Talent-rich draft expects crazy twists

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 23, 2004

Looking at the NFL draft, one might think Steve Martin is in charge. Look for the first round to be wild and crazy.

Local draft handicapper Bart Burcham thinks this year's NFL draft is deep in talent, which could make for a lot of early trade activity.

"I think this is the best draft in the last four or five years. Last year there were five or six guys. This year I like all the guys all the way through the first round," Burcham said.

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"I don't think there's one dominate player who will make your team a whole lot better. That's why teams are trying to trade down because they can get anyone at any spot who can help their team."

Burcham is predicting two trades in the first round involving the New York Giants going up to take San Diego's No. 1 pick, and the Cleveland Browns moving up to No. 2 to grab Iowa OT Robert Gallery.

Last year, Burcham picked 21 players correctly in the first round with five going to the exact team. Here are Burcham's selections for this year:

1. San Diego: The Giants trade up and take QB Eli Manning.

2. Oakland: I think they're definitely trying to trade out. If they can't, they'll take Gallery. If the Browns take this spot, they pick Gallery.

3. Arizona: The Cardinals have some good wide receivers, but Pitt's Larry Fitzgerald is the third WR coach Dennis Green covets.

4. New York Giants: This goes to San Diego in a trade. The Chargers go for QB Phillip Rivers unless they trade down again for more picks which they need because they have so many holes to fill.

5. Washington: Joe Gibbs always has a good TE, so he goes for Miami's Kellen Winslow Jr.

6. Detroit: The Lions might trade down which could be the spot Pittsburgh trades up to if Rivers is still available. If no deal, the Lions take Miami S Sean Taylor.

7. Cleveland: If the Browns trade up, the Raiders take Texas WR Roy Williams. If Cleveland is still here and Gallery is gone, they take DB DeAngelo Hall of Virginia Tech.

8. Atlanta: If Hall is still available, he's the Falcons pick. Hall has been compared to Deion Sanders with his kick return ability. Defense is the main concern.

9. Jacksonville: The first of the Buckeyes, DE Wil Smith, goes here. He's relentless. He's the best DL in the draft.

10. Houston: The Texans are hoping for Hall or Smith, but it will probably be South Carolina CB Dunta Robinson. Houston had safeties play corner last year, so they need a bonafide CB.

11. Pittsburgh: If Manning and Rivers are gone or the Steelers can't trade up, Miami QB Ben Roethlisberger is the guy. If not a QB, it's Arkansas OL Shawn Andrews.

12. New York Jets: The Jets want Mike Williams, but he's no longer in the draft so they'll look to trade down. If not, the pick is Miami LB Jonathan Vilma.

13. Buffalo: If Wil Smith drops, this is the pick. But chances are it will be DE Kenechi Udeze of USC.

14. Chicago: The Bears go for Tommie Harris, Oklahoma DE. Harris and Vince Wolfolk are the two the defense covet.

15. Tampa Bay: With Sapp gone, the Bucs might like a WR but go for Wolfolk. "He's a pretty good athlete who runs really well," Burcham said.

16. San Francisco: The 49ers need to fill Terrell Owen's spot, so go with Wisconsin WR Lee Evans.

17. Denver: With Clinton Portis gone, the need is at RB and the Broncos go with Steven Jackson of Oregon State. Burcham said Jackson "is the best running back in the draft."

18. New Orleans: The second Buckeye gets picked, CB Chris Gamble. "He could have been in the top 12 if his 40 time had not been off," Burcham said.

19. Minnesota: D.J. Williams, a Hurricanes linebacker, will help make the Vikings defense better.

20. Miami: If still available, it's Andrews. "He'll be an awesome tackle," Burcham said.

21. New England: Getting Corey Dillon filled the Pats need. Look for them to upgrade their WR position with Reggie Williams of Washington.

22. Dallas: Kevin Jones, the Virginia Tech RB, will help control the clock. Another possible pick is Chris Perry of Michigan if Bill Parcells prefers a bigger back.

23. Seattle: Marcus Tubbs, DT of Texas. The Seahawks offense is good, but there is weakness inside on the defense.

24. Cincinnati: "They can go a lot of different ways," Burcham said. The selection is DL Darnell Dockett of Florida State.

25. Green Bay: Matt Ware, CB, of UCLA is the pick. If the Packers don't trade for Tim Couch, they'll go for a QB later.

26. St. Louis: The Rams need a DE, but look for them to pick Rashaun Woods, Oklahoma State WR.

27. Tennessee: Frank Wycheck has retired, so the Titans need a TE and the pick is Florida's Ben Troupe.

28. Philadelphia: LB Karlos Dansby of Auburn. The Eagles LBs are leaving and Dansby is the best LB left in the draft.

29. Indianapolis: Ahmad Carroll, Arkansas CB. The Colts only have two or three corners on their roster.

30. Kansas City: The choice is between a DL and a WR. The coin flip goes to WR Michael Clayton of LSU.

31. Carolina: Justin Smiley, OG, of Alabama. Both guards signed elsewhere in the offseason, so there is an immediate need.

32. New England: Vernon Carey, OG of Miami. Burcham said Carey can "go offense or defense."