The 2006 NFL Draft

The NFL Draft for me is like a Saved By The Bell marathon. If I don’t watch it, my life will be no worse for missing it. But if I start watching it, I won’t be able to stop. Just as I will sit glassy-eyed waiting for that episode where Jessie gets hooked on caffeine pills, I will get immediately sucked in by Mel Kiper Jr.’s analysis on which offensive lineman the Cincinnati Bengals should take and why the Arizona Cardinals will trade their fourth round pick to the Miami Dolphins for two sixth-round picks and a copy of the four-hour bootleg version of This Is Spinal Tap.

History has made clear that the outcome of the NFL Draft means very little in terms of who will succeed in the NFL. Nine words quickly summarize this fact: Ryan Leaf: Second Overall Pick. Tom Brady: Sixth Round. So draft coverage is on some level largely a parade of over-hyped and under-achieving players that you’ll never hear from again. But it is addictive television.

Plus, watching the NFL Draft keeps me inside and away from yard work, which always raises its ugly head this time of year.

Like most years, there are few sure bets in this year’s NFL Draft. Despite rumors that the Texans are considering taking DE Mario Williams with the first pick, it would be a shock if Houston doesn’t take Reggie Bush first. (But not as big a shock that ABC is actually foolhardy enough to bring Rosie O’Donnell back to daytime TV. The only way O’Donnell makes The View NOT the worst show on television is if her and Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s differing political views routinely boil over into physical violence during “Hot Topics.”) Williams will then go to the Saints, unless New Orleans trades down, which is the only time I will mention the word “trade” in this blog.

Some uncertainty clouds the Packers’ first pick: Most pundits predict that Green Bay will take linebacker A.J. Hawk from Ohio State with the fifth overall pick. Hawk would be a fine pick, but the Packers have bigger needs than linebacker. GM Ted Thompson could look to tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson from Virginia to shore up an increasingly porous offensive line, but it’s more likely that the team will thank Brett Favre for returning for another season by giving him a sorely needed offensive playmaker. That means Maryland TE Vernon Davis will be coming to Green Bay.

If Thompson goes with Davis, look for later picks to address the offensive and defensive lines. Marcus McNeil, a tackle from Auburn, or DeMeco Ryans, a linebacker from Alabama, would be solid second round choices if they’re available. Beyond the second round, the real key for the Packers (or any team) is to try to find a player who won’t be making a living washing cars by the time next year.

Elsewhere in the NFC North, the Vikings, knowing that the return of Brad Johnson as their starting QB is not a long-term solution, hope to snap up Vanderbilt QB Jay Cutler with the 17th pick in the first round. Look for Minnesota to trade up to acquire Cutler if they feel they need to. The Lions will try something unique and NOT draft a wide receiver in the first round for the fourth year in a row. Instead, Detroit will go with Texas safety Michael Huff. The Bears might add to their strength and go defense but would be better off giving Rex Grossman a fresh target, perhaps TE Marcedes Lewis from UCLA.

And what of Matt Leinart and Vince Young? Tennessee should take Leinart, the safer bet, with the number three pick, which leaves Young falling to the Raiders with the seventh pick.

Whatever happens, some choices won’t make sense, some players won’t want to play for the team that drafted them, and Vince Young’s Wonderlic score will be mentioned at least forty times on both ESPN and the NFL Network before the weekend is over. But I won’t notice, because I won’t be watching. Who am I kidding? Of course I will be. Unless . . . does TBS still air Saved By The Bell?

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