4.47 time in the 40 he has speed to go with good height at 5-11. Davis also helped himself by becoming a better tackler in run support last year.
31. Oakland Raiders -- Nnamdi Asomugah, CB, California
Asomugah played both safety and corner in college, and being over six feet tall he gives the Raiders a big defensive back who can play press coverage against big wideouts.
32. Oakland Raiders -- Tyler Brayton, DE, Colorado
Brayton has a motor that never quits, and with his height and wingspan he could be a factor knocking down passes. He needs technique work on his stance, though, as he sometimes comes out of his stance too high. But Brayton wants to be an excellent player and the Raiders should be able to coach him up.