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Dream draft

What if every NFL player was available?

Posted: Thursday April 14, 2005 12:21PM; Updated: Thursday April 14, 2005 4:29PM
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Peyton Manning wouldn't last long if he was available to all 32 NFL teams.
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So the San Francisco 49ers, bless their victory-deficient souls, have this No. 1 draft pick thing all figured out: New coach Mike Nolan and his merry band of fresh-faced numbers geeks can hem and haw and bob and weave and bait and switch all they want, but Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be the dude wearing the dorky red cap on the podium in midtown Manhattan on April 23.

By now all 29 teams holding first-round selections have their picks mostly worked out as well. Sure, there will be trade talks and breathlessly reported rumors and more jokes about Mel Kiper Jr.'s hair than the amount of individual hairs on the man's head, but that's just show-biz, folks. At this point draft boards are as set in stone as a Seahawks receiver's hands.

But what if, by the grace of Tagliabue, the 2005 draft suddenly became a lot more interesting? What if all rosters were hereby gutted, and each of the 32 franchises had to start from scratch, using the current draft order? What if every player in the league was there for the picking?

That, my friends, would be good television, a treat for those of us who believe the words "mock" and "draft" belong together. So, in the interest of cyber-bemusement, I'm creating such a draft. The only rule is that anyone picked arrives "as is." Thus, while Brett Favre, Marshall Faulk and Jerome Bettis are three of my favorite people, and each will cruise into Canton, none of them is likely to go high -- unless George Allen comes back to life and is put in charge of an NFL franchise. Conversely, while prospects such as Braylon Edwards and Antrel Rolle are wowing scouts with their size, speed and jumping ability, I believe other "measurables" -- such as how someone actually has performed in a big NFL game -- should take precedence here.

With all of that hypothetical heresy in mind, here is how the first round of such a spectacle would play out, with picks restored for teams who have traded their '05 No. 1s:

Ultimate Mock Draft
Pick Team Pos. Player
1 QB Michael Vick
Michael Vick, Quarterback. Yeah, I know, he's a running quarterback, not a passer... blah blah blah. Unless John Elway's clone enters society after 20 years in a meat freezer, Vick is the most talented player in the draft, and one who has led his team to playoff victories in each of his two healthy seasons as a starter. Even John York can't screw this one up.
2 QB Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning, Quarterback. As the final shred of proof that Manning is the next Marino, Nick Saban ensures at least another decade of prolific passing in South Florida.
3 QB Tom Brady
Did you really think Romeo Crennel could pass on the guy who helped him earn three rings in New England? Not bad for a kid who went in the sixth round in the real draft.
4 RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Announcement at O'Hare: "Mr. Tomlinson, please report to the white-courtesy telephone. Mr. Lovie Smith will be dialing your number at least 30 times, every Sunday, until you drop."
5 DE Julius Peppers
Jon Gruden wants his defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin, to be happy-or, at the very least, less grumpy than usual. Peppers should remain a playmaker off the edge for another decade.
6 DE Dwight Freeney
Jeff Fisher has seen enough of Freeney during their twice-a-year clashes in the AFC South to know what havoc his D could wreak with this sublime speed rusher.
7 WR Randy Moss
You just couldn't resist, Al, could you? (And watch out for Ricky Williams as a late-round steal.)
8 QB Daunte Culpepper
Many considered 'Pep' a reach when Denny Green snagged him in the first round for Minnesota in '99. Not this time.
9 RB Jamal Lewis
Joe Gibbs isn't waiting around to build a winner; he wants the world and he wants it now. Enter Lewis, a big back in the John Riggins mold who runs more like Darrell Green.
10 LB Brian Urlacher
Steve Mariucci thought, for a split-second, maybe T.O. isn't that bad after all. But then president Matt Millen's inner inside linebacker surfaced and squelched that noise, instead picking the ideal man to lead the Monsters of Motown.
11 QB Donovan McNabb
"I like Drew Bledsoe as my quarterback, and I think we need to go for a big defensive tackle here." Jerry Jones: "Tuna, thanks for your input. Donovan, I'll be sending my plane momentarily."
12 OT Jonathan Ogden
Ernie Accorsi considers taking Eli Manning here but decides to wait after realizing the second-year passer will still be available in the fifth round. The Giants have always been a team that takes the best available player, period, and the ultra-steady Ogden is that guy.
13 CB Champ Bailey
Can Charley Casserly lay off a shutdown corner with years of productive service remaining? I think not.
14 DT Marcus Stroud
Quick, a decade after they joined the league, how many of you still confuse Carolina and Jacksonville? John Fox adds to the confusion by nabbing the Jags' young, active middle-stuffer.
15 RB Edgerrin James
Dick Vermeil won it all with Marshall Faulk, won a conference with Wilbert Montgomery and won a division with Priest Holmes, so why not get the best, most versatile halfback available?
16 WR Terrell Owens
Pain in the ass? Absolutely. Bigger pain in the ass for opponents? Yessir. T.O.'s inspirational effort in the Super Bowl told us all we need to know.

Ultimate Mock Draft Continued