With the end of the college football season at hand, it's time for the pro scouts to begin formulating their reports on who will go where and to whom in the next NFL draft.
OK, the draft is still 21 weeks away, and there are bowl games, all-star games and meat-market workouts to evaluate, but what if the draft were held tomorrow? How would the first 10 picks look?
To formulate an idea, we surveyed the two ranking draft gurus, Joel Buchsbaum of Pro Football Weekly and Mel Kiper of ESPN. Buchbaum selected nine top players and then left it up to individual taste to pluck someone out of the second tier to fill slot No. 10.
The Buchsbaum list
1. Daunte Culpepper, Central Florida quarterback.
2. Tim Couch, Kentucky quarterback.
3. Ricky Williams, Texas running back.
4. Peter Warrick, Florida State wide receiver.
5. Torry Holt, North Carolina State wide receiver.
6. Champ Bailey, Georgia wide receiver/cornerback/kick returner.
7. Chris Claiborne, USC linebacker.
8. Jevon Kearse, Florida linebacker.
9. Andy Katzenmoyer, Ohio State linebacker.
Kiper not only picks a top 10, but assigns players to the teams which would pick in this order if the draft were held today.
The Kiper list
1. Cleveland Browns: (The new expansion team gets the first pick in the draft) Couch.
2. Philadelphia: Williams.
3. Washington: (from Carolina as compensation for Sean Gilbert free-agent signing) Culpepper.
4. Washington: (Regular pick) Bailey.
5. Indianapolis: Claiborne.
6. Cincinnati: Kris Farris, UCLA offensive tackle.
7. Detroit: Kearse.
8. Giants: Donovan McNabb, Syracuse quarterback.
9. Chicago: Holt.
10. Baltimore: Warrick.
11. St. Louis: Chris McAlister, Arizona cornerback.
Couch, Bailey, Claiborne, Farris, Kearse, Warrick and Katzenmoyer are underclassmen. An oddity is that neither Buchsbaum nor Kiper included defensive linemen, normally high priority picks, among their top players. Seven of Kiper's 11 and six of Buchsbaum's nine are offensive players.
Buchsbaum feels three other quarterbacks besides Couch and Culpepper may be drafted in Round One. They are McNabb and two juniors, Damon Huard of Washington and Chris Redman of Louisville. Kiper thinks Akili Smith of Oregon will go high while Kansas State's Michael Bishop, a "slash" type player like Kordell Stewart of the Steelers, will be a second- or third-round pick.
Among Buchsbaum's possible breakthroughs are LSU running back Kevin Faulk, Brigham Young's junior offensive tackle John Tait and Iowa defensive lineman Jared DeVries, about whom many NFL scouts are divided.
Fans despise Irsays, evermore
Today's Colts-Ravens game doesn't mean anything in the standings, but for Baltimore fans it's a blood game. It's the first time Indy has visited Baltimore since the city's beloved Colts were Shanghaied in the middle of the night to Indiana by the late owner, Robert Irsay, a despised figure in Maryland.
The irony is that the current Baltimore team, for half a century known as the Cleveland Browns, was Shanghaied to Chesapeake Bay country by owner Art Modell, a man despised in Ohio.
A further irony is that Modell sought to purchase the name "Colts" from Jim Irsay, Robert's son who now owns the Indianapolis team. Irsay rebuffed Modell, who settled on "Ravens" as a substitute. Now Modell's franchise is being sued by the original owners of the name "Baltimore Ravens."
When Steve Mariucci, the San Francisco coach, chose to have Steve Young "take a knee" while his offense had the ball on the Saints' goal line for the last minute of Sunday night's one-sided victory over New Orleans, it was an act of compassion.
The problem is that these are mercenary days in pro sports and it didn't look that way to a lot of fans who back their opinions with their wallets. The "kneel" meant the 49ers won by 11 points. The point spread was 12.
FELSER'S TOP 10
1. Denver . . . Bye in San Diego (1)
2. Minnesota . . . Pack in their dust (2)
3. Jets . . . Road warriors (7)
4. Atlanta . . . Could get NFC advantage (4)
5. Buffalo . . . Crucial in Foxboro (8)
6. Miami . . . Couldn't stop Bledsoe (5)
7. Jacksonville . . . Steeler hex lives (3)
8. Pittsburgh . . . Aren't dead yet (NR)
9. Dallas . . . Getting steadily better (NR)
10. San Francisco . . . Few challenges left (10)