The NFL Draft winds have blown by and, as usual, nothing was predictable. The New York fans at Madison Square Garden gave Eli Manning the ol' Bronx cheer, booing vociferously. But when Manning arrived at Giants Stadium a crowd of thousands cheered him on as if he was the second coming of Babe Ruth.
Just to make things even juicier, SportsLine.com has learned that after the Giants selected Manning, coach Tom Coughlin phoned at least one team, perhaps more, asking if they were interested in trading for Giants quarterback Kerry Collins. Collins said he knew that his tenure with the Giants was coming to an end and the Giants apparently are trying to speed up his exodus (if they could get good value in return).
Believe it or not, this was just the start of the day. Saturday provided yet another unpredictable NFL Draft. Let's take a look at some of the highlights from Draft Day 2004:
Williams sways the vote in D.C.
Redskins fans have defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to thank for their selection of Hurricanes safety Sean Taylor, the top-rated defender in the draft. This past week head coach Joe Gibbs seemed set on grabbing Miami TE Kellen Winslow, Jr., believing he was the team's missing link. However, in the last 72 hours Williams hammered away at his boss, constantly firing away at how many Pro Bowlers or first-rounders are on the offensive side of the ball whereas the Redskins' defense has just one perennial Pro Bowler in Lavar Arrington and a one-time honoree in Shawn Springs.
Williams' fellow Redskins coaches say the defensive coordinator was merciless in his convincing job of how much the defensive side needed a playmaker such as Taylor. In fact, Williams went as far as giving a presentation on Friday, listing reasons why they needed him over the tight end.
His sell job was so good that his fellow coaches joked to SportsLine.com that they began calling the coach "Counselor Williams" for his lawyerly sales pitch.
One of the portions of Friday's lesson that really made a dent was when the staff watched film of Taylor in 2002. He was fully healthy during that year and made some truly freakish plays.
Banner day for Millen and Motown
Matt Millen's Detroit Lions got the guy they targeted all along, at least that's what their draft pick felt. Texas WR Roy Williams told SportsLine.com prior to the draft that Lions President Matt Millen said in a pre-draft conversation that if Williams remained on the board when their pick came about he was going to be selected by Detroit. In fact, Williams' people said that Millen went as far as telling the young receiver that if he had been in last year's draft they would have taken him then too -- over Charles Rogers.
Williams was rated ahead of Larry Fitzgerald on the majority of NFL draft boards. Some teams even had Williams as the top-rated player in the entire draft.
"It's not even close," said one NFC head coach who asked that his name not be revealed as he wanted to keep his scouting department's grades anonymous. "He's the best player out there and then there's everyone else."
Millen was given kudos all around the NFL after he forced the Browns out of a second-round pick in a swap of the sixth and seventh picks. They then used that additional selection to trade back into the first-round for one of the draft's top backs in Virginia Tech's RB Kevin Jones. Then, they got great value again with their next pick, LB Teddy Lehman. Their first three picks filled glaring needs but they did it with the best available players, satisfying both ends of the age-old questions: do you draft for need or value?
Overall, it was a tremendous Saturday for the M&M&M boys in Motown.
Close but no trade
Draft Days are filled with deals that nearly happened, trades that had a chance of happening and trades that were discussed but eventually got sidetracked.
The following are a few of the trades that almost were but ...
- Sean Taylor told the Redskins that he was told by the Browns that they had a deal to move up with the Giants to draft him. According to Redskins' sources, Taylor said the Browns went as far as informing him that he was about to become a Cleveland Brown. However, the Giants obviously swung a trade with the Chargers instead. The Browns are denying that they were going to take Taylor but the story was relayed right from the horse's mouth. The only shaky part of the story is the fact that the Giants were content with taking QB Ben Roethlisberger if they didn't trade for Manning. You gotta love all the draft he said-she said subterfuge.
- The Bears talked to the Broncos about a swap in the first round. In the end, however, Denver surveyed the field and felt they could remain at No. 17 and still get their man in Miami LB D. J. Williams. The Bears also talked to the Patriots and Cowboys before the draft began.
- The Texans' general manager Charley Casserly, always aggressive on draft days, told SportsLine.com that he phoned the Redskins and Lions to try for a move up to grab Taylor. They ended up with the hardest hitting cornerback to emerge from a draft in years. Some compare South Carolina CB Dunta Robinson to a cornerback version of trained football killer and Eagle safety Brian Dawkins.
- The Texans traded up for pass-rush specialist Jason Babin after being stunned that the Rams passed on him. Houston and many others believed that the Rams had targeted Babin even before DE Leonard Little was arrested this weekend.
- The Saints general manager Mickey Loomis told SportsLine.com that several teams called him before and during their time on the clock for their first-round pick. They decided to stay put because DE Will Smith, who they drafted at No. 18, was rated inside the top 10 on their value board.
- The Lions let it be known prior to the draft that they were interested in selling their first-round pick. They did so and still got the player they wanted in Williams.
- The Dolphins general manager Rick Spielman told SportsLine.com the reason his team traded up for Miami OL Vernon Carey was out of fear that New England would have moved up for the same player. In fact, the Dolphins were informed by the Vikings that New England had also phoned attempting to move up Carey. Carey, by the way, is viewed by some coaches as a potential All-Pro with less risk than big Arkansas OT Shawn Andrews, who battles weight problems.
Big Ben nearly goes to Big Apple
|Quarterbacks Taken No. 1 Since '98|
|2004||Eli Manning, Ole Miss||Chargers|
|2003||Carson Palmer, So. Cal||Bengals|
|2002||David Carr, Fresno St.||Texans|
|2001||Michael Vick, Va. Tech||Falcons|
|1999||Tim Couch, Kentucky||Browns|
|1998||Peyton Manning, Tenn.||Colts|
|* DE Courtney Brown was No. 1 in 2000|
The trade of Manning to the Giants for Philip Rivers and the Giants' farm was terrible news for Miami of Ohio quarterback Roethlisberger. Why? Giants sources said they had the young QB's name all ready to go up to the podium as their selection. But with about three minutes left the Giants completed the trade for Manning and selected Rivers for the trade.
By the way, for about five to 10 minutes after the two sides verbally agreed and the Giants drafted Rivers to trade him the two sides still had not informed the league of a deal. Until it's confirmed by both sides to the NFL front office no deal is made.
The Giants had Eli Manning as the top-rated player in the draft followed by Robert Gallery, then Big Ben at No. 3.
The rich get richer
It could only happen to the Patriots. The Super Bowl champions got one of the "steals" of the draft when highly touted DT Vince Wilfork dropped down to No. 21. The Miami DT was rated as a high to mid first round pick in most draft rooms. Some teams even viewed him as a top-10 pick. Yup, that's just like the Patriots' luck.
Many coaches and personnel people were concerned about his weight but his agent Michael Huyghue told some teams that were interested in his client that they would be willing to work out a contract that includes a weight clause.
Rich get richer, part deux
Heading into the draft the Carolina Panthers targeted Arkansas CB Ahmad Carroll as a guy they were hoping would drop to them because they were sure the top three corners would be gone. But when the Buffalo Bills traded to get back into the first round and drafted QB J.P. Losman. The Packers, who coveted Losman, switched gears and grabbed Carroll.
The Panthers couldn't believe that Ohio State CB Chris Gamble remained on the board. As much as they loved Carroll, they had Gamble rated ahead of him. They had him rated at around No. 20 overall, which is why it made sense for them to move up a few slots to grab him. Heading into the draft, head coach John Fox told SportsLine.com he didn't see how Gamble would still be on the board toward the end of the first round.