Of course, there are no do-overs when it comes to the NFL draft. You simply live with the picks you make, whether they work out or not. But what if teams could go back and rewrite history? This week, NFL.com will do just that by looking at each draft from 2004 to 2008 and assign do-overs based on what we know now. Today, Pat Kirwan rewrites 2006.
Attending the pre-draft luncheon the day before the 2006 NFL Draft in New York City was my last glimpse at the top players and what they were thinking hours before the big day. Many people at the time thought Reggie Bush was a lock to go to Houston in the top spot, but the Texans weren't talking to Bush and his agent. By 4 p.m. that day, the word was out that Houston was headed toward Mario Williams, not Bush, and certainly not toward the hometown star, Vince Young.
This would be a strange draft with an inside linebacker, a tight end and two safeties among the top-10 picks. The two quarterbacks who cracked the top 10 have not succeeded in the NFL. Matt Leinart is already gone from Arizona, and Young appears to not be in the Titans' future plans. We have just finished the fifth year of football since that 2006 draft, and the first round has seen too many players switch teams to call it a great draft. Already 10 players don't play for the team that drafted them, and it looks like six more will be somewhere else by next year, meaning 50 percent of the first rounder will have changed teams before their sixth season.
Not good, to say the least.
1. Houston Texans
Actual pick: Mario Williams
Do-over pick: Williams
Houston got it right with Williams, who is a physically imposing defensive end. He had a career-high 14 sacks in 2007 and followed that up with a 12-sack season, but hasn't registered a double-digit sack season since. The Texans never got the guy opposite him to take full advantage of Williams' skill set.
2. New Orleans Saints
Jones-Drew came out of UCLA with a big chip on his shoulder, and the first time I interviewed him after the draft he proclaimed that he was better than Reggie Bush. The numbers don't lie at this point: Bush has 4,232 total yards and 29 touchdowns; MJD has 7,347 total yards and 61 touchdowns. Enough said.
3. Tennessee Titans
Actual pick: Vince Young
Do-over pick: Jay Cutler
Tennessee gave mixed messages after drafting Young. Owner Bud Adams wanted him, and it sounded like the coaches were in favor of Leinart. Remember, former USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow ran the Titans' offense at the time and had worked with Leinart in college. The club probably should have selected the local favorite from Vanderbilt, Jay Cutler.
4. New York Jets
Actual pick: D'Brickashaw Ferguson
Do-over pick: Ferguson
The Jets were training on Long Island when they drafted Ferguson, who grew up five miles from the facility. I've said it many times: A solid offensive tackle is a safe pick. The Jets protected him for a few years while he gained strength and improved his technique. He has started all 80 games that he has been with the Jets and has just nine holding calls against him.
5. Green Bay Packers
A.J. Hawk is a solid player, but whether it was Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers, Vernon Davis would be a weapon with Tony Gonzalez-like production at this point. Davis, even without the quarterback situation that exists in Green Bay, has done pretty well for himself in San Francisco, but who knows what his numbers could look like with Rodgers?
6. San Francisco 49ers
Obviously, Davis has been a solid pick for the 49ers, but it might have been wise to select Ngata, who has become one of the most dominating defensive linemen in the NFL. Ex-coach Mike Singletary might still be in San Francisco if he had built the defense around Ngata.
7. Oakland Raiders
Huff has been an average safety at best and is probably done in Oakland. Marshall, meanwhile, already has three seasons of 100-plus receptions, all in the same division as the Raiders while with the Broncos. Owner Al Davis would have never traded Marshall, who would have reminded every Raiders fan of Tim Brown.
8. Buffalo Bills
Whitner started out well as a rookie, but recently he looks like a guy no longer in the Bills' plans, especially with a new contract due soon. Jennings has become an elite wide receiver, and if he was teamed up with Lee Evans there would be no reason for talk of a new quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick would be up around 25 touchdowns per season.
9. Detroit Lions
Sims is already gone from Detroit, while Mangold is going to be an All-Pro 10 times over. Mangold would make the run game better and anchor a pass-blocking unit that might do a better job of keeping Matthew Stafford upright -- and healthy.
10. Arizona Cardinals
Actual pick: Matt Leinart
Do-over pick: Tamba Hali
Leinart is the third-string quarterback in Houston right now, which is really all you need to know. The Cardinals are still looking for outside linebackers to rush the passer, and Hali has become a premiere rusher since the Chiefs went to a 3-4 scheme -- just like the Cardinals want to run.
|The Saints found a true No. 1 receiver in the seventh round in Marques Colston. (Kevin Terrell/Associated Press)|
Best values of the 2006 draft
Second round: The second round was loaded with good players, and I could easily make a case that Jones-Drew (Jaguars, No. 60), Jennings (Packers, No. 52), Andrew Whitworth (Bengals, No. 55), Marcus McNeill (Chargers, No. 50), and DeMeco Ryans (Texans, No. 33) all belonged in the first round. What a year to have multiple picks in Round 2.
Fourth round: Much like the second round, the fourth was a bonanza, starting off at the top with tight end Owen Daniels going to the Texans (No. 98). It also included Jahari Evans (Saints, No. 108), Brandon Marshall (Broncos, No. 119), Elvis Dumervil (Broncos, No. 126), Ray Edwards (Vikings, No. 127), and Leon Washington (Jets, No. 117).
Seventh round: Saints WR Marques Colston (pick No. 252) watched 31 wide receivers called before him, and the Titans' Cortland Finnegan (No. 215) watched as an endless stream of defensive backs were selected before him. The lesson in this seventh round was the value of small-college players. Colston was from Hofstra, while Finnegan came from Sanford.
Biggest mistakes of the 2006 draft
We covered the top 10 already, but you need to remember all first-round selections. CB Ty Hill (Rams), LB Bobby Carpenter (Cowboys), RB Laurence Maroney (Patriots), and DE John McCargo (Bills) were missed picks. After that, WR Chad Jackson (Patriots) and CB Jimmy Williams (Falcons) in the second round, and DT Claude Wroten (Rams) in the third round, were just a few of the misfirings.
Best team draft
Houston Texans: It really came down to two teams, and the irony of one is that they traded most of it away, while the other team has built a solid foundation with its class of 2006. The Broncos selected Cutler, Marshall, Dumervil, Tony Scheffler, Domenik Hixon, and Chris Kuper. Of those six picks, just two remain on the team's current roster, and both are starters. Meanwhile in Houston, the Texans got Williams, Ryans, Winston, and Daniels.
Worst team draft
St. Louis Rams: The Rams had 10 draft picks, and only one player (Mark Setterstrom) is still on the roster. The Rams' draft haul that year included Tye Hill, Claude Wroten, Setterstrom, Joe Klopfenstein, Jon Alston, Dominique Byrd, Victor Adejanju, Marques Hagans, Tim McGarigle, and Tony Palmer.
|Did anybody think Matt Leinart would be holding a clipboard for the Texans five years after being drafted? (Brett Davis/US Presswire)|
Fooled us all
Leinart won a Heisman Trophy, threw for 365 yards in the BCS National Championship game against Young and the Texas Longhorns, and at 6-foot-5 the lefty looked like a lock to have a great NFL career. He came from a pro-style offense and actually looked like a great pick his rookie season. But it all ended there as far as the Cardinals were concerned. Can he still turn his career around?
Bad fits usually happen when a coaching change causes teams to switch systems -- on offense or defense -- and the player drafted to fill a need in one package no longer fits the other. Young wins games for the Titans, but never seemed to fit the way Tennessee wants to play offense. Young will get a chance somewhere else and could flourish in a different system if football is still important to him, which I'm sure it is. Remember when Jim Plunkett went from the Patriots' No. 1 overall pick to castoff with the Raiders to Super Bowl champion?
Fell to the right team
As I look back on the 2006 draft, was there a better fit than Haloti Ngata dropping all the way to No. 12 and the Ravens? Just a year ago Bill Cowher thought Ngata might be the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL, and he is a big part of a tremendous defense.
Makes sense after all
In the first round, the Chiefs drafted Hali from Penn State, and he looked like a decent defensive end. But when Scott Pioli and company took over and switched the defense to a 3-4, which put Hali in a two-point stance, things really started to happen. Hali has 23 sacks in the last two seasons, and the sky is the limit for him.