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Winners and Losers

Teams, players that did well on draft's first day

Posted: Saturday April 29, 2006 7:39PM; Updated: Saturday April 29, 2006 7:56PM
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Matt Leinart may have been disappointed to fall to No. 10, but he enters a great situation in Arizona.
Matt Leinart may have been disappointed to fall to No. 10, but he enters a great situation in Arizona.

NEW YORK -- Winners and losers from day one of the 2006 NFL Draft, which went down Saturday afternoon and evening at its swankiest venue ever, Radio City Music Hall:


I can't decide who the biggest winner was, because all three came out smelling like a rose in their own way. Vince Young goes third to Tennessee, a franchise known to take its time developing young franchise passers. And it won't hurt Young's chances to succeed a bit if the Titans work out their contractual problems with Steve McNair, who is close with Young and could mentor his friend for a year or two.

And then you have Matt Leinart. True, he dropped to No. 10 and that will cost him a bunch of money in terms of his signing bonus. But in terms of where he went, once he cleared the top four, he could have done far worse. Arizona, you say? Yes, Arizona. One, Leinart doesn't have to play right away with Kurt Warner on hand. Two, Warner is a pretty generous veteran when it comes to helping younger quarterbacks (see Marc Bulger and Eli Manning). Lastly, having Edgerrin James in the backfield makes any quarterback look better.

Finally, Jay Cutler goes to Denver 11th overall, where he'll be fortified by what is historically the league's best running game, and he too doesn't have to play right away (something all three first-round quarterbacks have in common, surprisingly enough in this day and age). Cutler will learn Mike Shanahan's proven offensive system from Jake Plummer for a while, before being tossed under the You-ain't-John-Elway microscope in the Mile High city.

The draft's marquee player -- USC running back Reggie Bush -- lands in the Saints' lap, thanks to Houston's inability to seal the deal with the Heisman Trophy winner. No, the New Orleans running game wasn't a pressing concern. But some teams are born to greatness. Others have it thrust upon them.

In the first round, the Jets landed the draft's best offensive tackle -- Virginia's D'Brickashaw Ferguson -- and its best center in Ohio State's Nick Mangold. And suddenly New York's most glaring weakness from 2005 is a decided strength. And that's the way Bill Belichick-clone Eric Mangini will start to build a winner in the rugged AFC East.

Dennis Green's club somehow came away with a Heisman-winning quarterback at the ridiculously affordable price of a No. 10 pick in Leinart and one of the draft's top guard prospects in Taitusi Lutui. In a related development, the Cardinals franchise is changing its name once again, this time to USC East.

The 49ers have won an NFL-low six games in the past two seasons, but they took a couple big steps toward being more than the league's favorite homecoming opponent with Saturday's development. Maryland tight end Vernon Davis will enter the league as this season's favorite for NFL offensive rookie of the year honor and San Francisco with its second first-rounder landed a potential impact rush-linebacker in N.C. State's Manny Lawson.

Anybody want to wager that Lawson will wind up his rookie season with more sacks than his former collegiate teammate and fellow defensive end, Mario Williams?

The only surprise member of the top 10 hits the jackpot, going in the No. 8 slot to Buffalo. Not even a month ago, Whitner largely wasn't even considered a first-round pick, let alone a top-10 selection. Can you say financial windfall? Whitner can. And he'll reap it, too.