It's been a long, arduous year since the last NFL Draft. Thanks to the hurricanes, changes have wreaked havoc on us all, not the least of which the Saints organization. Predicting the moves of a first-year administration, especially one with a head coach modeled after Bill Parcells, makes an already difficult forecast even more volatile. And with nine other NFL teams switching leadership this offseason, mock drafts in 2006 are expected to be more futile than usual.
That being said, here's our attempt, with one week to go. For sanity's sake, we won't attempt to predict any Draft Day trades. Look for our final mock later this week.
With less than a week to go, the Saints at #2 have their pick of all but one player in the draft, USC RB Reggie Bush, who plays a position that the Saints' don't need. Not that Bush couldn't help the Saints, but if he's on the board and the Saints are on the clock, a trade down is logical. Based on positional need, Virginia T D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Ohio State LB AJ Hawk are the top choices. Based on value, NC State DE Mario Williams and USC QB Matt Leinart are the top picks. Don't rule any of them out at this point.
1 Houston RB Reggie Bush, USC
If Houston can, they'll get out of this pick and let someone take Bush or NC State DE Mario Williams. Here's thinking they won't.
2 New Orleans T D'Brickashaw Ferguson
So the Saints will certainly try to trade down. But with who? The Jets may not want a quarterback, certainly not enough to trade up. If USC QB Matt Leinart and Texas QB Vince Young go 2-3, then the Jets will be thrilled to take Ferguson. The Titans won't likely be scared into swapping picks with the Saints, and would probably be happy with whoever is left, Young or Leinart. The 49ers have acquired some first-round ammunition with the trade with Denver, but they don't need a QB, and wouldn't have to trade all the way up to #2 to take Ferguson. The Packers, at 5, would have to give up their 2007 top pick to get close. Don't dismiss this: the Packers could try to make an "impact" move and trade up for Mario Williams. Any other teams would have to give up their 2006 first day and some high 2007 picks to get up this high. So the Saints will probably get stuck with this pick. They may go ahead and take Leinart - only to try to ransom him off to the Titans or Jets. Or they could eat the pick, and take Ferguson or Hawk. Ferguson provides more value.
3 Tennessee QB Matt Leinart, USC
Titans need to address of their quarterback. Leinart is consistently higher-rated, not to mention his chances of having early success are better because of Norm Chow.
4 NY Jets DE Mario Williams, NC State
See Vince. See Vince fall.
5 Green Bay OLB AJ Hawk, Ohio State
Hawk seems to be the people's choice in Green Bay. Don't be surprised if the Packers trade up.
6 San Francisco TE Vernon Davis, Maryland
The best friend of a young QB? A play maker at TE.
7 Oakland QB Vince Young, Texas
Young falls to the Raiders, who never pass on a splash.
8 Buffalo DB Michael Huff, Texas
Tempted to say Oregon DT Haloti Ngata, but he may not fit their new scheme. The other top DT, Florida State's Brodrick Bunkley, is a reach at #8.
9 Detroit OT Winston Justice, USC
Can't argue with this pick, although Justice's character questions cause his stock to vary from team to team.
10 Arizona DT Haloti Ngata, Oregon
Funny, usually big men go higher that predicted. Thing is, Ngata may be quick but look at the guys who have bumped him to the bottom of the top 10- all have exceptional speed at their position. That's where this league is heading. The Cardinals are delighted to stop Ngata's slide and insert him as a cornerstone on their line.
11 St. Louis QB Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt
A new administration typically wants its own new quarterback. This will be especially true for Scott Linehan, quarterback guru. If the Rams go elsewhere, look for Cutler to slide.
12 Cleveland DE Manny Lawson, NC State
Lawson is the playmaker to add in the Browns' 3-4 alignment.
13 Baltimore DT Broderick Bunkley, Florida State
Top DL remaining for the Ravens.
14 Philadelphia RB DeAngelo Williams, Memphis
Williams, who reminds of Brian Westbrook, fits the mold for the Eagles.
15 Denver (from Atlanta) WR Chad Jackson, Florida
Was inconsistent in college, but so was his coaching staff and coordinator. Jackson has everything you need for a receiver, including a ballistic series of offseason workouts. He also has durability, power and toughness, something the Broncos' last first-round pick at the position lacks.
16 Miami LB Ernie Sims, Florida State
Dolphins need linebackers, and Sims has great value at 16.
17 Minnesota LB Chad Greenway, Iowa
Greenway, or Sims, could be the final piece of the puzzle in the Vikings' front seven.
18 Dallas DB Antonio Cromartie, Florida State
Cowboys take a risk on Cromartie, who played CB before his big injury, and as a deep defense FS as a pro. Pairing SS Roy Williams with a free safety who can cover well and take pressure off of Williams deep is essential.
19 San Diego WR Santonio Holmes, Ohio State
Lets see, weapons needed for young quarterback to succeed: best tight end in the league? Check. Best runningback in the league? Check. Deep threat on the outside?
20 Kansas City CB Tye Hill, Clemson
The Chiefs somehow managed to go 10-6 with the fifth-worst passing defense.
21 New England RB Laurence Maroney, Minnesota
Why not add a power runner with great value in the early 20's? Corey Dillon isn't getting any younger.
22 San Francisco (from Denver from Washington) LB Kamerion Wimbley, Florida State
Probably not as dynamic as Julian Peterson, but the 49ers must add a pass rushing threat to replace Peterson and Andre Carter.
23 Tampa Bay OT Marcus McNeill, Auburn
Enormous tackle gets the personal imprimatur of Carnell Williams.
24 Cincinnati DB Jimmy Williams, Virginia Tech
Massive cornerback/safety prospect adds youth to the Bengal's secondary, where Williams will immediately contribute in nickel and dime situations and could eventually replace Tory James.
25 NY Giants CB Ashton Youboty, Ohio State
Dynamic and athletic prospect adds speed to the Giants secondary.
26 Chicago TE Marcedes Lewis, UCLA
Of all the elite TE prospects, Lewis and Notre Dame TE Anthony Fasano are the best blockers - a key for the Bears' offense. Lewis may have more upside at a key position for the Bears.
27 Carolina DE Tamba Hali, Penn State
The Panthers gave big money to DeShaun Foster and may not be willing to give big money to another runningback by taking one in the first round. Hali provides the Panthers as an eventual replacement for Mike Rucker and a key reserve on the edge.
28 Jacksonville OLB Bobby Carpenter, Ohio State
Strongside linebacker should start as a rookie for the Jags as a replacement for Akin Ayodele.
29 NY Jets (from Denver) RB LenDale White, USC
Jets add a play-making defensive end and a game-breaking runningback in their first round.
30 Indianapolis RB Joseph Addai, LSU
Fast-rising Addai is a poor-man's Edgerrin James. And after paying Manning, Harrison and Wayne, that's exactly what the Colts are looking for.
31 Seattle S Jason Allen, Tennessee
Allen's prior injuries are scaring NFL teams off, apparently. Allen could go as high as top 10, or fit right in with the Seahawks where Ken Hamlin's career could be in doubt.
32 Pittsburgh LB D’Qwell Jackson, Maryland
Slick, speedy receiver doesn't have Randle El's versatility but can replace his quick route running and deep speed.
In the remainder of the draft, the Saints will also likely continue their strong, almost stubborn tendency to take the best player available. Also keep in mind that with the Saints' college-familiar coaching staff, the draft room will be receiving strong, personal input on players from the schools and conferences the new coaching staff is from.
34 TE Leonard Pope Georgia
99 OG Jason Spitz Louisville
135 CB Marcus Maxey Miami
171 ILB Tim Dobbins Iowa State
174 OG Rob Smith Tennessee
210 OLB Terna Nande Miami (Ohio)
252 S Greg Threat Miami