Behind the mock draft The information and logic that led to my 32 picks Posted: Wednesday April 26, 2006 4:50PM; Updated: Thursday April 27, 2006 9:27AM The Texans may talk themselves out of Reggie Bush, but he still appears like the logical choice at No. 1. What you'll get, in addition to my projected first round of the draft, is a lot of unnamed and unquoted sources, unless I mention otherwise, as I try to establish how I made my picks. No one wants to be quoted by name when talking about the draft. I call the period in which I write this column Hell Week because what happens is that I go through a round of calls without getting anybody, since they're all in meetings, and then when they call you back, the whole thing is bunched together and you have to get in and get out quickly. So what I usually do is try to place my calls in different time zones, so as to stagger the return times, since they all usually take their break at the same hour. And just as it always does, when I'm waiting for the keynote return call, the phone rings, and I cut someone else short, and it's that fruity, yahoo voice, "I want you to consider our family of insurance plans." And once again I lose it and direct him to some operations he can perform with various farm animals, despite the Redhead's warning that everything is taped and recorded now, and "in the interest of security," this kind of language will land me in the joint. So here is my first round, and remember, I have to write it a week earlier than what the newspaper guys write, which puts me at an immediate disadvantage. No. 1 TEXANS: I went with chalk, despite Peter King's warning that there are reasons that Bush, along with everybody else, is suspect and it's all so iffy that I'd be better off assigning no one at all to this spot. But I just can't face the idea of making myself crazy so early in the game, so it'll still be REGGIE BUSH, RB, USC. No. 2 SAINTS: Everybody says it's Williams; the people I talked to on the club agree -- sort of, because instinctively any phone call will be answered with blather such as "we think that (fill in any one of the top six names) is a mighty fine player." And of course there still could be a leapfrog trade, with someone moving into this spot and then hopping up to No. 1 to get a keynote QB. But I'm giving the Saints MARIO WILLIAMS, DE, NORTH CAROLINA STATE, because at this writing I don't have positive news to the contrary, which would foul up my board and set up at least half a dozen more phone calls. No. 3 TITANS: Floyd Reese, the GM, who didn't mind being quoted on general observations, said that Vince Young is "a rare talent." There, you heard it here first. And Matt Leinart is "much further along." And the decision's "gonna come right down to the wire." You now know exactly what everybody in the USA and parts of Europe know. I've been asking around about Young's mysterious Wonderlic test. A long time ago I heard that he scored a two, which would be close to the all-time lowest score on this 50-point IQ exam, and would qualify him to quarterback, oh, maybe a peewee team on the Gaspe Peninsula. No, it was a shocking inaccuracy, was the next thing I heard. On a retest he scored anywhere from 12 to 16. Then I heard that some hanky-panky was going on, and the threat of a lawsuit for releasing information that could be potentially damaging was in the air, and the rerun was rigged. This is a very murky area, but it could keep the young man out of the No. 3 spot, in which I say the Titans take MATT LEINART, QB, USC. I have just started this game and already I don't like the way it's going. I'm not sure about anything. It's entirely either-or stuff, which you don't want at the top of the round. Callbacks will be coming in soon. I'm feeling the start of the headache. The phone rings. Ah, must be the Titans calling back to tell me their final choice. "I read your column and I want to know what kind of wine to have with steak," someone says. "California Syrah," I tell him. "Look, sorry but I've gotta go now..." And as I'm hanging up I hear him tell someone, "What an arrogant son of a ..." No. 4 JETS: Everyone wants to help New York. Fans and talk show hosts--same thing, really-- say Leinart would look great in Giants Stadium. Yeah, he'll be there, on the visitors' side when the Titans play New York. Who do I speak to on the Jets? A friend of an assistant coach, who tells me that the coaches say their left tackle is Adrian Jones and "we've got air at right tackle." Air is not a good pass blocker, and his drive blocking stinks too, and while they're sorting out their QB situation, they can't have defenders pouring in and messing up the equation. So we're going to move Jones over to the right side and draft a quick-footed, natural LT and his name is D'BRICKASHAW FERGUSON, OT, VIRGINIA. This, incidentally, is the first D'Brickashaw the club has ever had, unless there's something about Joe Namath's birth certificate we don't know. No. 5 PACKERS: An easy pick upon which everyone agrees. I call the Packers, speak to two individuals, and they both confirm that the logical choice is A.J. HAWK, LB, OHIO STATE, an amazingly gifted young defender. No. 6 49ERS: Denver wanted to trade up to get the guy the Niners love, VERNON DAVIS, TE, MARYLAND, the 250-pounder who can run a 4.38. But the Broncos couldn't find anyone who wanted to move that far down. Yes, the Niners confirmed that Davis is the highest player on their board, but hey, they have to face the Cards' Boldin and Fitzgerald twice. Ditto the mob of St. Louis receivers. So they'd better find a wideout somewhere. Which they will, at No. 22 in the first round, after trading to get Denver's spot. No. 7 RAIDERS: Now we're into John LeCarre stuff, Smiley vs. Karla, the intelligence and counter intelligence network. I call up my mole who's deep in the Raider organization. He says the club has locked the gate to him and installed guard rats to keep people out. But he says that he personally heard Al Davis utter the name of Young. Hmmm, this seems to eliminate at least one player from Raiders consideration. But since I've gotten the Raiders pick right only once in 34 years of trying, I'm not going to win anyway, so I might as well clear the QB off my list so I don't have to worry about him anymore. So armed with this cop-out, defeatist logic, I send VINCE YOUNG, QB, TEXAS, to Oakland. No. 8 BILLS: They're having contract trouble with their right cornerback, Nate Clements. He's unhappy being designated the franchise player. As of this moment, when I call the Bills, one player, Michael Huff, is rising like a Roman candle, although I hear now that he has subsequently dropped a bit. It's like playing the stock market. The club feels it has to fortify its secondary, and Huff can go at either safety or corner. Haloti Ngata, the 338-pound DT, would look very nice in a Bills uniform, but I'm giving them MICHAEL HUFF, CB-S, TEXAS. No. 9 LIONS: I've had casual conversations with some of the, uh, people here. "Who are some of the guys who would impress you at that point of the draft?" I asked Matt Millen. "Well, Huff for sure. He's what? He's gone? Already? Well, we're looking for action guys, game-changers." Millen was a linebacker. I check my linebacker list. At least five could be first-rounders. ERNIE SIMS OF FLORIDA STATE is an action guy, a game-changer who smacks in there with abandon. He has also had five concussions. Do I have the guts to place him this high? Yes, I'm very bold with other people's fortunes. No. 10 CARDINALS: Based on conversations I've had with, ummm, various individuals, four names have surfaced. Jay Cutler, the QB, Sims, the big run-stuffers, Ngata and Brodrick Bunkley, who came pretty close to the bench-press record at the combine workouts and would still be pressing those weights if they didn't tell him to stop, and Jimmy Williams, a talented but feisty cornerback. "I'll let you pick one," said my Cardinals informant. Rule of thumb that I just made up: If there's a QB in the mix, you've got to pick him. JAY CUTLER, QB, VANDERBILT, is the choice. No. 11 RAMS: I've narrowed it down to two choices, Chad Greenway, a LB, and cornerback Antonio Cromartie. "We're having Cromartie in today," a coach told me. Now this is a curious thing. Flying him in. Oh my God. It quickens the senses. But teams fly everybody in, or fly out to look at them. They make personal contact with almost all the big names, time them themselves, measure them, take them to dinner and check their table manners, engage them in deep conversation and find out their views on Iraq and the oil situation. What does it all mean? Beats me, except that everybody who has seen Cromartie work out has gasped. "Looks like he's from another planet," Giants' GM Ernie Accorsi said. But he missed a year with a knee injury. He's only started one game. Do I dare to gamble for the Rams this high? Yes, I do. Capture the queen of spades and shoot the moon, I say. It's ANTONIO CROMARTIE, CB, FLORIDA STATE for St.Louis. I am wandering, mentally, drifting, staring out the window. Little Jake, our tabby, is involved in a faceoff with two groundhogs. No one's backing off. Quick. Time them. I want to cover someone's workout instead of sitting here by the telephone. I can picture it. I am standing alongside the scouts. A pigeon circles the practice field and lands. "Really flies to the ball," one scout says. A lean, mean, defensive end gets into his stance. "Really explodes off the edge," a scout says. "That's why no one's standing near him," says the other one. The phone rings. It's the Browns, thank God. No. 12 BROWNS: Names, names, names. This guy has given me names. The big guys, Ngata and Bunkley. They're almost automatic now. USC offensive tackle Winston Justice. Hmmm. But they were last in the NFL in sacks last year. They need a pass rusher. Yep, they've given me a name there, too, the best one still on the board, and he's my choice. KAMERION WIMBLEY, DE, FLORIDA STATE. No. 13 RAVENS: The Ravens are one of the few teams that aren't shy about telling you their preferences. Everyone always seems to know what they're going to do, then they do it anyway, get one of the players they want, and wind up with a better list of homegrown Pro Bowlers than anyone else. They like Huff and Sims. Gone. Ngata. Available. The Ravens draft HALOTI NGATA, DT, OREGON. No. 14 EAGLES: Justice, the USC tackle, has had amazing workouts, and he's piqued the Eagles' interest, but if you look at their O-line you see big hog types. Somehow I just can't place Justice in a Philly uniform. They want a Sam linebacker. BOBBY CARPENTER, LB, OHIO STATE is the perfect type. No. 15 BRONCOS: Let's take a look at their offense. The rushing attack is nicely in place. It was second in the league last year. They don't need runners or linemen. But the passing game finished 18th, not good enough. A TE would be nice, but the fast one was not to be theirs. Their leading wideout, Rod Smith, is 35. Ashley Lelie, their speed guy, is unreliable. They can't go three-wide because they haven't got a serious third receiver. There's a lot of speed in this draft, and I just know they're going to wind up with some of it. I'll give them CHAD JACKSON, WR, FLORIDA, over Ohio State's Santonio Holmes, but it could go the other way. No. 16 DOLPHINS: Gosh, I don't know. My connection there is Don Shula, but he can't help me. This is one of those situations in which you listen to other people who know all about what another team is going to do. My instincts tell me defensive backfield or possibly an edge-rushing LB. Then all of a sudden I got a brainflash, JASON ALLEN, FS, TENNESSEE. No one I talked to on the Dolphins mentioned him, but everyone seems to be asking where he'll go, the sure tip-off that a guy is hot, that he's on the rise. No. 17 VIKINGS: They need a linebacker, they need a corner. JIMMY WILLIAMS, CB, VIRGINIA TECH, has a lot of talent but a reputation of being hard to handle. "Brain farts," is the way one coach described it. I asked my Vikings man if they had a cure for that. Yeah, he said, their new defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin, who knows Williams and feels that he can get along with him just fine. No. 18 COWBOYS: I gave them SANTONIO HOLMES, WR, OHIO STATE, only because when I talked to someone in the organization he asked me, ever so gently, "Where do you have Holmes going?" That, to me, is always the tip-off. When they ask that, give the guy to them, slam dunk, no questions asked. Now I have second thoughts. Why do they need another receiver after they got Terrell Owens? Beats me. If I had it to do over again, I'd give them Bunkley or one of the linebackers, or maybe even Nick Mangold, the center. No. 19 CHARGERS: A cornerback certainly would make sense, after Sammy Davis was traded to the 49ers. If Cromartie still were there, and he might be, they'd have to give him a serious look. But WINSTON JUSTICE, T, USC, is the second-highest-rated offensive lineman in the draft, and LT Roman Oben is getting along in years, so call it one of those value picks. No. 20 CHIEFS: They want a pass rusher, Wimbley, if he's there, or another of their choice plums, TAMBA HALI, DE, PENN STATE. No. 21 PATRIOTS: I always talk to GM Scott Pioli about the draft in general. He gives me his overview on the leading players. It's very frank and very helpful, except that he never likes anybody, and he will not talk about his own club. So I've got to sort through and try to guess who he's least negative about. I tried it this time and it didn't work. Then I looked at the other mock drafts already out. They seem to want to give him a LB. The highest he's ever drafted one was in the fifth round. But he's taken three D-linemen at No. 1. That's it. I gave him BRODRICK BUNKLEY, DT, FLORIDA STATE. No. 22 49ERS: Cornerback, as I mentioned earlier. The best one remaining on my board is JOHNATHAN JOSEPH, SOUTH CAROLINA. Say, it just dawned on me. Nobody's taken DeAngelo Williams, the explosive runner from Memphis. That's odd. No. 23 BUCCANEERS: One of two teams that never returned a phone call. My revenge will be swift and terrible. How about NICK MANGOLD, C, OHIO STATE? Why? Because that's who their night security man likes. No. 24 BENGALS: This guy will go higher because everybody's asking about him and everyone I talk to likes his game, which is aggressive and athletic. DONTE WHITNER, SS, OHIO STATE. No. 25 GIANTS: I had them picking a linebacker. Then they signed LaVar (do you know, incidentally, what LaVar means in translation? It means "The War") Arrington. Over to the D-backfield we go, where there's speed, speed and more speed, including TYE HILL, CB, CLEMSON, who broke the bank at the combine with a 4.30 clocking. And I'm going to tell you something in confidence. That's faster than I ever ran it. No. 26 BEARS: Their GM, Jerry Angelo, has not returned a phone call from me in 10 years, but when you've got an idiot, fixated mentality, as I do, that doesn't slow you down in the least. So I left about three callbacks this time and got the usual response, and wondered what I've done to annoy this man, since we used to talk when he was a scout for the Giants (was that really 20 years ago? My goodness). Am I boring you? Hey, wake those people up over there. Well, Jerry, I just want you to know I don't need you to feed me any lies. I've got hot sources in Chicago. George Halas, Jumbo Joe Stadahar, Danny Fortmann, any of the old gang. And they tell me that the Bears are planning to include the tight end in their offense from now on, so they will draft MARCEDES LEWIS, TE, UCLA. No. 27 PANTHERS: LENDALE WHITE, RB, USC, is just so perfect for their offense that everybody's willing to overlook the fact that he's been overweight in the offseason and acting kind of flaky. It's just such a good fit for the ball-control attack they wanted to use in the NFC title game but couldn't because everyone was hurt. No. 28 JAGUARS: Well, it looks like runners are finally falling, so it's time for DeAngelo Williams, right? Uh, not quite yet. Jack Del Rio was a LB. There's a good one left, CHAD GREENWAY, IOWA, to replace Akin Ayodele, the one that got away. No. 29 JETS: My mock draft in the magazine gave them Manny Lawson, a linebacker, but RB Cedrick Houston's auto accident changed that and now I'll award them, you guessed it, DEANGELO WILLIAMS, RB, MEMPHIS. No. 30 COLTS: Gosh, what a tough break. Everybody knows they need a runner for departed Edgerrin James' spot, and Williams has just been taken. But wait a minute, Tony Dungy loves LAURENCE MARONEY, RB, MINNESOTA, and no one figured he'd still be there. He probably won't, so they could take Joseph Addai of LSU. No. 31 SEAHAWKS: They need another corner. They don't have confidence in Kelly Herndon, projected as the starter on the left side. I gave them ASHTON YOUBOTY, CB, OHIO STATE, but if one of the good safeties, such as Allen, were still around, they could go that way. No. 32 STEELERS: Two holes to fill, WR, to cover the loss of Antwaan Randle El, and FS, where Chris Hope is gone. SINORICE MOSS, WR, MIAMI, Santana's brother, is a shrimp, but a flying shrimp who will, I predict, become an immediate favorite in Pittsburgh.