- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 28, 2007

NEW YORK — The best player might not be selected until the fourth pick.

The productive running back might slip to the bottom of the top 10.

The two quarterbacks might be gone in the first three picks or may go first and ninth.

And the possible second pick has chosen to go fishing with his father instead of attending today’s proceedings at Radio City Music Hall.

Translation: This year’s NFL Draft is hardly comparable to last year’s star-studded affair.

The top players have been identified: quarterbacks JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn, receiver Calvin Johnson, left tackle Joe Thomas (he’s the one gone fishing), running back Adrian Peterson and defensive end Gaines Adams.

Oakland, Detroit, Cleveland and Tampa Bay have the first four picks. Once they have decided, the draft will gain some clarity save for a trade. The Washington Redskins are scheduled to draft sixth but are a candidate to move down in order to obtain additional picks.

The Raiders are up first and have had contract discussions with Russell, Quinn and Johnson.

“We’re the only ones that control our own destiny,” Oakland’s first-year coach Lane Kiffin said.

The Raiders haven’t selected a quarterback with their top pick since the 1962 AFL draft and have made mistakes by passing on Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler. The Raiders’ current starter is the unproven Andrew Walter.

The Raiders are expected to take a quarterback even though Johnson is the draft’s highest-ranked player. Russell was better than Quinn in big games last year, which, coupled with his cannon of a right arm, has given him the edge in most teams’ eyes.

“He’s like a video game,” Kiffin said of Russell. “There’s not a throw he can’t make and there’s some he can make I’m not sure anyone else can make. That’s exciting.”

Quinn, though, is probably more NFL ready in the short term and has 17 more college starts than Russell.

Although not as likely as Oakland, Detroit could go with a quarterback. But the Lions are willing to trade out of that spot.

The Lions have cornered the market on taking receivers in the first round. When they drafted Charles Rogers (bust), Roy Williams (stud) and Mike Williams (disappointment), they became the first team since the merger in 1967 to draft receivers three consecutive years. That bit of recent history would seemingly eliminate the Lions from taking Johnson, considered by most the draft’s best available player.

But …

“Calvin Johnson is unique,” general manager Matt Millen said. “We wouldn’t hesitate at all.”

Should it opt to stay put, Detroit could go in several different directions, a sign of just how bad the Lions have been.

Like the Lions, Cleveland’s recent draft history is a debacle. Tim Couch, Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren were stiffs and Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards still have disappointed.

If Russell is at No. 3, the Browns won’t need much of their 15-minute allotment to make the pick.

If they go with Peterson, Quinn will begin to fall and Arizona (No. 5) and the Redskins (No. 6) will start fielding phone calls about trades. If they go with Quinn, it’s conceivable there will be little movement over the next several picks.

If the first three picks are Russell-Thomas-Quinn, Tampa Bay would be ecstatic to have Johnson fall into its lap at No. 4. Arizona, if it stayed put, could take Peterson to team with an aging Edgerrin James or Adams to improve the pass rush.

The Redskins draft in the top 10 for the third time in four years and are expected to draft defensive tackle Amobi Okoye or safety LaRon Landry should they stay in the sixth position.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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