With the NFL Draft just days away, executives and coaches from around the NFL are hunkered down in their respective bunkers making final preparations for what may be the most important weekend of the NFL season (outside of the Super Bowl, of course). Both a team’s immediate and long-term future can hinge on what they do during the draft. A stinker of a draft can cost a general manager and coach their jobs, while a smart and productive draft can make a team an instant Super Bowl contender.
Therefore, with the draft almost here, it’s time for your Phillysportsline.com NFL Mock Draft. Bear in mind that if any trades are made in the days leading up to the draft, changes will be made to reflect those moves. Now with that said, make sure you strap yourselves in and keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times.
1. Texans – Reggie Bush – RB – USC
Is Reggie Bush a Marshall Faulk/Gale Sayers clone, or is he too brittle for the NFL? While some scouts question his durability, most think Bush is a superstar waiting to happen. While the Texans will listen to offers to trade down, the smart money says they will hold fast and take the draft’s most explosive player as the first overall pick.
2. Saints – Mario Williams – DE – NC St.
New Orleans desperately wants to trade out of this spot and acquire some extra picks, while also picking up one of the three players on their draft board that will still be available. One of those players is Williams, who many are saying is the next Reggie White. If the Saints decide to stay at #2, the other player they might go after is OL D’Brickashaw Ferguson out of Virginia. It’s just a matter of deciding which side of the ball they want to solidify most. For my money, I’ll take a game-changing DE over an OL almost every time.
3. Titans – Matt Leinart – QB – USC
No matter what happens with the Saints at #2, Tennessee will still be in a position to draft a QB here at #3. And while Vince Young outplayed Leinart in the National Championship game, I think Leinart is the safer bet here. Not only that, Leinart to the Titans will reunite the USC star with his offensive coach at Southern California, Norm Chow.
4. Jets – Vince Young – QB – Texas
New York CANNOT count on Chad Pennington to come back and perform at a high level. As such, this team needs to find a franchise quarterback to hitch their wagon to, and this is a great draft in which to do it. Young can run, throw and has leadership intangibles, which should play nicely in New York. The Jets should resist the urge to take Ferguson here and take Young at #4.
5. Packers – A. J. Hawk – OLB – Ohio St.
Defense, defense, defense. Perhaps as much as any team in the NFL, Green Bay needs an impact player on defense and Hawk certainly fits the bill. Don’t be surprised if the Packers try to trade up into the #2 spot to select Williams, but I think they’ll stay here and select the draft’s best linebacker.
6. 49ers – Vernon Davis – TE – Maryland
The question is, with Ferguson still on the board, which would help QB Alex Smith’s growth more, a stud offensive lineman or a stud tight end? I think a guy in the middle of the field who can vacuum in just about any ball thrown his way would be more beneficial to Smith than a lineman, which is why the Niners take Davis over Ferguson here.
7. Raiders – Haloti Ngata – DT – Oregon
Oakland will certainly try to trade up to the #2 spot and grab Young or Leinart, but if they can’t, I doubt they’d take Vanderbilt QB Jay Cutler in this spot. More than any other team, the Raiders love playmakers, and despite Ferguson remaining on the board here, I say Oakland takes a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball.
8. Bills – D’Brickashaw Ferguson – OT – Virginia
Most think he will go a lot sooner than this, but I honestly can’t see the Jets taking an offensive lineman when they’re hurting so much at QB and have an opportunity to take a franchise-caliber quarterback early in the draft. A big area of need for Buffalo is at offensive tackle, and they should count their lucky stars that Ferguson fell to them in this spot.
9. Lions – Michael Ruff – DB – Texas
What, you were expecting a wide receiver? Detroit’s gotten pretty good at throwing away first-round picks, but I think the Lions do the smart thing here and get a shut- down, play-making cornerback and kick-returner to anchor the secondary and special teams. Just please don’t play him at wide receiver.
10. Cardinals – Winston Justice – OT – USC
Justice may be a bit of a reach here, but the Cardinals always need help on the offensive line, and Justice certainly impressed NFL scouts at the combines this winter. Arizona would very much like for Ruff to fall to them at #10, but Justice is a nice consolation prize.
11. Rams – Ernie Sims – OLB – Florida St.
St. Louis is always in need of defense, and Sims is the 2nd best linebacker on the board and a great pick at #11. Many mocks see Sims going to Arizona at #10, but he should still be here for the Rams to select, and will give St. Louis the play- making defensive player they so desperately need.
12. Browns – Kamerion Wimbley – DE – Florida St.
Well, they certainly don’t need any help on the offensive line, and I think it’s still too early to take one of the draft’s few remaining available players at the offensive skill positions. So look for Cleveland to take a guy who can play both defensive end and linebacker, which would work extremely well in their 3-4 system.
13. Ravens – Jay Cutler – QB – Vanderbilt
The QB play of both Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright in 2005 was absolutely atrocious. The Ravens need to start all over at the quarterback position, and if Cutler is still available here at #13, the Ravens will pounce.
14. Eagles – Brodrick Bunkley – DT – Florida St.
Even though the Birds took a defensive tackle first in last year’s draft, it’s still a position of need, and we all know how Andy Reid likes to spend his early-round ammunition on solidifying the lines. Philadelphia would love for Justice or Ngata to somehow fall to them at #14, but more than likely they’ll be gone. Iowa LB Chad Greenway is also a possibility and would probably fill a bigger need for them, but for whatever reason the Eagles simply do not spend first-round picks on linebackers. I don’t expect them to start now.
15. Broncos – Santonio Holmes – WR – Ohio St.
After failing to sign Terrell Owens or make a trade for another receiver, Denver would be wise to invest a first-round pick in a wideout here. Different mocks have Florida WR Chad Jackson ahead of Holmes, but they’re really pretty much the same player. Rod Smith is about 82 years old and Ashley Lelie just isn’t that good. There’s a possibility the Broncos could make a trade for Javon Walker, which would negate this pick, but if they’re still working with just Smith and Lelie, Holmes would be a wise choice.
16. Dolphins – Chad Jackson – WR – Florida
Miami has done a good job of getting some stuff done in free agency, which makes Jackson a logical pick here. Jackson would give the Miami passing game a little more juice, and with the addition of Daunte Culpepper, should make it much easier for the Dolphins to score some points.
17. Vikings – Chad Greenway – LB – Iowa
Minnesota would like for Cutler to fall to them here, but if he’s gone, the Vikes will invest in a linebacker for sure to go along with their Cover-2 scheme. Greenway has a lot of speed and in college was an extremely strong tackler.
18. Cowboys – Donte Whitner – S – Ohio St.
All indications are Dallas would like to trade down and draft an offensive lineman who makes a little more sense at #18. However, if they can’t, look for the ‘Pokes to grab Whitner to play free safety, a guy who can cover ground and compliment SS Roy Williams, who is now strictly a run-stopper.
19. Chargers – Johnathan Joseph – CB – South Carolina
And let the run on cornerbacks begin! San Diego has been trying to find a good cornerback in the draft for the last few years now, but has been unsuccessful. The offense is pretty much set, and the front seven is pretty solid as well, so look for the Chargers to try once again to get their secondary together.
20. Chiefs – Tye Hill – CB – Clemson
Some mocks have Joseph and Hill flip-flopped as well, so look for Kansas City to take whichever guy is left over to strengthen what has traditionally been a weak defense. Hill is a tad small, but is extremely fast and can make up for his lack of height with tremendous leaping ability.
21. Patriots – Manny Lawson – DE/OLB – NC St.
New England’s off-season has been strikingly similar and as maddening to Pats fans as Philadelphia’s has been to their fan base. The Patriots come into the season with big holes at WR, LB and RB, but with no players at WR and RB worth taking at #21, Lawson makes sense here as a hybrid DE/LB who will fit in nicely with New England’s 3-4 defense.
22. 49ers – Bobby Carpenter – OLB – Ohio St.
San Francisco had to give up two picks on Day 1 (37, 68) in order to land #22, hoping to snag a play-making defensive player. The guy the Niners would like to pick is Lawson, but I think he’ll go to the Pats one pick before San Fran selects, so look for Carpenter to join the 49ers 3-4 scheme.
23. Buccaneers – Antonio Cromartie – CB – Florida St.
Should one of the projected first round receivers still be available at #23, but Bucs will most likely go in that direction. However, they should be gone by now, as should offensive lineman Winston Justice. So, look for the Bucs to grab a solid guy for their secondary, with Cromartie being the best available guy on the board.
24. Bengals – Jimmy Williams – CB – Virginia Tech
Cincinnati really needs a TE, but Vernon Davis will be long gone and there’s no one available worth taking here in the first round. As such, the Bengals will probably grab a cornerback here, and Williams is a complete player, able to cover the pass and stop the run. Williams also has the ability to play a little free safety, which adds to his value.
25. Giants – Bobby Carpenter – OLB – Ohio St.
Overshadowed by A. J. Hawk, Carpenter is a legitimate first-round pick and would be a very good fit in New York, despite the signing of LaVar Arrington. Carpenter’s dad, Rob, is an employee with the Giants, so Bobby is a good bet to land with Big Blue.
26. Bears – Ashton Youboty – CB – Ohio St.
Ohio St.defense is well represented here in the 2006 draft, and now another one is off the board to Chicago. The Bears have big, big needs on offense, but the only skill player left that would sort of make sense here is Memphis running back DeAngelo Williams. However, Chicago is pretty set with both Cedric Benson and Thomas Jones. So, look for the Bears to go get a cornerback to solidify the pass defense.
27. Panthers – DeAngelo Williams – RB – Memphis
To be able to draft the best running back in the draft at #27, Carolina would be crazy to pass up on Williams here, especially with the likes of oft-injured DeShaun Foster and super-old Stephen Davis in the backfield.
28. Jaguars – Mathias Kiwanuka – DE – Boston College
Jack Del Rio likes defensive players, so expect him to go after Kiwanuka with pick #28 here.
29. Jets – Nick Mangold – C – Ohio St.
Another Ohio Stater? Seeing as how the Jets didn’t go after D’Brickashaw Ferguson with the #4 pick, New York will most likely go offensive line here late in Round #1.
30. Colts – Laurence Maroney – RB – Minnesota
With Edge now in the desert, Indianapolis will select the talented Maroney to take his place and take some of the heat off Manning & Co.
31. Seahawks – Jason Allen – S – Tennessee
Seattle has needs in the secondary, and Allen would definitely help out in the event that Ken Hamlin doesn’t return to full capacity next year.
32. Steelers – LenDale White – RB – USC
White was at one point seen as a top-15 pick, but he has had a horrendous off- season, suffering a hamstring injury and coming up very small at the bench-press portion of the combines. Even so, White’s college career warrants him being a first- round pick, and with Jerome Bettis’ retirement and Duce Staley’s career just about over, adding White to the backfield with the super-speedy Willie Parker would give Pittsburgh their two-headed running attack.
Any questions or comments, you can email John at email@example.com.
John Stolnis Staff Writer PhillySportsline.com .