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Rick Gosselin's NFL Draft Section
The Top 100: Manning's the best
01:58 AM CDT on Friday, April 23, 2004
Compiled by RICK GOSSELIN / The Dallas Morning News
There is magic in the name. Also the player.
Mississippi quarterback Eli Manning is the third member of his family to appear on an NFL draft board and likely the second to be selected first overall.
His father Archie was the second overall choice of the 1971 draft and went on to become a Pro Bowl quarterback. His brother Peyton was the first overall choice of the 1998 draft and went on to become an NFL MVP.
Eli, who broke all of his father's passing records at Ole Miss, is the concensus choice as the best player on the 2004 NFL draft board and probably the first overall selection Saturday by the San Diego Chargers.
In the last week, The Dallas Morning News polled 26 NFL teams, asking them to identify the top player on their draft board. Five different players were named – and all of them play offense.
Manning was the top player on 10 ½ boards. Miami tight end Kellen Winslow was next at seven, followed by Iowa offensive tackle Robert Gallery at 4 ½. Wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Roy Williams were named by two teams apiece.
If Manning starts off the draft, it will be the fourth consecutive year a quarterback has gone first and the six time in the last seven years. Quarterbacks have gone first overall in 22 of the 61 drafts to date.
The Top 100 is compiled based on conversations with general managers, personnel directors, pro and college coaches and scouts. This is not a mock draft. Teams will skip around the board on draft day to make selections that fit their needs.
Rank, Player Pos. School
1. Eli Manning QB Mississippi
2. Kellen Winslow TE Miami (Fla.)
Robert Gallery, OT, Iowa: The Big Ten once was a treasure trove of offensive tackles. For decades, the conference subscribed to the Woody Hayes "three yards and a cloud of dust" offensive philosophy and churned out those oversized run blockers the NFL loved. Jim Parker, Dan Dierdorf, Orlando Pace … the NFL knew it could always find a tackle at Ohio State, Michigan or Wisconsin. The Big Ten produced seven first-round tackles in the 1980s and six more in the 1990s. But with an increased emphasis on the pass in the 2000s, the flow of jumbo run-blockers is now a trickle. Gallery signals a return to prominence by the conference's blocking front. He'll be a top-five pick, the highest a Big Ten offensive tackle has gone since Pace went first overall in 1997.
4. Roy Williams WR Texas
5. Larry Fitzgerald WR Pittsburgh
6. Sean Taylor S Miami (Fla.)
7. DeAngelo Hall CB Virginia Tech
8. Tommie Harris DT Oklahoma
9. Will Smith DE Ohio State
10. Kenechi Udeze DE Southern California
11. Ben Roethlisberger QB Miami (Ohio)
12. Philip Rivers QB North Carolina State
13. Vince Wilford DT Miami (Fla.)
14. Dunta Robinson CB South Carolina
Jonathan Vilma, MLB, Miami (Fla.): Vilma doesn't fit the NFL prototype for middle linebackers at 6-0, 233 pounds. The NFL likes those giant run-stuffers such as 6-4, 254-pound Brian Urlacher. But this is one position that scoffs at the prototype. Jack Lambert was too skinny (212) to play in the middle in the NFL and Mike Singletary too short (5-11). Both are Hall of Famers. Perennial Pro Bowler Zach Thomas goes 5-11, 233. Ray Lewis entered the NFL at almost the exact same size (6-0, 235) as Vilma. Like Lewis – and seemingly all University of Miami linebackers – Vilma is longer on the intangibles than the tangibles. Watch his play, not his measurables. "I've been playing middle since high school," Vilma said. "Everyone said I was too small there, and they said I was too small in college. It's no big deal."
16. Steven Jackson HB Oregon State
17. D.J. Williams OLB Miami (Fla.)
18. Reggie Williams WR Washington
19. Shawn Andrews OT Arkansas
20. Kevin Jones HB Virginia Tech
21. Michael Clayton WR LSU
Mike Williams WR Southern California
22. Lee Evans WR Wisconsin
23. Ben Troupe TE Florida
Marcus Tubbs, DT, Texas: Rod Coleman and Robaire Smith have combined to start only 37 times in 109 career games spanning nine NFL seasons. Yet as free agents, they received a combined $18.5 million in signing bonuses this off-season. Both are defensive tackles, and that position has evolved into one of the most valuable commodities in today's NFL. Not to mention expensive. The cheapest and best way to acquire tackles is to draft them. That way you get them young and can keep them for four years at a reasonable rate. So look for as many as 14 defensive tackles to go in the first day. Tubbs benefits from the recent NFL success of former Longhorns Casey Hampton and Shaun Rogers at the position.
25. Vernon Carey OT Miami (Fla.)
26. Rashaun Woods WR Oklahoma State
27. Chris Gamble CB Ohio State
28. Justin Smiley G Alabama
29. Chris Perry HB Michigan
30. Teddy Lehman MLB Oklahoma
31. Ahmad Carroll CB Arkansas
32. Jason Babin DE Western Michigan
33. Chris Snee G Boston College
34. Igor Olshansky DT Oregon
35. Michael Jenkins WR Ohio State
J.P. Losman, QB, Tulane: Heading into last fall, Losman was the highest-rated draft prospect at the quarterback position. But playing behind an inexperienced line, Losman spent the fall running for his life. He was sacked 26 times, and the Green Wave went bowl-less with a 5-7 record. Three quarterbacks passed Losman on the draft board: Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. Losman has a stronger arm than Manning and more mobility than Rivers. The NFL also likes his toughness. He grades out higher than his predecessor, Patrick Ramsey, who was a No. 1 draft pick by Washington in 2002. Teams that evaluate Losman off his 2002 game tapes could project him as a first-rounder as well.
37. Devery Henderson WR LSU
38. Dwan Edwards DT Oregon State
39. Jake Grove C Virginia Tech
40. Ben Watson TE Georgia
41. Ricardo Colclough CB Tusculum
42. Greg Jones HB Florida State
43. Sean Jones S Georgia
44. Tank Johnson DT Washington
Shawntae Spencer, CB, Pittsburgh:The NFL invites 330 draft prospects to Indianapolis each winter for its annual scouting combine. But those aren't necessarily the 330 best prospects – or Spencer would have been there. He started three years at Pittsburgh and spent the last two years practicing daily against Larry Fitzgerald. He intercepted eight passes in his career and broke up a school-record 51 of them. Yet there were no invitations to the combine or postseason all-star games. He's a 6-0 corner, and after he ran a 4.48-second 40-yard dash at his campus workout, the NFL took notice. Twenty teams flew him in for visits in March and April, and Spencer turned down four other trips. In each of the last two drafts, a non-combine player was selected in the second round. Spencer should extend that streak to three years in a row.
46. Michael Boulware OLB Florida State
47. Junior Siavli DT Oregon
48. Julius Jones HB Notre Dame
49. Daryl Smith MLB Georgia Tech
Keary Colbert, WR, Southern California: Colbert played alongside Kareem Kelly at the start of his career and Mike Williams at the end. He was always the "other" option for the Trojans. Kelly left with a school-record 204 receptions. Colbert never made All-Pac 10, but he did break Kelly's mark and leave Southern Cal as the school's all-time leading receiver with 207 catches. This is the most talented class of wide receivers since 1988 and maybe the deepest class ever. There are nine who project as walk-in starters. Colbert ranks as the ninth. He should clear the board by the mid-second round, then there is likely to be a lull at the position.
51. Darnell Dockett DT Florida State
52. Keiwan Ratliff CB Florida
53. Kris Wilson TE Pittsburgh
Maurice Clarett HB Ohio State
54. Joey Thomas CB Montana State
55. Matt Schaub QB Virginia
56. Jacob Rogers OT Southern California
57. Tim Anderson DT Ohio State
58. Keith Smith CB McNeese State
59. Madieu Williams S Maryland
60. Dontarrious Thomas MLB Auburn
61. Will Poole CB Southern California
62. Travis LaBoy DE Hawaii
Ben Hartsock, TE, Ohio State: The surprise wasn't that the Big Ten Buckeyes won the national title in 2002. The surprise was that Ohio State did not repeat in 2003. Sixteen starters on that national championship team returned last fall, and Maurice Clarett would have been the 17th. There were five Buckeyes drafted in 2003 but no first-rounders. There could be a dozen more starters from that national championship team drafted this weekend, with defensive end Will Smith, cornerback Chris Gamble and wide receiver Michael Jenkins all possible firsts. Hartsock, a two-year starter, is one of eight or so Buckeyes with first-day draft value.
64. Travelle Wharton OT South Carolina
65. Antwan Odom DE Alabama
66. Derrick Strait CB Oklahoma
67. Courtney Watson MLB Notre Dame
68. Randy Starks DT Maryland
69. Max Starks OT Florida
70. Karlos Dansby OLB Auburn
71. Darrion Scott DT Ohio State
Tatum Bell, HB, Oklahoma State: The NFL covets speed in its pass rushers, cover corners and offensive playmakers. The more speed the better. Bell is the fastest runner on this draft board, yet the NFL hasn't warmed up to him as an elite player in the Class of 2004. Bell runs 40 yards in 4.37 seconds and plays just as fast on the football field. He rushed for 1,286 yards last fall with an average of 6.0 yards per carry. But he gets dinged by NFL talent evaluators because he caught only 36 career passes and is a liability in pass protection. There's a history of great backs sliding on draft day – Clinton Portis was a second-round pick (2002), Ahman Green a third (1998), Stephen Davis a fourth (1996), Dorsey Levens a fifth (1994) and Terrell Davis a sixth (1995). The draft round doesn't make or break a back. His play does.
73. Jerricho Cotchery WR North Carolina State
74. Mewelde Moore HB Tulane
75. Sean Locklear G North Carolina State
76. Kelly Butler OT Purdue
77. P.K. Sam WR Florida State
78. Shaun Phillips DE Purdue
79. Keyaron Fox OLB Georgia Tech
80. Derrick Hamilton WR Clemson
81. Bob Sanders S Iowa
82. Isaak Sopoaga DT Hawaii
83. Bernard Berrian WR Fresno State
84. Adrian Jones OT Kansas
Glenn Earl, S, Notre Dame: When do you draft damaged goods? Earl goes 6-1, 222 pounds and isn't afraid to use his size. He fits the NFL prototype for a run-support safety. If he were healthy, Earl would be the No. 2 safety on many a draft board. But he blew out a knee midway through the 2003 season and might not be ready to go by opening day. The 49ers had to wait almost a year on wide receiver Tai Streets. He projected as a first-day pick in 1999 until suffering a knee injury in the months leading up to the draft. He slid into the sixth round and didn't play for the 49ers until December of that year. But by 2002 he was a starter, catching 72 passes. He caught seven touchdown passes in 2003. Injuries can devalue a player on draft day, and there are bargains to be had for those with patience. Earl figures to be one of the better values in this draft.
86. Matt Ware CB UCLA
87. Bo Schobel DE TCU
88. Chris Cooley TE Utah State
89. Nat Dorsey OT Georgia Tech
90. Jorge Cordova OLB Nevada
91. Alex Stepanovich C Ohio State
92. Trey Darilek OT Texas-El Paso
93. Matthias Askew DT Michigan State
Jeremy LeSueur, CB, Michigan: Of the top 70 wide receivers on the 2004 draft board, 45 of them stand taller than 6-0. Five of the six elite wideouts stand taller than 6-2. The NFL needs size on defense to cover receivers that tall – yet there are only a dozen corners taller than 6-0 in this draft. Height will drive up the stock of 6-0 corners LeSueur, Matt Ware and Chris Thompson in the middle rounds. LeSueur started two years for the Wolverines and also returns kickoffs.
95. Caleb Miller OLB Arkansas
96. Stuart Schweigert S Purdue
97. Devard Darling WR Washington State
98. Nate Kaeding K Iowa
99. Nick Hardwick C Purdue
100. Stacy Andrews OT Mississippi