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ESPN Insider Mock Draft
Ferguson is safer pick for Saints at No. 2
By Todd McShay
Much in the NFL draft process has changed over the last month. Per usual, this year's scouting combine sent plenty of prospects shooting up and down team draft boards. Furthermore, the free-agency period finally started, and the volatile market has generated a daily fluctuation in team needs.
With that in mind, there also is much left to be determined between now and April 29. Most prospects still have an opportunity to improve their draft stock at pro days and during individual workouts. And with the free-agency period still in full swing, the top of the draft still is far from clear. Regardless, here's a look at how the 2006 NFL draft is shaping up with six weeks remaining:
+ = Underclassman
1. Houston Texans (2-14)
Top five needs: OG, OT, MLB, WR, RB
The pick: +Reggie Bush, RB, USC
The Texans would entertain legitimate trade-down offers to stockpile draft picks and address more pressing needs. However, since the Saints stole the leverage by signing QB Drew Brees in free agency, Houston is not likely to field many enticing proposals. Bush is a special talent who instantly will upgrade the Texans' rushing game, passing game and return game.
2. New Orleans Saints (3-13)
Top five needs: OLB, C, DT, OT, OG
The pick: D'Brickashaw Ferguson, OT, Virginia
By addressing the quarterback need before the draft, the Saints have made the second overall pick the target for teams interested in trading up for the chance to draft QB Matt Leinart. Between now and draft day, the Saints will put pick No. 2 up for public auction and wait for the highest bidder. If they don't get the right price, the Saints will have a difficult decision to make between Ferguson and DE Mario Williams. In my opinion, Ferguson would be the safer pick. He could solidify the Saints' offensive line at left tackle opposite last year's top pick, ROT Jammal Brown.
3. Tennessee Titans (4-12)
Top five needs: MLB, S, OT, QB, RB
The pick: Matt Leinart, QB, USC
The Titans have several more pressing needs, but reuniting Leinart with offensive coordinator Norm Chow would be too good to pass up. If another team leapfrogs the Titans to draft Leinart at No. 2, Tennessee gladly would solidify its offensive line by drafting Ferguson here.
4. New York Jets (4-12)
Top five needs: QB, OT, RB, OG/C, CB
The pick: +Mario Williams, DE, N.C. State
The Jets are actively seeking a veteran quarterback via free agency or trade, which is an indication they aren't overly enamored with Vince Young or Jay Cutler. If the team is able to land a quarterback between now and the draft, it will be free to address another need with this pick. Ferguson would be the top choice, if available. However, there's also a strong possibility that DE John Abraham will be traded soon. If that's the case, Williams would be a perfect fit. After running the 40-yard dash in the area of 4.6-second at 6-foot-7 and 295 pounds, Williams has become the most coveted defensive prospect in this class.
5. Green Bay Packers (4-12)
Top five needs: OG, OLB, C, CB, ILB
The pick: A.J. Hawk, OLB, Ohio State
The Packers have done a good job recently of addressing their needs at wide receiver (Rod Gardner), defensive tackle (Ryan Pickett) and safety (Marquand Manuel). Still missing, though, is an impact playmaker in the defensive back seven. Hawk not only fits the bill but also has the leadership qualities to turn around a Packers defense that has struggled the last few seasons.
6. San Francisco 49ers (4-12)
Top five needs: OLB, CB, TE, S, WR
The pick: +Vernon Davis, TE, Maryland
The 49ers are in a good position with the sixth overall pick. They would love to see Williams or Hawk fall to them, and they also will entertain the idea of selecting S Michael Huff from Texas. But the team needs to surround QB Alex Smith, last year's top overall pick, with more weapons, and Davis has all the makings of a game-breaking playmaker in the passing attack.
7. Oakland Raiders (4-12)
Top five needs: QB, OG, DT, CB, DS
The pick: +Vince Young, QB, Texas
After dumping Kerry Collins and watching Marques Tuiasosopo struggle to develop, the Raiders are back in the market for a quarterback. Many talent evaluators are down on Young because of his collegiate system, unorthodox throwing motion and embarrassing score (officially a 15, contrary to previous reports) on the Wonderlic test -- but not Raiders' owner Al Davis. In fact, Davis would have no hesitation drafting an explosive athlete such as Young with the seventh overall pick.
8. Buffalo Bills (5-11)
Top five needs: OT, DT, C, CB, S
The pick: +Haloti Ngata, DT, Oregon
This seems like the perfect marriage. The Bills upgraded their defensive line with the free-agency addition of DT Larry Tripplett, but they are still in search for a massive two-gap defender to play alongside him. Ngata has some weaknesses, including an inconsistent motor, but the presence of Tripplett and Tim Anderson would allow him to ease into a starting role.
9. Detroit Lions (5-11)
Top five needs: LB, S, DE, OG, CB
The pick: Michael Huff, DB, Texas
New head coach Rod Marinelli comes from a hard-nosed, defensive-minded background, and he'll want to set the tone by selecting an impact playmaker on that side of the ball with this pick. Some think Huff can play cornerback in the NFL, while others think he'll be limited to safety. I think he can play both, which would give the Lions much-needed versatility in their secondary.
10. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)
Top five needs: S, TE, WLB, OT, QB
The pick: Jimmy Williams, CB, Virginia Tech
It has become a popular theory that the Cardinals will draft a quarterback with this pick. However, Dennis Green does not plan on being around long enough to groom a rookie at that position. The team extended QB Kurt Warner's contract and made a huge splash with the free-agency signing of RB Edgerrin James. In order to balance things out, look for the team to draft the best available defensive player with this pick. Williams' stock has slipped due to his inconsistent play as a senior and his abrasive attitude at the combine, but he still is the most gifted cover corner in this class. A combination of Williams and Antrel Rolle would give the Cardinals one of the best young cornerback tandems in the NFL.
11. St. Louis Rams (6-10)
Top five needs: CB, OG, TE, LB, S
The pick: Jay Cutler, QB, Vanderbilt
The Rams are fully capable of making this surprise pick. The team has other more pressing needs, but drafting a quarterback of the future will be too big a temptation to pass up. New head coach Scott Linehan is an offensive guru, and it is rumored that he likes Cutler as a fit for his system. Furthermore, Marc Bulger is brittle, and the team needs a better contingency plan than QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
12. Cleveland Browns (6-10)
Top five needs: DE, LB, OT, WR, CB
The pick: +Ernie Sims, OLB, Florida State
The Browns have been one of the most active teams in free agency, but they still have a number of holes to fill. After spending two of the team's three first-day picks on the offensive side of the ball last year, GM Phil Savage knows he needs to give more attention to Romeo Crennel's defense. Even though the team brought in Willie McGinest via free agency, he is 34 years old and will not be around for long. Sims is a terrific athlete who would provide a lot of versatility because of his ability to pursue the run, blitz the quarterback and drop into coverage.
13. Baltimore Ravens (6-10)
Top five needs: S, QB, ROT, ROG, OLB
The pick: Brodrick Bunkley, DT, Florida State
The Ravens would consider Cutler if he slipped to them here, but they are more likely to draft a quarterback in the second or third round. There is a more pressing need for offensive line help, but supply does not match their demand. Bunkley is one of the fastest-rising prospects in the 2006 class right now, and he could easily come off the board within the top 15 picks. His impressive combination of size, quickness and power would help the Ravens as they continue to transition to a 4-3 defensive scheme.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (6-10)
Top five needs: OT, WR, RB, OLB, DT
The pick: +LenDale White, RB, USC
Drafting a bigger back to take some of the load off Brian Westbrook's shoulders is critical. White is a bruising, 238-pound back who could complement Westbrook perfectly, much as he did Bush during their days at USC.
15. Atlanta Falcons (8-8)
Top five needs: S, OT, CB, OG, DE
The pick: +Winston Justice, OT, USC
After losing Kevin Shaffer in free agency, the Falcons have a hole at left tackle. Justice could slip on draft day due to character issues -- he sat out the 2004 season after being suspended twice by the USC student affairs department -- but he's an impressive talent with the size and athleticism to quickly develop into a solid starter in the NFL, assuming he continues to mature and keep his nose clean.
16. Miami Dolphins (9-7)
Top five needs: CB, S, OG/OC, WR, OLB
The pick: +Chad Jackson, WR, Florida
Jackson's exceptional combine workout could help him leapfrog Santonio Holmes as the top receiver taken in this year's draft. The Dolphins have other more pressing needs, but Jackson would give new QB Daunte Culpepper the type of explosive vertical weapon he needs opposite No. 1 WR Chris Chambers.
"You win by attrition. You impose your will on your opponent." ~ Mike Tomlin