Sports Outside the Beltway

2006 Draft Preview

Rick Gosselin is in the writer’s wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s also arguably the most respected writer on the annual NFL college draft. While he doesn’t have the encyclopedic knowledge of high school players of a Mel Kiper, NFL general managers talk to him and give them his insights because they trust his discretion. The result is that he tends to put out the most accurate Top 100 draft list year in and year out, because it’s based on what those who will actually make the picks think, not one guy’s view of who the best players are.

Gosselin says this is a draft class to get excited about.

Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush is a can’t-miss prospect at the top of the 2006 NFL draft. He’s not alone.

I was talking with an NFL general manager the other day, and he was marveling at the options at the top of this draft board. Specifically, Bush, defensive end Mario Williams, linebacker A.J. Hawk, quarterback Matt Leinart and offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson. “You could take any one of them with the first overall pick and feel great about your pick,” he said. Then he elaborated. In his opinion:

• Williams may be the most talented defensive end to hit an NFL draft board since Julius Peppers, who went second overall to Carolina in 2002 and has already been to two Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl.

• Leinart may be the most NFL-ready quarterback to hit a draft board since Peyton Manning in 1998. Manning is a two-time NFL MVP for Indianapolis.

• Ferguson may be the most polished left tackle to hit a draft board since Jonathan Ogden in 1996. Ogden has been to the last nine Pro Bowls for Baltimore.

• Hawk may be the most gifted linebacker to hit a draft board since Junior Seau in 1990. Seau went to 12 Pro Bowls with San Diego.

• And Bush may be the most dynamic runner to hit a draft board since Barry Sanders in 1989. Sanders walked away from the NFL in his prime as the game’s No. 3 all-time rusher for Detroit.

If the same five players had been in the 2005 draft, all would have rated higher on the board than No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith. All are players of extreme accomplishment.

Bush and Leinart each won a Heisman Trophy at Southern California, and Hawk won the Lombardi Award as the best lineman in football at Ohio State last season. Ferguson was a four-year starter at Virginia, and Williams would have been at North Carolina State had he not given up his senior season to enter this draft.

Goose’s Top 100 for this year at the link. The top 32, i.e., the guys who should go in the 1st round if everyone takes the “best available athlete” rather than reaching for a player in a position of need, goes like this:

    1. Reggie Bush HB Southern California
    2. Mario Williams DE North Carolina State
    3. A.J. Hawk OLB Ohio State
    4. Matt Leinart QB Southern California
    5. D’Brickashaw Ferguson OT Virginia
    6. Vernon Davis TE Maryland
    7. Vince Young QB Texas
    8. Michael Huff S Texas
    9. Jay Cutler QB Vanderbilt
    10. Brodrick Bunkley DT Florida State
    11. Ernie Sims OLB Florida State
    12. Haloti Ngata DT Oregon
    13. Kamerion Wimbley DE Florida State
    14. Antonio Cromartie CB Florida State
    15. Chad Greenway OLB Iowa
    16. Manny Lawson DE North Carolina State
    17. Donte Whitner S Ohio State
    18. Bobby Carpenter OLB Ohio State
    19. Johnathan Joseph CB South Carolina
    20. Tye Hill CB Clemson
    21. Winston Justice OT Southern California
    22. Laurence Maroney HB Minnesota
    23. Jimmy Williams CB Virginia Tech
    24. Nick Mangold C Ohio State
    25. DeAngelo Williams HB Memphis
    26. Santonio Holmes WR Ohio State
    27. Tamba Hali DE Penn State
    28. Jason Allen S Tennessee
    29. Marcus McNeill OT Auburn
    30. LenDale White HB Southern California
    31. Eric Winston OT Miami
    32. Joseph Addai HB LSU

Follow the link for more analysis and players 33-100.

Gosselin also provides his final mock draft, dated this morning. Obviously, he knew that the Texans passed on Bush in favor of Williams.

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Gosselin doesn’t give Tye Hill the respect most other analysts give him. I’ve seen several projections and mock drafts put him in the Top 10 and the big jump occurred after Clemson’s Pro Day and the Combine.

Considering he was overshadowed by Justin Miller prior to 2005 and that his freshman year he was a running back, I guess the 5’9 thing is the only negative Gosselin can find.

Posted by Jeff Quinton | April 29, 2006 | 10:28 am | Permalink

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