AFTER THE FLASHYnames--Bush, Leinart, Young, Cutler, Ferguson, Davis--are gone, the offensivedrought will set in. The depth in this draft is on defense. Half a dozenlinebackers could go in the first round; Cowboys coach Bill Parcells says,"In the middle of the round you'll see a great defensive backstampede." Here's how the first round will play out.
This is an article from the May 1, 2006 issue
1 TEXANS ReggieBush, RB, USC The most explosive offensive performer in years. Interest inLeinart could produce a late trade, but the Texans would have to be assuredthey'd get Bush, plus a draft choice, to make the deal.
2 SAINTS MarioWilliams, DE, North Carolina State The NFC's worst sacking team in '05 will adda 6'7", 295-pound wingman with 4.66 speed--a disruptive force who had atotal of 41 1/2 sacks and tackles for loss last year.
3 TITANS MattLeinart, QB, USC The debate will rage right up to the deadline: Leinart, fullyversed in coordinator Norm Chow's offense, versus the fireworks of Rose Bowlhero Young.
4 JETSD'Brickashaw Ferguson, T, Virginia Amid fans' cries for a QB is the sober voiceof one Jets assistant: "We've got a veteran at one tackle and air at theother." This superior, quick-footed pass protector is just the guy to fillthe hole.
5 PACKERS A.J.Hawk, LB, Ohio State Linebackers rarely go so high, but it's been years sincewe've seen one with his speed (4.59), bulk (6'1", 248), strength,athleticism and intensity.
6 49ERS VernonDavis, TE, Maryland The Broncos desperately wanted to trade up for this250-pounder who ran a 4.38 40 at the combine. A weapon like that slicing theheart out of the two-deep zone could solve a lot of problems.
7 RAIDERS VinceYoung, QB, Texas Warning: Al Davis was overheard mentioning Young's name, whichusually means the club will go for almost anyone else. But how can he pass on aplayer with unlimited upside?
8 BILLS MichaelHuff, DB, Texas Maybe he's a strong safety, maybe a corner. With 4.34 speedhe'll certainly get a look on the outside. Best of all, he's a solid player whoflies to the ball.
9 LIONS ErnieSims, LB, Florida State "I want a disrupter, a playmaker," says clubpresident Matt Millen. Huff would have been perfect. Sims is an action guyinside, but five concussions make drafting him a little scary.
10 CARDINALS JayCutler, QB, Vanderbilt This will be the first of the we never thought he'dstill be there picks. Coach Denny Green counts his blessings after getting theQB some feel might be the best on the board.
11 RAMS AntonioCromartie, CB, Florida State A gamble to be sure. He missed 2005 with a tornACL and had only one college start, but in his workouts "he looked like hewas from another planet," says Giants G.M. Ernie Accorsi.
12 BROWNSKamerion Wimbley, DE, Florida State Do they pick a big guy to help a defensethat finished 30th against the run or a pass rusher to fortify a unit that hadthe fewest sacks in the league? Sacks win. This slender 249-pounder explodesoff the edge.
13 RAVENS HalotiNgata, DT, Oregon They lost 340-pound run stuffer Maake Kemoeatu, so alongcomes the 338-pound Ngata, making them leaner and meaner across the D-line.
14 EAGLES BobbyCarpenter, LB, Ohio State They want a strongside linebacker. They want somemeat on the inside. They're casting eyes at Southern Cal tackle WinstonJustice. Can't have 'em all, but the 256-pound Carpenter will provide a big,solid presence.
15 BRONCOS ChadJackson, WR, Florida When your top offensive threat (Rod Smith) is 35, it'stime to look for help. Jackson is a shade faster than Ohio State's SantonioHolmes.
16 DOLPHINS JasonAllen, FS, Tennessee I've penciled them in for outside linebackers and a slewof wideouts and corners, but all of a sudden Allen's name came to me. Why notfortify another area of concern with the best free safety in the draft?
17 VIKINGS JimmyWilliams, CB, Virginia Tech A boom-or-bust guy with size (6'21/2", 213) andtalent; he can be a complainer at times. The Vikings think coordinator MikeTomlin, who knew Williams in college, can get the most out of him.
18 COWBOYSSantonio Holmes, WR, Ohio State There are cornerbacks galore, just waiting tobe picked, but a 4.40 flier with good hands is too enticing to pass up.
19 CHARGERSWinston Justice, T, USC Yes, they'll give the cornerbacks a long look, butthey'll settle on Justice, whose workouts have been terrific. It might take hima while to become a force. He's the second best offensive lineman on theboard.
20 CHIEFS TambaHali, DE, Penn State It seems as if K.C. has needed DBs since Deron Cherry andAlbert Lewis left, but new coach Herman Edwards loves Hali's explosiveness andpass-rush ability.
21 PATRIOTSBrodrick Bunkley, DT, Florida State Some predict New England will take alinebacker, but in six years, Scott Pioli never has chosen one higher than thefifth round. He has picked three D-linemen in the first round, and thisexplosive one-gapper will make it four.
22 49ERSJohnathan Joseph, CB, South Carolina "We have to face the Cardinals' AnquanBoldin and Larry Fitzgerald twice," coach Mike Nolan says--reason enough totrade for an extra first-rounder so they could select a corner.
23 BUCCANEERSNick Mangold, C, Ohio State Sure, there are still intriguing LBs and DBs on theboard, but what's wrong with giving Cadillac Williams another driveblocker?
24 BENGALS DonteWhitner, SS, Ohio State They play in a run-oriented division, so they could gowith a bigger guy, but the 205-pound Whitner will stick his nose in there, plushe has unlimited athletic ability.
25 GIANTS TyeHill, CB, Clemson Yes, he's little (5'9", 186), but oh, my, the speed! Try4.30, which made him the fastest man at the combine. The Giants, whose cornermix is always in flux, never have had a flier like this.
26 BEARS MarcedesLewis, TE, UCLA What, only one tight end picked in the top 25? Quick, get thenext best one on the board, which would be this 6'6 1/2" 261-pounder.Chicago hasn't had a TE-oriented offense since Mike Ditka was a star, but Lewiscould change that.
27 PANTHERSLenDale White, RB, USC Ideally, they want to run the ball so much that theyneed two guys to do the work. A pounder, White fits their style perfectly. Hehas been acting a little goofy this off-season, but there's never been anythingwrong with the way he plays.
28 JAGUARS ChadGreenway, LB, Iowa Scouts say he's "fundamentally sound," which is likesaying someone has good table manners. If Greenway is gone, they could go to atight end (Georgia's Leonard Pope) or a corner.
29 JETS MannyLawson, DE-LB, North Carolina The offensive coaches are drooling over thechance to get 6'7 1/2", 336-pound tackle Marcus McNeill, but New York neverexpected the athletically gifted Lawson to slip this far.
30 COLTS LaurenceMaroney, RB, Minnesota No secret that Indianapolis has to plug somebody intothe Edgerrin James spot, but Tony Dungy never thought this fellow Gopher (northe explosive DeAngelo Williams, for that matter) would be there.
31 SEAHAWKSAshton Youboty, CB, Ohio State Two of Seattle's secondary starters are gone.Four corners have been drafted. That's O.K. It's the deepest position on theboard, and Youboty has fine coverage skills when on his game.
32 STEELERSSinorice Moss, WR, Miami I've met only two people who haven't given the tiny(5'8") but speedy (4.38) Moss to Pittsburgh as a replacement for departedfree agent Antwaan Randle El. They are both foreign exchange students. Theydidn't know what the draft was.