Posted on Wed, Feb. 18, 2004

Not to mock, but draft is everyone's guess
By Jennifer Floyd Engel Staff Writer


IRVING - And, with the 22nd pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys are expected to select Antwan Odom, a pass-rushing, havoc-causing defensive end from Alabama.

Or was it Maryland defensive tackle Randy Starks they were taking?

Of course, nobody is suggesting you go buy an Odom or Starks jersey just yet because LSU defensive end Marquise Hill has a good chance to be Dallas' No. 1 selection. Or was it Michigan running back Chris Perry who was the front-runner?

Somebody mentioned Florida State running back Greg Jones, or was it Kevin, the running Jones from Virginia Tech? If keeping up with the Joneses seems like a formidable task (remember, Kevin good season, Greg good Senior Bowl), keeping up with the Joneses, Starkses, Odoms, Hills and Perrys is downright daunting.

Navigating the whos, whats and wheres of the NFL Draft requires an expert, a draftnik, a guru with unflappable hair for those hairy moments when the question at hand is "Who will the Cowboys take with the 20th pick in the third round of the draft?" and they are not kidding. They really want an answer. (In case you were wondering, The Huddle has the Cowboys taking LSU guard Stephen Peterman.)

Yes, what is needed, when you really get down to it, is a professional Educated Guesser.

Can you imagine Mel Kiper, who is considered the Godfather of Draftniks and has the aforementioned immovable hair to back it up, doing what he does for a Fortune 500 company like Coca-Cola?

How do you think we'll do this quarter, Kiper?

We could show profits of 50 percent. Of course, if this, this and this happens, we could show losses of 50 percent.

Thanks Kiper. You are a genius.

Not that what Kiper and his fellow draftniks' guesses swing that widely.

Close, though.

The Cowboys are going to draft a running back unless they sign one in free agency. The Cowboys are going to draft a defensive end but they don't know which one. The Cowboys are going to draft the best player on the board unless they have a glaring hole not filled in free agency. Ifs, buts and unlesses are A, E, I, O and Us of the NFL Draft-predicting business.

Who the Cowboys are supposedly going to take depends a lot on what Web site you check. And there is a lot to check. There is at least 35 Web sites dedicated to the NFL Draft and the predicting of it in cyberspace. From the very, very high-brow like Kiper's on, which costs a whopping $39.95, to the 105 mock drafts done by fans on a Washington Redskins fan Web site, everybody has an opinion on who the Cowboys will be taking.

(Just in case you were curious, Redskin fans overwhelmingly think the Cowboys will take a running back but, like the experts, they are also divided as to which one.)

Perry or Jones.

Greg Jones or Kevin Jones.

Of course, the key is who is available when the Cowboys pick, which leads to another problem. Opinions tend to vary wildly on players. Exceptions exist, of course, like Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning is going to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft. The only question is whether the Chargers keep the pick or trade it, which opens a whole other can of worms.

Larry Fitzgerald will go No. 2, and No. 3 will be Miami (Ohio) quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Nos. 4 through the end, however, vary considerably. Take, for instance, the case of Southern Cal defensive end Kenechi Udeze, who is projected as high as No. 5 and as low as No. 26, or Oregon State running back Stephen Jackson, who is considered by many to be the best running back in the draft and projected to go to the Detroit Lions with the No. 6 pick but some mock drafts have going as low as No. 21 to the New England Patriots.

And, of course, all running back predictions for the Cowboys have the caveat of "unless they get somebody in free agency". Many draftniks believe the Cowboys will sign a Corey Dillon or a Duce Staley or a Curtis Martin via a trade or in free agency, thereby freeing them to fill their other glaring hole, pass-rushing defensive end.