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tiggerpolice 04-18-2006 10:15 AM

A Sensible NFL Draft Preview
 
Here is a sensible look at the top five slots in the 2006 NFL draft:

Houston Texans

Believe it or not, the Houston Texans have had a pretty good off-season, and the next time they step on the field, they are more likely to resemble the 7-9 team of 2004 than the 2-14 club from last year. They have plugged leaks at center, wide receiver, defensive end and linebacker, which gives them some flexibility. Essentially, they are drafting Reggie Bush unless someone offers them a viable package.

What Makes Sense:

Someone comes along and offers an over-the-top package for Reggie Bush, such as two first-round picks (one being top 10), a second-rounder and a third-rounder. This allows the Texans to move down a bit in the first round and still pick up a strong prospect like TE Vernon Davis, CB/S Michael Huff or DE Mario Williams.

What Else Makes Sense:

Drafting Reggie Bush. Although the Texans have ample talent at RB with Domanick Davis and Vernand Morency, neither player is an explosive playmaker like Reggie Bush. Furthermore, Bush won't have to carry the full load in his first season and will be continually fresh splitting carries, similar to what he did at USC.



New Orleans Saints

Signing Drew Brees to a 6-year/$60 million contract is an instant offensive upgrade for a team who has underachieved exactly because of inefficient quarterback play. An inept offense might quickly turn into a dangerous attack with the likes of Joe Horn, Donte Stallworth, Deuce McAllister and Michael Bennett surrounding Brees. The defense, on the other hand, which was horrendous to begin with, lost a few key playmakers and that is where the Saints need the most aid.

What Makes Sense:

There are only two top-five defensive prospects: DE Mario Williams and LB AJ Hawk. That being said, with an outstanding tandem of defensive ends already, the Saints do not have the luxury of drafting another one, which means the most sensible move would be Hawk. In the past couple of seasons, no other team has been ravaged by porous linebacking play more than the New Orleans Saints and with a guy like Hawk, essentially a known commodity, the Saints would infuse an NFL-ready playmaker into the second level of their defense.

What Else Makes Sense:

There are trepidations as to whether Hawk is worthy as the second overall selection in the draft, and whether the Saints want to pay him number-two money, so the other option is trading down. But if the Saints travel that route, they have to consider that Hawk may not be available, especially if the Saints find themselves behind the Green Bay Packers or San Francisco 49ers on the draft board. In that case, DT Haloti Ngata, DT Brodrick Bunkley or CB/S Michael Huff might make sense.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans, similar to their AFC South rival, the Houston Texans, have addressed many needs during the free agency period. The signings of S Chris Hope, LB David Thornton, C Kevin Mawae and WR David Givens give the Titans some flexibility in the upcoming draft, but with a growing rift between the club and soon to be non-franchise quarterback Steve McNair, every pundit, fan and NFL being is expecting the Titans to draft a quarterback with their first-overall selection.

What Makes Sense:

The Titans draft Matt Leinart. It seems inevitable that the team will sever ties with McNair, and the organization has not displayed much confidence in Billy Volek as a long-term solution. Leinart steps into an offense where he is comfortable, especially since he is working with Norm Chow, an offensive coordinator he is familiar with from USC.

What Else Makes Sense:

Plan B would be Vince Young. It is pretty clear that the Titans are in the hunt for a quarterback and if it is not going to be Leinart, it will probably be Young. The Titans have experience molding raw, athletically gifted quarterbacks, i.e. Steve McNair, so they shouldn't have Young-anxiety if Leinart is off the board. But Leinart is still the first choice since it is likely that he will sooner be NFL-ready than Young.

New York Jets

Although the Jets have been stripped of talent like an exotic dancer at the Gold Club, they can take solace in the fact that they have 10 selections in the upcoming NFL draft. Some reports have indicated that the Jets are part of the quarterback search party but considering they restructured Chad Pennington's deal and used a draft pick to acquire Patrick Ramsey, they might be playing some pre-flop poker.

What Makes Sense:

Drafting an offensive tackle like D'Brickashaw Ferguson won't exactly sell tickets but it will help protect Chad Pennington, which if you haven't noticed, seems to be critical to the success of the Jets. They've lost both their starting pillars the last two off-seasons, Jason Fabini this year and Kareem McKenzie last year. Ferguson makes a lot of sense for the Jets, as well as Pennington's blindside.

What Else Makes Sense:

If you want to talk about the Jets trading up, speculating about moving up for Matt Leinart just doesn't make much sense. The team is set with Pennington and Ramsey for now and they have too many other pressing needs. If the Jets trade up, it will be for Reggie Bush. They have the surplus of draft picks to assemble a package and Bush would address their need for a running back and an offensive playmaker. He would also augment ticket sales and optimism for the coming season.



Green Bay Packers

The Pack is expecting the return of Brett Favre for the coming season - otherwise they will be roughly $20 million under the floor of the salary cap - which kind of puts them in a tight spot for the upcoming draft. The premier prospects don't tackle the team's necessities, that is outside of linebacker A.J. Hawk. The Packers don't need a quarterback, offensive tackle, tight end or running back, which might put them in an interesting predicament if Mario Williams and A.J. Hawk are taken by the five-spot.

What Makes Sense:

The Saints keep their filthy paws off of Hawk and he slides to the Packers at number five. With the signing of OLB Ben Taylor and incumbent Nick Barnett in the middle, the drafting of Hawk should comprise a unit that is much superior to the tackling-challenged grouping of last year. Hawk is an innate playmaker, something the Packers defense desperately lacks.

What Else Makes Sense:

The contingency plan would likely invite Mario Williams into the picture, which is not a negative by any means, but the Packers have a pair of adequate starting ends with Aaron Kampman and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. Williams would offer much more upside than either Kampman or KGB, but finding an outside linebacker is much more urgent than defense end. Other options include trading down to, possibly, the Denver Broncos, who according to the NFL draft value chart, can ship their two first-rounders for the fifth overall selection.

Sensible Top 5 Mock Draft:



1. Reggie Bush

2. A.J. Hawk

3. Matt Leinart

4. D'Brickashaw Ferguson

5. Mario Williams


Sense and the NFL draft mix like Mondays and me.

"Get up and dance, get up and smile, get up and drink to the days that are gone in the shortest while." - Simon Fowler

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