Posted: Friday February 17, 2006 1:55PM; Updated: Friday February 17, 2006 3:24PM
Combine Fever. Catch it. The NFL's annual meat market won't commence in Indianapolis until the middle of next week, but why wait that long to dive back into everybody's favorite offseason guessing game: mocking out the first round of the NFL Draft, which looms a mere 10 weeks away?
In this, our second mock attempt, we've got prospects such as Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler and Texas defensive back Michael Huff on the rise, while Longhorns quarterback Vince Young, Virginia offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Alabama linebacker DeMeco Ryans have slipped a notch or three on our board.
But no worries. There's still plenty of time for all of that to change again and again. And again. For now, it's on to Indy, where draft-season legacies usually begin to take shape:
Mock NFL Draft No. 2
David Carr contract option or not, we're not taking the bait. The Texans aren't going for hometown hero Vince Young in this slot. They either sit tight and select the draft's biggest game-breaker, or they trade down for a Bush-el of picks.
The USC lefty is a smooth and polished pro-in-waiting, both on and off the field. After listening to him say all the right things at a Super Bowl news conference, I'm convinced he's the kind of solid guy the Saints will want to rebuild around.
I had Vince Young going to the Titans in this slot in my first mock draft, but that was then, this is now. Cutler is the quarterback with the hottest buzz heading into the Scouting Combine, and we think the Titans love the kid from their own backyard.
Do the Jets, with their obvious need at quarterback given Chad Pennington's iffy shoulder, make Young the next big thing in the Big Apple, answering Eli-mania in New York? Or will the new management tandem of Mike Tannebaum and Eric Mangini shop the pick to a Young-hungry team, thereby maximizing the value of the slot?
If it comes down to a choice between the draft's top-ranked defensive end (Williams) or its most highly regarded offensive tackle (Virginia's D'Brickashaw Ferguson), the book says you go with the pass rusher. Nearly every time.
Fair is fair. In my first mock, I had the Raiders winning a coin flip that hasn't occurred yet with the 49ers and picking sixth. But this time it comes up heads for San Francisco, which needs defensive help but can't pass on a talent who could protect franchise quarterback Alex Smith's blindside for the next 10 years.
New/old head coach Art Shell is going to get something of a crash refresher course in collegiate personnel at the Combine. The Raiders' crying need is on defense, and Ohio State's Hawk looks like the cleanest player on the board on that side of the ball. Oakland would do handstands if Williams slipped past No. 5 Green Bay.
The Bills are getting a little old on defense, and they have some cap issues to sort through in the weeks ahead. Huff is a versatile talent whose stock is on the rise as the Combine nears. If veteran safety Lawyer Milloy ends up being one of Buffalo's cap cuts, Huff could fill the bill.
True, drafting a nose tackle so high isn't too sexy. But the Lions tried sexy the past four years -- taking three receivers, a running back and a quarterback in the first round -- with limited results. Dan Wilkinson will be 33 next month, and we already know what new coach Rod Marinelli did in Tampa with a quality DT at his disposal.
With Kurt Warner locked up for another three years, Cardinals head coach Dennis Green has once again tipped his hand that quarterback won't get first-round attention. And if Arizona can land Edgerrin James or Shaun Alexander, neither will running back. But until then, the elusive Williams gets the nod.