SBJ/February 28 - March 5, 2000/No Topic Name

Condon enters draft confident despite limited shot at top spot

IMG football agent Tom Condon admits that for the first time in three years, none of his soon-to-be-drafted NFL prospects are expected to be the top pick in this year's draft.

But Condon, who has represented the No. 1 pick the last two years, is not ready to concede that he has lost a chance for a hat trick.

"I think I ought to have the first player in the draft," said Condon, who represents University of Virginia running back Thomas Jones and Marshall University quarterback Chad Pennington. Condon says those two players represent the top-rated players at the all-important positions of quarterback and running back.

But most NFL observers have ranked Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington, Florida State wide receiver Peter Warrick and Penn State defensive end Courtney Brown as the likely top three picks in the April 15-16 draft.

"Yes, I believe most people believe those are the top three," Condon said. "But I think it is very, very difficult to leave the No. 1 franchise quarterback on the board."

The problem, though, is that the Cleveland Browns, the team scheduled to pick first, already have a franchise quarterback, Tim Couch, a Condon client who was picked No. 1 last year. Condon client Peyton Manning was picked No. 1 by the Indianapolis Colts the year before.

Further complicating matters is that Cleveland recently signed the Baltimore Ravens' leading rusher, Errict Rhett, to a $6 million contract.

Condon admits it's a tough situation. Still, he is not ready to give up hope for that top spot. Expansion team Cleveland, he notes, could decide to trade its top pick to another team in exchange for multiple picks.

Condon notes that early rankings have been wrong about his players in the past, and he said he doesn't pay much attention to such rankings anyway.

"In the past two years, when we did have the top pick, there was no guarantee that my guy was going to be first then, either," he said.

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