Leap of Faith
Divining franchise saviors from franchise killers? Nearly impossible. Prophesying where they'll be drafted? No problem for MEL KIPER JR.
03 Browns // Alex Smith, QB, Utah - GM Phil Savage has been busy this off-season shedding past No.1 busts. His choice for redeeming the Browns' sorry history will be Smith, who is only 20 and has a great upside.
05 Buccaneers // Cadillac Williams, RB, Auburn - Jon Gruden coached him during Senior Bowl week and knows he can be the elusive pass-catching back the Bucs need.
06 Titans // Antrel Rolle, CB, Miami - The Titans have cut or traded half their defense. Rolle's stock skyrocketed after he ran a 4.49 40, proving he has recovery speed to go along with his six-foot, 200-pound size.
10 Lions // Derrick Johnson, LB, Texas - After spending two straight No.1 picks on receivers, the Lions need to give their 22nd-ranked D some attention. Johnson plays inside and outside and is the best player left on the board.
12 Chargers // Marcus Spears, DE, LSU - The ideal 3-4 DE. He'll shore up a defense that got just 29 sacks last season, tied for 29th in the league.
13 Texans // Alex Barron, OT, Florida State - The Texans need to protect David Carr and they flirted with Orlando Pace. If the 6'7", 320-pound Barron's play matches his size, he'll soon be mentioned with Pace again, as one of the league's top linemen.
14 Panthers // Troy Williamson, WR, South Carolina -One of the fastest players in the draft (4.38 40) replaces Muhsin Muhammad. Made most of his opportunities playing for a run-oriented offense, leading SEC with 19.4 ypc.
15 Chiefs// Demarcus Ware, DE, Troy State - A familiar refrain: the Chiefs need help on D. This combo DE/OLB should do it. His rise as a first-round prospect has made him the talk of the draft.
17 Bengals// Carlos Rogers, CB, Auburn - Tory James had eight picks for Cincy last season, but he'll be a 10-year vet. Rogers was the steadiest corner in college and fits well in Marvin Lewis' aggressive scheme.
18 Vikings// Dan Cody, DE, Oklahoma - With the Vikings continuing to rebuild their defense, Cody is a good choice here. He can also play on his feet at outside linebacker.
19 Rams// Jammal Brown, OT, Oklahoma - The best RT in the country last year should be a nice complement to Pace.
20 Cowboys// Roddy White, WR, UAB - Home run threat (20.6 ypc in 2004) addresses a big need for the Cowboys-if Bledsoe can get him the ball.
21 Jaguars // Marlin Jackson, CB, Michigan - The Jags need cornerback help. Fears that the six-foot, 198-pound Jackson might be a safety were quelled when he ran in the 4.5 range.
23 Seahawks // David Pollack, DE, Georgia - Originally tapped to go earlier, Pollack has short arms and got knocked around at the point in college. Similar to Grant Wistrom, whom he may replace. Great motor.
24 Packers // Erasmus James, DE, Wisconsin - A top-five pick if not for a hip injury that cost him all of 2003 and an ankle injury that hampered him last season. He could be a sack artist in the NFL if he can stay on the field.
25 Broncos // Travis Johnson, DT, Florida State - The Broncos have signed every ex-Browns D-lineman they can find. But this pick comes down to taking the best available player. Johnson will be an upgrade to their rotation.
26 Jets // Fabian Washington, CB, Nebraska - The Jets need to get younger at corner. While Washington's play leveled off in college, a great workout (4.29 40, vertical jump over 40 inches) moved him into the first round.
27 Falcons // Shaun Cody, DE/DT, USC - The Falcons need to add depth on the D-line. Luckily, Cody-a versatile, reliable and consistent defender for last year's champs-will be available.
28 Chargers // Khalif Barnes, OT, Washington - The Chargers need a successor to 10-year vet Roman Oben. Barnes is inconsistent, but he had a great Senior Bowl week. If he stays focused, he's an LT you can win with.
30 Steelers// Heath Miller, TE, Virginia - Talent level merits that Miller go higher, but there are concerns about a hernia he had last season. Steelers will take a shot because they need a complete TE to give Ben Roethlisberger more options.
31 Eagles// Matt Jones, WR, Arkansas - The first-round curveball. The ex-college QB measured 6'6" and 240 pounds, ran a 4.39 40 and had a 40-plus vertical. The Eagles are in a position to gamble here.
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