From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 14, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / April 14, 1999

Tim Couch, Ricky Williams, Akili Smith or Donovan McNabb.

If you are the Cleveland Browns, who do you go for? A game-breaking back or a franchise quarterback? Or do you trade the pick and pick up additional selections to help fill the numerous holes an expansion team always faces? The Browns’ situation is typical of that of many teams heading into the NFL draft Saturday. It is also the one that will have an impact on what therest of the league will do.

Unlike last year, when the only drama was whether Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf would go first to the Indianapolis Colts, this year there are many questions days before the first selection will be made. The first 10 picks,usually the easiest to predict, are up in the air. And with all the trade talkbeing bantered about, even the teams making those selections is up in the air.

Adding to the drama are the usual subplots that come with the draft. Whowill be this year’s Randy Moss, the player who slides down the board? Who will go earlier than expected? What about players like Cecil Collins, those with talent but questionable pasts.

Even in a normal year, making predictions about the draft is a crapshoot.

So with fearless abandon (and the help of a few national publications), here it goes.

With the first pick overall, the expansion Cleveland Browns select…Tim Couch, QB, Kentucky. Forget the questions about arm strength, Couchis a franchise quarterback for a franchise that could be much better much faster than anybody is expecting.

No. 2, Philadelphia Eagles, Ricky Williams, RB, Texas. Yes, Duce Staleyrushed for over 1,000 yards. Yes, the Eagles need a quarterback. But howdo you pass on one of the best running backs to come out of college this decade? No. 3, Cincinnati Bengals, Akili Smith, QB, Oregon. Pittsburgh Steeler andNew York Jets fans will tell you that Neil O’Donnell is not the long-term answer at quarterback. The presence of O’Donnell will allow Smith, atalented but raw prospect, time to develop.

No. 4, Indianapolis Colts, Champ Bailey, CB, Georgia. The Colts need a gamebreaker on offense and defense. Anybody who attended the LSU-Georgiagame last year will tell you that Bailey can provide both.

No. 5, Washington Redskins (from Carolina), Edgerrin James, RB, Miami(Fla.). The Redskins need somebody who can take the pressure off youngquarterback Trent Green. James could remind Redskins fans of anotherpower runner, John Riggins.

No. 6, St. Louis Rams, John Tait, OT, Brigham Young. Tait will join OrlandoPace to give the Rams two solid tackles.

No. 7, Chicago Bears, Donovan McNabb, QB, Syracuse. The Bears pick up ahometown hero. And Erik Kramer gives McNabb a more than adequate tuitor.No. 8, Arizona Cardinals (from San Diego), Chris McAllster, CB, Arizona.Could be a reach but the Cardinals need a good cover man in their secondary.

No. 9, Detroit Lions, Jevon Kearse, DE/OLB, Florida. Kearse could fill twoneeds for the Lions, defensive end and outside linebacker.

No. 10, Baltimore Ravens, Torry Holt, WR, North Carolina State. Baltimoreneeds a playmaker. Holt, who has been compared to Jerry Rice, fits in fine.No. 11, Minnesota Vikings (from Washington), Daunte Culpepper, QB,Central Florida. Yes, the Vikings still have Randall Cunningham. ButCunningham is also 36 years old. The Vikings have time to let this youngerversion of Cunningham develop.

No. 12, New Orleans Saints, David Boston, WR, Ohio State. Might be the big-play receiver the Saints have been looking for. But don’t be surprised tosee the Saints use this pick on a quarterback (Cade McNown).

No. 13, Pittsburgh Steelers, L.J. Shelton, OT, Eastern Michigan. WillWolford retired, leaving a void on Kordell Stewart’s backside.

No. 14, Kansas City Chiefs, Aaron Gibson, OT-OG, Wisconsin. Left guard is aweak spot on the line. The addition of Gibson, perhaps the best run blockerin the draft, could also help the Chiefs’ ground attack.

No. 15, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Matt Stinchcomb, OT, Georgia. The offensestruggled last year with a main cause the play of the offensive line.

No. 16, Tennessee Titans, Anthony McFarland, DT, LSU. The Titans need toget more physical on defense. McFarland is an excellent penetrator and is atop run defender.

No. 17, Seattle Seahawks, Damien Woody, C-OG, Boston College. TheSeahawks need help on the line, especially at center.

No. 18, Oakland Raiders, Chris Claiborne, USC. Claiborne may not slip thisfar but not many of the teams picking early have pressing needs at inside linebacker. The Raiders could have an opportunity to pick a hometowntalent.

No. 19, New York Giants, Amos Zereoue, RB, West Virginia. A reach but theGiants desperately need a back that can carry the load.

No. 20, New England Patriots, Kevin Faulk, RB, LSU. The Patriots need areplacement for the injured Robert Edwards.

No. 21, Arizona Cardinals, Peerless Price, WR, Tennessee. The Cardinalsaddressed a need on defense with their first pick. Now, they address oneon offense.

No. 22, Dallas Cowboys, Andy Katzenmoyer, LB, Ohio State. The Cowboysneed an athletic linebacker to help up shore up an unspectatular defense.

No. 23, Buffalo Bills, Antoine Winfield, CB, Ohio State. Buckeyes go back-to-back. The Bills are looking for a hard-hitting cornerback and Winfieldfits the bill.

No. 24, Miami Dolphins, Cade McNown, QB, UCLA. The Dolphins start lookingfor a replacement for Dan Marino.

No. 25, Green Bay Packers, Fernando Bryant, CB, Alabama. The Packers needsomebody to cover the Randy Mosses, Cris Carters and Herman Moores of the NFC Central.

No. 26, Jacksonville Jaguars, Ebenezer Ekuban, DE, North Carolina. TheJaguars need help on a defense that ranked 25th in the league in 1998.

No. 27, San Francisco, Floyd Wedderburn, OT, Penn State. The 49ers need aninfusion of youth, starting on the offensive line.

No. 28, New England Patriots, Kris Farris, OT, UCLA. The Patriots areanother team that is showing age along its line.

No. 29, Minnesota Vikings, Jared DeVries, DT, Iowa. DeVries is anoverachiever that gives his all every play. Just the type of player DennisGreen loves.

No. 30, Atlanta Falcons, Antwan Edwards, S, Clemson. You just had towatch the Super Bowl to know the Falcons need help in their secondary.

No. 31, Denver Broncos, Gary Stills, LB, West Virginia. The Broncos startreplacing an aging defense.

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