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Buzz not always close

Antonio Bryant

With the NFL Draft a week from Thursday night, here's a couple of intriguing perspectives from two Bengals selected earlier in the decade. There may be twice as many facts out there now in transforming the information highway into the innuendo parking lot.

But not much has changed. It doesn't always work out the way the buzz sounds.

Quarterback Carson Palmer was supposed to be the third best quarterback in the '03 draft. His 128 touchdown passes are more than the combined 106 of Byron Leftwich and Kyle Boller. Even though Palmer has basically missed two full seasons.

Wide receiver Antonio Bryant was the ninth wide receiver taken in the 2002 draft, but he leads them all with 5,685 yards and 372 catches in his career. And the only receiver in that draft with more catches is Seattle's Deion Branch, taken two picks after Bryant at No. 65, with 390.

"I don't believe in any combine anyway," Bryant said earlier this week. "If you can't play football, you can't play. The only guys that do well, no matter what you did in college, are guys that know how to adapt. It's all about being a human being. That's how you're successful in life. Who adapts to the game best and make sure you stand out."

Bryant, taken out of Pittsburgh deep in the second round by the Cowboys at No. 63, got to talking about his 40-yard time and all the other drills at his combine, and concluded he was "terrible. Everything was terrible."

"What I run the 40 in? I've got one even better for you," he said. "Out of everybody in my draft class, who is still standing tall? Out of all the receivers that got drafted before me, the stats aren't even close and I've been to several teams. Many situations. You've got to learn to adapt. None of those guys could touch me in college. None of those guys had the numbers I had in college. Now we're in the league and those guys don't have the numbers I have in the league. If you can play, you can play. If you can't, you can't."

Bryant also reminds you he sat out the 2007 season for a variety of reasons and says "try to add an imaginary 800 to 1,000 yards on that."

Palmer's agent could have told him how it was going to work. In the run-up to the 2003 draft, when the Bengals signed Palmer two days before as the No. 1 pick, David Dunn was uncanny. He could tell Palmer what was going to surface on the Internet when and who it would be about as teams and agents jockeyed.

"To my agent's credit he'd say, 'Next week there's going to be stuff coming out about Leftwich and Boller and Rex Grossman,' " Palmer said. "And sure enough it would be on the Internet. He called it. Two days before the draft. One day before the draft. Draft day. He knew the process. I'm thinking this guy is full of crap. He doesn't know what he's talking about. But he hit every aspect of the draft and every week right on the head."

Palmer regaled the media this week about why he empathizes with Florida quarterback Tim Tebow as he swirls in the daily media spin cycle.

"It's that time of year; it's what happens," he said. "There's a lot of teams starting rumors because they like a guy, dislike a guy. It's such a game now and I learned that when I was going through it. I remember sitting back reading some of the things that some people were saying that were bad things about me and I was thinking, 'That makes no sense.' And I was reading good things people were saying about me and I was like, 'That makes no sense.' "

But Palmer says it's no worse than it was when he went through it seven years ago. What he does notice is the mushrooming coverage of high school sports and college recruiting.

"It's crazy," Palmer said. "Guys announce we're they're going (to college). I announced to my parents in my living room when I signed the letter of intent. Now there are guys on ESPN, there are all-star games. and all these different avenues of information. And these kids get blown up out of proportion. Somebody said Jimmy Clausen is the LeBron James of football. That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

But you know at least one thing is going to be the same as it was in 2002. One guy is going to keep a list of all the guys that got drafted ahead of him. Asked if he knows it, Bryant said, "No."

"But they do."

2002 Draft for wide receivers in first two rounds (Career stats:)

» 13th pick (Saints): Donte' Stallworth, Tennessee: 296 catches for 4,383 yards, 14.8 avg., 32 TDs

» 19th (Broncos): Ashley Lelie, Hawaii: 217-3,749, 17.3, 15

» 20th (Packers): Javon Walker, Florida State: 267-4,011, 15.0, 31

» 33rd (Texans): Jabar Gaffney, Florida: 310-3,800, 12.3, 17

» 36th (Bills): Josh Reed, LSU: 311-3,575, 11.5, 10

» 46th (Giants): Tim Carter, Auburn: 81-1,090, 13.5, 4

» 47th (Browns): Andre Davis, Virginia Tech: 156-2,470, 15.8, 17

» 62nd (Steelers): Antwaan Randle El, Indiana: 348- 4,214, 12.1, 14

» 63rd (Cowboys): Antonio Bryant, Pittsburgh: 372-5,685, 15.3, 30

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