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Smith fifth straight QB to be taken with No. 1 pick

NEW YORK -- After a week of trade rumors and intrigue, the
only drama in this NFL draft was the long wait for Aaron Rodgers.

With the top players considered relatively equal, quarterback
Alex Smith went first as expected to San Francisco and the other
dominoes followed more or less the way they were supposed to.

But Rodgers, the Cal quarterback who the 49ers had considered at
No. 1, fell most of the way through the first round until he was
taken 24th overall by Green Bay to the cheers of fans at the draft.
He will be groomed to succeed Brett Favre, who will turn 36 in
October.

"I had already prepared myself for things not going my way,"
said Rodgers, who had been invited to the draft on the assumption
he would be taken much earlier. "Things get a little screwy on
draft day. We all know that."

The shortage of drama was in sharp contrast to last season, when
San Diego took Eli Manning, who had expressed his desire not to
play for the Chargers. They then traded him to the New York Giants
for Philip Rivers, who the Giants had taken fourth overall.

"There's a lot of smoke this year, but very little fire," said
Cleveland general manager Phil Savage, who entertained a number of
offers before selecting wide receiver Braylon Edwards with the
third pick.

In fact, the biggest fire may have come at the end of the
evening at 11 p.m., when Denver used the final pick of the third
round to select Maurice Clarett, the running back who led Ohio
State to the 2002 national championship then left the Buckeyes.

A year ago he challenged the NFL rule requiring a player to be out of
high school for three years and was eventually turned down
by the courts, and was expected to go much lower after slow times
in 40-yard dashes. The pick was 101st overall.

Edwards was part of a top nine that included three running
backs, three cornerbacks and three players from Auburn with
quarterback Jason Campbell, taken by Washington with the 25th pick,
the fourth Tiger taken. The three early Auburn guys were running
backs Ronnie Brown, second overall to Miami, and Carnell Williams,
fifth to Tampa Bay, and cornerback Carlos Rogers, who the Redskins
settled for at nine when they couldn't trade up.

Smith, who is just 20, was considered the quarterback with the
best chance to become a star, fitting for a team that had Hall of
Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young but slipped to 2-14 last year.
He was the fifth straight quarterback taken with the first pick.

"We felt that Alex was the one that most fit what we want our
team to look like," said new coach Mike Nolan, who got
decision-making power over personnel when he took the job. "He
brings discipline, competitiveness and intelligence to the table.
He is off the charts in all three areas."

Smith was off the NFL's charts until this year, when he led Utah
to an unbeaten season and the first Bowl Championship Series
appearance by a team from a non-BCS conference.

Rodgers' fall was one big surprise -- even Matt Jones, the
6-foot-6, 240-pound Arkansas quarterback who runs a 40-yard dash in
under 4.4 seconds, was taken 21st by Jacksonville.

He said that once he fell beyond 10, he knew the next run of
teams didn't need a young quarterback, so he was prepared.

The Packers were, too.

"It just didn't make sense that a player like this would drop
like this. As our pick got closer, we started to get serious about
taking him," general manager Ted Thompson said. "We didn't go
into the day looking to take a quarterback but we felt by the time
by the time we picked Aaron Rodgers, he was the best player on the
board."

Campbell's selection by Washington was a second surprise.

He was projected at best as a second-rounder after salvaging a
mediocre college career with an outstanding senior season. It also
shows less than a lot of faith in Patrick Ramsey, the Redskins'
incumbent QB and their first-round pick in 2002.

The other surprises were minor.

Minnesota chose Troy Williamson of South Carolina, a faster wide
receiver than the highly rated but taller Mike Williams of Southern
California. Williams, kept out of last year's draft by a court
ruling in the Maurice Clarett case, went to Detroit at No. 10, the
third straight wide receiver to be the Lions' top choice.

Similarly, Adam "Pacman" Jones of West Virginia was the first
cornerback taken -- by Tennessee, with number six. Antrel Rolle of
Miami, who was rated ahead of Jones at cornerback on many boards,
went two picks later to Arizona, followed by Rogers to Washington
at nine.

After Smith, Brown and Edwards, Chicago took running back Cedric
Benson of Texas fourth. Then came Carnell Williams, Jones,
Williamson, Rolle, Rogers and Mike Williams.

Detroit needed defense, but Williams was too good to pass up.

"We ran a lot of scenarios and in all of those scenarios, we
didn't believe that Mike Williams would be sitting there," Lions
president Matt Millen said. "There are a lot of ways to help an
offense and a defense. Scoring points is one of them. Mike Williams
does that very well."

Dallas took defensive end DeMarcus Ware of Troy at 11; followed
by linebacker Shawne Merriman of Maryland to San Diego; offensive
tackle Jammal Brown of Oklahoma to New Orleans; defensive back
Thomas Davis of Georgia to Carolina; linebacker Derrick Johnson of
Texas to Kansas City; defensive tackle Travis Johnson of Florida
State to Houston; defensive end David Pollack of Georgia to
Cincinnati; defensive end Erasmus James of Wisconsin to Minnesota;
offensive tackle Alex Barron of Florida State to St. Louis, and
defensive end Marcus Spears of LSU to Dallas to complete the top
20.

The last pick of the first round was by New England, which chose
little known guard Logan Mankins of Fresno State. Given the
Patriots' past success, he could end up a Pro Bowler.

New Orleans and Houston swapped spots in a minor deal in which
the Saints also sent the Texans their third-round pick next year.
Oakland and Seattle also flip-flopped between 23 and 26.

That was a far cry from last year's dealing at the top.