More Robinson – Analysis of first two rounds
Williams scored big Saturday, unseating Southern Cal's Reggie Bush as the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft – a feat that most deemed unimaginable only a few days ago. At the same time, the Texans suffered a public relations loss, walking away from both Bush and Texas' Vince Young, the two most dynamic and electrifying players in college football last season.
It was said that Houston could pass on Young or Bush, but certainly not both. And yet, that's exactly what the Texans did.
"Vince Young was very popular in Houston and Reggie Bush is, too," Texans owner Bob McNair said Saturday. "So you know, it was a tough choice."
It's one that McNair will have to explain in the coming days to Houston's fan base. It's also a decision he will have to repeatedly defend if Bush or Young continue to star in NFL highlight reels. Selling tickets for a 2-14 team is tough enough, but it's even more difficult to urge patience when that same team passes on players that need only to suit up to excite the locals.
Fans believe Reggie Bush could do that. They know Vince Young could, too. What about Mario Williams, he of raw talent and unpolished skills? His selection doesn't exactly elicit faith that last season's futility hasn't spilled into the offseason, too.
"I realize [the frustration] and I think that's going to be a temporary situation," McNair said. "It's up to us to go out and win football games. We win football games, and they are going to say, 'You made the right decision.' If we don't win football games, they say, 'You're stupid.' "
Therein lies the reality. For now, Williams walks into Houston in triumph and McNair returns in public relations defeat. Whether it stays that way has everything to do with the 2006 wins and losses that have yet to be counted.
Here are some other winners and losers on the draft's first day:
Arizona Cardinals – It may not translate onto the field, but Dennis Green sure has a way of looking great on draft day. After landing what was thought to be one of the best draft classes last season, Green shot to the top of the charts again this year. Not only did he land Mr. Golden Boy, Matt Leinart, but he also added massive guard Deuce Lutui in the second. For good measure, he pounced on Leonard Pope in the third round – a player some teams had rated as the No. 1 tight end.
Green Bay Packers – The Packers needed an infusion of talent, and just by sheer bulk alone, they may have had the best first day of the draft. Selecting five players in the first 75 picks is always a nice luxury, and Green Bay picked up some quality talent. The Packers added two of the best linebackers in the country in A.J. Hawk and Abdul Hodge to their porous defense, then accentuated their first-day picks with some lesser-known talent like Darryn Colledge, Greg Jennings and Jason Spitz – three players who could all contribute as early as next season either as starters or special-teams players.
Tennessee Titans – From a ticket standpoint, the Titans landed marketing whoppers with their lone pair of picks on Day 1. Watch reruns of the national championship game between USC and Texas, and you'll see why it's going to be so easy to sell Vince Young and LenDale White to the fan base. And getting White in the second round – despite all of his issues – is a steal.
Ohio State – Unlike USC, the Buckeyes' prospects realized all of their pre-draft hype. Ohio State placed five players in the first round – including two in the top eight picks – and had seven drafted on the first day alone. By the time it's all said and done, 10 Ohio State players could be chosen in this draft.
Atlantic Coast Conference – The ACC dominated the first round, with a staggering 12 selections. That's a draft record for a conference. The impressive lineup included four players from Florida State and three from North Carolina State, including the overall No. 1 pick in Williams. Even Miami squeaked out another first-round pick (Kelly Jennings to Seattle at No. 31) to extend its streak of first-rounders to 12 consecutive years.
Philadelphia Eagles – There's nothing like standing pat and striking it rich. The Eagles considered trading up from No. 14 overall and trying to snag one of two players – Florida State's Brodrick Bunkley or USC's Winston Justice. Instead, the Eagles waited patiently in the first round and Bunkley slid to them … and then watched Justice fall just far enough for them to trade up to the 39th overall pick and get him, too. It was an amazing coup that probably had Andy Reid wetting his pants. He got not one but two linemen with first-round ratings.
Defensive backs – A strong class of players always gets swept up in the first round, and the defensive backs have continued the trend of the last few years by landing a large crop in the first 32 choices. This year, 10 first-round picks were lavished on players in the secondary.
Donte Whitner – If you want the draft's biggest winner, it has to be Whitner. When Ohio State's season ended, the safety was considered a borderline first-round pick. By the time he had gone through the combine, pro day and personal workouts, he'd caught the eye of the Bills, jumping all the way to No. 8 overall. With his hard work in the last four months, he earned himself somewhere around an extra $6 million to $8 million in guaranteed money.
New England Patriots – Yes, the Patriots need a shot of defensive talent. But it's hard to knock them spending their first two picks on the likes of Minnesota's Laurence Maroney and Florida's Chad Jackson. Maroney becomes the heir apparent to a slowing Corey Dillon, and the blazing Jackson – a big wideout with a first-round grade – somehow fell to them in the second round. The skill positions have been replenished nicely. Highlight reels:
USC – It's been a rough few days for the Trojans. First, they had a shadow cast over them by the Reggie Bush investigation and Mark Sanchez arrest. Then, on what was expected to be the shining day for their pro prospects, disaster struck. Bush lost what seemed to be a hammerlock on the first overall pick and Leinart slid all the way to No. 10. But the real smack in the face came when both White and Justice plummeted to the second round because of character concerns. And did we mention that Darnell Bing wasn't drafted on the first day?
Wide receiver crop – The talk that the top receivers had bolstered their status over the last few months turned out to be hype. Santonio Holmes tumbled to the 25th pick and Jackson – thought to be top-20 material – fell into the second round. We should have stuck with our assessment that we had going into the combine: This was a truly crummy receiving class.
LenDale White – Talk about rolling downhill after your star moment. White reached his apex in the Rose Bowl, then plummeted down the side of a mountain without brakes. He showed up overweight at the combine, followed that up with a horrific pro day, then had a report of a failed drug test surface the week of the draft. When his downward spiral came to a rest, White had gone from top-10 material to the 45th overall pick. For those who are counting, that's a loss of about $8 million in guaranteed money.
Winston Justice – It was hard to figure out how Justice went from being a potential top 10 to 15 pick to falling into the second round, particularly after having such an impressive pro day. The buzz on Saturday was that teams weren't sold on Justice's character, stemming from his year-long suspension in 2004.
Kurt Warner – How many times is Warner going to get nailed by the youth movement? First, he got toppled by Marc Bulger in St. Louis, then he had to go through the dread and awkwardness of the Eli Manning experience in New York. And just when it looked like he had found some solid ground in Arizona, Leinart arrives. In a perfect society, Leinart will have to wait his turn, but we know people will ask questions about starting Leinart right away. Maybe Leinart's rookie season will go down like Carson Palmer's first year when he warmed the bench in Cincinnati. But for Warner, it's more likely to be flashbacks of New York.
Washington Redskins – The Redskins traded three draft picks – including their second-rounder in 2007 – to move up 18 spots and draft Roger McIntosh in the second round. This is supposed to soothe the pain of letting LaVar Arrington go. We'll see.
- Reggie Bush
- Vince Young
- Matt Leinart
- Mario Williams
- LenDale White