Teams stock up on big defensive players on first day of NFL draft

There's the beef

Posted: Sunday, April 22, 2001

NEW YORK -- The Baltimore Ravens had the 31st and final selection in the first round of Saturday's NFL draft.

But after Michael Vick went with the first pick to Atlanta, the Ravens' influence was all over the board.

Baltimore won the Super Bowl with an overpowering defense, and defense is what went first, particularly large, mobile linemen -- seven in the first 13 choices.

''Our defense must be improved if we're going to be improved,'' Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin said after choosing defensive tackle Marcus Stroud of Georgia with the 13th pick, considered a bit of reach by some draft experts.

Vick, the Virginia Tech quarterback who played only 20 college games, went to the Falcons, who got the pick from San Diego in a deal Friday.

The Chargers got what they wanted, too. They selected running back LaDainian Tomlinson of TCU with the fifth overall pick, then got Purdue quarterback Drew Brees with the first pick of the second round.

''I knew that right after the trade happened with San Diego and Atlanta, that if I was still available with the first pick in the second round, that they would take me. I thought in the back of my mind, maybe that's my ticket to San Diego,'' said Brees, who was third in last season's Heisman Trophy voting.

Brees was the exception. Of the 31 players chosen in the first round, nine were defensive linemen.

Even the third-year Browns, starving for offensive skill players, passed up the many available with the third pick to take Gerard Warren, a tackle from Florida considered the best defender available.

''He's a nasty, violent type player, and that's the kind we need in there,'' said Browns personnel director Dwight Clark. ''I think he's a franchise-type player.''

Warren was recruited in high school by Butch Davis, the new Cleveland coach, and will team with Courtney Brown, last year's overall No. 1, on what potentially is one of the top lines in the league.

New England, which picked sixth, sprung a minor surprise by taking defensive tackle Richard Seymour of Georgia, who was expected to go between Nos. 10-15.

The St. Louis Rams, who had three first-round picks after dealing Trent Green to Kansas City for the Chiefs' pick, also concentrated on defense after allowing a league-high 471 points last season, almost double their total in 1999, when they won the Super Bowl.

They acquired perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Aeneas Williams from Arizona for second- and fourth-round picks. The Rams' first pick, No. 12 overall, was a defensive tackle, Damione Lewis of Miami, and they took another DT, Ohio State's Ryan Pickett at No. 29. In between, they chose safety Adam Archuleta of Arizona State.

''I know I play a lot like Warren Sapp,'' Lewis said. ''The guys that came from Miami were taught to play upfield and cause havoc in the backfield, and that's pretty much what I brought to the game.''

After the Falcons chose Vick, whose rights they obtained Friday from San Diego, Arizona took Leonard Davis, the 367-pound offensive tackle from Texas.

The Browns took Warren, Cincinnati took defensive end Justin Smith of Missouri, and then San Diego, which opted out of No. 1, got the player general manager John Butler wanted: Tomlinson, who plays a lot like Thurman Thomas, who was drafted by Butler for Buffalo in 1988.

The defensive trend was visible early.

New England took Seymour with the sixth pick, and San Francisco jumped ahead of Chicago to take defensive end Andre Carter of California, whom the Bears may have selected. With Carter gone, Chicago chose wide receiver David Terrell of Michigan and Seattle followed with another wide receiver, Koren Robinson of North Carolina State.

Green Bay, which wanted Seymour, took defensive end Jamal Reynolds of Florida State, who is more a pass rusher than a full-time player. Miami linebacker Dan Morgan went to Carolina with the 11th pick, and two defensive tackles followed -- Lewis to St. Louis and Stroud to Jacksonville.

Tampa Bay traded up for Buffalo's choice to get offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker of Florida, Washington took wide receiver Rod Gardner of Clemson, the New York Jets traded up for Miami wide receiver Santana Moss, Seattle used its second pick on Michigan guard Steve Hutchinson, and Detroit took Hutchinson's college linemate, tackle Jeff Backus.

Then came more defense: tackle Casey Hampton of Texas to Pittsburgh, and two defensive backs, Archuleta to the Rams and cornerback Nate Clements of Ohio State to Buffalo.

The Washington pick was the first for Marty Schottenheimer, who took over the team after last season's disappointments. He was given complete control by owner Daniel Snyder, who spent a lot of time in the locker room in his first two years.

''Dan and I discussed before the draft a number of scenarios,'' Schottenheimer said. ''We talked about what Gardner gives us. He said, 'Do what you think is best.'''

Schottenheimer, short on receivers, obviously did. Snyder's choice was Moss, who went a pick later.

There was a rarity with the 22nd pick. The New York Giants, who almost always sit pat on their own pick, traded up eight spots in their first first-round deal since 1984. The NFC champions took Will Allen, a cornerback from Syracuse, to play opposite Jason Sehorn.

Then running back Deuce McAllister, who was expected to go in the top 10, went to New Orleans, which already has Ricky Williams. McAllister dropped because he was hurt for much of the past two seasons, as was Williams, for whom then-coach Mike Ditka traded his entire draft two years ago.

''I just think it's a two-man game,'' coach Jim Haslett said. ''This will help Ricky in the long run also.''

Philadelphia, badly in need of targets for Donovan McNabb, chose wide receiver Freddie Mitchell of UCLA. Minnesota took running back Michael Bennett of Wisconsin to replace the retired Robert Smith; Oakland chose Florida State safety Derrick Gibson, St. Louis chose Pickett, Indianapolis took wide receiver Reggie Wayne and Baltimore closed the first round by taking tight end Todd Heap of Arizona State.

In addition to the nine defensive linemen, there were six wide receivers and six defensive backs chosen in first round.

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