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Draft Report Card

Biggest hits, misses come at top of first round

Posted: Tuesday May 2, 2006 12:08PM; Updated: Wednesday May 3, 2006 1:23AM
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Do you know what's the most unfair tactic used by we journalistas? Ripping some team's draft choice about five years after the fact by going down the roster of Pro Bowlers who were drafted later and saying, "Look who they could have had." A trick like that takes no brains and no work. All you need is a roster. Everybody does it. And I'm here to put a stop to it, do you hear?

No, folks. You rate the draft at the time and then you keep your trap shut. None of that hindsight stuff.

So I am here to offer my letter grades on the 2006 draft. I've had complaints in previous years that my grades were too soft, and I'm going to hear them again this year because I have too many B's and not enough C's and D's. Sorry. In my old age I'm turning gentle ... can you imagine?

A

BRONCOS: Two years ago Javon Walker caught 89 balls for the Packers. He wanted a long-term deal. Instead he got a torn ACL in his right knee. But wait, the story has a happy ending, because on draft day this year he was traded to Shanahan U., which also moved up to draft QB Jay Cutler, rated by some as the best of the Big Three. And how are these for extra weapons in the receiving game -- Tony Scheffler, a swift TE, Brandon Marshall, an oversized wideout? I mean there's going to be more firepower in the air over Denver than the RAF threw at the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain.

SAINTS: Congratulations for not blowing the Reggie Bush pick. You sent light into a city darkened by gloom. That gets you the A. The rest of the draft? Well, you'd better put some linemen in front of this dazzling runner, or it'll be another Dalton Hilliard story. The first time I saw Bush run I thought of two players he reminded me of, when they were in college: Marshall Faulk and Dalton Hilliard. Same rapid cuts and quick bursts. Scintillating runners. Faulk is headed for the Hall of Fame. Hilliard, believe me, a wonderful little back, had an eight-year career with the Saints, playing behind some miserable lines. His lifetime average per carry was 3.7, and he was only in the 4.0 range twice. So during the draft this time the Saints picked up a veteran center from Cleveland, Jeff Faine. That's good. The highest-drafted O-lineman they got was tackle Jahri Evans in the fourth round. Raw talent, everyone says. Would you prefer cooked talent?

CARDINALS: A day after the draft I got an e-mail from the Cardinals. One thousand, five hundred season tickets sold over the weekend to come watch this dynamic team in brand-new Cardinals Stadium, with its retractable roof and fully retractable grass playing surface. "How about retractable players?" says my hopelessly cynical wife, but those days are gone, because now they've got Matt Leinart and a really terrific stud guard from the USC offensive machine, Deuce Lutui, and Leonard Pope, a gigantic 6-7 1/2 TE who can really motor.

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