Would Texans take Bush now?
It's obviously too early to pass judgment on rookies, but Len Pasquarelli explores what the top 10 picks in the draft might look like if it was held today.
One week into a season, and just one game into any player's career, is a little early in the process to be authoring a work of revisionist history.
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With 70 rushing yards in last week's season-opening loss to the Eagles, the Texans were forced to start sixth-rounder Wali Lundy and to scramble for veteran backups. Bush must have looked pretty good from afar to a Texans brain trust that remains pretty sensitive when questioned about the first pick. In his debut for New Orleans, the elusive Bush totaled 141 all-purpose yards. Defensive end Mario Williams, the player selected ahead of Bush, had two solo tackles and one assist and, according to the coaching staff, had some problems with assignment and alignment in the opener.
So, for a change, let's have a little fun here. Let's reconstruct what the top 10 selections in the first round might look like were the teams making them now, with today's conditions, instead of on April 29. The only ground rule is that choices must be made from among the top 15 players chosen in the first round:
1. Houston: Even five months after the fact, it is difficult to fathom that the Texans opted for Williams over Bush with the top selection. For all the rationalization the Houston brass has done, and for all the whispers that emanated from a management team about the inability to strike a contract agreement with Bush and agent Joel Segal, the Texans know in their hearts that was a contrived excuse. If the Texans made the call truly based on position, as former general manager Charley Casserly insisted last weekend in his new role as a CBS studio analyst, so be it. Whether we buy the logic or not doesn't matter. But if the pick were made today, not on April 29, the guess is that the "signability" myth would be out the window and Bush would be the Texans' starting tailback.
2. New Orleans: The Saints couldn't believe their good fortune the night before the draft, when word broke that the Texans were taking Williams, allowing Bush to fall into their laps. But if Bush was off the board, the guess is that the Saints would grab the man they intended to take all along, linebacker A.J. Hawk. Yeah, he was the choice over Williams until Bush slipped out of the top slot. The former Ohio State star, who subsequently went in the No. 5 slot to Green Bay, has struggled more than people anticipated, but scouts still feel Hawk will be a multiple Pro Bowl performer. And think about this: The Saints have either signed as free agents or traded for nine veteran linebackers since the end of the 2005 season.
3. Tennessee: The Titans grabbed Vince Young and common sense indicates that, even if they were given a do-over, the results would be the same. The former University of Texas star was the top-rated quarterback on the Tennessee draft board and, with the staff disenchanted with presumptive caretaker Billy Volek and forced to sign Kerry Collins off the street, Young would still be the youngster around whom the Titans would want to build for the future.
4. New York Jets: Were this story written a week ago, the choice here would have been one of the top quarterbacks in the draft, either Jay Cutler or Matt Leinart. But it's being written today, with the memory of Chad Pennington's stellar opening-game performance still fresh in everyone's minds. Sure, Pennington has to demonstrate that he can repeat that kind of outing on a regular basis. But he threw the ball with authority and accuracy last week, and displayed better arm strength than anticipated, so perhaps he still is the Jets' quarterback for the future as well as the present. If that is indeed the case, then the selection of offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the pass protector New York chose in April, stands as a solid one.
5. Green Bay: The Packers selected Hawk on April 29 and, if he was still available, probably would do so again. But with Hawk having gone second, to New Orleans, in the revisionist draft, the Packers have to refocus on a different first-rounder. And the pick would be safety Michael Huff, who went to Oakland in the real draft. Huff would provide a physical presence in the middle of the secondary, a young hitter to team with second-year safety Nick Collins.
6. San Francisco: Niners coach Mike Nolan desperately needs a pass-rusher and, with Williams still on this board, it would be difficult to pass him. Williams might not be a good fit for Nolan's 3-4 front, and it remains to be seen if he is the pass-rush force everyone projects him to be, but San Francisco might at least have a chance to pressure the pocket with him in the lineup.
7. Oakland: Given the way Cutler played in preseason, and the abysmal performance by Aaron Brooks in the Raiders' opening-game loss last week, the former Vanderbilt quarterback, who was chosen by Denver with the 11th choice, has to look pretty good. Cutler has the kind of big arm Raiders owner Al Davis covets and, while it's hard to put too much stock in preseason results, it appears he is more ready to play quickly than most scouts had anticipated.
8. Buffalo: The Bills were criticized for reaching for Donte Whitner and, while that assessment might be true, the Ohio State safety has played well. The No. 8 slot might have been a little high for Whitner, but he is all football player. With the loss of veteran Troy Vincent (hamstring) for the season, the Bills probably wouldreach again for Whitner if they were making the choice today.
9. Detroit: The Lions loved weakside linebacker Ernie Sims five months ago. They'd probably love him just as much today. The former Florida State star is a very active defender and, with nine tackles in the opener, he seems like a guy who could contend for defensive rookie of the year honors.
10. Arizona: With incumbent starter Kurt Warner 35 years old, no one can argue with the decision to take Matt Leinart, certainly the player around whom the franchise will build for the future. But the Cardinals have needed a tight end for years. And with Vernon Davis still on the board, it's impossible to pass him. The athletically gifted Davis would provide Warner a superb inside target to team with standout young wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona, by the way, did land a potentially solid tight end in the third round of real draft, snagging Leonard Pope of Georgia.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .
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