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20 Questions From the 1st Round (espn insider)

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  • 20 Questions From the 1st Round (espn insider)

    Q: Many analysts questioned the Houston Texans' decision to bypass Reggie Bush and select North Carolina State DE Mario Williams No. 1 overall, with Todd McShay calling it a "mistake of epic proportions." Should Houston have selected Bush?

    Green: Reggie Bush was the No. 1 player in this draft, period. Bush can change the game and open the field up for everyone. Mario Williams is a very good pass rusher, but he is not going to change games. He might improve the defense, but you certainly could say the same for Bush on offense. Not only is he a great player, but he makes David Carr a better QB, and opens up the field for WRs Andre Johnson and Eric Moulds. The Texans had to explore the option of trading down -- once it became clear that Williams was their guy they worked the phones, but they could not find any takers. Due to the compensation, it is very hard for teams to trade out of that No. 1 slot.

    McShay: At the end of the day, the Texans can't possibly believe that Williams is a better talent -- or even an equal -- to Bush. Williams possesses wonderful potential, but he is far from complete at this point. He plays too high at times, and he seems to lack ideal natural football instincts. Williams' inconsistency at the collegiate level also is somewhat alarming -- he notched 13.5 sacks in the final seven games of the 2005 season after recording only one sack in the first five outings.

    A special talent like Bush does not come along very often. When blessed with the opportunity to obtain such a franchise-changing talent, passing simply cannot be an option. You pay the extra money, endure the additional hardship and modify existing schemes in order to make it work. You don't pass on Michael Jordan simply because Sam Bowie fits a bigger need -- just ask the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers.

    Q: Was there any doubt the New Orleans Saints would choose Bush, after seeing the Texans take Williams No. 1 overall?

    Green: This was strictly a value pick by the Saints. There was never a potential discussion about them taking Bush before the draft because everyone assumed he would be off the board. But then this became a no-brainer. Bush's addition to go along with Deuce McAlister and Michael Bennett give the Saints the deepest RB unit in the NFL. Look for Bush to play a major role early in the season as a runner and return man.

    McAlister may not be ready to go full speed in training camp after coming off an ACL injury, and return man Michael Lewis is also coming off an ACL injury. This means Bush will have an immediate impact. Look for the Saints to bring Bush along quickly. He is not going to be a 25-plus-carry-per-game guy, but they would like to get him 15-20 touches each week as a runner, receiver and return man. Of all the players selected in this first round, Bush will have the opportunity to have the quickest impact. This was a great pick for the Saints and you have to give them a lot of credit for staying true to their rankings and not selecting a need over the best player in the draft.

    Q: Considering that Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow coached Leinart at USC, was it a mistake for Tennessee to take Texas' Vince Young at No. 3, making him the first QB selected?

    Green: After a little back and forth between management and the coaching staff, the Titans made their selection. Management wanted Young, so it should be no surprise that he was the choice. In Young, the Titans saw their future. They know he is a little unpolished and will need some to time to develop, but they love his upside. They get the most explosive athlete and player in the draft, one who will eventually be able to beat team with his arms as well as with his feet.

    So how long until he is ready? Most NFL experts will tell you he is a good two years away. He needs to learn to play from under center and the team may try to work with him a little on his awkward release. Physically, Young is as ready to play as he ever will be. It is the mental side that will determine how quickly he can get on the field. The best way to sum this pick up is that it is a boom or bust selection. Leinart would have been the safer pick, but Young has more upside.

    Q: OK, so another Leinart question -- why would the New York Jets pass on a Heisman-winning QB in favor of Virginia tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson?
    Green: The Jets went against public perception when they selected Ferguson over Leinart. However, it is hard to fault the Jets. They have more needs than any team selecting this weekend. Ferguson is the safest pick. He is an excellent LT athlete and will immediately move in to the starting lineup. Athletically Ferguson will match up now with some of the top speed rushers in the league.

    In terms of physical strength, he will need to make strides. He is not very strong in his upper or lower body and will have trouble with defensive ends that can bull rush him. This was an excellent pick for the Jets. He is an excellent player, fills a need and the Jets can now grab a QB they like at the bottom of the first or top of the second round.

    Q: There was late speculation that the Green Bay Packers would provide another weapon for QB Brett Favre by selecting Maryland tight end Vernon Davis. Instead, Green Bay went with the expected pick in linebacker A.J. Hawk of Ohio State. Was defense the right choice?

    Green: The Packers were able to pull of one of the best smokescreens of the draft. When Favre decided to return, the thought was that they would select Davis. The Packers stuck to their plan, though, and were able to upgrade the worst starting LB unit in the NFL. Hawk will now team with young MLB Nick Barnett and give Green Bay two athletic LBs that can run and hit. Hawk is a smart, steady player that will have an immediate impact. The Packers will play him on the weak side, cover him and let him run all over the field. Hawk was an excellent pick and because of the nature of his position, has the opportunity to have the biggest impact of any defender be selected all weekend.

    Horton: I love Hawk's motor, he is a sideline-to-sideline player and makes highlight plays in the open field. I'm concerned, though, about his ability to take on blocks in the NFL. He'll face bigger linemen in the NFL, and his stack and shed ability will become the most important part of whether he becomes a good or great player. He's is not a particularly physical guy and if I were the Packers, I would protect him as much as possible and let him play in space.

    Q: Can Davis have an immediate impact as an offensive target for San Francisco 49ers QB Alex Lewis, the No. 1 pick of the 2005 draft?

    Green: The answer is yes. In recent days the 49ers were concerned they were going to lose the man they have coveted from day one. When the Packers passed on Davis, there was a huge sigh of relief in the 49ers' draft room. Davis is the type of player and athlete that can make an immediate difference. San Francisco Coach Mike Nolan was with Baltimore when the Ravens drafted a young TE named Todd Heap. Like Heap, Davis will be a nice outlet receiver and security blanket for Smith, who is still in the developmental stages. This was the best selection the 49ers could make. Davis will have to compete with Eric Johnson early on for playing time, but he is far too athletic to keep off the field. Look for him to push RB Reggie Bush for offensive rookie-of-the-year honors.

    Q: Some had projected that, with Aaron Brooks at QB, the Oakland Raiders might be in the running for Leinart at No. 7. Were they justified in taking Texas CB Michael Huff instead?

    Green: I think Huff was the "safe" pick. He is a steady defensive safety. He is not a real explosive type of playmaker and he is a little on the smaller side for a safety, but he is smart, can get them lined up and will make his share of plays in the passing game. I think the Raiders are happy with this pick.

    Q: Ohio State had two defensive players selected among the top eight picks. Many expected the Packers to take Hawk at No. 5, but what about safety Donte Whitner going to the Buffalo Bills at No. 8?

    Green: That was the first "wow" of the day -- Donte Whitner at No. 8? Wow! I like Whitner and think he has a chance to be a good player, but you have to move back to make that pick. He is a guy they could have gotten a lot later.

    Horton: It's been a very interesting first round. Clearly the biggest reach right now seems to be Buffalo taking Whitner from Ohio State. Our sources told us Denver was trying to trade up to No. 8 to acquire Leinart or Jay Cutler, and Buffalo could have traded back to No. 15 and still taken Whitner at 8. That trade doesn't make a lot of sense.

    Q: The Detroit Lions also passed on Leinart, opting for Florida State outside linebacker Ernie Sims. For a team that selected wide receivers in the first round of the past three drafts, was defense (finally) the right choice?

    Green: This was a great pick by the Lions. This guy is one of the best leaders and hitters in this draft. Florida State coach Bobby Bowden has called him the best LB he coached since Derrick Brooks. I think that got Lions coach Rod Marinelli's attention. He is an every down player in that cover-2 scheme. He is a playmaker.

    Kidd: Ernie Sims should have a major impact on the Lions defense in his first year. Defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson will design different schemes that will allow him to make a lot of impact plays in the Lions' defensive front seven. The only drawback would be a lengthy holdout in training camp.

    "The Gagne T-shirt jersey comes with a complimentary can of gasoline and a set of matches."

  • #2
    Part II

    Q: Despite his fall to the 10th spot, Leinart is seemingly a good fit for the Arizona Cardinals. How will he mesh with an offense featuring Edgerrin James, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin?

    Green: It was a long fall down the draft board for Leinart, but at the end of the day he ended up in the best situation he could find in the top 10. In Arizona, he will not be expected to play right away. He can sit for a year under veteran QB Kurt Warner who is a solid player and excellent teacher for young QBs. Warner played a key role in St. Louis with the development of Marc Bulger. Leinart will also get to play in a warmer climate, with little wind, and his lack of arm strength will not be as big a factor. Cardinals Coach Dennis Green has been an excellent teacher for young QBs and Leinart has an opportunity to be the next one he develops. This is a great pick for the Cardinals. They were able to find a young QB to develop with their two young great receivers.

    Kidd: I actually think Leinart will have a better first year than Young, based on the fact that Warner will probably get hurt and Leinert will have a better supporting cast around him with James, Boldin and Fitzgerald. However, Young is a great player and will have a very good NFL career.

    Horton: Some people wonder if Leinart would have been better coming out of school last year. I'm not so sure. The talent pool was better last year overall, I just think in this draft there were better players at the top. And it comes down to need, too. He would have been the No. 1 pick to San Francisco last year because he would have been rated higher than Alex Smith. I don't think he did anything wrong, he just got into a draft where a lot of the teams picking high didn't need a QB.

    Q: Did it surprise you that, with Jake Plummer as the starting QB, the Denver Broncos traded up to select Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler at No. 11?

    Green: It was an interesting pick for the Broncos. The quarterback talent in this draft drops off dramatically after the top three, so if you were going with a QB, you didn't want do lose him. But it doesn't do much for them this season. They are clearly looking to the future. Plummer is 31, had his best season last year -- and that still was not enough to take the Broncos to the Super Bowl. The backup QB, Bradlee Van Pelt, is not the long term solution, so this pick makes some sense.

    McShay: Truthfully, I'm not as high on Cutler as some people are. But he definitely has enough talent to develop into a solid starter. He's a good fit to play in the Broncos' system, too.

    Horton: In all honesty, giving up a third-rounder isn't very steep for Cutler, a guy the Broncos really wanted. Cutler's strong arm will fit nicely in Mile High. They can groom him behind Plummer. And it was obvious they wanted to move up, because we heard they were trying to trade up with Baltimore.

    Q: Were the Baltimore Ravens justified in moving up one spot (to No. 12) to select Oregon DT Haloti Ngata?

    Horton: There was a feeling Cleveland was really considering Ngata at No. 12, because he is a perfect nose tackle for a 3-4 defense. Baltimore only gave up a sixth-round pick to secure a solid man for the middle of their defense -- which isn't much to move up. It's not like they gave up a lot, so yes, it makes sense. They need someone up front to protect Ray Lewis.

    Q: Cleveland and Baltimore swapped picks at No. 12 and No. 13. Were the Ravens disappointed they couldn't get a top quarterback, and how will DE Kamerion Wimbley of Florida State fit into the Browns' scheme?

    Green: First, Baltimore didn't miss out by not getting one of the top three QBs. They never wanted another young QB. They will grab Steve McNair when the Titans release him. As for the Browns, Wimbley lined up at defensive end in college, but he is an excellent fit at outside linebacker in the Browns' base 3-4 scheme. It is hard to win in a 3-4 with zero pass rushers, which is the situation in which the Browns found themselves. Wimbley is the best 3-4 OLB in this draft and may be able to have an immediate impact.

    Q: Were the Philadelphia Eagles fortunate to find Florida State DT Brodrick Bunkley still on the board when they picked at No. 14?

    Horton: I would sure think so because Bunkley is a guy who's slipped a little further than we anticipated. And he fits a need. I know Eagles Coach Andy Reid likes to build with trench guys, so this pick makes sense. I wouldn't have been surprised if they tried to trade down, but Bunkley could excel in Philadelphia's scheme, making him a candidate to push for playing time as a rookie.

    Q: Did the Minnesota Vikings fill a pressing need with the selection of Iowa LB Chad Greenway with the 17th choice?

    Horton: This makes all the sense in the world because their top need is at linebacker -- and nobody thought he'd be available at this spot. In fact, in the last few days, it was difficult to even project a linebacker for them at this spot because it appeared all of the top candidates would be gone. Outside linebacker was clearly a No. 1 need for the Vikings, so this is a solid pick. He should compete with Dontarrious Thomas, the second-year linebacker from Auburn. Greenway also has enough versatility to play both OLB positions and has good special teams value.

    Q: Some analysts had projected RB LenDale White as the Dallas Cowboys' choice at No. 18. Instead, Dallas opted for Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter. Did you expect Bill Parcells' to fall on the defensive side with this pick?

    Kidd: The Cowboys had several alternatives here. They were not real high on outside linebacker Al Singleton, and Carpenter is a versatile player that fits well in a 3-4 defense. This was too high to choose White, and the Cowboys decided the could address their safety position in the second round. Carpenter was a perfect fit for this scheme.

    Q: The Kansas City Chiefs surprised some with the pick of Penn State DE Tamba Hali at No. 20, especially with Virginia Tech CB Jimmy Williams still on the board. Why did the Chiefs pass on Williams?

    Horton: First, Hali should push for immediate playing time, even if this pick was too high for him. But Williams has had some character questions and he doesn't always play with a real sense of urgency. Even though he has great talent, a lot of teams are afraid to roll the dice on a guy who has questionable intangibles. I've been told Williams didn't interview well with teams. Right now he's just looking for a team comfortable with his character because his skills aren't in question. (Atlanta eventually selected Williams in the second round at No. 37 overall).

    Q: The New England Patriots selected Minnesota's Laurence Maroney at No. 21. Was he truly the second-best RB in the draft after Bush?

    Horton: After Bush, it had to be Maroney. He seemed to be the safest pick at RB for the Patriots. Some like Memphis' DeAngelo Williams, and it was clear both would go before White. I'm not surprised to see this RB pick in the 20s.

    Kidd: Corey Dillon didn't play well in 2005 for the Patriots, and backup Kevin Faulk has some durability issues. Maroney is an excellent pick for the Patriots based on what they do offensively. He is a versatile player with value on all three downs, and they can bring him along slowly. You can bet they'll get some help for him on the offensive line later the in the draft, as well. The Patriots have one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL in Dante Scarnecchia.

    Q: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cincinnati Bengals completed back-to-back Joseph picks, taking Oklahoma G Davin Joseph and South Carolina CB Johnathan Joseph with picks No. 23 and 24, respectively. Did the teams reach to make these picks?

    Horton: The Tampa pick is questionable because they needed a tackle more than a guard. And as for the Bengals, it seems a bit of a reach because you get the feeling he would have been there four of five picks later. But at this stage, when you're in that selection room, it's who you're comfortable with. He has good skills and the Bengals obviously liked his attitude. And there are not a lot of guys with his skills on the table, so beauty is in the eye of the beholder right now.

    Q: The Pittsburgh Steelers traded up to select Ohio State Santonio Holmes, rather than Florida WR Chad Jackson. Will Holmes help fill the void created at wide receiver when Antwaan Randle-El signed with the Washington Redskins?

    Green: I think Holmes, ideally, would fit in a West Coast offensive scheme. But in any offense, he's got the ability to make plays, which is big in the Steelers' offense.

    Horton: I love the fact they moved up for Holmes because he is the guy that can give them the same production as Randle-El and is an explosive weapon. When he got close enough they made a great move. This may be the best drafting front office in the NFL. They make very few mistakes. In the last two weeks, most offensive coaches to which I spoke favored Holmes over Jackson, but most thought both would be gone by No. 20. Holmes helps fill a pressing need for the Steelers. And I think the reason teams liked Holmes over Jackson is that the latter might be a product of the system -- and numerous Florida WRs have had trouble in the NFL. Some thought Jackson was sloppy running routes, which didn't help him in the first round. (New England eventually selected Jackson in the second round at No. 36 overall).

    "The Gagne T-shirt jersey comes with a complimentary can of gasoline and a set of matches."