The Ultimate Draft

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Ultimate Mock Draft
What if this year's draft included active players?
Posted: Thursday April 20, 2006 5:30PM; Updated: Monday April 24, 2006 5:13PM

Tom Brady is worth a No. 1 pick despite his terrible combine numbers.
Peter Read Miller/SI


He ran a 5.2-second 40-yard dash at the combine. In college he didn't become a clear-cut starter until October of his senior year. He has been known to hit the clubs at night, and in recent years he has battled through injuries in his throwing elbow and shoulder.

Red flags, thy name is Brady.

Now that we're on the clock for our second annual Ultimate Mock Draft, in which everyone on earth is theoretically there for the taking, even a three-time Super Bowl winner is subject to scrutiny. But before America's favorite quarterback starts getting dissed like the sixth-round selection that he once was, let's remember one small point in Tom Brady's favor: He's the best player in football, and if he were suddenly available, 32 owners would stagger to their private planes and stage the NFL's version of The Amazing Race to sign him.

After a season in which he showcased his individual excellence while carrying the injury-ravaged Patriots to within two victories of another Super Bowl, Brady is movin' on up, George Jefferson-style, which may at least partially reduce the number of e-mails containing the word "idiot" that I receive from the New England area.

Meanwhile, last year's No. 1 selection, Michael Vick, is slipping like Sasha Cohen thanks to his shaky, uninspired play in the second half of 2005. Half of last year's picks have fallen out of the first round entirely -- and no, Terrell Owens isn't one of the Sour 16.

The rules are the same as they were last year: Picks have been restored for teams who have traded their '06 No. 1s, and all selections arrive "as is," meaning it doesn't matter whether or not Brett Favre is coming back, and any running back over the age of 27 is bound to get the shaft.

1. Houston, Tom Brady, QB -- The last time we saw Brady perform in Houston, he was doing the Joe Montana thing in Super Bowl XXXVIII. All of a sudden, the Texans' offensive line -- not to mention their receivers, running backs, defenders, Yao Ming's foot and the enchiladas verdes at Chuy's -- just got a whole lot better.

2. New Orleans, Peyton Manning, QB -- A native son returns and saves pro football for the Crescent City, keeping the captain's chair warm until Peyton's not-yet-conceived son is draft-eligible. Buoyed by an unending surge of season-ticket sales, the Saints go marching into a new, state-of-the-art stadium by decade's end.

3. Tennessee, Dwight Freeney, DE -- Rebuffed in his attempts to trade up for former Vols star Manning, Titans GM Floyd Reese hands defensive guru Jeff Fisher the greatest gift imaginable in Freeney, the league's swiftest and most disruptive lineman. (And yes, the Titans took Freeney in last year's UMD, at No. 6, before that SI cover story last fall blew his cover.)


4. New York Jets, LaDainian Tomlinson, RB -- For the first time in draft history, the Jets make a high-profile selection and nobody boos. Upon arriving in the Big Apple, Tomlinson instantly goes from being portrayed as a low-key superstar to being -- well, the second coming of LT.

5. Green Bay, Walter Jones, T -- "How you like me now, Brett?" GM Ted Thompson sneers as Jones strides to the podium. Meanwhile, secure in the knowledge that he will never again be attacked from the blind side, Aaron Rodgers -- finally -- can smile on draft day.

6. San Francisco, Troy Polamalu, S -- A dynamic, hard-hitting, ex-USC stud patrolling the Niners' secondary? We like it, a Lott. Now, if they hope to recapture their former glory, all the 49ers need is an ex-Fighting Irish quarterback with a prominent nose -- and, oh yeah, a complete franchise makeover, beginning in the owner's box.

7. Oakland, Carson Palmer, QB -- "Forget the knee," Al Davis says. "Have you seen this kid's arm?" Moved by the sight of Palmer in a silver-and-black jersey, John Madden ditches NBC and returns to the sidelines.

8. Buffalo, Brian Urlacher, LB -- Reunited with coach Dick Jauron, Urlacher shows his appreciation by tumbling over Niagara Falls in a barrel, then suiting up and making 14 tackles in a driving snowstorm.

9. Detroit, Champ Bailey, CB -- Having already drafted Champ's little brother, Boss, the Lions' embattled boss happily welcomes the league's best cornerback to Motown -- only to cringe when Bailey shows up to his press conference wearing a "Fire Millen" T-shirt.

10. Arizona, Vince Young, QB -- "You mean I can take anyone?" Denny Green asks. "Daunte Culpepper? Randy Moss? Larry Fitzgerald?" Assured that this is the case, the ever-gutsy Green blows up his draft board and takes the player with the greatest upside, causing Mel Kiper Jr. to soil himself on national TV.

11. St. Louis, Chad Johnson, WR -- Upon scoring his first touchdown at the Edward Jones Dome, Johnson whips out a blow-up replica of the Gateway Arch, inflates it in the end zone and affixes it to the goalpost while high-fiving Nelly and the rest of the St. Lunatics.

12. Cleveland, Ben Roethlisberger, QB -- Enraged by their rivals' raid on their prized passer, a group of psychotic Pittsburgh fans kidnap Bernie Kosar and announce that he has been stashed "behind the Steel Curtain, where he is currently engaged in an intensive reeducation process."

13. Baltimore, Michael Vick, QB -- Speaking of reeducation, where the old Brian Billick would have stood behind Kyle Boller, the new, neutered Billick is taking his chances with the league's most talented QB.



14. Philadelphia, Donovan McNabb, QB -- Duh. Andy Reid stands by his man, and anyone on the Eagles who questions the pick will be forced to apologize to McNabb -- or else.

15. Atlanta, Matt Hasselbeck, QB -- Completing the raid on studs under center, Falcons coach Jimmy Mora finds the perfect passer to run GregKnapp's West Coast Offense. To celebrate, Hasselbeck joins teammates d at a happening Buckhead club, but when the hairline-challenged quarterback is forced to remove his Falcons cap, the doorman laughs and turns him away.

16. Miami, Ed Reed, S -- Back in the city in which he starred in college, Reed reestablishes himself as the league's most potent defensive playmaker, earning a heartfelt grunt of appreciation from Dolphins coach Nick Saban.

17. Minnesota, Steve Smith, WR -- Not only is Smith the NFL's most breathtaking player, but he also ensures that if the cops raid this year's "Rookie Party," at least one Viking will escape.

18. Dallas, Terrell Owens, WR -- "I think we should go defense here," Bill Parcells declares in the war room. "A big guy, like Marcus Stroud or Roy Williams." Grinning and patting his coach on the head, Jerry Jones replies, "Sure, Bill, anything you say."

19. San Diego, Antonio Gates, TE -- This may be the only thing on which GM A.J. Smith and coach Marty Schottenheimer can agree. When Chargers beat writers ask Smith to comment on his reacquisition of the team's unstoppable tight end, he has them bound, gagged and deported to Tijuana.

20. Kansas City, Larry Johnson, RB -- Forget the diapers; Johnson now wears the pants in Kansas City. To celebrate LJ's return, team president Carl Peterson, just for kicks, convinces the Jets to trade their second-round pick to the Chiefs for a plate of beef ribs at Gates Barbecue.

21. New England, Hines Ward, WR -- The fifth-greatest day of BillBelichick's life ends with the coach saying, "Hey, all this guy does is go out and play his ass off and lay people out and catch the f------ ball and get in the f------ end zone. He's a football player, OK?"

22. Washington, Reggie Bush, RB -- Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams threatens to "pull up every inch of grass at Redskin Park, blade by blade," if the Skins don't draft cornerback DeAngelo Hall or pass rusher Julius Peppers. Owner Dan Snyder laughs, hands Williams a stack of Benjamins and picks the most marketable player available.

23. Tampa Bay, Cadillac Williams, RB -- Thrilled after reclaiming the team's 2005 draft prize, Jon Gruden jumps into the halfback's arms and proclaims, "I love you, man." Had everyone known Williams would run as assertively and adeptly as he did as a rookie, he'd have gone No. 1 in the real draft last April.

24. Cincinnati, Lofa Tatupu, LB -- Marvin Lewis, in his fourth year as the Bengals' coach, finally gets his "Little Ray" -- a fearless, inspirational middle linebacker who can put a team on his back.

25. New York Giants, Shawne Merriman, LB -- Though Merriman is a beast in the making, we are so, so tempted to put Randy Moss in this spot, if only to contemplate the cheery banter between him and coach Tom Coughlin.

26. Chicago, Tommie Harris, DT -- The Bears' defense is good all the way around, but the real strength is up the middle, where Urlacher, underrated safety Mike Brown and the explosive Harris are modern-day monsters.

27. Carolina, Jake Delhomme, QB -- Even though Peppers is still on the board, John Fox will take his chances with this Bayou Badass every single time. Now that Keyshawn Johnson is in town, watch how Delhomme blows up in '06.

28. Jacksonville, Marcus Stroud, DT -- The only thing nearly as brutal as the thought of staging another Super Bowl in this city is trying to run up the middle against the Jags. John Henderson has something to do with that, too, but Stroud is the team's most important player.

29. Denver, Anquan Boldin, WR -- If you liked what Mike Shanahan did for Ed McCaffrey and Rod Smith -- and vice versa -- the pairing of the Mastermind and the sublime fourth-year receiver is simply scary to contemplate. Boldin is the best thing to hit Arizona since the invention of lip balm.

30. Indianapolis, Osi Umenyiora, DE --Randy Moss? Bill Polian ain't having that. Edgerrin James? Polian clearly isn't that big a fan. Instead, he raids the Giants' roster to score the league's best young sack artist for TonyDungy's killer D, betting on Umenyiora's potential over Peppers' current brilliance.

31. Seattle, Steve Hutchinson, G -- "See -- we really didn't want to lose him," general manager Tim Ruskell says. "And we clearly love him more than we love Shaun Alexander. Still, in the name of locker room harmony, we're putting a clause in his contract that requires Steve to scream, 'But Walter Jones is better!' before every play."

32. Pittsburgh, Joey Porter, LB -- Peppers, remarkably, is still there for the taking -- there's no logical reason he has slipped this far, but even Ultimate Mock Drafts have to have an Aaron Rodgers once in awhile. Besides, Bill Cowher calls Porter the Steelers' unquestioned "emotional leader," and in case you haven't noticed, the Jaw carries a bit of credibility these days. If any of y'all have a problem with this pick, feel free to tell Porter that yourselves.
 

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