Here it is. My final first round mock for the 2006 NFL Draft. Enjoy.
1. Houston – Reggie Bush, RB, USC
– Nothing new on the Texans front. As Draft Day draws closer, there is less and less talk of Houston trading out of the #1 spot. I still say they’ll stay put, draft Bush, and reap the benefits from bringing in one of the most dynamic playmakers we will have seen in some time.
2. New Orleans – D’Brickashaw Ferguson, OT, Virginia
– While Brees’ contract certainly leaves the door open for a possible release next season, here’s to predicting Brees will be healthy and effective for the Saints next season, rendering the talk of drafting a successor moot. There’s been a lot of talk about New Orleans possibly trading down, but I’m not here to predict that sort of thing, so I’ll stick with my guns and say the Saints will go with Ferguson. Jamaal Brown is a great young tackle on the right side, and the addition of Ferguson would give the Saints two great bookends to build around. UPDATE: It appears NO is intent on moving Brown to the left side. Regardless, I still think Brick can make a smooth adjustment to the right side considering his immense talent. I just don’t think New Orleans can pass him up.
3. Tennessee – Matt Leinart, QB, USC
– With the falling out taking place with McNair, this pick is making more and more sense. Reuniting Leinart with his college mentor, Norm Chow, is about as good a personnel decision you can make for a young signal caller. Chow’s record with classic, dropback QBs is legendary, and he should be able to ease Leinart’s transition to the NFL level quite a bit. It’s not like Leinart needs much more tutoring, though; He’s the most NFL-ready rookie QB to enter this league since Peyton Manning. He’s got the accuracy, the vision, and all the intangibles you can think of.
4. NY Jets – Mario Williams, DE, NC State
– John Abraham has finally left the building, but he leaves a big void behind at his DE spot. Shaun Ellis is a stout player on one side, but Bryan Thomas has been a huge bust and selecting Mario Williams would give the Jets a more-than-suitable replacement for Abraham. Mario’s physical tools were always there, and he really put it altogether this past season – especially towards the end of it, highlighted by a 4-sack performance. He has the ability to take over a game from his DE spot, a la Julius Peppers. New head coach Eric Mangini is a defensive guy, so drafting the best defensive player in the draft makes sense.
5. Green Bay – AJ Hawk, OLB, Ohio State
– As I’ve said before, the Packers have a lot of holes, so it’d be wise of them to select the best player available. Who is truly the best, though? Vernon Davis wouldn’t be the wisest of moves since he doesn’t really fill a huge hole. Michael Huff is an intriguing pick here, but 6 is a bit too high for a safety. AJ Hawk is the pick for me here. You won’t find many players more NFL-ready than he is, and he fills a huge hole at linebacker. Nick Barnett’s stats are nice, but he’s earned a lot of justified criticism for his iffy play. The next best tackler on their linebacking unit last year was…Paris Lenon. Hawk could become a defensive leader rather quickly, and he’d make a defense made respectable by Jim Bates even better.
6. San Francisco – Winston Justice, OT, USC
– Tough call here. Alex Smith needs all the receiving help he can get, and Vernon Davis is a chic pick with a lot of pundits here. I don’t buy it, though. The best way to help a young signal-caller is to build him a great offensive line. Ask Joey Harrington or David Carr how much they’d appreciate it if their teams thought that way. The 49ers have something decent brewing down there with young guys like Heitmann, Baas, and Smiley showing marked improvement, and they need to build upon that. Winston Justice is a real boom or bust pick. His workout numbers have really saturated his draft stock, but make no mistake about it, he has the potential to be one of the best RTs in the NFL. He’d certainly be better than that bust Kwame Harris, who’s just been marinating over there on the right side of the line.
7. Oakland – Haloti Ngata, NT, Oregon
– If AJ Hawk were to somehow fall here, I’d imagine the Raiders would pounce on him immediately. Since that appears unlikely, the Raiders will have to “settle” for Ngata, who’s a tremendous prospect in his own right. With Ted Washington out, the Raiders have a gaping hole at the nose tackle position in their 3-4. Haloti’s tremendous size(6’4″, 338)/speed(5.1) combination makes scouts drool over his potential. If he’d develop a stronger work ethic and commitment to every snap, he could become a perennial Pro Bowl player. At the very least, he’ll be a solid space eater for Oakland.
8. Buffalo – Vernon Davis, TE, Maryland
– Lee Evans is the only receiver on the Bills roster who has made any sort of impact in the NFL, so it’s going to be tough for the Bills to pass on Vernon Davis here, whom some figure will go before this pick. The Bills did select Kevin Everett on the first day of the draft last year, but he missed the entire season with an injury and his ability is nowhere near Vernon’s. Whomever quarterbacks the Bills would very much appreciate a crutch like Davis, who is a tremendous mismatch for any linebacker or safety. Everyone knows what Davis brings to the table physically, but the production was also there in college as he led the ACC in receiving this past season.
9. Detroit – Michael Huff, CB/FS, Texas
– Rod Marinelli is implementing a Tampa “Cover 2” scheme up in MoTown, which calls for a lot of roaming from the Free Safety. At this moment, the Lions have nobody worth a darn at the position. Enter Huff, who’d be a real steal here. He’s one of the best safeties to come out of the college ranks in years, with some comparing him to the great Ronnie Lott. He’s got the size, and he showed off his speed at his Pro Day, running a legit 4.3. His versatility is an added plus, as he can play both safety and cornerback, which is another need for the Lions.
10. Arizona – Jay Cutler, QB, Vanderbilt
– Kurt Warner will give the Cardinals a viable short-term fix at QB, but we all know the future of Arizona isn’t with him. Drafting Cutler here may initiate a series of groans from all of the Cardinals faithful(all seven of them) due to the little impact he will have on the present, but the reality is they have no depth at all behind Warner, and to be able to groom a player with Cutler’s ability and work ethic behind would be a real blessing for the franchise. He wont be thrown into the fire, and he’ll have ample time to develop chemistry with all of Arizona’s great skill players. Cutler has been everybodys favorite QB since the Combine, and there’s a good chance he’s taken before this pick. If he falls this far, though, I see the Cardinals scooping him up.
11. St Louis – Jimmy Williams, CB, Virginia Tech
– I still see the Rams taking Williams here. They’ve done nothing to improve their secondary through Free Agency, so this selection becomes even more of a necessity. Considering Archuleta’s departure, it’s fathomable to see Williams playing a lot at safety as well. He’s big(6’2″), he’s fast(4.4), and he has the attitude to become a great player in the NFL. Some feel his cockiness is a negative, but I see it as a total positive. The kid is supremely confident in himself, and I like that.
12. Cleveland – Kamerion Wimbley, DE/OLB, Florida State
– The Browns are reportedly infatuated with two players: Haloti Ngata and Kamerion Wimbley. With Ngata off the board, the Browns will almost certainly select Wimbley. An ideal fit for Crennel’s 3-4 scheme, Wimbley is a pure pass rusher with the frame to develop into much more than that. With a few years of NFL play under his belt, he could become a force coming off of the edge. The Browns need all the help they can get for their front seven, so this is a good start.
13. Baltimore – Vince Young, QB, Texas
– The suspense is over. VY is off the board. Without question, Young is the most enigmatic prospect in recent NFL draft history. The opinions on him are very polarized, ranging from elite prospect to a sure-fire bust. My gut tells me a lot of the teams in the top ten will shy away from the Texas star, but it’s an extremely low-risk investment for Baltimore at the 13th spot. Yes, the Ravens do have other needs, but the truth is Boller is no better a passer than Young, so pick the guy who can make plays with both his hands and his feet. His every snap in the NFL will be scrutinized regardless of who picks him, so it might be a blessing for him to play in the somewhat quiet confines of Baltimore.
14. Philadelphia – Ernie Sims, OLB, Florida State
– At this moment, Philadelphia’s projected starting OLBs are Dhani Jones and the recently re-acquired Shawn Barber. That’s just nasty. The Eagles will pounce on Sims, whose physical measurables(5’11” 230) turn off some, but there’s no denying his motor and talent. He’s a perfect 43 weakside linebacker, reminding many of another undersized linebacker – Derrick Brooks. He does have a bit of a temper problem, but I don’t think he’ll be much of a distraction with all of those veteran leaders in Philly.
15. Denver – Santonio Holmes, WR, Ohio State
– Denver robbed Atlanta of this pick thanks to the blockbuster Abraham trade. They’ll be doing backflips up in Mile High when this selection is made. It’s no secret that Denver is interested in bringing in a young receiver to groom behind Rod Smith, and many figured they’d settle for Jackson later in the first round. But thanks to the Abraham trade, they can now land the drafts top wideout with ease. Holmes has always been the top wideout by a longshot in my book, despite his not-so-imposing size. He’s got great hands, runs great routes, and his acceleration is outstanding. He’s basically the anti-Lelie, who can have his fun just running down the sideline the rest of his career.
16. Miami – Tye Hill, CB, Clemson
– When Will Allen is, by far, the best corner on your roster, you’ve got to make a move. Luckily for Miami, the very underrated Tye Hill falls right into their laps. He’s probably the best “true” corner in the draft. An overlooked star at Clemson, Hill has got the best wheels in the draft(sub-4.3) to go along with his very fluid technique. He also reminds some of Antoine Winfield with his hard-hitting style. And, just like Winfield, his draft stock takes a hit because of his smallish frame(5’9″ 185). If he were two inches taller, he’d be a top ten pick. He’s a real steal here.
17. Minnesota – Chad Greenway, OLB, Iowa
– Linebacker continues to be a big problem spot for the Vikings, with a seemingly revolving door of starters year in and year out. This year, with the competent Brad Childress at the helm, the Vikings work on rectifying that problem quickly and select the best linebacker available. In this mock, it’s Greenway. Few linebackers were more productive than Greenway at the college level, who teamed with Abdul Hodge to form one of the best 1-2 punches in the nation. He’s got a very NFL-ready body(6’2″, 245) and solid speed. A knock on him is his tendency to overpursue, but Derrick Johnson was knocked a lot for that and he found himself excelling in his rookie year in the NFL. Here’s to saying Greenway will too.
18. Dallas – Brodrick Bunkley, DT, Florida State
– Another likely trade-down candidate, but again, I’m not here to predict that. At this spot, I believe the Cowboys will simply go with the best defensive player available. They’re pretty thin at DT with Jason Ferguson being the only one with any sort of NFL experience, so this selection also fills a bit of a need too. Bunkley has reportedly won over a lot of teams before Dallas, so this would be quite a steal for Bill and Jerry. Bunkley wowed scouts with his sensation combine performance(Sub-5. speed, 44 bench reps), and his stock has really soared ever since. You can never have too many good linemen, so the Cowboys dip into that pool once again and land a real bargain here at the 18th spot.
19. San Diego – Jason Allen, CB/S, Tennessee
– For a team with multiples holes in the secondary, it’d make sense for the Chargers to draft a player who can play multiple positions in the secondary. Jason Allen has seen his stock rise his junior year, fall after an injury, and then rise once again with his solid offseason showing. At 6’0, 210 lbs, Allen can play at both corner and safety. His 4.39 speed is a pleasant surprise, and that should make him a first round lock. San Diego has had one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL for quite some time now, so selecting a defensive back should be a top priority. Here’s to saying they pick Allen, who starred on a very good Tennessee defense, whose only real knock is his recent injury history.
20. Kansas City – Gabe Watson, DT, Michigan
– A real boom or bust pick for the Chiefs here. They could really use a premer run stuffer in the middle, and Watson definitely fits the mold. In fact, he’s a perfect fit. Problem is, he hasn’t shown any sort of determination or willingness to dominate on any down, which has even prompted his college coach to sit him out. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for a potential first rounder. Regardless, I believe Herm Edwards will really help Watson realize his ability, and in turn Watson will provide Edwards and the Chiefs with some solid play up the middle.
21. New England – Chad Jackson, WR, Florida
– New England has obvious needs on defense, but I don’t think Belichick can pass on a prospect like Jackson here. Some consider Jackson to be the premier wideout in this class after his great postseason workouts and Combine performance, but I think he’s a slightly lesser prospect than Holmes. It’s not like the Patriots don’t need him, either. Outside of Deion Branch, they really have no solid option in that receiving core. Jackson is a very well built receiver(6′ 210) with tremendous deep speed(4.3) who’d be a welcome addition to Brady’s arsenal.
22. Denver – Deangelo Williams, RB, Memphis
– I know, I know. It really isn’t necessary for the Broncos to invest any sort of high pick on a running back when they can seemingly turn the most anonymous of backs into Pro Bowlers. I just think Williams is far too good to pass up if he falls this far. His size and running style is nearly identical to a recent Denver product – Clinton Portis – and we all know how well he performed in Denver. His receiving skills are also very underrated, and he could be a great safety valve for Plummer on pass plays.
23. Tampa Bay – Marcus McNeil, OT, Texas
– While the Buccaneers offensive line had a very succesful year run blocking for Cadillac Williams, their pass protection was a different story. Kenyetta Walker has been a huge bust on the right side, and Anthony Davis shouldn’t be a starter. Marcus McNeil is a real bargain here, and he could vastly outplay his draft position. He has freakish size(6’9″, 333) and surprising quickness. Tampa Bay may not be able to pick him, but they will almost certainly draft the best available tackle here.
24. Cincinatti – Tamba Hali, DE, Penn State
– Hali doesn’t really jump out at you with his computer numbers or physical appearence, but make no mistake about it, he’s a very good prospect. You’ll here people rave about his motor time and time again, and it’s completely warranted. He’s a hard worker and a classic overachiever; the sort of player Marvin Lewis would probably love.
25. NY Giants – DeMeco Ryans, OLB, Alabama
– Their lack of depth and overall shoddy play at the OLB spot last year makes filling that position a must in this draft. Like Hali, Ryans isn’t the biggest or fastest, but he’s extremely productive and a great leader.
26. Chicago – Sinorice Moss, WR, Miami(FL)
– The Bears kill two birds with one stone with this pick. Moss brings a sorely needed deep threat to their offense, while also providing them with an excellent return man.
27. Carolina – Bobby Carpenter, OLB, Ohio State
– A great value pick for Carolina here. Carpenter was often overlooked at OSU for obvious reasons, but NFL scouts are plenty aware of his ability. The Panthers have a need on the outside thanks to the departure of Witherspoon and overall lack of depth at the position, so Carpenter is a no-brainer here. He’s got great physical attributes(6’2″ 256, 4.6) and is one of the better pass-rushing linebackers in the draft.
28. Jacksonville – Johnathon Joseph, CB, South Carolina
– Rashean Mathis has one corner spot on lockdown, but they still sorely lack a solid compliment on the other side of the field. Joseph has seen his stock soar thanks to some great offseason workouts(he’s regularly clocked in at 4.3), and he’s worth taking a chance on late in the first round. He’s pretty raw considering his limited D1 experience (he was a JUCO transfer), but he has too many pluses in the rest of his game to ignore him.
29. NY Jets – LenDale White, RB, USC
– Oh how the mighty have tumbled. LenDale was touted as a top ten pick by almost everyone following his great Rose Bowl performance, but it appears he handcuffed himself to the local Krispy Kreme after discovering his new-found success and a lot of scouts are turned off by his lack of work ethic and – yes – the very evident Man Boobs, which is never a welcome attribute on a skill player. I think White will get his act together in time for the draft and training camp, which is good news for whomever buys this prospects falling stock. The Man Boobs will prevail.
30. Indianapolis – Joseph Addai, RB, LSU
– A lot of pundits have Maroney penciled in as Edge’s replacement, but I think he’s a woefully overrated back who isn’t worthy of a first round status. Addai is another high-riser in my book, who followed up his solid season at LSU with a tremendous combine performance that had him clocking in at 4.4 while carrying a rock solid, 215 lb frame. He actually reminds me of Edge a little bit, only he doesn’t have his vision or patience yet. That can be taught, though, and I think he’d be Indy’s best option as a replacement for James.
31. Seattle – Max Jean-Gilles, G, Georgia
– The Seahawks should be ashamed of themselves for not slapping the Franchise tag on Hutchinson, but what’s done is done, and it’s time to move on. Jean-Gilles is the consensus top guard in my book, a true bulldozer who’s effective in both the running and passing game. If he keeps his weight down, he has the chance to become a very solid starter for a long time.
32. Pittsburgh – Mathias Kiwanuka, DE, Boston College
– The champs don’t have a lot of holes, but they did lose Kimo in free agency and filling his spot would be wise. Kiwanuka could be considered a steal here, but his stock was never very high with me to begin with. He finds himself in a very ideal situation in Pittsburgh, though, where he will find himslf surrounded by a lot of talented players who will push him to take his game to the next level, as his motivation has been sketchy over the past year. He’s a pretty lanky DE(6’5″ 256), but he has plenty of room to grow. Decent value for Pittsburgh here.