By GREG AUMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 22, 2001
It started a day earlier with San Diego giving up the top pick, and the wheeling and dealing continued throughout the first round of Saturday's NFL draft.
Twelve of the top 22 picks were traded, and no deal was bigger than the one that allowed the Atlanta Falcons to take Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick with the No. 1 pick.
"One thing they have to understand is that I am not going to make things happen in one game. It's going to take some time," said Vick, who will be eased into the starter's role currently held by veteran Chris Chandler. "It won't take long because I am going to devote all my time into learning this offense."
The Chargers seemed as pleased with their side of the trade. San Diego selected TCU tailback LaDainian Tomlinson with the No. 5 pick acquired from Atlanta and still picked up the draft's No. 2 quarterback, Purdue's Drew Brees, with the first pick of the second round. "I knew that right after the trade happened with San Diego and Atlanta, I heard rumors San Diego was going to take LaDainian with the fifth pick," Brees said. "And then I also heard if I was still available with the first pick in the second round, that they would take me. I thought in the back of my mind, maybe that's my ticket to San Diego."
"We passed up a great guy to look more immediate," Chargers coach Mike Riley said of getting Tomlinson instead of Vick. "Drew may not be what you would say is immediate, but he might be the immediate backup, and he's definitely ahead in being able to take a team from the huddle to the line of scrimmage and play the game."
Said Tomlinson: "I know I shouldn't be saying this, but believe it or not, me and Vick had talked about this yesterday (before the trade) that he perhaps could go to Atlanta and I could end up in San Diego."
Between Vick and Tomlinson, an early run on linemen started as the Cardinals chose 370-pound Texas tackle Leonard Davis second. Cleveland followed by taking Florida's Gerard Warren -- the first of seven defensive linemen in the top 13 -- and Cincinnati took Missouri end Justin Smith fourth.
After New England selected Georgia defensive tackle Richard Seymour sixth, teams began giving up lower round picks to move up.
San Francisco moved up from ninth to seventh, trading picks with Seattle to get Cal's Andre Carter, leapfrogging Chicago, which was thought to covet the pass-rusher.
"Mike Holmgren is a tough guy to deal with," said 49ers president Bill Walsh, who gave the Seattle general manager his first NFL job. "I don't know where he learned that."
Tampa Bay gave up a second-round pick to Buffalo to move from 21st to 14th, where it drafted Florida tackle Kenyatta Walker, projected by some as a top-five pick. The New York Jets moved up three spots to select Miami receiver Santana Moss at No. 16, and the Giants jumped eight spots for Syracuse cornerback Will Allen at No. 22.
The biggest dealers Saturday were the St. Louis Rams, who sought to upgrade a porous defense that doomed last year's team to mediocrity, just one year after a Super Bowl victory.
Before the draft, St. Louis traded second- and fourth-round picks to Arizona for veteran Pro Bowl cornerback Aeneas Williams. The Rams also used all three of their first-round picks on defense: Miami tackle Damione Lewis at No. 12, Arizona State safety Adam Archuleta at No. 20 and former Zephyrhills and Ohio State tackle Ryan Pickett at No. 29. St. Louis had traded away defensive end Kevin Carter and backup quarterback Trent Green for the extra first-round picks.
The first round featured 13 underclassmen, including three of six wide receivers. Michigan's David Terrell and N.C. State's Koren Robinson went eighth and ninth, respectively, to Chicago and Seattle.
Two teams with uncertainty in their backfields used their top picks on running backs. New Orleans, which has Ricky Williams musing a future in baseball, used the 23rd pick on Mississippi's Deuce McAllister, and the Vikings, who saw Robert Smith abruptly retire after last season, selected Wisconsin's Michael Bennett at No. 27.
"I just think it's a two-man game," Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "This will help Ricky in the long run also."
Overall, however, the priority was defense, and the first round had more defensive selections than offense for the first time since 1998. Teams perhaps were following the blueprint laid out last season by the Baltimore Ravens, who rode a record-stingy defense to a Super Bowl victory in Tampa. The Ravens ended up going against the trend they helped set, bolstering their offense by closing out the first round with Arizona State tight end Todd Heap.
-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.