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Mr. Laz
03-17-2006, 10:43 AM
Mock Draft No. 3

Post-combine, mid-free agency look at first round Posted: Tuesday March 14, 2006 12:16PM; Updated: Tuesday March 14, 2006 8:07PM

Once upon a time, NFL teams liked to say they took the best available athlete as they wound their way through the many rounds of the draft. But those days are long gone, because in the era of the salary cap and seven-round drafts, every pick is a need pick.

It's all about need now. And that's why free agency and the draft are a two-part play for every team. Free agency now sets the table for the draft, telling you what you still require and what you can do without when your turn to pick comes around in April.

The Cardinals don't need a first-round running back anymore, thanks to their Edgerrin James signing. The Packers don't really have a spot for defensive end Mario Williams now that Aaron Kampman has re-signed. And neither the Saints nor Dolphins need a quarterback after landing Drew Brees and Daunte Culpepper, respectively, on Tuesday.

With the scouting combine finishing two weeks ago and free agency now in its early days, our third mock draft of the year is a study in the quickly changing NFL landscape.

Mock NFL Draft No. 3

Pk Tm Pos. Player College Class Ht. Wt.
1 RB Reggie Bush USC Jr. 6-0 200
The bottom 31 slots in this first round might wind up looking vastly different between now and the April 29 draft, but I'm convinced Bush and the Texans are a marriage that's going to last. At least until I start hearing that Houston is seriously entertaining offers to trade down.

2 (trade) QB Matt Leinart USC Sr. 6-5 225

Now that the Saints have signed Drew Brees and don't need the best quarterback available at this spot, look for the Jets to move up and get the former Heisman Trophy winner. Although they did work out a deal with Chad Pennington, this is too good an opportunity to turn down.

3 QB Jay Cutler Vanderbilt Sr. 6-4 228
Nobody had more buzz coming out of Indy than Cutler, and I'm sticking with the idea that the hometown Titans are intrigued with keeping the Vandy star in Nashville. But having Mario Williams sitting there for the taking is going to really test Tennessee's belief in Cutler.
4 (trade) DE Mario Williams N.C. State Jr. 6-7 285
Since the quarterback spot seems to be settled, the Saints need to replace free-agent defensive end Darren Howard, who signed a big deal with the Eagles. Williams is a rare physical specimen who could be a matchup problem for opposing defenses.

5 DT Haloti Ngata Oregon Jr. 6-5 345
With the Packers re-signing defensive end Aaron Kampman, they now turn their attention to the defensive interior, where the run-stuffing Ngata is the best the draft has to offer. Taking the draft's blue-chip offensive tackle, Virginia's D'Brickashaw Ferguson, would also be a sound top-five strategy.

6 OT D'Brickashaw Ferguson Virginia Sr. 6-5 295
We can't think of a better way to aid in the development of second-year franchise quarterback Alex Smith than a cornerstone left tackle to protect his backside for the foreseeable future.

7 QB Vince Young Texas Jr. 6-5 235
Given that the Raiders have failed at landing Daunte Culpepper, this move makes too much sense. As crazy as it would have sounded on the morning of Jan. 5 after his Rose Bowl showing, if Young slips past the Raiders, it's possible he could fall entirely out of the top 10.

8 LB A.J. Hawk Ohio State Sr. 6-1 240
In London Fletcher and Jeff Posey, the Bills have a couple of starting linebackers who are past their 30th birthdays. Hawk had great showings at both the combine and his pro day, and he's an impact addition for a defense that tumbled a long way in the league rankings in 2005.

9 DB Michael Huff Texas Sr. 6-1 205
We're going to go out on a limb and predict that the Lions won't be taking a first-round receiver for the fourth consecutive year. Huff is a versatile talent who had a solid top 10 ranking coming out of the combine. If the Lions get tempted by anyone on offense, it'll be Maryland tight end Vernon Davis.

10 TE Vernon Davis Maryland Jr. 6-3 250
The Cardinals didn't wait until the draft to land their No. 1 running back, splurging instead on Edgerrin James in free agency. So no DeAngelo Williams or LenDale White for them. Davis put on a virtuoso performance in Indy, and he'll give balance to an offense that already has a ridiculously potent passing game.

11 CB Jimmy Williams Virginia Tech Sr. 6-3 216
The Rams were hoping Davis lasted one more slot, and maybe they're willing to give the Cardinals something in exchange for moving into the top 10. But if not, the consolation prize is Williams, the draft's highest-ranked cover man.

12 DE Tamba Hali Penn State Sr. 6-3 267
The Browns did good work on offense early in free agency, then added big Ted Washington to clog up the running lanes in the middle of the defense. It's fair to ask whether Hali, at 6-foot-3, 267, is big enough to play end in a 3-4 formation, but he's an impact pass rusher and Cleveland is in need of one.

13 DT Brodrick Bunkley Florida State Sr. 6-3 284
Bunkley makes a big jump up our board in the wake of his impressive combine workout (44 bench-press reps, 4.97 time in the 40 at 307 pounds). The Ravens just lost underrated DT Maake Kemoeatu to Carolina in free agency, and Bunkley would fill that vacancy rather nicely.

14 LB Ernie Sims Florida State Jr. 6-0 220
The Eagles have so many choices in this slot. They could take USC offensive tackle Winston Justice, replacing free agent Jon Runyan. They could go for a running back like DeAngelo Williams or LenDale White, or a receiver like Chad Jackson or Santonio Holmes. But Sims gives them the outside linebacker they covet.

15 OT Winston Justice USC Jr. 6-6 300
The Falcons lost left tackle Kevin Shaffer to Cleveland in free agency, and Justice is a good value pick in this slot. Justice has underachieved at times, but there are those NFL scouts who are firm in their belief that he can handle the critical left tackle role as a pro.

16 OT Eric Winston Miami Sr. 6-7 315
The Dolphins' top choice to fill their need at OT was Winston Justice, who we have going just ahead of them. That means Miami will have to make do with a different Winston, the one who starred for the Hurricanes in Coral Gables. Nick Saban could also lean on his SEC ties and select Auburn OT Marcus McNeill.

17 RB DeAngelo Williams Memphis Sr. 5-10 217
True, the Vikings signed Chester Taylor in free agency, perhaps removing running back from their first-round need list. But head coach Brad Childress had a running-back-by-committee approach with the Eagles, and Taylor split time with Jamal Lewis in Baltimore. Williams or USC's LenDale White could be the pick.

18 WR Chad Jackson Florida Jr. 6-1 205
Jackson's combine 40 time of 4.34 got everybody's attention, and it makes him one of the more obvious climbers in the bottom half of the first round. The Cowboys are old at receiver, but they also need help at offensive tackle, should Eric Winston linger or Auburn's Marcus McNeill tempt them.

19 WR Santonio Holmes Ohio State Jr. 5-11 190
You have to think general manager A.J. Smith wants to give quarterback Philip Rivers the best possible chance to succeed, given that he has staked his reputation on him and sent Drew Brees packing. Getting Rivers another receiving target -- either Holmes or Chad Jackson -- should be Smith's top priority.

20 CB Tye Hill Clemson Sr. 5-10 184
When have the Chiefs not needed an infusion of talent in their pass defense? Hill ran a blistering 4.30 at the combine, which vaulted him into the first round if he wasn't there already. Ohio State cornerback Ashton Youboty is the other name to be aware of.

21 RB LenDale White USC Jr. 6-2 235
On our board, White somehow lasts until No. 21, a development the Patriots would be thrilled about. If White is gone, Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter makes sense. As does a receiver (Jackson, Holmes or Sinorice Moss?), since the Patriots are about to lose David Givens in free agency.
22 WR Sinorice Moss Miami Sr. 5-8 185
By giving the Broncos Moss with the first of their two No. 1 picks, we're assuming they don't wind up with Terrell Owens, whom they apparently have cooled on. The Broncos could also look at Boston College DE Mathias Kiwanuka, even though they've re-signed both Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren.

23 LB Chad Greenway Iowa Sr. 6-4 244
Greenway wasn't as strong (16 reps) or as quick (4.78) at the combine as was expected. But he's still going to make the first round, and the Bucs seem like a nice fit. Tampa Bay also could address OT with Auburn's Marcus McNeill, or take a shot with Arizona State WR Derek Hagan.

24 TE Marcedes Lewis UCLA Sr. 6-6 255
The defensive tackle Cincy wanted, Florida State's Brodrick Bunkley, is long gone, and LSU's Claude Wroten doesn't have a consensus first-round grade. With the Dexter Jackson signing addressing the need at safety, we give the Bengals the second best TE on the board behind Maryland's Davis.

25 LB Bobby Carpenter Ohio State Sr. 6-3 255
Adding Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters seemed to remove cornerback from New York's first-round need list. If LaVar Arrington gets signed, maybe we can say the same thing about linebacker. But everybody knows Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi loves those Big Ten prospects.

26 TE Dominique Byrd USC Sr. 6-3 260
With no more receivers first-round worthy, the Bears wisely address their need at tight end. But which tight end will it be, the pass-catching Byrd, or Georgia's 6-foot-7, 250-pound Leonard Pope, who can both catch and block? This pick assumes UCLA's Marcedes Lewis is already gone to No. 24 Cincinnati.

27 RB Laurence Maroney Minnesota Jr. 5-11 205
Don't make the mistake of assuming that by re-signing DeShaun Foster the Panthers are out of the running for a first-round running back. Foster's injury history demands the position receive more attention. Maroney looks like a steal this low in the first round.

28 LB DeMeco Ryans Alabama Sr. 6-5 230
The Jaguars addressed their cornerback need in free agency, signing Brian Williams away from Minnesota. That would seem to shift their draft priority to outside linebacker. Ryans' stock has fallen since the Senior Bowl, but he's a playmaker who has decent value at the bottom of the first round.

29 DE Mathias Kiwanuka Boston College Sr. 6-5 255
Broncos defensive line coach Andre Patterson loves to play his linemen in rotation, and Kiwanuka would add some much-needed pass rush to a group that's more steady than spectacular. Again, the re-signing of Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren does not eliminate defensive line from consideration.

30 RB Joseph Addai LSU Sr. 5-11 214
With the big four running backs all gone, the Colts might be looking at the somewhat surprising Addai as a replacement for Edgerrin James. Addai could sneak into the bottom of the first round based on his impressive 40 times in the 4.4 range at the combine.

31 DT Rod Wright Texas Sr. 6-5 315
If the Seahawks lose defensive tackle Rocky Bernard in free agency, Wright could be a suitable replacement. Another option in the defensive interior would be LSU's Claude Wroten. Defensive end and linebacker are two other positions of need for the defending NFC champions.

32 C Nick Mangold Ohio State Sr. 6-4 300
With Antwaan Randle El lost in free agency as expected, the Steelers would like an impact receiver. But they won't reach for one in this slot if the top three prospects (Jackson, Holmes and Moss) are all gone. Give them Mangold, because veteran center Jeff Hartings will be 34 in September.

BigChiefFan
03-20-2006, 12:44 PM
If I hear CB one more time, I'm gonna puke. We NEED a Defensive line. Without Dalton, we might have the worst D-line in football. We're definitely at the bottom of the league.