The Minnesota Vikings struck a defiant pose in the NFC North. The Dallas Cowboys moved swiftly to a 3-4 defense that could shake up the NFC East. And the Arizona Cardinals, longtime doormats of the league, are primed for a hostile takeover in the NFC West.
These three teams joined the Ravens in the AFC as the big early winners in the 30-hour ordeal the college draft has become. They made the boldest moves, got the best players and achieved the quickest makeovers.
The Philadelphia Eagles remain the team to beat in the NFC. Coach Andy Reid had a nice draft if he wanted to add a lot of rookies to the roster, but he's got his share of problems, contractual and otherwise, to wade through before he goes back to the Super Bowl.
Not the least of them is the new defense the Cowboys are going to present next season. The 3-4 defense gave the Eagles fits last season when they were throttled by the Pittsburgh Steelers and barely survived the Ravens.
The Eagles also made a game of the Super Bowl when the New England Patriots graciously played more four-man fronts than three on defense.
On Saturday, the Cowboys drafted DeMarcus Ware and Marcus Spears in the first round. Ware, a defensive end at Troy, will be a pass-rushing outside linebacker in Dallas. He is viewed by some as the best pass rusher in the draft and was the first one taken. Meanwhile, LSU's Spears, at 6 feet 4, 307 pounds, weighs in as a prototypical 3-4 end.
But Dallas didn't stop there. In the second round, the Cowboys got another outside linebacker in Tennessee's Kevin Burnett. A leader on the field, Burnett has excellent speed and is very good in the open field.
Still more: In the fourth round, Parcells claimed 6-7, 286-pound defensive end Chris Canty of Virginia. Canty dropped to the second day because of durability issues, but has agility and power in addition to size.
The new Cowboys defense is bigger and more physical than the old one, which allowed 405 points, and will have at least six new starters.
So that will be Philadelphia's first challenge to the NFC throne.
The second should come from Minnesota, where the Vikings matched a splendid free-agent period with a strong draft.
Minnesota also will have at least six new starters on a defense that ranked 28th in total yards and broke more than it bent. Coach Mike Tice added linebackers Napoleon Harris and Sam Cowart in trades, and signed tackle Pat Williams, cornerback Fred Smoot and safety Darren Sharper in free agency.
To that, the Vikings added the draft's best deep threat on offense and its best defensive end. The deep threat, South Carolina's Troy Williamson, is raw but very quick. He'll be even quicker on the Metrodome turf.
He's not Randy Moss - the big-play receiver the Vikings traded in March - but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Minus Moss, the Vikings may in fact have better team unity.
The defensive end is Wisconsin's Erasmus James, who slid all the way to Minnesota's 18th pick after four outside linebackers and defensive end David Pollack were taken.
If James is the player the Vikings believe he is, their defensive transformation may be complete, too.
As for the Cardinals, second-year coach Dennis Green has pulled the franchise out of its decade-long lethargy and pumped it up for a playoff run in the run-down NFC West.
It's not hard to imagine Arizona overtaking the Seattle Seahawks or St. Louis Rams in the division after Green's weekend performance in the war room. The San Francisco 49ers are still in the early stages of restoration under former Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
Green filled holes left and right in the draft. After trading former Raven Duane Starks in the offseason, he got a starting left cornerback in Antrel Rolle of Miami in the first round. He got another athletic corner, Eric Green of Virginia Tech, in the third. He got a big-play outside linebacker, Virginia's Darryl Blackstock, in the third, and a falling inside linebacker, Oklahoma's Lance Mitchell, with an injury history, in the fifth.
In the fourth, he got a bargain when he took another plummeting player, Virginia guard Elton Brown. They go with a new quarterback, Kurt Warner, and a new tackle, Oliver Ross, on offense to give Arizona new hope.
The Cardinals shouldn't be able to challenge the Eagles this season, but it may not take long before they do.
Defensive back 50
Wide receiver 30
Offensive tackle 26
Running back 26
Defensive end 20
Defensive tackle 15
Tight end 9
Kick returner 1
Schools with five or more players taken:
Florida State 9
Miami (Fla.) 5
Southern California 5
Conferences with 15 or more players taken:
Atlantic Coast 36
Big 12 34
Big Ten 30
(Overall pick in parentheses)
1 (22) Mark Clayton, WR, Oklahoma.
2 (53) Dan Cody, DE, Oklahoma.
2 (64) Adam Terry, OT, Syracuse.
4 (124) Jason Brown, C, North Carolina.
5 (158) Justin Green, RB, Montana.
6 (213) Derek Anderson, QB, Oregon State.
1 (8) Antrel Rolle, DB, Miami.
2 (44) J.J. Arrington, RB, California.
3 (75) Eric Green, DB, Virginia Tech.
3 (95) Darryl Blackstock, LB, Virginia.
4 (111) Elton Brown, G, Virginia.
5 (168) Lance Mitchell, LB, Oklahoma.
7 (226) LeRon McCoy, WR, Indiana, Pa.
1 (27) Roddy White, WR, UAB.
2 (59) Jonathan Babineaux, DT, Iowa.
3 (90) Jordan Beck, LB, Cal Poly-SLO.
4 (128) Chauncey Davis, DE, Florida State.
5 (163) Frank Omiyale, OT, Tennessee Tech.
6 (201) DeAndra Cobb, RB, Michigan State.
7 (241) Darrell Shropshire, DT, South Carolina.
2 (55) Roscoe Parrish, WR, Miami.
3 (86) Kevin Everett, TE, Miami.
4 (122) Duke Preston, C, Illinois.
5 (156) Eric King, DB, Wake Forest.
6 (197) Justin Geisinger, G, Vanderbilt.
7 (236) Lionel Gates, RB, Louisville.
1 (14) Thomas Davis, DB, Georgia.
2 (54) Eric Shelton, RB, Louisville.
3 (79) Evan Mathis, G, Alabama.
3 (89) Atyyah Ellison, DT, Missouri.
4 (121) Stefan LeFors, QB, Louisville.
5 (149) Adam Seward, LB, UNLV.
5 (171) Ben Emanuel, DB, UCLA.
6 (189) Jovan Haye, DE, Vanderbilt.
1 (4) Cedric Benson, RB, Texas.
2 (39) Mark Bradley, WR, Oklahoma.
4 (106) Kyle Orton, QB, Purdue.
5 (140) Airese Currie, WR, Clemson.
6 (181) Chris Harris, DB, Louisiana-Monroe.
7 (220) Rodriques Wilson, RB, South Carolina.
1 (17) David Pollack, LB, Georgia.
2 (48) Odell Thurman, LB, Georgia.
4 (119) Eric Ghiaciuc, C, Central Michigan.
5 (153) Adam Kieft, OT, Central Michigan.
6 (190) Tab Perry, WR, UCLA.
7 (233) Jonathan Fanene, DE, Utah.
1 (3) Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan.
2 (34) Brodney Pool, DB, Oklahoma.
3 (67) Charlie Frye, QB, Akron.
4 (103) Antonio Perkins, DB, Oklahoma.
5 (139) David McMillan, LB, Kansas.
6 (176) Nick Speegle, LB, New Mexico.
6 (203) Andrew Hoffman, DE, Virginia.
7 (217) Jon Dunn, OT, Virginia Tech.
1 (11) DeMarcus Ware, DE, Troy.
1 (20) Marcus Spears, DE, LSU.
2 (42) Kevin Burnett, LB, Tennessee.
4 (109) Marion Barber III, RB, Minnesota.
4 (132) Chris Canty, DE, Virginia.
6 (208) Justin Beriault, DB, Ball State.
6 (209) Rob Pettiti, OT, Pittsburgh.
7 (224) Jay Ratliff, DT, Auburn.
2 (56) Darrent Williams, DB, Oklahoma State.
3 (76) Karl Paymah, DB, Washington State.
3 (97) Domonique Foxworth, DB, Maryland.
3 (101) Maurice Clarett, RB, Ohio State.
6 (200) Chris Myers, OT, Miami.
7 (239) Paul Ernster, K, Northern Arizona.
1 (10) Mike Williams, WR, Southern Cal.
2 (37) Shaun Cody, DT, Southern Cal.
3 (72) Stanley Wilson, DB, Stanford.
5 (145) Dan Orlovsky, QB, Connecticut.
6 (184) Bill Swancutt, DE, Oregon State.
6 (206) Johnathan Goddard, LB, Marshall.
1 (24) Aaron Rodgers, QB, California.
2 (51) Nick Collins, DB, Bethune-Cookman.
2 (58) Terrence Murphy, WR, Texas A&M.;
4 (115) Marviel Underwood, DB, San Diego St.
4 (125) Brady Poppinga, DE, BYU.
5 (143) Junius Coston, C, North Carolina A&T.;
5 (167) Michael Hawkins, DB, Oklahoma.
6 (180) Mike Montgomery, DE, Texas A&M.;
6 (195) Craig Bragg, WR, UCLA.
7 (245) Kurt Campbell, DB, Albany, N.Y.
7 (246) William Whitticker, G, Michigan State.
1 (16) Travis Johnson, DT, Florida State.
3 (73) Vernand Morency, RB, Oklahoma State.
4 (114) Jerome Mathis, WR, Hampton.
5 (151) Drew Hodgdon, C, Arizona State.
6 (188) C.C. Brown, DB, Louisiana-Lafayette.
7 (227) Kenneth Pettway, LB, Grambling.
1 (29) Marlin Jackson, DB, Michigan.
2 (60) Kelvin Hayden, DB, Illinois.
3 (92) Vincent Burns, DE, Kentucky.
4 (129) Dylan Gandy, G, Texas Tech.
4 (135) Matt Giordano, DB, California.
5 (148) Jonathan Welsh, DE, Wisconsin.
5 (165) Rob Hunt, C, North Dakota State.
5 (173) Tyjuan Hagler, LB, Cincinnati.
6 (202) Dave Raymer, K, Michigan State.
7 (243) Anthony Davis, RB, Wisconsin.
1 (21) Matt Jones, WR, Arkansas.
2 (52) Khalif Barnes, OT, Washington.
3 (87) Scott Starks, DB, Wisconsin.
4 (127) Alvin Pearman, RB, Virginia.
5 (157) Gerald Sensabaugh, DB, North Carolina.
6 (185) Chad Owens, WR, Hawaii.
6 (194) Pat Thomas, LB, North Carolina State.
7 (237) Chris Roberson, DB, Eastern Michigan.
1 (15) Derrick Johnson, LB, Texas.
3 (99) Dustin Colquitt, P, Tennessee.
4 (116) Craphonso Thorpe, WR, Florida State.
5 (138) Boomer Grigsby, LB, Illinois State.
5 (147) Alphonso Hodge, DB, Miami (Ohio).
6 (187) Will Svitek, OT, Stanford.
6 (199) Khari Long, DE, Baylor.
7 (229) James Killian, QB, Tulsa.
7 (238) Jeremy Parquet, OT, Southern Miss.
1 (2) Ronnie Brown, RB, Auburn.
2 (46) Matt Roth, DE, Iowa.
3 (70) Channing Crowder, LB, Florida.
4 (104) Travis Daniels, DB, LSU.
5 (162) Anthony Alabi, OT, TCU.
7 (216) Kevin Vickerson, DT, Michigan State.
1 (7) Troy Williamson, WR, South Carolina.
1 (18) Erasmus James, DE, Wisconsin.
2 (49) Marcus Johnson, G, Mississippi.
3 (80) Dustin Fox, DB, Ohio State.
4 (112) Ciatrick Fason, RB, Florida.
6 (191) C.J. Mosley, DT, Missouri.
7 (219) Adrian Ward, DB, UTEP.
3 (84) Ellis Hobbs, DB, Iowa State.
3 (100) Nick Kaczur, OT, Toledo.
4 (133) James Sanders, DB, Fresno State.
5 (170) Ryan Claridge, LB, UNLV.
7 (230) Matt Cassel, QB, Southern Cal.
7 (255) Andy Stokes, TE, William Penn.
1 (13) Jammal Brown, OT, Oklahoma.
3 (82) Alfred Fincher, LB, Connecticut.
4 (118) Chase Lyman, WR, California.
5 (152) Adrian McPherson, QB, Florida State.
6 (193) Jason Jefferson, DT, Wisconsin.
7 (232) Jimmy Verdon, DE, Arizona State.
2 (43) Corey Webster, DB, LSU.
3 (74) Justin Tuck, DE, Notre Dame.
4 (110) Brandon Jacobs, RB, Southern Illinois.
6 (186) Eric Moore, DE, Florida State.
2 (47) Mike Nugent, K, Ohio State.
2 (57) Justin Miller, DB, Clemson.
3 (88) Sione Pouha, DT, Utah.
4 (123) Kerry Rhodes, DB, Louisville.
5 (161) Andre Maddox, DB, North Carolina State.
6 (182) Cedric Houston, RB, Tennessee.
7 (240) Harry Williams, WR, Tuskegee.
1 (23) Fabian Washington, DB, Nebraska.
2 (38) Stanford Routt, DB, Houston.
3 (69) Andrew Walter, QB, Arizona State.
3 (78) Kirk Morrison, LB, San Diego State.
6 (175) Anttaj Hawthorne, DT, Wisconsin.
6 (212) Ryan Riddle, LB, California.
6 (214) Pete McMahon, OT, Iowa.
1 (31) Mike Patterson, DT, Southern Cal.
2 (35) Reggie Brown, WR, Georgia.
2 (63) Matt McCoy, LB, San Diego State.
3 (77) Ryan Moats, RB, Louisiana Tech.
4 (102) Sean Considine, S, Iowa.
4 (126) Todd Herremans, OT, Sag. Valley State.
5 (146) Trent Cole, DE, Cincinnati.
5 (172) Scott Young, G, BYU.
6 (211) Calvin Armstrong, OT, Washington State.
7 (247) Keyonta Marshall, DT, Grand Valley State.
7 (252) David Bergeron, LB, Stanford.
1 (30) Heath Miller, TE, Virginia.
2 (62) Bryant McFadden, DB, Florida State.
3 (93) Trai Essex, OT, Northwestern.
4 (131) Fred Gibson, WR, Georgia.
5 (166) Rian Wallace, LB, Temple.
6 (204) Chris Kemoeatu, G, Utah.
7 (228) Shaun Nua, DE, BYU.
7 (244) Noah Herron, RB, Northwestern.
1 (19) Alex Barron, OT, Florida State.
2 (50) Ronald Bartell, DB, Howard.
3 (66) Oshiomogho Atogwe, DB, Stanford.
3 (81) Richard Incognito, G, Nebraska.
4 (117) Jerome Carter, DB, Florida State.
4 (134) Claude Terrell, G, New Mexico.
5 (144) Jerome Collins, TE, Notre Dame.
6 (192) Dante Ridgeway, WR, Ball State.
6 (210) Reggie Hodges, P, Ball State.
7 (250) Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Harvard.
7 (251) Madison Hedgecock, RB, North Carolina.
1 (12) Shawne Merriman, LB, Maryland.
1 (28) Luis Castillo, DT, Northwestern.
5 (164) Wesley Britt, OT, Alabama.
6 (177) Wes Sims, G, Oklahoma.
1 (1) Alex Smith, QB, Utah.
2 (33) David Baas, G, Michigan.
3 (65) Frank Gore, RB, Miami.
3 (94) Adam Snyder, OT, Oregon.
5 (174) Rasheed Marshall, WR, West Virginia.
6 (205) Derrick Johnson, DB, Washington.
7 (215) Daven Holly, DB, Cincinnati.
7 (223) Marcus Maxwell, WR, Oregon.
7 (248) Patrick Estes, TE, Virginia.
7 (249) Billy Bajema, TE, Oklahoma State.
1 (26) Chris Spencer, C, Mississippi.
2 (45) Lofa Tatupu, LB, Southern Cal.
3 (85) David Greene, QB, Georgia.
3 (98) LeRoy Hill, LB, Clemson.
4 (105) Ray Willis, OT, Florida State.
5 (159) Jeff Huckeba, DE, Arkansas.
6 (196) Tony Jackson, RB, Iowa.
7 (235) Cornelius Wortham, LB, Alabama.
7 (254) Doug Nienhuis, OT, Oregon State.
1 (5) Carnell Williams, RB, Auburn.
2 (36) Barrett Ruud, LB, Nebraska.
3 (71) Alex Smith, TE, Stanford.
3 (91) Chris Colmer, OT, North Carolina State.
4 (107) Dan Buenning, G, Wisconsin.
5 (141) Donte Nicholson, DB, Oklahoma.
5 (155) Larry Brackins, WR, Pearl River JC.
6 (178) Anthony Bryant, DT, Alabama.
7 (221) Rick Razzano, RB, Mississippi.
7 (225) Paris Warren, WR, Utah.
7 (231) Hamza Abdullah, DB, Washington State.
7 (253) J.R. Russell, WR, Louisville.
1 (6) Adam Jones, DB, West Virginia.
2 (41) Michael Roos, OT, Eastern Washington.
3 (68) Courtney Roby, WR, Indiana.
3 (96) Brandon Jones, WR, Oklahoma.
4 (108) Vincent Fuller, DB, Virginia Tech.
4 (113) David Stewart, OT, Mississippi State.
4 (136) Roydell Williams, WR, Tulane.
5 (142) Damien Nash, RB, Missouri.
5 (150) Daniel Loper, OT, Texas Tech.
6 (179) Bo Scaife, TE, Texas.
7 (218) Reynaldo Hill, DB, Florida.
1 (9) Carlos Rogers, DB, Auburn.
1 (25) Jason Campbell, QB, Auburn.
4 (120) Manuel White, RB, UCLA.
5 (154) Robert McCune, LB, Louisville.
6 (183) Jared Newberry, LB, Stanford.
7 (222) Nehemiah Broughton, RB, The Citadel.
Grading the teams
ANALYSIS BY KEN MURRAY : SUN STAFF
It's a foolhardy and thankless job to grade a draft before players hit the field, but someone's got to do it. So here goes:
They removed the last major hurdle in their bid to return to the Super Bowl by picking WR Mark Clayton. Accountability has arrived for coach Brian Billick and QB Kyle Boller. DE Dan Cody and OT Adam Terry are big bodies who should start.
Even though the defensive tackle class was weak, the Bengals needed to get some help for run defense early. They got a run-stuffing MLB in Odell Thurman in the second round, but no tackles. DE David Pollack will be expected to deliver a pass rush.
New GM Phil Savage resisted the blockbuster move and made several upgrades, starting with WR Braylon Edwards. Savage found two defensive backs in Oklahoma for his rebuilt secondary.
TE Heath Miller should be a playmaker for the Steelers, and WR Fred Gibson, a fourth-rounder, is a project. CB Bryant McFadden needs to play early.
The Bills gave up their first-round pick for QB J. P. Losman last year. They have to hope WR Roscoe Parrish and TE Kevin Everett help the passing game.
New coach Nick Saban tapped into his SEC background on three of his first four picks, starting with RB Ronnie Brown. His next three picks went for defense and the anticipated switch to a 3-4 front.
New England: C+
They were unexciting picks, but coach Bill Belichick likely got the help he needed. Twice he went to Fresno State and former aide Pat Hill to get guard Logan Mankins and safety James Sanders.
New York Jets: C-
They must feel they're awfully close to overtaking the Patriots if they can invest a second-round pick on a kicker (Mike Nugent). They went for defensive help after that, but never tried to replace DE John Abraham, their unsigned franchise player.
The Colts took two cornerbacks at the top and drafted for defense on the first day. They didn't get a linebacker until the fifth round. Their No. 1 pick, CB Marlin Jackson, is a solid player.
When the Jaguars took Matt Jones, a wide receiver project, with the 21st pick, it allowed Clayton to fall to the Ravens. Jones, a former quarterback, could be great, or he could be a bust. Last year's No. 1, Reggie Williams, is closer to a bust right now.
With holes everywhere, the Titans took three wide receivers and two offensive tackles in the first four rounds. Their No. 1 pick was 5-9 cornerback Adam Jones, taken ahead of Antrel Rolle.
The Broncos' draft is a disaster waiting to happen. They chose cornerbacks, including Maryland's Domonique Foxworth, with their first three picks. Then they jumped on RB Maurice Clarett in the third round.
Kansas City: D
The Chiefs caught falling OLB Derrick Johnson with the 15th pick and chose punter Dustin Colquitt in another defensive pick in the third round. It wasn't enough help for a bad defense.
Infatuated with speed, the Raiders chose quick cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Stanford Routt in the first two rounds. They went for a quarterback in the third, getting Andrew Walter.
San Diego: A
Getting OLB Shawne Merriman and DT Luis Castillo significantly improves a gritty defense. Fourth-rounder Darren Sproles, a 5-5 running back, was an intriguing pick.
The offense-challenged Bears tackled their weakness early and often. RB Cedric Benson and WR Mark Bradley will pay immediate dividends. QB Kyle Orton is a down-the-road project.
Apparently, WR Mike Williams was too much to resist with the 10th pick, even though the Lions are undermanned on defense. DT Shaun Cody and CB Stanley Wilson, other first-day picks, will help, but the team needed more.
Green Bay: C-
The Packers are another team that went for offense first - QB Aaron Rodgers - when they would have been better served on defense. Bethune-Cookman CB/FS Nick Collins must be a player as the second-round pick.
For a change, the Vikings are making all the right moves, following a trend that started in free agency. Speedy WR Troy Williamson stretches the field and pass-rushing DE Erasmus James shortens it.
No defense in the league improved as much as the Cowboys' did. OLBs DeMarcus Ware and Kevin Burnett, and DEs Marcus Spears and Chris Canty could help Dallas close ground quickly in the division on Philadelphia.
New York Giants: C-
The Giants upgraded their defense on the first day with CB Corey Webster and DE Justin Tuck, but got a big push on the goal line by taking 267-pound RB Brandon Jacobs on the second day.
Coach Andy Reid has opted to fight complacency by bringing in truckloads of draft picks. DT Mike Patterson and WR Reggie Brown, the first two picks, filled needs.
Despite what Joe Gibbs says, nobody takes a player in the first round they don't plan to use. QB Jason Campbell was not drafted to push Patrick Ramsey, he was drafted to replace Ramsey. Soon.
The Falcons got some relief for their No. 22 pass defense in DT Jonathan Babineaux, ILB Jordan Beck and DE Chauncey Davis. WR Roddy White will try to connect with Michael Vick.
The Panthers distributed their picks evenly over the whole roster. First-round pick Thomas Davis gives the defense more striking power, and QB Stefan LeFors is a guy to watch.
New Orleans: B
It was a strong move in the first round to get OT Jammal Brown. FS Josh Bullocks helps the secondary. How QB Adrian McPherson figures in is hard to tell. He could be the steal of the draft if he's not a liability for off-field problems.
Tampa Bay: A
Starting with RB Carnell Williams, the Bucs were aggressive and on target. LB Barrett Ruud and TE Alex Smith were good picks the first day.
Dennis Green got some very good players even on the second day, including falling OG Elton Brown and LB Lance Mitchell. First-day picks Antrel Rolle and Eric Green solve a major weakness at cornerback.
St. Louis: C
The Rams needed an offensive tackle and got Alex Barron, a good pass protector. Coach Mike Martz didn't choose a pass target until TE Jerome Collins in the fifth round.
San Francisco: B+
Alex Smith was the right call at quarterback, and coach Mike Nolan did his best to protect the new guy by taking two guards, although David Baas could be the center.
The Seahawks needed linebackers and got three of them. C Chris Spencer, their first-round choice, was a solid, if unexciting, pick.