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DRAFT'S MYSTERY BEGINS WITH THE NINERS'
SHORTAGE OF SUPER PROSPECTS HAS SOME TEAMS LOOKING TO TRADE OUT OF FIRST ROUND TO GAIN MORE CHOICES LATER

The 2005 NFL draft might have about 15 legitimate first-round picks and about 50 worthwhile second-rounders.

Deep? Yes. Superstar-laden? It doesn't look like it this year.

"It's about six or seven players at the top," New Orleans coach Jim Haslett said. "Then after that it's a crapshoot. I don't know if there are any superstars. There's a couple of good players in there. There's a whole bunch of players at the second level. There's a lot of good second- and third-round picks that you can get that will come in and help your team."

"All drafts are crapshoots, but this one may be more than a lot of others," said Bills President and General Manager Tom Donahoe.

The relative lack of players who look like they will be sure-fire All-Pros -- the Peyton Mannings, Jonathan Ogdens and Tony Bosellis of the world -- has many of the teams in the top 10 interested in moving down to acquire more picks.

A volatile day of wheeling and dealing could be in store in the first round.

Here's a look at what might happen.

1. San Francisco: Aaron Rodgers, QB, California. Needs: QB, WR, DL, DB, OL, commitment from owner. For about two months all the talk was the Niners were going to take Rodgers. Then they found out Alex Smith had more trade value. The Niners deny it, but a big issue for owner John York will be getting a guy signed. The worst case scenario for the Niners is a holdout. Rodgers would play for less.

2. Miami: Alex Smith, QB, Utah. Needs: RB, OLB, DE, WR. New coach Nick Saban wants to move out and gather extra picks to fill his many needs. So there's a 50 percent chance of a deal. If Smith goes first, Ronnie Brown would be the next obvious pick.

3. Cleveland: Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan. Needs: OLB, DE, OT, SS, WR. The Browns would love to move down more than once and collect two or three extra picks.

4. Chicago: Cedric Benson, RB, Texas. Needs: WR, RB, K, OLB, QB. If someone moves into the top three to take Benson, the Bears take Carnell Williams of Auburn.

5. Tampa Bay: Ronnie Brown, RB, Auburn. Needs: RB, WR, OL, K, DT. At the owners meetings, coach Jon Gruden said Brown had the best hands in the draft, including wide receivers. If Brown is gone, the Bucs could take receiver Mike Williams.

6. Tennessee: Adam "Pac Man" Jones, CB, West Virginia. Needs: WR, CB, RT. The Titans have four of the top 96 and eight of the top 150 picks. There is talk they may take a back. Why, with Chris Brown in the fold?

7. Minnesota (from Oakland): Mike Williams, WR, Southern Cal. Needs: WR, RG, OLB, K. Randy who?

8. Arizona: Carnell Williams, RB, Auburn. Needs: CB, RB, TE, LB, OL.

9. Washington: Carlos Rogers, CB, Auburn. Needs: CB, DE, ILB, WR. He's bigger than Jones and faster than Antrel Rolle. This is presuming they don't move up to get Michigan's Edwards.

10. Detroit: Derrick Johnson, LB, Texas. Needs: DE, OLB, S, WR.

11. Dallas: DeMarcus Ware, DE, Troy State. Needs: OLB, DE, WR. Dallas needs a pass rusher for the 3-4 defense, so even if they acquire the Saints' Darren Howard, the pick will be for defense. Dallas has traded a first-round pick 10 times since 1993.

12. San Diego (from N.Y. Giants): Shawne Merriman, LB-DE, Maryland. Needs: DE, WR, FS, OT. The Bolts would love Mike Williams, but Merriman is a great fit.

13. Houston: Troy Williamson, WR, South Carolina. Needs: WR, CB, OL. They need someone to complement Andre Johnson.

14. Carolina: Jammal Brown, OT, Oklahoma. Needs: WR, OT, LB. Carolina has talked about moving Jordan Gross back over to right tackle, where he'd be more comfortable. They want Williamson.

15. Kansas City: Thomas Davis, S, Georgia Tech. Needs: OLB, WR, P, CB. The deal for Patrick Surtain changes K.C.'s strategy.

16. New Orleans: Antrel Rolle, CB, Miami. Needs: LB, CB, RT, DT. The Saints want Davis and would play him at linebacker. They think he's a better prospect than Texas' Johnson. Haslett thinks he's the best tackler he's seen in the past decade. But they would be lucky if Rolle fell this far.

17. Cincinnati: Erasmus James, DE, Wisconsin. Needs: DT, DE, S, G.

18. Minnesota: David Pollack, DE, Georgia. He will look good in a 3-4 defense.

19. St. Louis: Alex Barron, OT, Florida State. Needs: S, RT, DE, CB. The signing of Kyle Turley was a disaster and he will be cut in June. The Rams have 12 picks, including two thirds.

20. Dallas (from Buffalo): Mark Clayton, WR, Oklahoma. Drew Bledsoe will like this selection.

21. Jacksonville: Fabian Washington, CB, Nebraska. Needs: CB, LT, RB.

22. Baltimore: Marcus Spears, DE, Louisiana State. Needs: WR, OT, CB, DE. The Ravens would be lucky if Spears fell this far.

23. Seattle: Dan Cody, DE, Oklahoma. Needs: DE, LB, RB, WR. Of 28 defensive players 'Hawks drafted since 1998 not one has appeared in a Pro Bowl. They lost Chike Okeafor in free agency.

24. Green Bay: Shaun Cody, DE, Southern Cal. Needs: QB, G, DE, LB.

25. Washington: Jason Campbell, QB, Auburn.

26. Oakland: Darryl Blackstock, LB, Virginia. Needs: OLB, DL, CB, QB. He fits the 3-4 scheme.

27. Atlanta: Justin Tuck, DE, Notre Dame. Needs: DE, LB, CB, WR.

28. San Diego: Khalif Barnes, OT, Washington. Receiver Roddy White will tempt them.

29. Indianapolis: Travis Johnson, DT, Florida State. Needs: LB, DT, CB. The Colts are losing Rob Morris, who had a good year. But they would be lucky if Johnson fell this far.

30. Pittsburgh: Marcus Johnson, G/T, Mississippi. Needs. OL, CB, WR, OLB. Could go tight end.

31. Philadelphia: Matt Jones, WR, Arkansas. Needs: DE, DT, RB. The Eagles have 13 picks and five in the first three rounds.

32. New England. Barrett Ruud, LB, Nebraska. Needs: CB, ILB, WR. Bills fans hope Ruud turns out like his dad, Tom -- a disappointment as Buffalo's first pick in 1975.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com.

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