Minnesota Passes In NFL Draft

2003 NFL Draft graphic AP

The Cincinnati Bengals, hoping to reverse a recent history of draft flops, took Southern California quarterback Carson Palmer to open the NFL draft Saturday.

Palmer actually agreed to contract terms Thursday. He's the first Heisman Trophy winner selected at the top of the draft since Vinny Testaverde went to Tampa Bay in 1987.

Palmer is expected to back up Jon Kitna this season for the Bengals, who were 2-14 last season, giving them the first choice for the third time in a decade - although they traded for it in 1995 and took running back Ki-jana Carter. In 1994, they "earned" the opening spot and took DT Dan Wilkinson.

Neither made much impact in Cincinnati.

Detroit, looking for a big-play receiver to team with last year's first-rounder, quarterback Joey Harrington, selected Michigan State's Charles Rogers. Although questions were raised about Rogers' urine sample being diluted at the NFL combine, the Lions had no second thoughts about taking him.

Rogers was greeted with loud chants of "Charlie, Charlie," as he held up a blue No. 1 Lions jersey.

With the third pick, Houston, also in need of an offensive playmaker, took wide receiver Andre Johnson, who helped the Miami Hurricanes win the 2001 national championship. Like Detroit, the Texans now have a franchise quarterback in David Carr, the top overall choice in 2002, to go with a dangerous wideout.

After trading two first-round selections, Nos. 13 and 22, to Chicago Friday to move up to the fourth spot, the New York Jets went for DT Dewayne Robertson of Kentucky. With chants of "J-E-T-S" emanating from the cheap seats, the 6-foot-2, 310-pound junior was a popular pick. He came on stage carrying a No. 97 green jersey.

The defensive line is considered the strongest position in the draft.

After the selection of Palmer, the next three players taken were underclassmen. Dallas ended that by taking senior cornerback Terence Newman of Kansas State as the first draftee of the Bill Parcells era in Big D. He should fit well in a defensive backfield bolstered by safety Roy Williams last year.

In the second major trade of the first round, New Orleans moved up to No. 6, swapping with Arizona. The Saints' selection, Georgia DT Johnathan Sullivan, was somewhat surprising because several other defensive tackles were rated higher.

The Saints sent both of their first-rounders, Nos. 17 and 18, and their second, No. 54, to Arizona for the spot where they chose Sullivan, plus Arizona's second-rounder (37th overall) and fourth-rounder (102).

Sullivan was the fourth junior taken in the first six spots.

Minnesota couldn't make a decision in its allotted 15 minutes and passed, an almost unprecedented move in the first round. Jacksonville took almost no time to jump in and select Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich, who can learn behind veteran Mark Brunell.

Carolina also didn't hesitate while the Vikings were procrastinating. The Panthers, whose offensive line has been weak, went for the highest-rated blocker, tackle Jordan Gross of Utah.

Only then did Minnesota finally make up its mind, choosing DT Kevin Williams of Oklahoma State, whose stock rose rapidly in postseason workouts.

Seattle took only seconds to select cornerback Marcus Trufant, ending a flurry of activity slowed only by Minnesota's hesitance.

DT Jimmy Kennedy of Penn State, who seemed to have half of his hometown of nearby Yonkers in the theater, was chosen 12th overall by St. Louis. He was the last of the seven players on hand to be taken.

Chicago traded down again as New England moved from 14th to 13th. The Patriots sought DT Ty Warren of Texas A&M and felt the need to move up one position before the Bears or someone else took Warren.

Last year, the New York Giants moved up to No. 14, but had to give up a fourth-round pick in the deal in order to select TE Jeremy Shockey, who became an All-Pro as a rookie.

Kennedy's Penn State line partner, end Michael Haynes, was chosen by Chicago. Then came another trade, with Philadelphia sending the No. 30 overall slot and its second-rounder (62nd) to San Diego. In the 15th spot, the Eagles selected Miami DE Jerome McDougle, the sixth straight defensive player chosen.

After then, guess what: another trade. Pittsburgh acquired Kansas City's pick, 16th overall, and selected Southern California safety Troy Polamalu. The Chiefs got the Steelers' top choice, No. 27, and a third- and sixth-rounder.

A third Penn State player, WR Bryant Johnson, went to Arizona with the first of its two consecutive picks. The Cardinals then took DE Calvin Pace of Wake Forest, who was projected to go in the third round.

Baltimore obtained another first-round pick from New England - giving up its second-rounder this year and its first-rounder in 2004 - to get its quarterback of the future in Kyle Boller of California.

At No. 20, Denver went for George Foster, a tackle from Georgia.

Cleveland, which has had some turmoil on the offensive line, chose Notre Dame center Jeff Faine. Chicago then used its second choice for Florida QB Rex Grossman, who will be groomed behind Kordell Stewart.

Buffalo then pulled the biggest stunner, taking Miami RB Willis McGahee at No. 23. McGahee severely injured his knee in the Fiesta Bowl in January and had reconstructive surgery and might not be available this season.

But his rehabilitation has gone extremely well and he had a strong workout last week.

The first tight end chosen was Dallas Clark of Iowa, by Indianapolis. He was followed by Miami DT William Joseph, who went to the Giants as the crowd chanted Joseph's name.

San Francisco took Stanford tackle Kwame Harris to energize an aging offensive line. Then came Larry Johnson, the big-play running back from Penn State, who went to Kansas City; CB Andre Woolfolk of Oklahoma to Tennessee; and Green Bay added to its linebacker corps by taking Nick Barnett of Oregon State.
  • Brian Dakss

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