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Ultimate Mock Draft

What if this year's draft included active players?

Posted: Thursday April 20, 2006 5:30PM; Updated: Monday April 24, 2006 5:13PM
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Tom Brady is worth a No. 1 pick despite his terrible combine numbers.
Tom Brady is worth a No. 1 pick despite his terrible combine numbers.
Peter Read Miller/SI

He ran a 5.2-second 40-yard dash at the combine. In college he didn't become a clear-cut starter until October of his senior year. He has been known to hit the clubs at night, and in recent years he has battled through injuries in his throwing elbow and shoulder.

Red flags, thy name is Brady.

Now that we're on the clock for our second annual Ultimate Mock Draft, in which everyone on earth is theoretically there for the taking, even a three-time Super Bowl winner is subject to scrutiny. But before America's favorite quarterback starts getting dissed like the sixth-round selection that he once was, let's remember one small point in Tom Brady's favor: He's the best player in football, and if he were suddenly available, 32 owners would stagger to their private planes and stage the NFL's version of The Amazing Race to sign him.

After a season in which he showcased his individual excellence while carrying the injury-ravaged Patriots to within two victories of another Super Bowl, Brady is movin' on up, George Jefferson-style, which may at least partially reduce the number of e-mails containing the word "idiot" that I receive from the New England area.

Meanwhile, last year's No. 1 selection, Michael Vick, is slipping like Sasha Cohen thanks to his shaky, uninspired play in the second half of 2005. Half of last year's picks have fallen out of the first round entirely -- and no, Terrell Owens isn't one of the Sour 16.

The rules are the same as they were last year: Picks have been restored for teams who have traded their '06 No. 1s, and all selections arrive "as is," meaning it doesn't matter whether or not Brett Favre is coming back, and any running back over the age of 27 is bound to get the shaft.

1. Houston, Tom Brady, QB --  The last time we saw Brady perform in Houston, he was doing the Joe Montana thing in Super Bowl XXXVIII. All of a sudden, the Texans' offensive line -- not to mention their receivers, running backs, defenders, Yao Ming's foot and the enchiladas verdes at Chuy's -- just got a whole lot better.

2. New Orleans, Peyton Manning, QB -- A native son returns and saves pro football for the Crescent City, keeping the captain's chair warm until Peyton's not-yet-conceived son is draft-eligible. Buoyed by an unending surge of season-ticket sales, the Saints go marching into a new, state-of-the-art stadium by decade's end.

3. Tennessee, Dwight Freeney, DE -- Rebuffed in his attempts to trade up for former Vols star Manning, Titans GM Floyd Reese hands defensive guru Jeff Fisher the greatest gift imaginable in Freeney, the league's swiftest and most disruptive lineman. (And yes, the Titans took Freeney in last year's UMD, at No. 6, before that SI cover story last fall blew his cover.)