OAHU, Hawaii –- In a way, top-rated draft prospects are a lot like stocks, with their values rising and dropping daily.

But just over two months before the 2008 NFL Draft, the value of Virginia defensive end Chris Long is undeniably growing.

Three well-connected NFL sources in Hawaii for Sunday's Pro Bowl each said, independent of the other, that there is mounting evidence to think Long will be the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft.

Until now, the names most prominently mentioned as the potential No. 1 pick have been LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan and Arkansas running back Darren McFadden.

Mayock's rankings


Find out who Mike Mayock's top five prospects are at every position. His choices might surprise some of you draft followers out there. Click here for the complete rankings.

List of juniors declaring early

But now, there is growing buzz around Long, who had been regarded as a sure-fire top-5 pick.

The Dolphins are scheduled to pick in the top slot, and the widespread consensus is that Miami football operations chief Bill Parcells believes there is less risk with Long than any other potential No. 1 overall pick.

Long has the talent, the character and the genes to allow the Dolphins to rest easier about investing around $35 million worth of guaranteed money in him.

Should Long go No. 1, as some now are predicting he will, it will be similar to events in other seasons. Every year there is a player or two mentioned as the potential No. 1 pick, and then another player seemingly comes out of nowhere to lay claim to the top position.

Last year it was LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell who climbed past Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn to become the top pick.

In 2006, defensive end Mario Williams unseated USC running back Reggie Bush and Texas quarterback Vince Young in the days leading up to the draft.

And in 2005, it was quarterback Alex Smith who bypassed California quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the weeks before the draft.

The No. 1 overall pick regularly turns out to be a player few forecasted it to be in December and January. This year, that player is looking more and more like Long, the son of Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long.

The younger Long uses his hands well, gets tremendous leverage and has a non-stop motor. That could carry him all the way to the top of the draft, and to Miami.

Officially rich

Last July, the Colts made defensive end Dwight Freeney the highest paid defensive player in league history. Friday it became official.

Indianpolis mailed out a letter notifying Freeney that it had picked up the $15 milion option bonus payment in his contract to go along with the $15 million the Colts had paid the perennial Pro Bowl defensive end last July.

The move was more a formality than anything else. There never seemed to be a question as to whether the Colts would pick up the option bonus.

Titanic shift on the line?


Two of Tennessee's best defensive linemen -- Albert Haynesworth and Antwan Odom -- are unrestricted free agents. While the Titans figure to put the franchise tag on Haynesworth and keep him in town, they are in danger of losing Odom. See where they rank among all defensive linemen in sacks.

» Video highlights: Haynesworth | Odom
» Pro Bowl: Haynesworth on AFC roster

Now that the Colts have picked up the option and tied Freeney to the franhcise for years to come, other defensive standouts will have a benchmark by which to measure their contracts.

Tennessee's Two-some

One reason Tennessee fielded one of the strongest defenses in the league last season was its defensive line. But the defensive line faces dangers in the days to come.

Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and defensive end Antwan Odom, both starters, are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. Tenneessee is expected to franchise Haynesworth, restricting his ability to switch teams and tying him to the Titans for next year.

But with Haynesworth tagged, Odom will have the ability to leave.

Odom is not a household name, but other teams absolutely have noticed his play, which included eight sacks last season.

Odom is a big, talented pass rusher and few of those hit the free-agent market each year. Teams do not allow pass rushers to leave. But Tenneessee could face a difficult time resigning Odom, who blossomed last season after recording only 4.5 sacks in his first three years.

The men

Four NFL head coaching jobs were filled this winter and the four hires were just as improbable as the New York Giants' Super Bowl run.

Think about this: The four newest NFL head coaches are Mike Smith in Atlanta, John Harbaugh in Baltimore, Tony Sparano in Miami and Jim Zorn in Washington.

Before last season, nobody could have predicted that even one of these coaches would be entrusted with a franchise, no less all four of them. One hire was as surprising as the next.

There was no Bill Cowher, no Steve Mariucci, no Jim Fassel, no Pete Carroll and no significant names. But the owners who made the hires believe these coaches will make a significant difference.

And they might. But check back in two seasons.

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