Mock Draft I: Palmer solid No. 1

I expect USC QB Carson Palmer to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, no matter which team owns that selection.

Originally Published: January 20, 2003
Jan. 20
Editor's Note: Following is Mel Kiper Jr.'s initial projection for the first round of the NFL draft. The draft takes place Saturday, April 26 (rounds 1-3) and Sunday, April 27 (rounds 4-7).

The first round of All-Star games is over, so it's time for my initial first-round projection, which includes 12 defensive linemen and 11 underclassmen (*) among the first 32 picks. Here's how I forecast that group:

1. Cincinnati Bengals -- Carson Palmer, QB, USC
He solidified his status as the overall No. 1 pick at the Senior Bowl practices. He has Troy Aikman/Drew Bledsoe-like potential. If the Bengals get blown away by a trade offer, they could drop as far as No. 4 and still get Byron Leftwich, but no matter who's picking, I expect that Palmer will go No. 1.