Leon Hall was exactly what the Cincinnati Bengals wanted -- a cornerback with a lot of speed and no baggage.
For the second year in a row, the Bengals took a cornerback in the first round of the draft. They coveted Hall, who developed into one of the nation's best at Michigan while staying out of trouble.
"Everything is positive about this kid," defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan said yesterday. "This young individual is perfect for us right now."
No team had to pay as much attention to character as the Bengals, who couldn't afford to bring in another player with problems. They had nine players arrested in a nine-month span, six of them draft picks from the last two years.
The 22-year-old cornerback has a clean past, something that Bengals coaches proudly and repeatedly pointed out after they took him with the 18th overall pick.
Besides staying out of trouble, Hall is expected to significantly improve a defense that's dragged down the Bengals. They had one of the NFL's worst defenses last season, a recurring problem during Marvin Lewis's four years as head coach.
After having four starters leave in free agency and then waiting more than six hours to make a pick, the Super Bowl champions took Ohio State receiver Anthony Gonzalez with the 32d pick overall, then made an uncharacteristic trade to select Arkansas tackle Tony Ugoh early in the second round. Team president Bill Polian explained the moves by saying the Colts wanted to get younger.
"If you have players there that you think will make us better, then you have to strike while the iron's hot," Polian said.
Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning endorsed the moves enthusiastically.
"His text message was, 'I like it,' " coach Tony Dungy said.
The 49ers selected Willis, the award-winning Mississippi linebacker, with the 11th overall pick. San Francisco then pulled a surprise, trading next year's first-round pick and a fourth-rounder this year for New England's 28th overall selection -- which they used on Staley, a powerful offensive tackle from Central Michigan.
Both players spent a week in January with coach Mike Nolan and his staff in Alabama, where the 49ers' coaches have twice served as volunteer coaches at the Senior Bowl, the all-star game where dozens of prospects show off their skills.
"There's a common theme here," Nolan acknowledged.
Michael Turner, the talented backup to NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson, is staying put, at least for now, because no one met the Chargers' steep asking price.
Not long after using the 30th pick to take speedy LSU wide receiver Craig Davis, the Chargers sent a handful of picks to Chicago in order to move up 25 spots in the second round and take Utah safety Eric Weddle.
But the Chargers didn't find anyone willing to meet their price for Turner, a bruising 237-pounder who averaged 6.3 yards a carry.
Chargers general manager A.J. Smith didn't take questions from the media. But Titans coach Jeff Fisher confirmed to reporters in Tennessee that the teams had conversations about Turner involving the 19th pick, but the Chargers raised the asking price.