1 *****: QB Aaron Rodgers California Jr. 6-2 215
Some league observers think the ***** shortly will open negotiations with their top four candidates, and whichever one they strike the best deal with gets the honor of going first. Leaving a slight chance for Braylon Edwards to rise to No. 1 (a cheaper alternative?), we're sticking with Rodgers for now.
2 Miami: RB Ronnie Brown Auburn Sr. 6-1 224
It's clear after listening to Nick Saban at the NFL owners meeting that he burns to turn the No. 2 slot into a package of picks. But that's still a longshot at best, leaving Brown as the logical choice to fill the Ricky Williams void.
3 Browns: WR Braylon Edwards Michigan Sr. 6-3 206
The Browns surprise us and go with Edwards, since he's the draft's top-rated prospect. That sends Utah quarterback Alex Smith tumbling down the draft board to where exactly? Arizona at No. 8? Or someone trading up into the top 10?
4 Bears: RB Cedric Benson Texas Sr. 6-0 215
The Bears would have been tickled to nab Edwards and team him with Muhsin Muhammad, but the Browns foiled those plans. So Chicago changes gears and looks to upgrade its ground game with the draft's second-best running back.
5 Bucs: RB Carnell Williams Auburn Sr. 5-11 204
For all his famed facial contortions, Bucs coach Jon Gruden apparently doesn't have much of a poker face. He's been making eyes at Williams since he coached him in the Senior Bowl in January. Fills a backfield need, too.
6 Titans: CB Antrel Rolle Miami Sr. 6-1 202
The Titans lost both their starting cornerbacks -- Samari Rolle and Andre Dyson -- in their late February cap purge, so Rolle is a bit of a no-brainer. His edge over West Virginia CB Adam "Pac Man" Jones has widened of late.
7 Vikings: WR Mike Williams USC Jr. 6-5 230
After helping their defense so much in free agency, the Vikings in good conscience can go shopping for Randy Moss' replacement at No. 7. Williams isn't as fast as South Carolina's Troy Williamson, but his big body will prove irresistible to Minnesota.
8 Cards: QB Alex Smith Utah Jr. 6-4 212
If the Browns do take Smith at No. 3, then give Edwards to the Bears and Benson to the Cardinals. But Arizona also could listen to trade offers if Smith still is on the board at No. 8. Barring that, the 20-year-old Smith would be Kurt Warner's heir apparent.
9 Skins: CB Adam Jones West Virginia Jr. 5-10 190
With Fred Smoot now in Minnesota, the Redskins' board shows the perfect confluence of need and top-10 value. Jones is a solid tackler and, as a bonus, helps out on kick returns. If Tennessee takes Jones, give the Redskins Rolle.
10 Lions: LB Derrick Johnson Texas Sr. 6-4 235
The Lions have invested their past four No. 1s on offense, so it's time to think defense. Johnson is the draft's best linebacker, and Detroit doesn't have to reach a bit to make this athletic, ball-hawking prospect a top-10 pick.
11 Cowboys: DE/OLB Shawne Merriman Maryland Jr. 6-4 250
In our initial mock, we had the versatile Merriman going to the Cowboys with their No. 20 pick. But his "tweener" skills would seem a perfect fit as Dallas prepares to use a 3-4 defensive scheme at least some of the time in 2005.
12 Chargers: DE Marcus Spears LSU Sr. 6-4 298
The Chargers could lean toward speedy South Carolina receiver Troy Williamson in this slot, or hope like heck that Mike Williams somehow falls. But it's more likely that they'll get some help for their defensive front with Spears, who also can rush the passer from inside.
13 Texans: OT Alex Barron Florida State Sr. 6-6 308
The Texans' offensive line has been their weak link since day one, and that's why landing the draft's best tackle is the right call for quarterback David Carr's future health. Barron is good enough to handle either side in the NFL.
14 Panthers: WR Troy Williamson South Carolina Jr. 6-2 200
We had the Panthers taking Virginia tight end Heath Miller last time around, but the speedy Williamson's stock keeps rising. With Muhsin Muhammad leaving for Chicago, Williamson, a local favorite, could step right into the lineup.
15 KC: CB Carlos Rogers Auburn Sr. 6-1 194
If the Chiefs don't make a deal for Miami's Patrick Surtain pre-draft, Rogers makes sense as the answer to their crying need at corner. Rogers has steadily gained ground in the first round and some like him more than the smaller Adam Jones.
16 Saints: S Thomas Davis Georgia Jr. 6-1 230
The Saints signed safety Dwight Smith in free agency, but they still could use a playmaker like Davis, who many project as a weakside linebacker in the NFL. He has great speed at 230 pounds and ran a 4.6 at the Combine.
Pick Team Pos. Player College Class Ht. Wt.
17 Bengals: DT Travis Johnson Florida State Sr. 6-5 292
Free agency didn't change the fact that stopping the run remains the Bengals' weak link on defense. An upgrade in the middle of the line is mandatory, and Johnson is the consensus top gap-clogging tackle available.
18 Vikings: DE Erasmus James Wisconsin Sr. 6-4 263
With Pat Williams added, they're set at defensive tackle. With Fred Smoot on board, they're set at cornerback, too. James gives them an edge pass-rush presence, and suddenly the Minnesota D-line is looking pretty formidable.
19 Rams: OT Jammal Brown Oklahoma Sr. 6-6 313
The Rams' troubles at offensive right tackle have been well documented. The Kyle Turley acquisition was a coach-killer (sorry, couldn't resist), and Brown would solidify a position that has been a revolving door since 2002.
20 Cowboys: WR Roddy White Alabama-Birmingham Jr. 6-1 207
With the defense getting help from Merriman at No. 11, the Cowboys need to find a big-play receiver. White is the draft's second-best burner after Williamson. Oklahoma's Mark Clayton should be another consideration.
21 Jags: CB Marlin Jackson Michigan Sr. 6-0 198
Given the Jags' troubles at DE last season, they still could go for Georgia's David Pollack, even after signing Denver's Reggie Hayward in free agency. But there's need at cornerback too, making Jackson too good to pass up.
22 Ravens: WR Mark Clayton Oklahoma Sr. 5-11 187
Even with Derrick Mason on board, the Raves could use more help at receiver. Clayton is too highly rated for the draft-savvy Ravens to pass on. If he's is gone, Washington offensive tackle Khalif Barnes makes sense.
23 Seahawks: DE David Pollack Georgia Sr. 6-2 270
The Seahawks' defensive line needs help and they have options here. Pollack has a great motor and intensity level in the mode of Grant Wistrom, but Seattle also could consider USC's DE/DT Shaun Cody, Oklahoma DE Dan Cody or Iowa DE Matt Roth. Pollack gets the slightest of nods.
24 Green Bay: CB Fabian Washington Nebraska Jr. 5-8 186
The Packers have more pressing needs at guard and safety, but it's tough to spend first-round money on those positions unless there's a no-brainer pick. The Pack has spent heavily on cornerbacks, but Washington's speed makes him too tempting. Florida LB Channing Crowder could be the choice, too.
25 Denver: DE Matt Roth Iowa Sr. 6-3 278
With Reggie Hayward lost to free agency and Trevor Pryce's back injury still a potential issue, the Broncos would be wise to upgrade their defensive line with somebody other than former Browns. Roth is versatile enough to fit into Denver's plan to play some 3-4 scheme in 2005.
26 Jets: DE/DT Shaun Cody USC Sr. 6-4 295
Ideally, the Jets need a replacement for run-stuffing nose tackle Jason Ferguson. While Cody might not be the perfect fit, he did prove he can play inside in college, and he was part of the nation's No. 1 rush defense. If CB Fabian Washington lingers, New York would consider nabbing him.
27 Falcons: WR Reggie Brown Georgia Sr. 6-1 196
The Falcons can go a lot of different ways, but we're going to give them Brown, a local product, because their most glaring need is a No. 1 receiver for Michael Vick. Washington OT Khalif Barnes, LB Crowder or DT Anttaj Hawthorne are all names to keep track of.
28 Chargers: OT Khalif Barnes Washington Sr. 6-5 310
After going defense with their No. 12 pick, the Chargers probably are thinking receiver with this selection. But all the really good ones are gone. Barnes is the only true left tackle in the draft, and he'll be Roman Oben's eventual replacement.
29 Colts: DE Dan Cody Oklahoma Sr. 6-5 265
The Colts going defense seems to be the lock of the draft. We'll give them Cody because he's the best remaining pass rusher, and ideally he would help free up fellow end Dwight Freeney. Cody has proven himself in key games in a big-time program.
30 Steelers: TE Heath Miller Virginia Jr. 6-5 256
Miller is a great value this low in the round, and he'll give Ben Roethlisberger another target now that Plaxico Burress is on the Giants. The Steelers would be ecstatic if the play-making Miller falls to them.
31 Eagles: DE/OLB Demarcus Ware Troy St. Sr. 6-4 252
The Eagles could opt for receiving help for No. 1 pass-catcher Terrell Owens, and that's where the Matt Jones speculation makes things interesting. But Ware is the kind of edge rusher who can make things happen at both defensive end or linebacker.
32 Patriots: CB Justin Miller Clemson Jr. 5-11 201
Even with Duane Starks replacing Ty Law, the Patriots still could be in the market for more depth in the secondary. Miller also is a return specialist, and we all know how much the Pats like guys who can do more than one thing. Finding a potential replacement for ILB Tedy Bruschi is another priority.