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NFL Defensive linemen in demand



Published: Wed, April 30, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Eleven defensive linemen were tapped in the first round of the NFL draft.

NEW YORK (AP) -- NFL teams did their best Saturday to stem the league's increase in offense.

They drafted for defense, taking 11 defensive linemen in a first round also marked by an aborted trade between Minnesota and Baltimore that led to three of the quickest first-round picks ever.

Carson Palmer, the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback from Southern California, was chosen by Cincinnati, and wide receivers Charles Rogers of Michigan and Andre Johnson of Miami went to Detroit and Houston with the first three picks -- ammunition for teams that need everything.

Four quarterbacks were chosen -- Palmer, Byron Leftwich by Jacksonville, Kyle Boller by Baltimore, and Rex Grossman by Chicago. But no more were taken until the third round, when Louisville's Dave Ragone was taken with the 88th overall pick.

And Texas' Chris Simms, projected as a second-rounder, wasn't chosen until the last pick of the third round by Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay, becoming the sixth quarterback on their roster.

McGahee taken 23rd

Meanwhile, running back Willis McGahee of Miami, who tore up his knee in the national championship game, was moved to tears when he was taken 23rd overall by Buffalo -- although he's not expected to be at his best until 2004.

But after the first three picks, the highlight was a run on defense like none other in draft history.

Eleven of the next 13 choices were for defensive players, eight of them defensive linemen. The only exceptions were Leftwich of Marshall, who was taken by Jacksonville with the eighth overall pick after the botched trade that might have made him a Raven, and offensive tackle Jordan Gross of Utah, taken by Carolina with the ninth pick.

"It's no secret we were going to go to the defensive side with the first pick," said Seattle coach Mike Holmgren, who chose cornerback Marcus Trufant of Washington State. "Obviously, we were looking at those big defensive lineman. We really didn't think Marcus would come to us."

Eagles get McDougle

Philadelphia traded from 30 to 15 to take Jerome McDougle, a defensive end from Miami. At that point, McDougle was the eighth defensive lineman taken, but the Eagles are a bit desperate, having lost Hugh Douglas, their best pass rusher, to Jacksonville in free agency.

The first five picks were no surprise: Palmer, Rogers and Johnson, followed by defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson of Kentucky to the New York Jets, who traded up Friday for the pick and cornerback Terence Newman of Kansas State to Dallas.

Then came the surprises.

New England moved up to sixth to take defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan of Georgia, projected to go a half-dozen picks later. Minnesota then spent its 15 minutes and thought it had a trade with Baltimore. But the Ravens didn't report the trade to the league by the time the clock ran out.

Then it happened

Boom!

Carolina quickly moved in and grabbed offensive tackle Jordan Gross of Utah, and the Jaguars took Leftwich to ensure the Vikings couldn't trade the pick to take him. Minnesota took defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who they thought they could get anyway at No. 10.

"I'm ticked," Vikings coach Mike Tice said. "I felt that would've been a hell of a deal to get your guy and two more picks."

So Baltimore ended up with defensive end Terrell Suggs of Arizona State and got Boller of Cal by trading away next year's No. 1 pick and this year's No. 2 pick to New England. Seattle got Trufant and St. Louis grabbed defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy of Penn State, who was expected to go higher.

"This has got to be the strangest first round," St. Louis coach Mike Martz said. "It was hectic, wasn't it? The picks went so quickly. It was probably about 45 seconds for about three picks. It was getting exciting."

Buffalo had backs

Buffalo, which needs defense, chose McGahee, even though it has a good starter in Travis Henry and signed Olandis Gary as his backup last week.

"We thought he was one of the top one or two players in the whole draft before he got hurt," Bills' coach Gregg Williams said. "He's ahead of progress. We thought we had a great young football player with a chance to hit a real home run with him."

McGahee, sitting in his agent's home in North Miami Beach, Fla., broke down in tears when he got the call by the Bills to tell he was the first running back taken in the draft.

"They caught me off-guard with the pick, but I'm really happy," said McGahee, who after the injury was considered a possible third- or fourth-rounder.




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