The main free agent rush seems to have died down, so it’s time to take another look at the upcoming NFL draft. This year’s draft is certainly full of talent, especially at the top. There are probably 15 or so players that would be considered top ten picks in most other years. Here’s one way I think things could play out come April 29th.
1. Houston: Reggie Bush – RB, USC
The Texans could still end up trading this pick, but for now they have to go with Reggie.
2. New Orleans: D’Brickashaw Ferguson – OT, Virginia
Quarterback is no longer a need, so the Saints will go for the best player on the board at a need position. There are some reports that the Saints like Mario Williams, but with Charles Grant and Will Smith allready on board, I don’t see that happening.
3. Tennessee: Matt Leinart – QB, USC
The heir to Air McNair arrives in Tennessee. Matt would reunite with former offensive coordinator Norm Chow.
4. New York Jets: Mario Williams – DE, North Carolina State
The Jets could still go for their franchise QB here, but I think they may be satisfied for now with Chad Pennington and Patrick Ramsey. They can’t let the second coming of Julius Peppers fall any further, especially following the looming trade of John Abraham.
5. Green Bay: AJ Hawk – LB, Ohio State
Green Bay goes a long way in bolstering its defense with this pick. Nick Barnett finally gets a little help in the middle of the field.
6. San Francisco: Vernon Davis – TE, Maryland
The Niners need some more offensive weapons, and Vernon certainly fits the bill. This decision becomes easier with Hawk and Williams off the board.
7. Oakland: Jay Cutler – QB, Vanderbilt
Cutler has probably worked his way above Vince Young at this point. I don’t think the Raiders will be able to pass on their franchise passer if Cutler falls this far.
8. Buffalo: Haloti Ngata – DT, Oregon
The Bills need a big run stuffer, and Ngata would seem to be a good start to returning their defense to the success it once had.
9. Detroit: Michael Huff – S, Texas
The Lions have worked a little on their offense this off-season; now it’s time to improve that defense. Huff seems like a pretty easy pick for Detroit at this point.
10. Arizona: Vince Young – QB, Texas
They have the running back, they have the wide receivers, and now they have someone to play under center when Kurt Warner hangs it up. If Young develops the way he could, no one will want to face the Arizona offense. Denny Green will try to mold him like he did the similiarly skilled Dante Culpepper.
11. St. Louis: Jimmy Williams – DB, Virginia Tech
Williams could play either safety or cornerback, and the Rams need help at both positions.
12. Cleveland: Brodrick Bunkley – DT, Florida State
I have heard that the Browns love Bunkley and that he would be their pick if he is still on the board. The Florida State product should be a dominant force in the middle of that defensive line.
13. Baltimore: Winston Justice – OT, USC
The Ravens would be happy to see Justice on the board at their pick. Their line is losing players left and right. Drafting Justice would go a long way in improving the offense and giving Kyle Boller one last shot to succeed.
14. Philadelphia: Santonio Holmes – WR, Ohio State
It isn’t looking like the Eagles have their sights set on a legit #1 wide receiver in free agency, so they will have to hope Holmes can step in and fill that role.
15. Atlanta: DeAngelo Williams – RB, Memphis
With Jimmy Williams off the board, the Falcons turn their attention toward RB. Warrick Dunn is on his way out, and DeAngelo certainly seems to be a good candidate to replace him.
16. Miami: Tye Hill – CB, Clemson
The Dolphins need another cornerback after Sam Madison’s departure. Hill may be a little overrated because of his blazing 40-yard time, but the Fins may have to reach a bit because of their dire need for a CB.
17. Minnesota: Ernie Sims – LB, Florida State
Chester Taylor shores up the RB position a little bit, at least for now, so the Vikings should look for defense with this pick. Sims has been flying up draft boards recently.
18. Dallas: Ko Simpson – S, South Carolina
I have questions about Ko’s size, but he is extremely talented and he has a great name! Free safety is probably the Cowboys’ biggest need, and Simpson would have a good chance to start right away next to the hard-hitting Roy Williams.
19. San Diego: Chad Jackson – WR, Florida
Philip Rivers will need some help outside of Antonio Gates and Eric Parker. Thanks to his nice 40 time, Jackson will be that guy.
20. Kansas City: Tamba Hali – DE, Penn State
The Chiefs are in need of a second CB, but they will get better value here with Hali. Kansas City has no real playmakers on the front line outside of Jared Allen. Eric Hicks is decent, but aging. The only problem here is that Hali could certainly drop after a less than stellar performance at his pro day.
21. New England: Lendale White – RB, USC
The Pats may finally have their franchise RB, getting pretty good value here with Lendale. His running style is similar to Corey Dillon’s, so he should fit in well in New England.
22. Denver (from Washington): Mathias Kiwanuka – DE, Boston College
Kiwanuka has been slipping lately, but I think the Broncos will stop his slide and take him to replace Trevor Pryce.
23. Tampa Bay: Marcus McNeill – OT, Auburn
Tampa’s biggest need is certainly OT, and they would be happy to see McNeill on the board here. McNeill is a monster tackle and should help pave the way for Cadillac Williams in 2006.
24. Cincinnati: Donte Whitner – S, Ohio State
Whitner seems to be a popular pick for the Bengals, and they do definitely need another safety.
25. New York Giants: Chad Greenway – LB, Iowa
The Giants addressed DB through free agency, so a solid OLB is the next step in fine-tuning that defense. Greenway is slipping after a poor combine performance, but he represents pretty good value at this point in the draft.
26. Chicago: Leonard Pope – TE, Georgia
Pope gives Grossman a solid red zone target. He runs surprisingly well for a 6′7″ tight end.
27. Carolina: DeMeco Ryans – LB, Alabama
The Panthers find Will Witherspoon’s replacement here. What Ryans may lack in athletic ability when compared to other OLBs in this draft he makes up for in instincts.
28. Jacksonville: Manny Lawson – LB, North Carolina State
The Jags have proven they aren’t afraid to take a gamble in the first round on great athletes switching positions. Lawson could make a great replacement for Akin Ayodele. He has the potential to be chosen higher than this, but I think this is about where he belongs.
29. Denver: Sinorice Moss – WR, Miami
The Broncos need to add some youth and speed to their receiving corps, and Moss has both of those assets.
30. Indianapolis: Laurence Maroney – RB, Minnesota
Thanks to the plentiful number of free agent backs, a solid rookie rusher falls to the Colts at pick #30.
31. Seattle: Max Jean-Giles – G, Georgia
Chris Gray is old and Steve Hutchinson may not be coming back, so guard has gone from a strength to a weakness for Seattle.
32. Pittsburgh: Nick Mangold – C, Ohio State
Jeff Hartings is 33, and Mangold will be a great replacement.