2002 NFL draft coverage

Kiper: Projection of rounds 1-3

Kiper: Top 25 prospects (April 18)

Kiper: Position-by-position breakdowns (index)

Kiper: Sleepers, risers, sliders

Dan Patrick: Bengal Blues

Mel Kiper Archive

Tuesday, March 8

First-round commentary

Here's what ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. had to say about the first-round draft picks in the 2002 NFL draft:

1. Houston -- David Carr, QB, Fresno State
Carr now becomes the cornerstone of the Texans' franchise. He is a franchise-caliber quarterback with accuracy and velocity reminiscent of another No. 1 overall pick, Troy Aikman. Look what Aikman meant to Dallas. Carr is a major building block; with the right supporting cast, the rest could be history. His sidearm delivery is a concern because there is a possibility for his passes being batted down. Plus, he won't scramble around and make things happen with his legs. But Carr has the physical ability. He was brought along slowly at Fresno State in order to grasp Pat Hill's sophisticated offense. Last season he was the most consistent performer at the college level, and he beat three top-level opponents at the start of the season. He lit it up at the Senior Bowl and seized control of the top spot at that time. The Texans had to pick him. His maturity and leadership are critical aspects of his makeup.

2. Carolina -- Julius Peppers, DE, North Carolina
I have heard the criticism about Peppers' lack of productivity. But when Dwight Freeney broke the national sack record last season, the record was previously held by Peppers, who had 15 the year before as a third-year sophomore. Peppers is a 285-pounder who moves like an outside linebacker. He has tremendous agility and quickness. He was extremely productive in the ACC and rose to the occasion against quality competition. His production did tail off last season, so that is a concern. He didn't pick up the pace and dominate down the stretch. But his prior dominance was already there. He stayed No. 1 on my draft board all year because he had dominated already. Panthers head coach John Fox had Michael Strahan in New York and knows the value of a dominant defensive end. Peppers could be an outstanding and complete performer who could develop into a Bruce Smith-like force in a few years, hitting quarterbacks on a regular basis.

3. Detroit -- Joey Harrington, QB, Oregon
This was a decision Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg had to make based on his assessment of Mike McMahon, whom the Lions drafted last year. Harrington is the third highest player on my draft board and deserved to go in this area. Playing in Mike Bellotti's offense at Oregon, Harrington is a great fit for Mornhinweg's West Coast scheme. Harrington, who has a Brett Favre-like flair for the dramatic, was a highly productive quarterback and one I had rated only slightly behind Carr. But he outperformed Carr at the NFL scouting combine, showing tremendous touch and accuracy on deep balls and more than adequate arm strength. The Lions had to make a pick to generate fan interest in their team, especially with a new stadium coming soon.

4. Buffalo -- Mike Williams, OT, Texas
I had Williams rated ahead of Bryant McKinnie after the knee injury wasn't viewed as a concern. He could step in at either right or left tackle. At Texas, he protected the blind side of Chris Simms at right tackle, but he has prior experience at left tackle. He is a great pass blocker and is exceptional at sustaining blocks as a run blocker. He is nimble at 375 pounds, often getting downfield to help spring running backs for large gains. He has enough polish to step in and be an immediate starter and anchor on the Bills' offensive line.

5. San Diego -- Quentin Jammer, CB, Texas
As a shut=down corner, Jammer may not rate as highly as Champ Bailey or Charles Woodson did coming out of college, but the 205-pounder is a former free safety who is great in run support. He came back from shoulder surgery in 1999 to have two outstanding seasons at cornerback. Jammer could have been a mid-first-round pick had he come out last year, but he smartly returned to Texas to address the areas he needed to improve in order to move on to the next level. Jammer is a major upgrade for the Chargers, who had a big need at cornerback. Alex Molden and Ryan McNeil didn't cut it as free-agent pickups, and I view Tay Cody, a third-round pick in 2001, as only a nickel-back option.

6. Kansas City (from Dallas) -- Ryan Sims, DT, North Carolina
The Chiefs had identified their top two players as Harrington and Sims, who had surged ahead of Albert Haynesworth as the top defensive tackle in the draft. When you looked at the North Carolina defensive line, you wondered if the more destructive force was Peppers or Sims. Sims had six sacks as a junior and five as a senior. He excelled in big games. In the Tar Heels' upset of Florida State, he had two sacks and two hurries. Overall, he had 20 QB hurries and batted down nine passes. Sims is a strong, explosive and super-quick player. At the Senior Bowl practices, he was arguably the best player along with Carr. Defensive tackle was the Chiefs' No. 1 need area; they actually need two tackles, but they have a solid one now in Sims.

7. Minnesota -- Bryant McKinnie, OT, Miami (Fla.)
The big question about McKinnie has been his run-blocking, which is a surprise considering his size. He tends to fall off blocks and not sustain them. He also needs to be more consistent with the intensity, something that was also said about Jonathan Ogden when he came out of UCLA. But McKinnie is a superior pass blocker. He didn't allow Dwight Freeney to sack Ken Dorsey last season. In fact, McKinnie gave up no sacks during his last two seasons. Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss are the Vikings' franchise players, and now they have a tremendous pass blocker in McKinnie at left tackle.

8. Dallas (from Kansas City) -- Roy Williams, S, Dallas
The Cowboys made a great trade; they moved down, picked up a third-rounder this year and a sixth-rounder next year, and still got the player they wanted. At the same time, Williams wanted to be a Cowboy; now he is. He will step in at free safety and form an awesome, deep-patrol tandem with strong safety Darren Woodson. There may not be a bigger defensive difference-maker in the draft than Williams. He did nothing but make big plays for Oklahoma. He is almost like an extra linebacker on the field. He excels in run support. He comes up into the box to deliver bone-jarring blows. He is also just as comfortable operating in coverage. Williams is an intimidator, affecting the concentration of receivers entering his area. Woodson and Williams will have to learn to work together as two in-the-box safeties.

9. Jacksonville -- John Henderson, DT, Tennessee
The Jaguars went with production over potential in picking Henderson over his Tennessee teammate, Albert Haynesworth. Henderson had an ankle injury, suffered in the season opener last season, which turned him into more of a clogger rather than a penetrator. He also had a back injury that was a concern. But as junior, Henderson won the Outland Trophy and was spectacular with 12 sacks and 21 stops behind the line of scrimmage. He was dominant every game. Last season, though, he ended up with only 4.5 sacks, which was still more than Haynesworth's 1.5 sacks. Henderson has excellent size and a rugged approach. He will work next to Marcus Stroud, Jacksonville's No. 1 pick a year ago, to give the Jaguars a solid pair of young defensive tackles.

10. Cincinnati -- Levi Jones, OT, Arizona State
Jones is a good football player, potentially. But at No. 10? He was 17th on my board. Plus, the Bengals had bigger needs elsewhere; offensive tackle was not a crying need. They could have gotten Jones if they had traded down. Cornerback Phillip Buchanon was still on the board, as well as defensive tackles Albert Haynesworth and Wendell Bryant and tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Daniel Graham. To me, they needed to draft Buchanon or trade down. Don't get me wrong: Jones is a talent who could be a solid left tackle. He was a former walk-on and defensive tackle who emerged as a quality left tackle for the Sun Devils and impressed at the Senior Bowl. But I disagree with the pick. The Bengals had better options. A trade down would have been huge. Why lock on to Jones at No. 10 when they could have picked up valuable picks later in the draft and still gotten Jones later? I question Jacksonville as well for picking Henderson instead of trading down, but not as much as Cincinnati.

11. Indianapolis -- Dwight Freeney, DE, Syracuse
The Colts needed a defensive end to get after the quarterback, and Freeney was extremely productive at Syracuse. His stock had been on the rise. He broke the sack record with 17.5 sacks last year, and the year before he registered 4.5 sacks against Michael Vick, the fastest quarterback to ever play the game. Freeney's productivity speaks for itself. And his speed? He ran a 4.38 40, an unprecedented time for a defensive end. That is cornerback speed for an edge pass rusher. In his effort to rebuild the Colts' weak defense, new coach Tony Dungy can put Freeney on the defensive line opposite Chad Bratzke.

12. Arizona -- Wendell Bryant, DT, Wisconsin
Outside of Kyle Vanden Bosch, a promising young player drafted last year, the Cardinals had nothing up front. Bryant is an immediate hole-filler. He gives Arizona some versatility because he can play both tackle or end, even though he will play tackle for the Cardinals. At 305 pounds, he can run a 4.7 40. Bryant has natural pass-rush ability and increased his sack total ever year. At Wisconsin, he received no help and had to constantly fight through double teams. But Bryant remained a destructive force, getting after quarterbacks like Antwaan Randle El, Drew Brees and Joey Harrington.

13. New Orleans -- Donte Stallworth, WR, Tennessee
Stallworth and Ashley Lelie were nearly neck and neck as my top two receivers. Stallworth wanted to return to Tennessee, but it was a wise decision for him to come out as a mid-first-round pick. He has an incredible size-to-speed ratio; he ran a 4.26 40 at 198 pounds. He can beat corners both deep and in the open field. He was productive against SEC competition dating back to his redshirt freshman season. And we didn't see the best of Stallworth last season because he had a wrist injury. He gives young quarterback Aaron Brooks another weapon to go along with Joe Horn and free-agent pickup Jerome Pathon.

14. NY Giants (from Tennessee) -- Jeremy Shockey, TE, Miami (Fla.)
The Giants needed a tight end as a solid pass-receiving option, something they have been missing. They only got 17 receptions out of the tight end position in 2001. Shockey has been a big-time, productive performer at tight end since high school. He was a great weapon for Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey; in fact, he was the Hurricanes' top receiving option. As an in-line blocker, he is only adequate, not great. He is not an extension of the offensive line. But Shockey is an outstanding red-zone threat. At 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, he runs the 40 in the 4.55 range. He has more than enough speed to get down the seam as a target for Kerry Collins.

15. Tennessee (from NY Giants) -- Albert Haynesworth, DT, Tennessee
Haynesworth is a solid value pick. The Titans get an extra choice in the fourth round and a player whom I had ninth on my draft board. It would not have been an issue if Haynesworth had been picked among the top eight. Haynesworth was not an especially productive player; he only totalled 3.5 sacks during his Vols career. He needs to be coached up so that he can maximize his incredible athletic ability at 6-foot-6, 320 pounds. The Titans, who lost starter Jason Fisk in free agency, are rolling the dice picking Haynesworth, but he could potentially be a dominant NFL defensive tackle.

16. Cleveland -- William Green, RB, Boston College
The big question about Green was that he was not available for the Eagles' two biggest games last year, the Miami game and their bowl game, because he was suspended. But Green is the best running back on the board. He is an explosive, productive player who averaged six yards a carry. At 222 pounds, Green can make people miss. He is good power, game-day speed and body lean, although he tends to run a bit upright. Green still needs to develop as both a pass receiver out of the backfield and as a blocke. Because questions have surfaced about Green, he may enter the NFL with a chip on his shoulder. Butch Davis could have himself a solid, all-around running back who will run with determination and purpose. The Browns' primary ball-carrier in 2001, James Jackson, only averaged 2.8 yards a carry.

17. Oakland (from Atlanta) -- Phillip Buchanon, CB, Miami (Fla.)
The Raiders gave up a third-rounder and a fifth-rounder to move up to the 17th spot, but they got a player in Buchanon who could be better in coverage than Jammer, the fifth overall pick. Buchanon has excellent athletic prowess as a former baseball, basketball and track star to go with his football ability. He consistently made big plays in the Hurricanes' secondary and on special teams, returning two punts for touchdowns last season. Although he's not the biggest corner at 5-foot-10, Buchanon runs the 40 in the 4.3 range and may be a better prospect than former Miami cornerback Duane Starks, whom Baltimore selected with the 10th overall pick in 1999. Buchanon now teams with Charles Woodson to give Oakland an outstanding pair of young shut-down cornerbacks.

18. Atlanta (from Oakland) -- T.J. Duckett, RB, Michigan State
Duckett has the potential to be like a Jerome Bettis, but he is not there yet. In certain games, he was like Bettis, but Duckett needs to show sustained intensity, to be a rampaging bull. He ran a 4.5 in the 40 at 250 pounds with only six-percent body fat. Duckett, though, won't make people miss and runs a bit upright. Michael Vick needs receivers to throw to. The Falcons need to address the receiver situation, which is what I thought they would do with this pick. At the same time, Duckett will give the Falcons some insurance at running back because there is no guarantee that Jamal Anderson can fully recover from his knee injuries.

19. Denver -- Ashley Lelie, WR, Hawaii
Ed McCaffrey is coming back from a broken leg, and Rod Smith got banged up last year. So Lelie, my top-rated receiver, fills a big need for Denver and is another weapon for Brian Griese in Mike Shanahan's offense. Lelie was extremely productive last season for Hawaii coach June Jones with 84 catches, a 20.4-yard-per-catch average and 19 touchdowns. Lelie, who played at 175 pounds, is now around 200 pounds and still runs around a 4.3 in the 40. He is also a smart kid who should be able to digest Denver's offense quickly.

20. Green Bay (from Seattle) -- Javon Walker, WR, Florida State
Walker has been moving up as the draft approaches. A gliding runner, he caught peoples' attention with a 4.39 in the 40 at the combine. To go with his speed, Walker also has the ideal size at 6-foot-2½, 210 pounds. Walker is coming off a great season at Florida State, where he was the go-to guy, had a 21-yard-per-catch average and turned in a spectacular Gator Bowl performance. Walker was a little inconsistent in that he tends to drop balls. But if he can deal with the NFL's tight coverage, he could have a great career. Although the Packers have added the controversial Terry Glen in the offseason, they also lost Bill Schroeder and Corey Bradford to free agency, and Antonio Freeman is not likely to return. Walker gives Brett Favre another much-needed receiving weapon.

21. New England (from Washington from Oakland) -- Daniel Graham, TE, Colorado
The Patriots certainly remember what Ben Coates meant to their offense as a pass-catching tight end. Graham is a receiving tight end in the mold of a Shannon Sharpe. His size, at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, is more than adequate. Graham has plenty of speed to get down the field to go with quickness, great hands and in-line blocking ability. At Colorado, he was the go-to receiver, a rarity for a college tight end. Seattle coach Mike Holmgren was enamored with Graham during Senior Bowl week, so I thought the Seahawks would keep their pick to take him. The Patriots are getting a heck of a player who can accentuate what Tom Brady can accomplish in their offense.

22. NY Jets -- Bryan Thomas, DE, Alabama-Birmingham
The Jets lost their starting cornerbacks in the expansion draft to Houston, yet they decided to pass on some quality defensive backs still available, including corners Lito Sheppard and Mike Rumph or safety Edward Reed. Thomas was a four-year starter at UAB who has tremendous physical ability. He ran a 4.5 in the 40 and did 33 strength reps. He played big games against top-level competition, including Tennessee, Southern Mississippi, East Carolina and Louisville. Thomas was one of the players who was rising leading up to the draft. He is coming off the board at about the right spot, but there are still several question marks in their secondary.

23. Oakland -- Napoleon Harris, OLB, Northwestern
Harris fills a huge need area for the Raiders. He is the best linebacker on the board, a productive, multi-dimensional player who enhanced his draft value when he played out of position last year at defensive end. He added pass-rushing skills to his repertoire after a spectacular junior season at outside linebacker. Harris is also a tough, smart and competitive kid. When I spoke to him two weeks ago, he told me he wanted to be a defensive leader in the NFL. Harris is one of the better choices of the first round. In fact, with the selections of Buchanon and Harris, the Raiders get an A+ draft grade so far.

24. Baltimore -- Edward Reed, S, Miami (Fla.)
The Ravens' secondary has been decimated in the offseason. They released Rod Woodson and lost Duane Starks and Corey Harris in free agency. As one of the best all-time cover safeties, Reed is a great pick for the Ravens. At free safety, he made a ton of plays at Miami. Every time the Hurricanes needed a big play, Reed surfaced. He had 21 career interceptions, which broke the Miami and Big East records formerly held by Bennie Blades. Reed can come to Baltimore and be an immediate hole-filler and starter on the Ravens' defense.

25. New Orleans -- Charles Grant, DE, Georgia
Grant was not a surprise pick. The Saints had a gaping hole at defensive end after the loss of Joe Johnson in free agency. Although he combines both athleticism and versatility, Grant is a roll-the-dice type of pick. While he showed flashes of big-time ability as a pass rusher, he was very inconsistent. He had five sacks and 13 tackles against Auburn last season, but only had one sack the rest of the year. Grant carries some value at the 25th pick; I would have questioned if he had gone much higher.

26. Philadelphia -- Lito Sheppard, CB, Florida
After the 2000 season, Sheppard was the top big-play cornerback in the nation and showed tremendous skills as a punt returner. He is much like Buchanon as a corner/punt-return combination. He had six interceptions at corner and averaged 14 yards per punt return. Last season he only had two interceptions because quarterbacks were avoiding his side of the field. Because he is coming out after his junior season, there was some question about his size, but he checking in at 5-foot-10, 193 pounds. The Eagles are set at corner with Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, but Sheppard can give them depth as a third or fourth corner.

27. San Francisco -- Mike Rumph, CB, Miami (Fla.)
Rumph brings outstanding size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds), excels in press coverage and is a solid tackler. He has been productive since early in his college career when he led the Hurricanes with four interceptions in 1999. If Rumph struggles at cornerback, the 49ers will have the option to move Rumph inside to safety, where he shouldn't miss a beat. He has the necessary versatility to make the switch. Rumph also provides depth behind starters Ahmed Plummer and Jason Webster at corner.

28. Seattle (from Green Bay) -- Jerramy Stevens, TE, Washington
The Seahawks needed more production from the tight end position, where they only got 29 receptions a year ago. Had he not broken his foot last year, Stevens would have been a mid-first-round selection. He was great in 2000: 48 receptions, 14 yards per reception. He carried a very high grade after that season. But as junior last season, he didn't solidify his grade when he did play. He only caught 10 passes. Stevens has excellent size at 6-foot-6½, 265 pounds and is the most athletic of the tight ends in the draft. If he can stay focused, he can develop into a great, all-around tight end.

29. Chicago -- Marc Colombo, OT, Boston College
Left tackle Blake Brockermeyer is in the final year of his contract and had a bothersome knee last year. Colombo can fill the Bears' need area at either right or left tackle. Colombo carried the highest grade of the tackles remaining on the draft board. At 6-foot-7½, 313 pounds, he is a scrapper and an overachiever who reminds me of the Jets' Jason Fabini. A knee injury prevented him from finishing his senior season on a strong note, but his postseason workouts were underrated, highlighted by 30 strength reps.

30. Pittsburgh -- Kendall Simmons, OG, Auburn
Even though Simmons played left tackle the last two seasons, he will play guard in the NFL, a position he played during the first half of his stay at Auburn. At 6-foot-2½, 311 pounds, he is also versatile enough to move inside to center if needed. He held his own in games against both Julius Peppers and Dwight Freeney and plays a lot stronger than his weight-room numbers may indicate. His ability as an explosive run blocker who can sustain and finish his blocks will be beneficial in the Steelers' power running game.

31. St. Louis -- Robert Thomas, ILB, UCLA
Thomas was the top inside linebacker on my draft board, but I thought he would probably go in the second round. The Rams, though, had need at linebacker, where they lacked depth. They can use Thomas' versatility as an option at either inside or outside linebacker. Thomas was a productive big-play performer at UCLA. As the Bruins' defensive MVP, he had 6.5 sacks and 26 tackles for loss. Even though he stands only 6-foot and weighs 230-235 pounds, he ran a 4.45 in the 40 and did 21 strength reps.

32. Washington (from New England) -- Patrick Ramsey, QB, Tulane
Despite Steve Spurrier's feelings about Danny Wuerffel, none of the Redskins' other options at quarterback -- Wuerffel, Dameyune Craig and Sage Rosenfels -- were suitable options as a starting signal-caller. Ramsey displayed touch and precise passing at both Tulane and the Senior Bowl practices. He got no help at Tulane and often got beat up. But Ramsey hung in there. He looks a lot like another former quarterback from Louisiana, Bert Jones. The only question about Ramsey is his lack of mobility. But he has the prototype delivery and arm strength to be an NFL starter.

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