Friday, April 28, 2006

The NFL Mock Draft 2006

The next two days will see the names of 255 talented young football players called. Whether they’re blue-chippers tapped at the top of the first round, or projects taken on a wing and a prayer at the bottom of the seventh, all of them hold the promise of a bright NFL future. Of course, most of them won’t make it there, and some of them won’t even step on the field.

With that in mind, here’s my day one mock draft. Three rounds, with analysis for the first round and a bit.

This is influenced more by who I think each team should take, rather than who I think they will take. This also isn’t so much my take on who the best players are (though that factors in a bit), but I tried to stay close to the value board, and project picks based on a team’s philosophy, style of play, and need.

So sit back and enjoy, because the Houston Texans are on the clock!

Pre-Draft Trade
Green Bay: WR Ashley Lelie, 37th Pick, Conditional 2007 Draft Pick
Denver: WR Javon Walker, TE Bubba Franks, 67th Pick

1st Round

1 – Houston Texans. Reggie Bush, RB, USC.
He projects to be a franchise player in the NFL. He has great speed, and will only get better as a rusher as he adds some bulk to his frame. In the meantime, he can contribute as a part-time back, receiver, and return man – just like he has at USC for the past three years. Concerns about his durability are unfounded, as he is really no smaller than many other backs that have had successful careers. While it’s tough to pass on a prospect like Mario Williams or D’Brickashaw Ferguson, both of whom fill big areas of need for the Texans, a trio of Bush, David Carr, and Andre Johnson could have the Texans contending for a championship in the latter half of this decade.

2 – New Orleans Saints. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, OT, Virginia
The Saints should trade down to 4 or 5, but I don’t see a reason why either the Jets or Packers should agree to swap spots with them. I think they should stay away from quarterbacks here, not just because of the Drew Brees signing, so this comes down to Williams or Ferguson. A bold pick would be AJ Hawk, but the Saints can address the linebacker position in the second round. I give the nod to Ferguson here. Both him and Williams are great prospects, but D’Brick gets the nod not based on team need, but because he’s been a premier performer in college for longer, and from all accounts, his football IQ is off the charts. That this pick happens to fill a need as well is just icing on the cake.

3 – Tennessee Titans. Matt Leinart, QB, USC
The Titans need a Quarterback ,with Steve McNair on the way out, and 30-year old Billy Volek being nothing more than a solid backup. Fortunately for them, a former Heisman Trophy winner and national champion is available. In my draft primer yesterday, I called Leinart the safest pick out of the three quarterbacks who will go in the first round. That’s part of the reason I give him the nod here; another is his familiarity with Norm Chow’s offense. While there are concerns about his arm strength, I think it’s more than adequate for the NFL. He also possesses good accuracy, and underrated mobility – which is different from speed, and more important in my opinion for a quarterback to have. Leinart should start from day one in Music City.

4 – New York Jets. Mario Williams, DE, North Carolina State
The temptation will be there for the Jets to trade down from this spot, and while there’s some merit to the idea, especially if they stay in the top 8, I think that they’ll be best served by standing pat and grabbing Williams. AJ Hawk should be a consideration here too, but Williams could be a Richard Seymour-type player in Eric Mangini’s 3-4 defense. It’s also possible that he’ll have enough mobility to play standing up on passing downs, which would be unheard of for a 300 pounder. There are some questions about his consistency, but he has too much potential to pass up here. He’ll be a player in whatever defensive system he works in.

5 – Green Bay Packers. Vernon Davis, TE, Maryland
I’m not sold on Davis, but he has unheard of speed for a tight end, and fills a need for the Packers. Even if they don’t trade Bubba Franks, he’s coming off a concussion, and it remains to be seen how effective he will be. The Packers appear to be in denial about their general crappiness, and are trying their best to gear up for one more run in Brett Favre’s final year. If they’re going to do that, they might as well give him another toy to work with on offense. Come 2007, Davis will be around to help ease Aaron Rodgers’ transition into the starting lineup.

Oakland: 6th, 100th, 175th picks
San Francisco: 7th, 69th picks

6 - Oakland Raiders. Vince Young, QB, Texas
The Raiders overpay a bit according to the value chart, but it’s worth it to acquire Vince Young. While the Raiders like QB Andrew Walter, who they drafted last year, Young projects to be a much better pro. Also, Walter could play a Matt Schaub-like role for the Raiders if Young's style of play gets him into injury trouble - which it very well could.

As for VY, he has great size, and despite an unorthodox release, has a strong arm, and knows how to find the receiver. I’m not sure how effective he’ll be as a runner, but he think he can make it as a passer. He will need 1-2 years on the bench to be groomed though.

If you’re wondering why the Raiders traded up one spot, it was to ensure that a team like Arizona didn’t get ahead of them.

7 – San Francisco 49ers. AJ Hawk, LB, Ohio State
This is the toughest pick for me, as both Hawk and Huff will be franchise players, in my opinion. What this pick comes down to for me is that the 3-4 defense that the Niners run depends on strong linebacker play. So if that’s the direction that they’re going in, then Hawk should be the selection. He can play either inside or outside, and has proven himself to be a warrior on the field during his tenure at Ohio State.

I may regret this pick if AJ’s fiancée, Laura Quinn (Brady’s sister), ever shows up wearing a hybrid Niners/whatever team Brady ends up playing for jersey, like she did for the Buckeyes-Irish Fiesta Bowl game this year.

8 – Buffalo Bills. Michael Huff, DB, Texas
You didn’t think I would leave my boy Michael Huff on the board any longer, did you? Most people predict that the Bills will go with either an offensive or defensive tackle here; while those are both positions of need, it’s too early to pick Winston Justice or Broderick Bunkley, and Haloti Ngata is a poor fit for their system. Aside from that, they have a second rounder and two third rounders which they can use to address needs. Nate Clements is established at one corner spot, and Terrence McGee is in at the second, but Huff can contribute as a nickel back or safety. Good teams draft the best player, and he’s clearly the best left on the board.

9 – Detroit Lions. Santonio Holmes, WR, Ohio State
Just kidding. If you’re reading this Matt Millen, don’t get any ideas.

Here’s the actual pick:

9 – Detroit Lions. Ernie Sims, LB, Florida State
There are some concerns about concussions that he has suffered, but he’s a phenomenal talent with great speed. That, and some character questions, might cause him to slide, but most people would agree that on talent alone he’s worthy of the 9th pick. Head Coach Rod Marinelli will employ the Cover 2 defense, and will need fast linebackers like Sims to succeed. He’s the perfect fit for Detroit at this point in the draft.

10 – Arizona Cardinals. Winston Justice, OT, USC
They’ll be tempted to take Jay Cutler, but Justice could solidify one of the tackle positions for the Cards, which they need to happen if they’re talented offense is ever going to take off. The Cards could look to trade down too to grab a DB or linebacker Chad Greenway, but Justice is a good talent, and he will not last past the 13th or 14th pick if they don’t grab him here.

Philadelphia: 11th, 144th picks
St. Louis: 14th, 108th, 116th, 127th picks

11 – Philadelphia Eagles. Haloti Ngata, DT, Oregon
They just miss out on Justice, but Ngata is a monster defensive tackle who will address an area of need. I’m not sold that he’ll be an all-pro, but if any coach can coax the most out of him, it’s probably Andy Reid. The trade sees the Eagles trade 3 4th rounders for an extra 5th rounder, which will help with the depth of the Rams draft. The Eagles need to move up because the odds of Ngata falling past the next two picks are slim. Also, in keeping their other two first day picks, they are in position to address needs at other positions, such as OT and LB.

12 – Cleveland Browns. Kamerion Wimbley, DE/LB, Florida State
They just miss out on Ngata, who would be the perfect nose tackle in the 3-4 defense. However, Wimbley is hardly a consolation prize. At 270 pounds, he has the ideal size to play outside linebacker in the 3-4. He can contribute right away opposite of veteran Willie McGinest, and provides the Browns with a desperately needed young building block on defense.

Minnesota: 13th, 181st picks
Baltimore: 17th, 83rd picks

Baltimore gets the additional first day pick they’re looking for, while Minnesota gets to pick…

13 – Minnesota Vikings. Jay Cutler, QB, Vanderbilt.
The Vikings think that Cutler is the ideal quarterback for their system, so there’s no reason why they shouldn’t go after him. Even if I think he will be a disappointment. With five first day picks, they can afford to sacrifice one to move up four spots; it’s very possible that St. Louis or Denver would have picked him right away as well.

14 – St. Louis Rams. Chad Jackson, WR, Florida
Everyone’s assuming that they will go defense here, and they do have needs at defensive tackle and cornerback. Scott Linehan’s offense likes to throw the ball deep, and Jackson is the best deep threat in the draft. The Rams have a good set of receivers already, but Isaac Bruce is near the end of his career, and while Kevin Curtis may end up being a good starter, he doesn’t stretch the field the way that Jackson will.

Dallas; 15th pick
Denver: 18th, 80th picks

15 – Dallas Cowboys. Donte Whitner, S, Ohio State
Whitner has shot up the draft boards, and can project as either a corner of a safety in the pros. I see him stepping straight into the lineup at free safety, which is a huge position of need for the Cowboys. They know that both Miami and Baltimore are looking at Safeties, so they need to move up to get the one they want. Denver has a handful of players it could pick, and with the acquisition of Javon Walker, aren’t as pressed to add a receiver.

16 – Miami Dolphins. Manny Lawson, DE/LB, North Carolina State
While the Dolphins will look hard at receiver (Santonio Holmes) and defensive back (Jason Allen), they should settle on Lawson, who is the perfect hybrid end/backer to play in Nick Saban’s system. Santonio Holmes may have more upside, but they can address that position on the second day. Lawson is talented enough to warrant the 16th overall selection, and will step in and make a difference from day one.

17 – Baltimore Ravens. Antonio Cromartie, CB, Florida State
He missed the entire 2005 season due to injury, but shot up the draft boards over the past three months due to his size (6-2) and standout performance at the combine. The Ravens think he can play safety, where he’ll step in to start the 2006 season, but he has enough talent to play corner as well, and will be a difference-maker on the field.

18 – Denver Broncos. Santonio Holmes, WR, Ohio State
If he was taller than 6 feet, he’d be a lock for the top 10. As it stands, though, he’s a steal for the Broncos here. He has great speed, hands, and runs great routes as well. If the Broncos can bring him in, he should contribute as the third receiver from day one, and could very well replace Rod Smith in the near future.

19 – San Diego Chargers. Johnathan Joseph, CB, South Carolina.
We’re into the run on cornerbacks, and it’s a toss-up here between him and Tye Hill of Clemson. Joseph has better size and athleticism, so he gets the nod.

20 – Kansas City Chiefs. Tye Hill, CB, Clemson
They can’t make this pick fast enough. Hill is possibly the best cover corner in this draft, the only thing he’s lacking is ideal size. Still, at number 20, he’s a great pick that will help the Chiefs out right away.

NY Giants: 21st, 118th picks
New England: 25th, 87th picks

21 – New York Giants. Broderick Bunkley, DT, Florida State
He has the talent to go much higher, but slides for a number of reasons. The Giants move up and grab him to anchor the interior of the line; they’re in the market for a young talent after the departure of Kendrick Clancy. Bunkley will look good in the 4-3, and should make a lot of plays with star ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umeniyori demanding attention from blockers.

22 – San Francisco 49ers. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Memphis
He’s the best player available at this point. While it might be tempting to add a defensive back, or a linebacker like Bobby Carpenter of Ohio State (who would be a great pick here), Williams has the talent to be a franchise back for the next decade, which Kevan Barlow and Frank Gore do not. Head Coach Mike Nolan is familiar with Williams, having coached him in the Senior Bowl this year, and understands how a strong running game is necessary for keeping your defense off the field, and helping ease the burden on his young quarterback. And yes, I love DeAngelo, and think he will be a star. That’s why I’m projecting this pick. But I would be happy with Bobby Carpenter as well.

Chicago: 23rd, 235th picks
Tampa Bay: 26th, 120th, 200th picks

23 – Chicago Bears. Chad Greenway, LB, Iowa
The Bears have an immediate need at Free Safety, but Greenway is far too good of a talent to pass up. He probably deserves to go about 7-10 spots higher than this, He may not be the ideal fit for the 3-4 due to his difficulties in taking on blockers, which is why I don’t have him going to a team like Dallas, San Diego, or San Francisco. While he doesn’t have the speed that most linebackers who play in the Cover 2 do, he knows how to get to the ball, and has the instincts to make up for any physical limitations.

24 – Cincinnati Bengals. Jimmy Williams, DB, Virginia Tech
He’s a big-time talent who has scared some teams off because of concerns about his attitude. Nonetheless, he has far too much talent to last much longer on the board, and Marvin Lewis should roll the dice and hope that he can keep Williams focused on the field. He can also play either corner or safety, which adds to his value.

25 – New England Patriots. Bobby Carpenter, LB, Ohio State
Carpenter, who is a great value pick in the mid 20s, also addresses a huge need for the Patriots. Their linebacking corps was thin and aging at the end of last year; with the departure of Willie McGinest, it has only gotten thinner. While Carpenter was overshadowed in college by teammate AJ Hawk, he is a playmaker in his own right. He has the ideal size for a 3-4 linebacker, and can step right into Willie’s old starting spot on the outside.

26 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jason Allen, DB, Tennessee
Like Antonio Cromartie, Allen slid down the board because of the time he missed as a senior, but rehabilitated his stock with great performances in the pre-draft workout. Allen is yet another tweener defensive back prospect, which makes him all the more valuable. The Bucs have more pressing needs on the offensive line, but Allen is the best player available for them right now.

Pittsburgh: 27th, 155th picks
Carolina: 32nd, 96th, 201st picks

27 – Pittsburgh Steelers. LenDale White, RB, USC
White has seen his stock drop due to off-season injuries which have prevented him from participating in the workouts. Nonetheless, anyone who saw him at USC knows how good he can be. White has great size for a back, and can carry the ball 25 times a game in the NFL. He’s too good to pass up here, especially for a team like the Steelers, who like to have big running backs.

28 – Jacksonville Jaguars. Thomas Howard, LB, UTEP
The Jags love athletic players, and they won’t find many better athletes on the board than this linebacker. Howard has good size to play in the 4-3, and posted a 4.42 40 in the combine. He may need to be eased into the starting lineup, but his potential could turn out to be worth the investment.

29 – New York Jets. Richard Marshall, CB, Fresno State
Marshall may not make a ton of big plays, but he’s strong in coverage, and will help speed up the rebuilding process on defense.

30 – Indianapolis Colts. Joseph Addai, RB, LSU
I doubt that they’d pass on Laurence Maroney if he were available, but Addai is the better receiver out of the backfield, and is a far better fit for the Colts offense than Mauroney is. He may not be of the same caliber of Edgerrin James, but he will be a more than adequate replacement.

31 – Seattle Seahawks. Ashton Youboty, CB, Ohio State
Youboty is a physical corner, and he can step right in and contribute as the nickel back for Seattle. They would like to add a pass rusher, but the only defensive end who deserves consideration here is Tamba Hali, who’s not a pass-rushing specialist.

32 – Carolina Panthers. Laurence Maroney, RB, Minnesota
They would love to add a linebacker, but Maroney offers more value than any of the remaining backers of the board. With injury-prone DeShaun Foster being the only proven running back on the Panthers’ roster, Mauroney fills another area of need for the team as well.

2nd Round

33 – Houston Texans. Eric Winston, OT, Miami-FL
Fills a need at OT, and this is right about where he should come off the board.

34 – New Orleans Saints. DeMeco Ryans, LB, Alabama
He may not have ideal size or speed, but he knows how to make plays, and will be a steal for the Saints in this spot.

35 – New York Jets. Nick Mangold, C, Ohio State
A great value at this pick. He could be the anchor on the o-line for the next decade, and immediately strengthens the unit by stepping in as center, and allowing Trey Teague to move to tackle.

36 – Green Bay Packers. Sinorice Moss, WR, Miami-FL
He’s a game-breaker who can contribute as a receiver and return man, and take the spot of now-departed Antonio Chatman.

37 – Green Bay Packers. Davin Joseph, OG, Oklahoma
Big need position for the Pack, and he also should come off the board around now.

38 – Oakland Raiders. Tamba Hali, DE, Penn State
He’s an absolute steal here. I think he deserves to go at least 10 spots higher, but just couldn’t find a good fit on the board until now.

39 – Tennessee Titans. Marcus McNeill, OT, Auburn

40 – Detroit Lions. D’Qwell Jackson, LB, Maryland
Him and Sims will be the core of the new Lions defense.

41 – Arizona Cardinals. Charlie Whitehurst, QB, Clemson

42 – Buffalo Bills. John McCargo, DT, North Carolina State
May be a bit early, but he’s a big-time talent.

Carolina: 43rd pick
Cleveland: 58th, 88th picks

43 – Carolina Panthers. Marcedes Lewis, TE, UCLA
Absolute steal at this point.

44 – Baltimore Ravens. Gabe Watson, DT, Michigan
He has the ideal size to keep blockers off of Ray Lewis.

45 – Philadelphia Eagles. Roger McIntosh, LB, Miami-FL

46 – St. Louis Rams. Leonard Pope, TE, Georgia

47 – Atlanta Falcons. Max Jean-Gilles, OG, Georgia

48 – Minnesota Vikings. Abdul Hodge, LB, Iowa

49 – Dallas Cowboys – Andrew Whitworth, OT, LSU

50 – San Diego Chargers – Greg Jennings, WR, Western Michigan

51 – Minnesota Vikings. Taitusi “Deuce” Lutui, OG, USC

52 – New England Patriots. Danieal Manning, DB, Abilene Christian

Houston: 53rd picks
Washington: 65th, 98th picks

53 – Houston Texans. Ko Simpson, S, South Carolina

54 – Kansas City Chiefs. Darryl Tapp, DE, Virginia Tech

55 – Cincinnati Bengals. Mathias Kiwanuka, DE, Boston College

56 – New York Giants. Brian Calhoun, RB, Wisconsin

57 – Chicago Bears. Daniel Bullocks, S, Nebraska

58 – Cleveland Browns. Cedric Griffin, CB, Texas

59 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Chris Chester, OL, Oklahoma

60 – Jacksonville Jaguars. Dominique Byrd, TE, USC

61 – Denver Broncos. Brodie Croyle, QB, Alabama

62 – Indianapolis Colts. Jon Alston, LB, Stanford

63 – Seattle Seahawks. Demetrius Williams, WR, Oregon

64 – Pittsburgh Steelers. Devin Hester, CB/WR, Miami-FL

3rd Round

65 – Washington Redskins. Alan Zemaitis, CB, Penn State

66 – Houston Texans. Darnell Bing, S, USC

67 – Denver Broncos. Mark Anderson, DE, Alabama

68 – Denver Broncos. Claude Wroten, DT, LSU

69 – San Francisco 49ers. Joe Klopfenstein, TE, Colorado
Best player on the board.

70 – Buffalo Bills. Daryn Colledge, OT, Boise State

71 – New York Jets. Kellen Clemens, QB, Oregon

72 – Arizona Cardinals. Dee Webb, CB, Florida

73 – Buffalo Bills. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, UCLA

74 – Detroit Lions. Charles Spencer, OG, Pittsburgh

75 – New England Patriots. Maurice Stovall, WR, Notre Dame

76 – Philadelphia Eagles. David Thomas, TE, Texas

77 – St. Louis Rams. David Pittman, CB, Northwestern State

78 – Cleveland Browns. Montavious Stanley, DT, Louisville

79 – Atlanta Falcons. Ray Edwards, DE, Purdue

80 – Denver Broncos. Greg Eslinger, OC, Minnesota

81 – San Diego Chargers. Jonathan Scott, OT, Texas

82 – Miami Dolphins. Pat Watkins, S, Florida State

83 – Baltimore Ravens. Dusty Dvoracek, DT, Oklahoma

84 – San Francisco 49ers. Rodrique Wright, DT, Texas

85 – Kansas City Chiefs. Travis Wilson, WR, Oklahoma

86 – New England Patriots. Kai Parham, LB, Virginia

87 – New England Patriots. Bernard Pollard, S, Purdue

88 – Cleveland Browns. Derek Hagan, WR, Arizona State

89 – Carolina Panthers. James Anderson, LB, Virginia Tech

90 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Orien Harris, DT, Miami-FL

91 – Cincinnati Bengals. Omar Jacobs, QB, Bowling Green

92 – Jacksonville Jaguars. Jerious Norwood, RB, Mississippi State

93 – Atlanta Falcons. DeMario Minter, CB, Georgia

94 – Indianapolis Colts. Kyle Williams, DT, LSU

95 – Minnesota Vikings. Spencer Havner, LB, UCLA

96 – Carolina Panthers. Roman Harper, S, Alabama

97 – New York Jets. Parys Haralson, DE/LB, Tennessee

End of the first day trade
Minnesota: RB Kevan Barlow, 213th pick
San Francisco: 115th pick

That takes care of day one. For everyone interested in how the real thing shakes down, come back here for more analysis later in the weekend...after you've gotten your Mel Kiper fix for the year. Enjoy!


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