Draft Day rumors
Jan. 14, 2003, 12:19AM
Casserly prepared to make a deal
Texans could trade draft's No. 3 pick
By JOSEPH DUARTE
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle
MOBILE, Ala. -- Interest in the Texans' much-coveted first-round NFL draft position is heating up.
General manager Charley Casserly said Monday night he has held preliminary discussions with "more than one team" interested in trading for the team's No. 3 overall pick in April's draft.
"We've already talked to some teams about trading the pick," Casserly said. "We've definitely gotten interest."
The Texans, in search of an impact player and help at offensive tackle, are currently slotted to pick behind Cincinnati and Detroit.
That's no sure thing, however. It depends on which players are available, which underclassmen declare for the draft, and what treasure troves teams are willing to offer.
Casserly said the Texans are willing to listen to offers and deal the pick if a sure-thing game breaker is not available.
He declined to identify the teams that have contacted the Texans, but he acknowledged there has been discussion since his arrival for this weekend's Senior Bowl.
Chicago (No. 4), Arizona (No. 6), Carolina (No. 9) and Denver (No. 20) are all teams that could be in the market for a quarterback.
Casserly expects to continue talks throughout this week and as the draft gets closer.
"We'll look at all possibilities," he said.
This year's draft will feature a deep talent pool at quarterback, which could be favorable for the Texans as teams scramble to move up in the pecking order.
Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer of Southern California is expected to be the No. 1 selection. Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich is also expected to be a first-round pick.
A wild card with potential ramifications for the Texans is the pending decision by Mississippi quarterback Eli Manning on whether to skip his senior year and enter the draft.
If Manning elects to forgo his final year of eligibility, it "would add a lot of value" to the Texans' first-round selection, one league official said Monday.
Scouts have been impressed with Manning's arm strength, relative accuracy, size and ability to read defenses.
A perceived lack of mobility has been the biggest knock on Manning, who is 14-10 in two seasons as a starter and owns 20 Ole Miss passing records.
He led the Southeastern Conference in total offense this past season and passed for 3,401 yards and 21 touchdowns.
If Manning, the son of former NFL great Archie Manning and younger brother of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, does not make his decision by Wednesday, he would not be able to attend the critical pre-draft combine or visit NFL teams for on-site workouts.
However, scouts would be permitted to go to Ole Miss and watch Manning work out on campus
The quarterback pool also includes Florida's Rex Grossman, Texas' Chris Simms and Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury.
Teams could also be eager to move up high in the draft to select Michigan State wide receiver Charles Rogers, Penn State defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, Arizona State defensive end Terrell Suggs or Kansas State cornerback Terrence Newman.
All are expected to go early in the draft, which will be held April 26-27.
It's possible the Texans could trade the No. 3 pick for an additional second-round selection and pick later in the first round.
That would likely allow the team to select a much-needed offensive lineman like Stanford's Kwame Harris or Utah's Jordan Gross, considered the best prospect at tackle.
The Texans have targeted wide receiver, running back, offensive tackle, safety and defensive tackle as their top areas of need. They have 14 draft selections, which include additional picks that begin in the third round.
With Dom Capers and his staff coaching the North squad at this week's Senior Bowl, the Texans had hoped to get a firsthand look at Gross.
Gross, a 6-5, 306-pound tackle who didn't allow a sack the past two seasons, opted not to attend and is currently working out in Phoenix.
Draft Day rumors
(4;00 PM): No Manning in 2003 draft...Mississippi junior QB Eli Manning announced this afternoon that he will not be entering the 2003 draft, but will return to school for his senior season. Manning, though, is scheduled to graduate this spring and still could technically apply to the NFL for this year\'s draft in late March. At that time, though, he would have missed the combines; he also would not be allowed to visit NFL sites and workout for pro teams, though, he could participate in on-campus workouts for scouts.
(2:00 PM): Injured Vols\' WR confirms draft entry...Tenneessee sophomore WR Kelley Washington made it official today that he will be entering the 2003 draft despite a serious neck injury that may yet cloud his ability to play in the future. The 6-4, 225-pound Washington walked on at Tennessee last spring after having spent several yeras playing minor league baseball andalmost immediately established himself as a future top draft pick, catching 64 passes for over 1,000 yards in his first year at the position. Washington, in fact, considered entering the 2002 draft, but ultimately decided to return to school for at least another season. That season turned into something of a disaster for Washington, however, as he missed the Vols\' first few games with a knee injury and then suffered the neck injury in early October. Washington eventually had surgery in November, but clearly will be fully checked out at the combines next month.
(12:30 PM): Palmer, Bengals doing two-step...The early indications from Cincinnati when the Bengals locked up the #1 pick at the 2003 draft were that the team was unlikely to take a QB with the top pick. The Bengals were burned three years ago when they selected former Oregon QB Akili Smith with the third pick overall and remain reluctant to pay the kind of big upfront money that a high pick, especially a QB, will command. Indeed, all the early indications were that the Bengals would try and trade out of the top pick. In recent days, however, the Bengals have sent out signals that they will at least consider all their options; in particular, they will consider keeping the #1 pick and using it to take USC QB Carson Palmer. If they were to go that route, though, the Bengals are already on record that they will handle the situation differently than when Smith was selected. Smith was installed as the Bengals starter literally from the moment he arrived in Cincinnati; this time around, though, the Bengals would give Palmer some time to learn playing behind veteran journeyman starter John Kitna. Meanwhile, just in case he is selected by the Bengals, Palmer is at least saying all the right things about the possibilty of playing in Cincinnati which doesn\'t necessarily have the best reputation around the NFL. After bumping into Bengals\' GM Mike Brown and an entourage of Bengals\' team officials last night at the Senior Bowl site in Mobile, Palmer said he\'d be \"happy to play anywhere. Whoever wants me I\'d love to play for. If its Cincinnati it doesn\'t matter.\"
Palmer among first day stars at Senior Bowl...Speaking of Palmer, one of the top 2-3 rated players for the 2003 draft, he got his Senior Bowl week off to a good start yesterday drawing positive raves from scouts for his overall skill level, along with his poise and maturity. Others drawing praise on the first day of Senior Bowl workouts were Palmer\'s Southern Cal teammate RB Justin Fargas, Florida WR Taylor Jacobs, Southern Miss OT Torrin Tucker and Texas A&M DT Ty Warren. For more on the first day of workouts in Mobile, as well as access to all inside info on players including their heights and weights AND player representaion check out Neil Stratton\'s Inside the League.
(10:30 AM): Cardinal OT to NFL draft?...While there has been no official announcement to date, Stanford junior OT Kwame Harris reportedly has decided to forego his final yera of eligibility and enter the 2003 draft. The 6-7, 310-pound Harris has been told by the NFL special draft advisory committee that he will likely be selected in either the late first or early second rounds this coming April; however, with some good workouts at the combines and on-campus sessions for NFL personnel people the athletic Harris could challenge Utah OT Jordan Gross for the highest grade among offensive linemen.
(10:00 AM): Texans listening to offers for #3 pick...Reports out of Houston indicate that the the Texans have already held preliminary discussions with \"more than one team\" interested in trading for the team\'s No. 3 overall pick in April\'s draft. According to Texans\' GM Charlie Casserly \"we\'ve already talked to some teams about trading the pick...we\'ve definitely gotten interest.\" The Texans are in the market for an impact player on offense with their first pick this year; but there likely won\'t be a RB or WR worth the #3 pick available when when the Texans make their pick The Texans were believed to have originally targetted Miami RB Willis McGahee for the 3rd pick overall, but that became academic when McGahee blew out his knee at the Fiesta Bowl earlier this month. McGahee has decided he will still enter this year\'s draft, but as damaged goods will be lucky to get a first day call. And McGahee was the only RB worth a pick that high. Same thing at WR where the only player worth a top 5 pick, Michigan State WR Charlie Rogers will likely be selected by Detroit one pick ahead of the Texans. The Texans fall-back position apperas to be OT and could be interested in an OT like Utah\'s jordan Gross, but they could get him by moving down and adding extra picks. Casserly refused to identify the teams he has talked with Chicago with the 4th pick overall, Arizona at #6 and possibly and Denver at #20) have been mentioned as possibilities; each of those teams that could be in the market for a quarterback such as Carson Palmer of USC or Marshall\'s Byron Leftwich.
UGA TE declares for draft...Georgia junior TE Ben Watson has announced that he will leaving school early and entering the 2003 draft. Watson joins fellow Georgia juniors RB Musa Smith, DT Johnathan Sullivan and LB Chris Clemons as early entrants in this year\'s draft. Watson was told by the NFL\'s special draft advisory committee that he could be selected as early as the 4th round this coming April.
(12:01 AM): Senior Bowl practices underway...Anyone who is anyone in the world of professional football is in Mobile this week for the Senior Bowl. Practices got underway earlier today and will continue through Thursday with the actual game set for Saturday at 2 PM ET. The game will be telecast nationally on ESPN and on TSN in Canada. Included among the throng in Mobile this week are senior representatives from every team in the NFL as most of the best seniors in the country will be working out. Heading the cast are QBs Carson Palmer, Chris Simms and Dave Ragone each of whom has aspirations of being a first-round selection this coming April. And while most of the players in Mobile are from big-time programs there are a few \'sleepers\' in the crowd including CBs Rashean Mathis of Bethune-Cookman and Drayton Florence of Tuskegee and OT Seth Wand of Northwest Missouri State, who will be trying to prove they more than just belong. Here are the full rosters for this year\'s game. In the meantime, check out a couple of preview articles by John Murphy of Draft 2003 and Tony Pauline of TFY writing for CNNSI.
Hurricanes Johnson, McGahee declare for draft...Sources in Miami have confirmed that the Hurricanes\' junior WR Andre Johnson and redshirt sophomore RB Willis McGahee will be entering the 2003 draft. Johnson, who is a potential top 15 pick this year, of course, is no surprise; however, most observers thought McGahee\'s draft options pretty much ended with 11 minutes to play in the Fiesta Bowl earlier this month when McGahee tore both the ACL and MCL in his left knee. As we reported earlier, though, as a likely top 5 McGahee stood to earn a $10-12M signing bonus when he got to the NFL; all that went out the window with the injury; indeed, McGahee may very well have to wait until the second day to be drafted this year, if in fact he\'s drafted at all. McGahee has concluded, though, that the best way he can recoup some of the money he lost when injured on that fateful play in Phoenix will be to get to free agency and the fastest way to free agency - if he entered the league this fall, McGahee would be a restricted free agent in 2006 when he would hope to be 100% healed and finally be in line for that big pay day - is to get into the league now. The other consideration is that if he does go back to Miami, even if he is healthy enough to play next fall, McGahee likely will have to share carries with fellow sophomore Frank Gore, who was actually projected to be the Hurricanes\' starter this fall before missing the year with a knee injury of his own.
WR Woods to stay in school...In something of a surprise, Oklahoma State junior WR Rashaun Woods has announced that he\'ll be staying in school for another year and will not be entering the 2003 draft. Woods was considered a sure-fire first round pick after catching 107 passes for 1,700 yards and 17 TDs this fall for the Cowboys. Woods becomes the second star Big 12 receiver to surprisingly decide to stay in school after Texas junior WR Roy Williams made the same decision last week.
New Great Blue North feature...The GBN is pleased to welcome onboard Chad Reuter, former editor of Packerdraft.com, as a senior columnist. And not one to shirk from controversy, Chad takes on the NFL and its rules forbidding freshmen and true sophomores from entering the draft in his first column.
(5:30 PM): Vols\' TE Witten to enter draft...As expected, Tennessee junior TE Jason Witten announced that he will be foregoing his final year of collegiate eligibility and will enter the 2003 draft. Witten, who will likely be the top-rated TE if he were to make the jump to the pros, was told by the NFL\'s special draft advisory committee that he will likely be selceted in either the late first or early second rounds this coming April.
Colorado releases RB Houston...Updating s atory reported here late last week, Colorado has formally released sophomore RB Marcus Houston from his scholraship freeing him to transfer. Houston was arguably the top prep recruit in the country in 2000; he also got his career at Colorado off to a Clarett-like start rushing for over 300 yards in his first three collegiate games. However, Houston has seldom played since because of a series of injuries including a torn hip flexor and torn groin muscle. Houston has reportedly already talked to Colorado State about the possibility of transferring across the state.
No Mariucci meeting in San Fran tomorrow...Updating the ongoing saga of the 49ers and S.F. head coach Steve Mariucci, the 49ers\' front office is denying reports that Mariucci will meet with team ownership tomorrow to talk about his future with the organization. The 49ers are saying that senior management may talk with Mariucci tomorrow simply to set up such a meeting.
(12:01 AM): Jags\' coaching vacancy continues to impact draft...Updating the report from earlier today that the 49ers might be willing to let head coach Steve Mariucci talk with Jacksonville about coaching the Jaguars in hopes of picking up a package of draft picks as compensation should the Jaguars ultimately sign Mariucci this year, Jacksonville owner Wayne Weaver is being quoted as saying that the Jaguars would be very retiscent about giving up any draft picks in order to sign a new coach. Weaver didn\'t mention Mariucci by name as he is still under contract with the 49ers, but Weaver did indicate that he feels that the Jaguars roster, which has been decimated by salary-cap induced free agent losses the past few years, simply has too many holes to fill to give up any draft picks. Meanwhile, the only public comments the 49ers are making is that would like Mariucci back. It is well-knowm however, that there are deep divisions in the organization over Mariucci\'s future with the club. Indeed, the 49ers were reportedly willing to let Mariucci move over to Tampa Bay in exchange for a first, second and two third round draft picks at this time last year and are believed to be likely looking for the same type of package were Mariucci to be allowed to go elsewhere this winter. Mariucci, of course, dithered making a decision on whether he wanted to go to Tampa last year so the Buccaneers went across the bay and got former Oakland head coach Jon Gruden for two firsts and two second round picks. The fact that the 49ers apparently would be looking for a #1 pick for Mariucci could further complicate things for Jacksonville. Last year, for example, Tampa Bay had to give up only the 21st pick for Gruden whereas Jacksonville, with the 8th pick this year, has a top 10 selection. The uncertainty over the Jaguars coaching position has also reached into the college ranks. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has been publicly associated with the job, something that Ferentz is not denying, and that could impact on the decision of a couple of Hawkeye underclassmen as to whether they enter the 2003 draft. Iowa junior TE Dallas Clark, for example, is reportedly still undecided about his decision, but Ferentz\' uncertain status at Iowa could tip Clark into heading to the NFL a year early. Meanwhile, 6-7 Iowa junior OT Robert Gallery, who had earlier had indicated that he would be back at school next fall, may rethink his options if Ferentz leaves. Gallery, however, doesn\'t have much time as he\'ll have to decide by Wednesday\'s deadline for underclassmen to apply for the 2003 draft.
\'Sleeper\' junior CB to declare...John Murphy of Draft 2003 is reporting that Illinois State junior CB D\'Juan O\'Donald will officially make himself eligible for the 2003 NFL Draft later today. O\'Donald, who transferred to Illinois State from Duke, is 5-11, 190 and runs in the 4.48 range in the 40. O\'Donald is a track and field standout who finished as one of the Top 60 meter runners in the ACC two years ago.
(9:30 AM): Full draft order continues to take shape...Playoff losses over the weekend by Atlanta, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and the New York Jets mean that the first 27 picks in the first round of the 2003 draft are now confirmed. Of the five final positions still to be decided, two - the 31st and 32nd - will go to the winners of this Sunday\'s conference finals. In fact, the two conference finals can also be considered \'draft elimination\' games as the loser of the Tennessee-Oakland tilt for the AFC title will automatically pick 28th, while the loser of the Tampa Bay-Philadelphia matchup for the NFC championship will draft 30th. Oakland, though, will actually Tampa Bay\'s pick, whether 30th, 31st or 32nd, having acquired the Buccaneers\' #1 pick in 2003 as part of the Jon Gruden deal last winter. Whoever wins the conference finals, though, the Packers will have the 29th pick. For now, here\'s the full, updated first round selection order for the 2003 draft .
(12:01 AM): Last three days for underclassmen to declare for 2003...Underclassmen have just three more days until Wednesday\'s deadline to formally apply to the NFL for entry to the 2003 draft. And with just 48 hours or so to go there are still some big name underclassmen still to be heard from. Heading the list is Mississippi QB Eli Manning along with WRs Andre Johnson of Miami and Rashaun Woods of Oklahoma State; TEs Jason Witten of Tennessee, Dallas Clark of Iowa and Ben Utecht of Minnesota; DT Vince Wilfork of Miami; Auburn LBs Karlos Dansby and Dontarrious Thomas; CBs Nathan Vasher of Texas and Derrick Strait of Oklahoma; and FS Ken Hamlin of Arkansas. Here\'s the current list of underclassmen who have already announced their intentions to enter the 2003 draft.
Front office, coaching moves could affect draft...Both Cincinnati and Detroit, which have the 1st and 2nd overall picks, respectively, at the 2003 draft, have front office moves to make that could impact on the upcoming draft. Cincinnati, of course, still needs a coach after Dick Lebeau was fired at the end of the regular season. And it appears that the Bengals\' job is Washington defensive co-ordinator Marvin Lewis\' to lose, although the Bengals will still reportedly interview Pittsburgh offensive co-ordinator Mike Mullarkey either today or tomorrow. Whoever is hired, the Bengals appear intent on remaking the assistant coaching staff; indeed, that process has already begun. One result is that some of the Bengals\' current assistants may move over to the Bengals\' scouting department. That would be a major step in the right direction for the Bengals who have had the smallest scouting department in the league for years; instead, the Bengals have relied heavily on their assistant coaches to do the bulk of the scouting in the off-season. Meanwhile, Detroit is still without a director of player personnel. The Lions fired respected NFL personnel man Bill Tobin, who actually put together two rather decent drafts the past couple of seasons, at the end of the season. The Lions reportedly asked St. Louis for permisssion to talk with Rams\' GM Charley Armey about their vacancy; the Rams, however, balked at releasing Armey from his contract without compensation in the form of draft picks. With so many holes on their roster to fill, Detroit reportedly said \'thanks very much\' and moved on. Then there is the curious situation in San Francisco where head coach Steve Mariucci will meet with team ownership tomorrow to discuss his future. Mariucci has one year left on his current deal and is looking for an extension with a big raise. Mariucci, however, has never been a particular favorite of many in the 49ers\' front office; indeed, the 49ers would have been more than happy to have let Mariucci go to Tampa Bay at this time last year in exchange for the package of draft picks that eventually ended up across the bay when Mariucci dithered and the Bucs signed Jon Gruden instead. There are now rumors that Jacksonville has Mariucci in their sights as a replacement for Tom Coughlin. It may very well be that the 49ers offer Mariucci the extension he is looking for, but at well below market value and then let him explore other options like the Jacksonville opening. The 49ers, though, aren\'t going to let Mariucci go anywhere this year without compensation in the form of a package of picks similar to the one Oakland got from the Bucs, which included the Buccaneers\' first-round picks in both 2002 and this year.
(12:01 AM): Big East, SEC stars lead East to Shrine win...It wasn\'t all that pretty, though all-star games in which the players have less than a week to learn the system seldom are, but former Miami QB Ken Dorsey and West Virginia RB Avon Cobourne, along with LSU WR Jerel Myers and Mississippi State TE Donald Lee led the East to a 20-17 win over the West in yesterday\'s Shrine game in San Francisco. After a miserable week of practice, Miami\'s Dorsey had at least a decent game statistically, completing 9 of 18 passes for 172 yards, while Cobourne ran for 72 yards on just 7 carries. For their parts, Myers and Lee both had over 100 receiving yards: Myers 148 on 6 receptions and Lee 122 on 4. Arizona QB James Johnson had a solid outing for the West completing 17 of 30 pass atempts for 275 yards and two scores, but also had two passes picked off. We\'ll have a full analysis of the game early next week.
(12:30 PM): FSU LB has surgery; likely no draft in \'03...Florida State star junior LB Kendyll Pope underwent surgery on his left shoulder yesterday. Pope had at one point been thought to be considering entering the 2003 draft, although more recent indications pointed to him staying in school. The surgery though pretty much means that Pope will be back at FSU next fall. The exact nature of the surgery, as well as the potential timetable for Pope\'s return to action, however, have not been disclosed.
Report: Sooner CB passing on draft...A report out of Oklahoma indicates that Sooners\' junior CB Derrick Strait, who has been seriously thinking about entering the 2003 draft, is telling friends that he will be back in school next fall. Meanwhile, pro scouts are still scratching their heads over Sooner junior DE Jimmy Wilkerson\'s announcement yesterday that he will be entering the 2003 draft. Wilkerson has impressive enough measurables - he\'s 6-4, 260 with excellent speed - but he\'s coming off a very pedestrian year with the Sooners this fall in which he had just 6 sacks as a pass-rush specialist . Indeed, despite the measurables, NFL personnel people don\'t rate Wilkerson as much more than a late-round prospect who will likely have to shift to LB at the next level. Wilkerson, though, reportedly believes that he will upgrade that rating with some solid performances at the combines and on-campus workouts.
East bests West for Cactus title...The college all-star game season actually got under way last night as the East stars beat the West 19-7 in a defensive struggle in the Cactus Bowl in Kingsville, Texas. The Cactus Bowl features the top stars from the ranks of Division II. C.W. Post RB Ian Smart led the East with 95 yards rushing, while California-Davis WR Michael Oliva, who had 7 receptions for 128 yards, was the West offensive MVP. Defensive MVPs were Bentley DB Gregg Albano and Carson-Newman LB Steve Josue, while 6-4, 320-pound New Haven OT Phillip Bogle was named outstanding offensive lineman.
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