DARTING HERE and there ...

- He's the NFL Draft pick of my personal dreams: Nebraska center Richie

Incognito as the final selection, thus turning Mr. Incognito into Mr. Irrelevant.

- If only the whole shebang were irrelevant. The draft might be the most overblown, overrated event in sports, when 40 times and bench presses take way too much precedence over intelligence and character. And that's just with the ESPN announcers.

- Unfortunately, it's against the rules to do it on purpose. But it actually might be in the 49ers' best interest simply to let their time elapse, pass and not take anybody until they feel it is appropriate to jump in. Just drafting between first and fifth could make the difference in about $10 million in a signing bonus.

- Draftniks who downgrade Aaron Rodgers are seriously underestimating his leadership qualities and competitive toughness in big situations. They should pop in the tape of last year's USC game to be reminded, when he completed his first 23 passes.

- Maybe I like Rodgers too much, but everything I read about Alex Smith sounds too much like Tim Couch. And if I hear "upside" one more time, I'm going downside on the nearest porcelain throne.

- I'm all for wide receiver Braylon Edwards, but only if the Niners can move down. But there a lot of people out there (including me) who will tell you USC's Mike Williams is going to be even better.

- How come no one's debating the players the Niners could draft at No.33? That should be a pretty good player, too.

- Superior second-day sleeper: Cal's Chase Lyman. The next Ed McCaffery waiting to happen, and maybe better because of his speed. Just the kind of player you don't want to see wind up in Denver.

- Why You Can't Assess A Draft The Day After It Happens Dept.: The Raiders received raves from just about everyone with their top four 2002 picks, two of which were made as a result of the "trade" for Jon Gruden. But of Philip Buchanon, Napoleon Harris, Doug Jolley and Langston Walker, only Walker is left now, and he's a field goal-blocking backup.

- The classic Al Rosen line fit Buchanon as well as any pro athlete who's landed in these parts in recent years: million-dollar body, 10-cent head.

- At the point I read a Texas assessment about Buchanon fitting well into Houston's "complex defensive scheme," I laughed out loud. "Showtime" doesn't do "complex."

- With Buchanon gone and the Raiders still trying to move Charles Woodson's monstrous 2005 contract, Clemson cornerback Justin Miller definitely seems like the fit at No.26 for Oakland. But why do I have this nagging feeling it'll be the guy named Fabian (Washington, out of Nebraska)?

- Would the Raiders consider a player named Justin Tuck, even if he is a rush end?

- Rich Harden, A's ace. Not even debatable now.

- Predictably, Dan Johnson leads the Sacramento RiverCats in RBIs with 14. Last year's Pacific Coast League MVP needs to be in Oakland and in the lineup.

- So who was the ANG twit who said the Dodgers' Jim Tracy would be the first manager to be fired. Hey, it might still happen, if he's caught forging checks.

- At least for the Cubs, he has been Nomar Garciapariah.

- Any one of six teams — the Suns, Spurs, Mavericks, Nuggets, Heat or Pistons — could win the NBA title. I'll take the Pistons in a repeat, only because few others are.

- Could Baron Davis be named NBA Comeback Player of Year based on what happened the past two months?

- Kids Say The Darndest Things, 2005 version: Asked who was the first man to walk on the moon during a trivia game, my 10-year-old daughter answered, "Lance Armstrong."

- Just a hunch, by the way, but it's looking as if Lance should have stopped at six, just like M.J.

- Finally, bringing up the rear, even in this column, Marion Jones.

Carl Steward can be reached

at (510) 293-2451 or by e-mail at

csteward@angnewspapers.com