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Second Day Offers Choice Selections


NEW YORK — The crowds at the NFL draft begin to thin out at the end of Saturday's first round.

By Sunday, the second day, the room is empty: no hooting fans with face paint and signs; no players posing with new jerseys and beaming family members; no commissioner dramatically announcing the next pick.

The only ones there are those who must be there--the low- and mid-level team officials, a few NFL overseers, and a handful of reporters to record the obscure college players selected in Rounds 4-7.

But just take a look at some of those who were chosen when the whole world wasn't watching: Tom Brady, Terrell Davis, Jessie Armstead, Jamal Anderson and Zach Thomas.

"You can put together a team with those guys," says San Diego Charger General Manager John Butler, who did just that with the Buffalo team that went to four consecutive Super Bowls a decade ago.

"They're the ones who went to the small colleges, the guys who are supposed to be too small or too slow or too something. But if you draft well there, you can put together a good team."

Brady, a sixth-round pick in 2000, is the current poster boy for second-day stars. He took over when Drew Bledsoe was hurt in the second game and led New England to a Super Bowl victory.

Before that it was Davis, a league most valuable player and Super Bowl MVP who was taken in the sixth round by Denver in 1995.

"Has the size and ability to make it on the next level if he improves his practice habits and game preparation," Joel Buchsbaum of Pro Football Weekly, one of the best draft prognosticators, wrote of Davis before the 1995 draft.

In fact, his practice habits and game preparation are a huge reason Davis succeeded--one of the four men in NFL history to run more than 2,000 yards in a season.

Armstead, a four-time Pro Bowler, was taken in the eighth round by the New York Giants in 1993, the year the draft went from 12 rounds to eight. Thomas, another Pro Bowl linebacker, went to Miami in the fifth round in 1996. Anderson, the star of Atlanta's run to the 1999 Super Bowl, was taken in the seventh round in 1994.

What were their drawbacks?

Brady was inexperienced--only a part-time starter his senior season at Michigan with an arm not up to NFL standards. Davis played in a passing offense at Georgia. Armstead, a star linebacker on a powerhouse at Miami, had legs that were too thin--yes, thin legs. Anderson's time in the 40-yard dash was a little slow.

Thomas was too short at 5-foot-9, even though the 5-9 Sam Mills had been a star at the same position.

There are a lot more than just that group.

Since 1993, four current starting quarterbacks have been drafted on the second day: Mark Brunell of Jacksonville (drafted by Green Bay); Trent Green of Kansas City (drafted by San Diego); Jim Miller of Chicago (drafted by Pittsburgh); and Carolina's Chris Weinke.

Rob Johnson, now with Tampa Bay, also was a second-day pick, as was Gus Frerotte, a solid No. 2 with considerable starting experience who was taken in the seventh round in 1994 by Washington. In that same draft, the Redskins used the No. 4 overall pick in the first round on Heath Shuler, a complete bust.

And two-time MVP Kurt Warner went on the proverbial "third day"--he wasn't drafted at all.

"I think it's a mistake to feel we can't get an impact player in the third, fourth, fifth round," says Miami Coach Dave Wannstedt, who traded his first two picks this season to New Orleans for running back Ricky Williams. "We know that there are a lot of variables involved in the draft, a lot of different factors involved in making a decision."

Other second-day picks who have performed at a Pro Bowl-level include Washington running back Stephen Davis; Troy Brown, one of New England's stars in its Super Bowl season; defensive end Michael McCrary, a key player on Baltimore's Super Bowl defense; Denver's perennial Pro Bowl center, Tom Nalen; Mike Anderson, who ran for 1,000 yards for the Broncos when Davis was hurt; Jermaine Lewis, now of Houston, one of the NFL's best kick returners; Minnesota center Matt Birk; and safety Lance Schulters, a sixth-rounder who made the Pro Bowl with San Francisco in 1999 and agreed to terms Thursday with Tennessee.

There also seem to be teams that usually do well low. Sometimes, like the New York Giants, they do better than they do in the first round.

Pittsburgh, Denver and Green Bay have been the best of the past decade or so, followed by Buffalo, the two New York teams and New England.

But nearly everyone has found good players on Sunday. Why?

Too many players are rated on workouts--the 40-yard dash and other things they do off the field. One top prospect this year, Boston College running back William Green, was described by a scout as "someone who runs 4.6 in shorts and 4.5 in pads."

Gil Brandt, the longtime personnel director of the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL's senior draft consultant, remembers Armstead from his high school days in Texas.

"He was one of the best prospects I ever saw," Brandt said. "When he came out of Miami, the knock on him is that his lower body was too frail. I don't know why they look at that. Look at his production."

Brandt also studied the top three prospects at guard this year: Andre Gurode of Colorado, Toniu Fonoti of Nebraska and Kendall Simmons of Auburn.

"Barring injuries, all three should play for 10 years or more," he said. "I'm not sure which one I like better. It all depends on what a team is looking for."

Those three will go in the first round or early in the second. But there's always that unheralded prospect who may be better than all of them--perhaps Qasim Mitchell of North Carolina A&T--just waiting to be picked on Sunday. When no one is watching.

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