Posted: Friday January 27, 2006 12:25PM; Updated: Friday January 27, 2006 12:35PM
Mock NFL Draft No. 1
What in the world are the Pats doing picking in the 20s? Isn't it a league rule they have to choose 32nd? New England got by in the season's second half with journeyman NFL cornerback Artrell Hawkins filling in at safety, but with Rodney Harrison a question mark following knee surgery, Bing or one of the tightly bunched cornerbacks make sense.
The Broncos defense needs somebody who can rush the passer and create a little havoc in the opposing backfield. Kiwanuka's skills in that department aren't as well developed as some would like, but he's a first-round talent with great value in this slot. Arizona State receiver Derek Hagan could be Plan B for the first of Denver's two No. 1s.
The Bucs could use a legitimate No. 1 receiver to take over for Joey Galloway in the near future, so it wouldn't be surprising to see them jump on Arizona State's Derek Hagan. But with Anthony Davis and the disappointing Kenyatta Walker at offensive tackle, McNeil, perhaps the draft's best run blocker, is a solid bet. And he's already blocked for Cadillac Williams before, at Auburn.
This one isn't exactly brain surgery. The Bengals need to upgrade on run defense if they're to take a step up from playoff qualifier to playoff winner. John Thornton and Bryan Robinson are just so-so in the middle of the Cincy D-line. Bunkley or LSU defensive tackle Claude Wroten are the likely prospects, but if safety Darnell Bing should tumble, remember him, too.
After watching their linebackers get wiped out by injury late in the season, the Giants have a lot of decent options in this slot. The linebacking trio of Howard, Florida State's Ernie Sims and Ohio State's Bobby Carpenter all could be available, as could an intriguing cornerback prospect -- Florida State's Antonio Cromartie -- who would fill another need.
Every early indicator points to the Bears thinking tight end with this pick, because we know their defense doesn't need any first-round attention. But which tight end will it be, Lewis, the pass-catcher who has a receiver's body and athleticism, or Georgia's 6-7, 250-pound Leonard Pope, who is slightly less of a threat catching the ball but a better blocker in the run game?
Like the Bears, the Panthers need a pass-catching tight end to help ease the load on all-world receiver Steve Smith. Marcedes Lewis and Notre Dame's Anthony Fasano are two other tight end options. But Carolina also could be thinking running back (Minnesota's Laurence Maroney), defensive tackle (LSU's Claude Wroten) or offensive tackle (Miami's Eric Winston).
If the surgically repaired knee that caused him to miss the entire 2005 season checks out healthy at the Scouting Combine, look for Cromartie to shoot up some teams' boards as the draft nears. The Jaguars have Kenny Wright and Terry Cousin opposite CB Rashean Mathis, and that's not enough. Clemson CB Tye Hill or a speed rusher to pair with DE Reggie Hayward also are options.
The Broncos had success going heavy on cornerbacks in last year's draft, getting solid contributions from all three they selected. This year, with two No. 1 picks, a similar emphasis could be placed on the defensive line. Even though Denver liked what it saw of Gerard Warren and Michael Myers inside in 2005, Wroten might be rated too high to pass on.
Spending to keep their offensive nucleus together didn't exactly pay off this year, did it? With that in mind, the Colts have all but thrown Edgerrin James a goodbye party, and it just makes economic sense to go looking for his replacement in the first round. Maroney is explosive and figures to offer the best bang for the buck. A linebacker such as Sims or Howard would also fill a potential need.
Gators receivers haven't exactly built a track record of NFL success, but the Steelers still would like to replace the downfield threat they lost last year when Plaxico Burress left for New York during free agency. Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter could be another option, because he could handle either inside or outside duty in the Steelers' 3-4 formation.
The Seahawks defense has been better than most expected this season, but Seattle could use an infusion of talent at defensive line, where it uses a rotation to keep as many bodies as fresh as possible. The logical place to start is at end, where Bryce Fisher and Grant Wistrom could stand some competition. Receiver and even linebacker help might work its way up the Seattle need list.