Dabo Swinney is not an NFL general manager and has never been employed by the St. Louis Rams or any of their subsidiaries.

But he does know something about the draft. His son, Drew, was one of the first picks in an Upstate youth baseball league in which Swinney moonlights as an assistant coach.

Clemson's head football coach knows a lot about do-it-all running back C.J. Spiller, a recent Clemson graduate projected as an early first-round pick tonight as the NFL draft makes its prime-time debut.

This should be a no-brainer.

"I guess the Rams pick first," Swinney said Wednesday. "I don't know who their back is, but they don't have C.J. Spiller. So it would be real easy for me."

Foolishly, the Rams probably will select oft-injured quarterback Sam Bradford.

Nice guy.

Skilled passer.

A huge, mega-millions risk.

Recent first-overall quarterback picks include Tim Couch (1999), David Carr (2002), Alex Smith (2005) and JaMarcus Russell (2007).

Stronger, faster

The Detroit Lions have the second pick. The hapless franchise, perhaps the fourth-best football team in Michigan, is projected to take an offensive lineman.

Or a defensive lineman.

Or Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander.

Didn't their scouts watch the ACC championship game?

The one in which Spiller rushed for 233 yards and four touchdowns in a 39-34 loss to Georgia Tech?

"I just think he's the best player in the draft," Swinney said. "He was the best player in the country this year. He's certainly the most productive."

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the third overall pick.

Ah, Florida. Spiller's home Sunshine State. He wore No. 28 as a tribute to Warrick Dunn, the former Tampa Bay star.

No, the Bucs likely will opt for one of the big guys the Lions let go.

Just don't say these NFL genius types were not warned. Spiller is Tennessee Titans speed back Chris Johnson, only more versatile. He is Minnesota Vikings hybrid Percy Harvin, but stronger. He is a faster version of New Orleans Saints dynamo Reggie Bush.

The Washington Redskins have the fourth pick.

Spiller instantly can become new Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb's best friend.

Or look at it this way: Which rookie prospect do Washington's bitter NFC East rivals Dallas, Philadelphia and the New York Giants least want the Redskins to acquire?

From then on it's the Kansas City Chiefs No. 5, Seattle Seahawks No. 6 and Cleveland Browns No. 7, and if Spiller lasts until the Oakland Raiders' No. 8 pick, several GMs should be fired.

Of course, Swinney is not objective.

But no one should be objective after Clemson's 40-37 overtime victory over Miami last October. Spiller gobbled up 310 all-purpose yards, a school record.

10 years after

"He's like three players in one pick," Swinney said. "Three really, really good players in one pick."

Back. Receiver. Return specialist.

Actually, maybe four good players in one.

Spiller might see more Wildcat quarterback action in the NFL than he did at Clemson, where he was the school's best player since college football shifted to the single-platoon system several decades ago.

The Carolina Panthers do not have a first-round pick but should trade up, dealing players, future picks, cheerleaders and cash for Spiller.

The Miami Dolphins with Spiller and newly acquired wide receiver Brandon Marshall would alter the AFC East power structure.

Unless wise, old Bill Belichick pulls the trigger and gives New England the draft's ultimate game-changer.

Spiller seems like a can't-miss pick.

But 31 teams will miss an opportunity.

"I just think when it's all said and done, 10 years from now," Swinney said, "everybody will be wondering who got picked in front of him."

Reach Gene Sapakoff at gsapakoff@postandcourier.com or (843) 937-5593.