- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Put the two together and you might have the perfect prospect.

Clemson wide receiver Rod Gardner is 6-foot-2, 217 pounds with good, but not great, straight-line speed. Miami's Santana Moss is a track star who sprints 40 yards in about 4.3 seconds but stands just 5-9.

Even alone, they're first-round locks in this weekend's NFL Draft, promising stardom with just a bit of doubt. Determining how much doubt are the Washington Redskins, who hold the 15th pick. There's a good chance the Redskins will select one of the diverse pair, though the club is approaching a deep draft with a variety of needs.

Gardner and Moss seem the most likely targets because receiver is Washington's most obvious deficiency and because the players rank just behind Michigan's David Terrell and N.C. State's Koren Robinson, two blue-chippers likely to go in the top 10.

But the Redskins could trade their pick probably down but possibly up. Or they could fill another need in the first round taking Miami linebacker Dan Morgan, Michigan guard Steve Hutchinson or even a cornerback or a defensive tackle.

About the only thing certain is that the Redskins will take a receiver in the first two rounds. The only proven talent behind top target Michael Westbook is recent free-agent acquisition Kevin Lockett, with Derrius Thompson and other youngsters with no NFL experience competing for backup roles.

The Redskins also are considering Oregon State's Chad Johnson and Wisconsin's Chris Chambers, as well as Miami's Reggie Wayne, UCLA's Freddie Mitchell and Texas A&M;'s Robert Ferguson. One of those could slide into the second round if Washington waits until then to draft a receiver.

Gardner, 23, is considered a hot commodity because of the mid-4.4s he ran in his individual workout March 15. The top receiver in Clemson history, Gardner peaked as a junior in 1999, when he set a school record with 80 catches and became the first Tiger with more than 1,000 receiving yards.

"The only question that you hear about him is maybe linear speed," Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer said last week. "But he's a quality player, no doubt. He's a kid that I'm sure will go in the first round."

Asked about Gardner's recent 4.4s, Schottenheimer shifted subjects and began expounding on the sham of predraft workouts, calling them "Junior Olympics" for their track-meet nature. Maybe that means Schottenheimer isn't interested in Gardner, or perhaps the secretive coach doesn't want to let on just how interested he is.

Agent Joel Segal, for one, thinks Schottenheimer and others picking in the top 15 should be plenty piqued.

"The only question on Rod going into his pro day was his speed," Segal said from New York. "He ran faster than anyone anticipated. He was in the mid-4.4s. He came out of his breaks. He made his cuts. He solidified himself, to me, as the top receiver in this draft."

Many project Gardner in the Michael Irvin mold, tall and reliable, a go-to receiver in the NFL. Moss, in contrast, is forecast to be no more than an ancillary option, though a highly explosive option who broke Irvin's receiving yards record and Ottis Anderson's all-purpose yards mark at Miami.

Schottenheimer acted more upbeat about Moss, 21, playing down his physical measurement and pointing to his kick return ability. Moss set a Big East record with six punt returns for touchdowns at Miami, including four as a senior.

"[The most important factor is] not necessarily size," Schottenheimer said. "A guy like Santana brings the return ability… . Santana Moss is a guy who can change field position for you. In our situation, I think field position will be very important."

Redskins owner Dan Snyder is a fan of Moss, though with Schottenheimer making football-related decisions it's tough to know whether that's a factor. However, Schottenheimer is more interested in playmaking than heights and weights, a priority that points to Moss.

"I just don't see how [Moss'] height is going to be a factor in the pros," agent Drew Rosenhaus said from Miami. "You want to base [your evaluations] on production, not just measurements. His production is touchdowns and a lot of them."

Schottenheimer, formerly coach at Cleveland (1984-88) and Kansas City (1989-97), has never taken a receiver in the first round. But he played down that track record, and he'll have a tough time passing up Gardner or Moss, so different in attributes but so similar in potential.

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