Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

49ers Take Smith as First NFL Pick

Unable to swing a trade, the San Francisco 49ers made Utah's Alex Smith (search) the first pick in Saturday's NFL draft -- the fifth straight year a quarterback has been chosen No. 1.

With their choices narrowed down to Smith, California quarterback Aaron Rodgers (search) and Michigan wide receiver Braylon Edwards (search), the 49ers went for Smith despite not being able to sign him before the draft.

New coach Mike Nolan had also looked to trade and stockpile picks, but was unable to find a willing partner.

Even Smith was uncertain his name would be called first.

"I had a real good feeling," said the 20-year-old, who became the second-youngest No. 1 pick behind Michael Vick. "Coach Nolan called my table about five minutes before the selection."

San Francisco wasn't alone in trying to move out of the top five. In the end, though, all the teams held their spots and made their picks.

Miami chose Ronnie Brown second, Cleveland took Edwards third, Cedric Benson went to Chicago and Tampa Bay took Brown's teammate, Carnell Williams.

Auburn ended up with three of the top 10 players, when cornerback Carlos Rogers went ninth to Washington.

The 6-foot-4 Smith led Utah to an unbeaten season as a junior, passing for 2,952 yards and 32 touchdowns with only four interceptions.

Smith follows Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, David Carr and Vick as top selections since 2001. He's also the seventh quarterback taken No. 1 in the past eight years.

The 49ers, who won five Super Bowls with Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young at quarterback in the 1980s and '90s, went 2-14 last season and picked first overall for the first time since 1964, when wide receiver Dave Parks of Texas Tech was the top pick.

With Smith going first, Utah is set up to become the first school with the No. 1 pick in both the NFL and NBA drafts. Utes center Andrew Bogut is one of the top college prospects heading into the NBA draft.

New Dolphins coach Nick Saban picked Brown, a running back he's familiar with from his coaching days at LSU.

Brown backed up Williams most of his college career, but won his draft-day bet with the elusive tailback nicknamed Cadillac, who is now on the hook for dinner.

"Does anyone know any expensive places?" Brown kidded.

Brown and Williams are the third running back teammates to be selected in the first round of the same draft, and first since 1987 when Texas A&M's Rod Bernstine went 24th to San Diego and Roger Vick went 21st to the New York Jets.

Edwards went the Browns, who are also starting over with a new coach, Romeo Crennel, and general manager, Phil Savage. The Browns have the worst record in the NFL since re-entering the league in 1999.

Edwards caught 97 passes for 1,330 yards and 15 touchdowns last season.

"This is a no-brainer," Savage said. "You mark it down with your highlighter and say we just got the No. 1 player in the draft."

Meanwhile, Rodgers slipped out of the top 15 after being considered a possible No. 1 pick.

The Bears are banking on Benson from Texas to be the star runner they've been searching for since Walter Payton retired in 1987. Benson was a model of consistency with the Longhorns, topping 1,000 yards rushing in each of his four seasons.

Tennessee took cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones from West Virginia with the sixth selection as a replacement for Samari Rolle, who was cut in the Titans' salary cap purge.

The Minnesota Vikings used the pick they acquired from Oakland in the Randy Moss trade to take wide receiver Troy Williamson of South Carolina seventh overall.

The pick drew boos from a draft party in Minnesota, where Vikings fans apparently wanted their team to pick Southern California's Mike Williams, a bigger target who didn't play last year after being denied entry into the NFL draft by a court ruling.

Williams didn't wait long to find out where he'll be playing.

The Detroit Lions surprisingly took the 6-foot-5 receiver with the 10th pick. The Lions looked ready to bolster a shaky defense, but instead took a wide receiver for the third straight season.

In 2003, Detroit picked Charles Rogers first and last year they selected Roy Williams.

Mike Williams was forced to sit out last season after the original decision in Maurice Clarett's case against the NFL was overturned and the league was allowed to keep players from entering the draft until they were three years removed from high school.

Then Williams was not allowed to return to USC because the NCAA wouldn't restore his eligibility.

"It was rough; difficult at times," he said about watching last year's draft. "Now that I've been drafted, I'm not even thinking about last year."

After six of the first seven picks were offensive players, there was a run on defenders.

The Arizona Cardinals nabbed Miami cornerback Antrel Rolle with the eighth pick. The Hurricanes have had at least one player taken in the first round every year since 1999.

Washington made it three corners in the first nine picks, taking Rogers with the first of their two first-rounders.

Dallas took defensive end DeMarcus Ware from Troy with the 11th pick, the first of two first-round selections for the Cowboys.

Linebacker Shawne Merriman from Maryland went next to the San Diego Chargers with the pick they received last season from the Giants in the Manning for Philip Rivers trade.

New Orleans acquired the 13th pick from Houston for its first-rounder and a third-rounder next season, and took Oklahoma offensive tackle Jammal Brown.

Then it was back to defense with Carolina taking hard-hitting Georgia safety Thomas Davis with the 14th pick.

Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson was chosen by Kansas City to help boost a defense that has been porous for years.

Houston moved down three spots to select Florida State defensive tackle Travis Johnson, Georgia defensive end David Pollack went next to Cincinnati at No. 17 and fellow defensive end Erasmus James was taken by Minnesota at 18.

St. Louis picked Florida State offensive tackle Alex Barron with the 19th pick.