- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 20, 2002

He won't be the first player chosen. That honor will go to fellow quarterback David Carr of Fresno State, who will be the first draft pick of the expansion Houston Texans.
He won't even be the second player taken. That figures to be North Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers, a pass-rushing local hero headed for the woeful Carolina Panthers.
But make no mistake: Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington is the key to today's NFL Draft.
It's hard to see Harrington slipping past Cincinnati and the 10th pick, but he still won't attend the draft in New York to avoid the kind of embarrassment that befell Miami defensive tackle Warren Sapp in 1995 when, with ESPN's cameras focused on him, he slid from a top-five projection to the 12th selection because of rumored drug use.
While Carr, Peppers, offensive tackles Mike Williams of Texas and Bryant McKinnie of Miami and cornerback Quentin Jammer of Texas are in New York, Harrington will be at home in Portland, Ore., but he is still the fulcrum for a first round that likely will be in more flux than usual.
Both Detroit, picking third, and Buffalo, choosing fourth, are unsettled at quarterback, although the Bills could solve their problem by completing a deal today for New England's Drew Bledsoe. With coach Marty Mornhinweg and general manager Matt Millen coming off ugly first seasons, the Lions seemingly don't have time to wait for a young quarterback to develop.
Most mock drafts have the Lions choosing top-rated corner Jammer and the Bills going after a defensive tackle, perhaps Tennessee's athletic Albert Haynesworth. If those scenarios play out, the phones of the next few teams in line to pick likely will be ringing with offers from the quarterback-poor, star-loving Washington Redskins, who have the 18th choice and are enamored with Harrington, a winner of 25 of his last 28 starts at Oregon.
If the rumors about the Lions refocusing on Harrington and the Bills' continued lack of interest in him are true, Detroit also could trade down with Dallas (No.6) to get him because San Diego (No.5) has its quarterback of the future in Drew Brees and almost definitely will take McKinnie or Williams. The Cowboys, whose corner play has been shoddy since Deion Sanders left town two years ago, reportedly covet Jammer even more than Oklahoma's Roy Williams, one of the most highly rated safety prospects in years.
The Redskins, who are virtually bereft at quarterback, would have to trade up at least to the seventh pick to assure themselves of getting Harrington because Kansas City, which has the eighth choice, could be looking for the successor to Trent Green, who didn't play well last year and is entering the last year of his contract. Moving up 11 spots would require a hefty price, as would leaping nine spots to beat out the Bengals, who have been looking for a quarterback since Boomer Esiason departed nine years ago. Cincinnati struck out in picking Harrington's Oregon predecessor, Akili Smith, with the third choice in the 1999 draft.
Minnesota figures to take whichever massive offensive tackle the Chargers don't. If North Carolina defensive tackle Ryan Sims is still available when it's their turn, the Chiefs could well opt for him and bypass Harrington. Jacksonville (No.9) also is thinking defensive tackle, with Wisconsin's Wendell Bryant a strong possibility. Then come the Bengals, who have their eyes on Miami corner Phillip Buchanon as well as Harrington.
"[Drafting Harrington] would be a distinct possibility," said Cincinnati coach Dick LeBeau, whose Bengals have missed the playoffs for a league-high 12 straight seasons. "If you have the opportunity of strengthening your team at that position, you have to consider it very seriously.
"I like [Harringtons] poise, his intelligence, his productivity, his charismatic relation with his teammates. He reminds me of Kenny Anderson [Cincinnati's starter from 1974 to 1986 and now the team's quarterbacks coach]. If we could get ahold of a guy that could play like Kenny Anderson, I would feel pretty good about that."
The Redskins aren't the only wild card in the draft. Oakland owner Al Davis, who used his top choice in 2000 on kicker Sebastian Janikowski and loves upsetting conventional wisdom, has two first-rounders (Nos.21 and 23). So does New Orleans (Nos.13 and 25). Miami and Tampa Bay are the only teams without first-round selections.
"The draft is deep at wide receiver, defensive tackle, offensive tackle and guard," said Texans general manager Charley Casserly, whose team will give Carr a reported seven-year, $46.25million contract including an $11million signing bonus. "There's depth at tight end. It's thin at linebacker, especially inside, and at running back. There's a point around picks 17 and 20 where you kind of draw a line and move to the next level. So where does that leave picks 21-32? You're picking second-round players in the first round."

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