Posted: Thursday December 8, 2005 11:58AM; Updated: Friday December 9, 2005 12:50PM
If Reggie Bush goes pro after this season, he would likely be the No. 1 overall pick.
You know what I'm hearing within the NFL about the so-called debate as to whether Reggie Bush or Matt Leinart will go first in next April's draft? There is no debate, folks. It might just be another one of those media-created mirages that disappears the closer we get to next spring.
If Bush declares himself eligible for the draft as a junior -- as it appears he's preparing to do -- the dazzling USC running back will almost certainly be the most coveted player available, with a final evaluation that ranks him comfortably ahead of Leinart, the Trojans fifth-year quarterback.
Sorry to ruin everyone's fun, but the Bush versus Leinart argument doesn't seem to have ever gotten started among the ranks of the league's personnel evaluators -- even if conventional wisdom within the NFL has long held that potential franchise quarterbacks are always more valuable than prospects at any other position.
"Leinart's not necessarily No. 1 pick material, if he ever was,'' said one veteran personnel man, who asked not to be named in speaking about last year's Heisman Trophy winner (Leinart) and the heavy favorite to win this year's award (Bush) on Saturday.
"Somebody, at some point a while back anointed Leinart the first pick in the draft before he really even got evaluated. Then when the guy doesn't turn out to be the No. 1 after evaluation, the 'experts' have to go back and defend why they had him No. 1 all along.
"But with that team [USC], if you watch it closely, the guy that stirs that drink is the tailback. The guy is clearly the factor. They don't do anything revolutionary on offense. They just have better players than anyone else. They're backed up on their goal line, but they give him the ball on a simple hand-off and he goes 70 yards. He's a special player.''
Said one NFL general manager of Bush, who has elicited comparisons to GaleSayers: "In the draft, it always matters where you are with your team and what direction you're going, but Bush belongs [at No. 1] by talent. He's special. He's a real marquee player. There's real debate around the league about the quarterback. There's not a great consensus on him.''