Here's how I think Saturday's first round will go. Please note, while I think there will be trades, I kept the current draft order intact for simplicity's sake.
1. Houston: Reggie Bush, RB, USC
Reggie Bush has the most talent in this draft. But, I personally believe Mario Williams should be the pick here. I think the combo of Domanick Davis and Johnathan Wells are a great fit for the system Gary Kubiak is bringing to Houston. And a lot of what made Bush so dangerous in college was his return ability, and I’m fairly certain the Texans will not let their top pick field punts or kick offs. But there is no getting around the fact that Bush is a once in a decade talent who is capable of scoring every time he touches the ball. He will sell tickets and win games. But Houston isn’t going anywhere near the Super Bowl until they learn to stop teams on D.
2. New Orleans: D'Brickashaw Ferguson, OT, Virginia
I think there is a very, very good chance of a trade here. (See N.Y. Jets and Oakland) But, if New Orleans stands pat, I think they take the big man out of Charlottesville. There has been talk that New Orleans has been considering moving last year’s #1, Jammal Brown, to LT to replace the recently traded Wayne Gandy. No way. They keep Brown on the right side and plug Ferguson in on the left to create dominant bookends to protect newly acquired (and somewhat brittle) QB Drew Brees.
3. Tennessee: Matt Leinart, QB, USC
I just can’t tell right now. This almost makes too much sense. But word is Leinart’s old USC mentor and current Tennessee Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow, along with the rest of the coaching staff, are facing an uphill battle with GM Floyd Reese. Reese seems to think Vince Young’s potential is much greater, despite Leinart’s plug n’ play potential in this system. Personally, I think this is a smoke screen to keep the Jets from moving up to 2 to grab Leinart. But considering how they’ve recently handled the Steve McNair situation, as well as completely ignoring the potential of Billy Volek, anything is possible here when it comes to picking a QB.
4. N.Y. Jets: Mario Williams, DE, N.C. State
The Jets seem enamored with Matt Leinart, but I think new head coach Eric Mangini, the Patriots former defensive coordinator, knows that Super Bowls are won with dominating D. (Plus they may trade up with their second pick this round to try to grab Jay Cutler.) Williams will fill the Richard Seymour-role in Mangini’s revamped 3-4 defense he plans to implement in New York.
5. Green Bay: A.J. Hawk, OLB, Ohio State
With Brett Farve coming back, some are thinking offense here, like Vernon Davis. But after missing out on LeVar Arrington, the Packers find a perfect replacement for the departed Na'il Diggs. Hawk is the best outside linebacker prospect and a big NEED pick here for Green Bay.
6. San Francisco: San Francisco: Vernon Davis, TE, Maryland
San Francisco’s defense is horrible! And they lost standout OLB Julian Peterson to the Seahawks. If Green Bay opts for Davis, they will jump on Hawk, but otherwise Davis’ potential is too great to pass up. The 49ers need to surround Alex Smith with weapons. Davis is a match-up nightmare and could easily become Smith’s top target.
7. Oakland: Vince Young, QB, Texas
Okay. Try to follow. If the Raiders believe the Titans are seriously considering Vince Young, they may try to beat the Jets to the Saints pick to get him. But they have less fire power in trade than the Jets could offer, so if the Jets do trade, they may contact the Titans to move down, which the Titans wouldn’t do, since they would take Young and the Raiders would stay here and select Jay Cutler. But with none of that happening, Oakland can just sit tight right here and have Young fall in their laps. It all hinges on what the Jets do.
8. Buffalo: Brodrick Bunkley, DT, Florida State
Buffalo has tons of holes and may try to trade down for extra picks. If not, Bunkley will be the pick here, getting the nod over Haloti Ngata. The Bills have been fairly open with the fact that they are looking at defensive tackle with this pick and Bunkley seems the best fit for Dick Jauron's defensive scheme.
9. Detroit: Michael Huff, DB, Texas
I hope this pick takes thirty seconds, otherwise we will have to deal with oh so clever jokes about the Lions picking another WR in this spot. Ha ha. We get it. The Lions are idiots. Too easy guys. Anyway, I’m listing Huff here as a DB because I don’t know if they will play him at cornerback or try him as a Polamalu-like safety. Either way, Rod Marinelli is going to love this guy.
10. Arizona: Jay Cutler, QB, Vanderbilt
This is where it starts getting tricky. Arizona could go several ways with this pick (including trading down, possibly to Minnesota) but I think they will keep the pick and grab Cutler to study under the rapidly aging Kurt Warner.
11. St. Louis: Jimmy Williams, DB, Virginia Tech
Williams is another CB-S tweener that I’m going to simply list as DB, though I think they will defiantly try to fit him in at the corner, despite being best suited as a nickel back or free safety. He has a bit of an attitude problem, a recent trend with Va. Tech players, so defensive coordinator Jim Haslett will have his hands full.
12. Cleveland: Haloti Ngata, DT, Oregon
Great player. Great value. Ngata can play end or tackle in the Browns 3-4 defense and will become a star.
13. Baltimore: Winston Justice, OT, USC
They will be tempted by Peter Boulware clone Kamerion Wimbley, but will opt for this massive tackle. He will most likely start out on the right side before eventually shifting to the left once Jonathan Ogden retires (or is released).
14. Philadelphia: Chad Jackson, WR, Florida
I think they will trade down, eyeing center Nick Mangold, who can be had at the bottom of round 1. If they stay, they will likely take the top receiver available (and send Denver scrambling). Florida receivers do not have a great track record in the NFL as a whole, but Jackson should be a solid West Coast wide out.
15. Denver: Laurence Maroney, RB, Minnesota
Philly’s Jackson pick closes one door and opens another, more surprising one. Maroney is a great fit for this system which makes average backs good, and good backs, like Maroney, great. Plus, this keeps Maroney out of the Colts hands, which is also advantageous to the Broncos as they eye another deep playoff run. Note: If Denver trades for Javon Walker in the next few days, this pick is a near lock.
16. Miami: Tye Hill, CB, Clemson
They could go receiver or linebacker here, but despite the acquisition of Will Allen in the off-season, Miami still lacks a real playmaker to pair with emerging star Travis Daniels.
17. Minnesota: Ernie Sims, OLB, Florida State
If they stay here, they are going outside linebacker. Sims is a better fit for the Vikings 4-3 system than Seminole teammate Kamerion Wimbley and N.C. State workout warrior Manny Lawson.
18. Dallas: Kamerion Wimbley, OLB/DE, Florida State
He will play outside linebacker in Dallas and pair with DeMarcus Ware to give Bill Parcells his most potent pass rushing bookends since his run with the Giants.
19. San Diego: Johnathan Joseph, CB, South Carolina
The Chargers need a corner that can step in and play immediately. While FSU corner Antonio Cromartie has more potential, Joseph is more NFL-ready coming out of school.
20. Kansas City: Antonio Cromartie, CB, Florida State
With Eric Warfield and Dexter McCleon both gone, corner is a definite NEED pick here. Cromartie has a history of injury, but his workouts have been off the cart.
21. New England: Bobby Carpenter, OLB, Ohio State
Carpenter gets the nod over Chad Greenway here, but it’s a real toss up. Both are great fits for the Patriots D and are definite Belichick-types. Carpenter is a little bigger and the Pats have had success with former Buckeye product Mike Vrabel.
22. San Francisco: Manny Lawson, OLB, N.C. State
They REALLY need a linebacker to replace Julian Peterson (not to mention Andre Carter), but I can’t help but think they may go with either Santonio Holmes or DeAngelo Williams here. But with no second round pick, the 49ers have no room to mess around. They traded up to this spot with the hopes that one of the top outside linebackers would be available, and find several still on the board. Lawson gets chosen over Greenway due to much better pre-draft workouts.
23. Tampa Bay: Santonio Holmes, WR, Ohio State
The Bucs could go several directions with this pick, but Holmes is too much value at this point to pass up. He gives Chris Simms a real home run threat in the passing game.
24. Cincinnati: Chad Greenway, OLB, Iowa
Greenway slips due to poor workouts, but Marvin Lewis won’t let this talented of a defender get past him. If he IS gone before this (and none of the previously “selected” defenders are left), look for Nick Mangold in this spot.
25. N.Y. Giants: Eric Winston, OT, Miami
There are some concerns about Winston’s health and wingspan, but he was very productive at Miami and can play either tackle position. Becomes a need pick once the Giants watch Dallas grab Wimbley.
26. Chicago: Ashton Youboty, CB, Ohio State
The Bears need to address the main weakness on their otherwise impressive defense. Youboty may not be an immediate starter, but is a great fit for the Bears Cover 2 scheme.
27. Carolina: DeMeco Ryans, OLB, Alabama
LenDale White will be a consideration here, but with his hamstring tear, I think the Panthers will pass given their history with injured running backs. Ryans will be a good fit in Will Witherspoon’s old weak side linebacker spot.
28. Jacksonville: Thomas Howard, OLB, Texas-El Paso
They will consider a TE here, most likely Marcedes Lewis, but will opt to fill a hole with the final top-tier outside linebacker available. Howard will challenge in camp for the open strong side spot vacated by Akin Ayodele.
29. N.Y. Jets: DeAngelo Williams, RB, Memphis
Great fit for the Jets. Nick Mangold will be hard to pass up here, but the Jets may bank on Pittsburgh leaping on LenDale White if he gets past the Colts. Curtis Martin’s career is definitely in its twilight, and Williams has the talent to be special.
30. Indianapolis: LenDale White, RB, USC
That sound you heard was Pittsburgh smashing stuff. The Colts wanted Maroney, badly, but the Broncos spoiled that idea. They may consider trading down into the top of the second round to select LSU’s Joseph Addai, or even staying here to take him, though he would be a reach this high. OLB is also a need, but obviously that category was picked clean, which leaves the Colts in an interesting position if they stay in this spot. If the draft falls as I’ve predicted, and the Colts do pick at 30, I think they take a chance on White who, if he recovers and plays they way he did at USC, will fill Edgerrin James' shoes quite nicely.
31. Seattle: Donte Whitner, S, Ohio State
The Seahawks lack of depth at safety killed them during the Super Bowl. Whitner gets the nod over Tennessee’s Jason Allen on the strength of his superior man-to-man coverage skills.
32. Pittsburgh: Nick Mangold, C, Ohio State
Most people list the Steelers needs as free safety, a big, short yardage/goal line back, and a WR/QB/return specialist. Free safety can be addressed in round 2, as players like Jason Allen, Darnell Bing and Ko Simpson are still on the board. As for a big back, the Steelers would consider White if he fell, but otherwise feel comfortable with Duce Staley, though they could look at someone like Gerald Riggs, Jr. on day 2. As for the hole left by the departed Antwaan Randle El, the Steelers will give quite a bit of consideration to players like Penn State’s Michael Robinson and Texas A&M’s Reggie McNeal in the 3rd or 4th round, but a speedster like Sinorice Moss seems an unlikely choice in this spot. So in the end, Mangold will be the pick, as he is just too good to pass up at this point in the draft. Starter Jeff Hartings has two bad knees and is nearing the end of his career, while back-up Chucky Okobi, though capable, is not in Mangold’s league.