Benson heading backwards

Our scouts have been tracking the top NFL prospects since last summer, evaluating their in-season performances both on film and in person, comparing notes with NFL personnel experts, and scouting all-star games and the NFL combine. Individual scouting reports from that legwork can be found in DraftTracker.

Below is our fifth crack at mapping out the first round, along with the first second-round projection. We'll be scouting individual workouts, as well as zeroing in on NFL teams' ever-changing needs to make sure our projections remain accurate and realistic.

* = underclassman

2005 NFL draft, projected first two rounds

1. San Francisco 49ers (2-14)

Aaron Rodgers* | QB | California
The 49ers have essentially narrowed the list of potential candidates down to three -- Cal QB Aaron Rodgers, Utah QB Alex Smith and Michigan WR Braylon Edwards. They would like to have a deal done prior to their 15 minutes on the clock, so the leverage game with the respective agents should start shortly, if it hasn't already. In our opinion, WR Braylon Edwards is the top-overall rated player in the 2005 draft, but the Niners need a quarterback much more than they need a receiver. Personnel officials across the country seem to be split between Rodgers and Smith as this year's top-rated quarterback, but we think Rodgers gets the slight edge because of his greater arm strength and experience in a pro-style system. Smith's rare intangibles are making this an extraordinarily difficult decision for John York (Owner), Scott McCloughan (VP of Player Personnel), Parag Marate (Director of Football Operations) and Mike Nolan (Head Coach). However, when push comes to shove we think the team will pull the trigger on Rodgers.